How to hire a social media specialist for your organization

There’s a solid business case for social media activity: Consumers like engaging with a “social brand.” A study by Social Media Link found that consumers trust product recommendations from people they know almost twice as much as they trust what they see and hear on traditional media and advertising. In fact, customers are starting to expect that organizations will listen and respond to them. Chances are that expectation is going to be around for a while – which means that so, too, will jobs in corporate social media, specifically, Social Media Manager. No wonder the social media recruiter side of my business is growing rapidly.

In essence, the Social Media Manager develops and implements a company’s social media strategy through relevant social media channels and platforms to promote brand awareness, generate inbound traffic and encourage product adoption. They are the “voice” of the company’s social communications- part brand ambassador, part content manager and part digital marketing evangelist. They manage social media campaigns and the company’s presence on social networking sites. They analyze, review and report on the effectiveness of those campaigns to maximize results. The Social Media Manager also needs to stay on top of the latest trends in social media tools and applications. The Social Media Manager role coordinates closely with Marketing, Customer Service and Public Relations (or Public Affairs) to ensure consistency in the company’s overall communications strategy.

Social media pros must be deft at transforming the brand into a social business and building its online reputation. That’s where strong knowledge of traditional marketing comes in. I always tell entry-level candidates interested in social media to get a solid grounding in marketing first. They also need to be knowledgeable of the many key indicators that are used to measure success in social media such as customer generation, content strategy, and search engine optimization.

For those who are new to the challenge of hiring a best of breed Social Media Manager, here’s a list of key qualifiers that I’ve developed for my own social media recruiter efforts:

Writing Ability

Ask the Social Media Manager candidate for examples of published writing such as blogs, e-books, or website content. The first rule of social media is that content drives social media success. The ability to write with clarity, creatively and professionally, while adhering to the rules of grammar and spelling, cannot be overstated. If you’re filling a position that has customer service interaction, look for writing samples that convey empathy with words. Editorial experience including first drafts, re-writes and final edits is a nice-to-have.

Hungry to Learn

Ask the candidate what they know about current platforms and exactly how they stay up to date on emerging trends and the latest technology. Any indication that they feel “comfortable” with what they know is a red flag. Social media, like anything else in digital marketing, is an exercise in ongoing learning.

An Analytical Mind

Whatever the platform may be, there needs to be measurable conversation around the brand. The two most important metrics in social media are engagement and leads. Probe for at least a basic understanding of traditional business analytics as well as web analytics. Ask for examples of projects where they weeded out data that didn’t align with the business goals of the company, along with examples of “data interpretation” which helped optimize marketing efforts.

Presentation Skills

I can tell you from experience as a social media recruiter that a Social Media Manager candidate’s ability to communicate their thoughts concisely and with confidence will show through during face-to-face interviews, but you also need to know how effective they are at delivering presentations to those at higher levels, particularly senior executives who aren’t experienced in social media. Ask references to rank the level of their ability in this area on a 1 to 5 scale, 1 low and 5 high.

Strategic Vision

Managers and Directors of Social Media must be able to demonstrate that they can think beyond tactical execution. Essentially, you are looking for things they brought to the business that the business didn’t even know they needed. THAT is true thought leadership. Of course, you want to know how those strategies helped achieve business goals. Also, ask about any experience they’ve had in handling a social media crisis.

Tactical Awareness

Ask for examples of how they implemented tactics to support social media strategies, i.e., producing and distributing content in multiple formats across various social media networks and optimizing it for SEO. Managers need to manage, but they also must be hands on.

Creative Mind

You’re not looking for an award winning creative designer, but the Social Media Manager is part of the branding experience. You want to know that they have an eye for excellent creative media such as photos and videos, and even be called on to shape and/or edit them. Ask to see some samples of social media campaigns that they developed and the role they played in the creative process. The Social Media Manager needs to be well-versed in writing relevant content for the audience they want to engage.

“Must Have” Tactical Skills for a Social Media Manager candidate. Make sure the candidate has strong familiarity with all of the following:

  • SEO. The candidate must know html, keyword analysis, the basics of title tags and meta-descriptions, and creating inbound links.
  • Social Media Management tools such as HootSuite and Buffer (I use Buffer for my own LinkedIn Updates).
  • Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation (or Keynote).
  • Photo Editing Software such as Adobe Photoshop, Pixlr, etc.
  • Deep knowledge of the Social media platforms including all of the following: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and Vine.
  • Thorough familiarity and experience working with Promotional and Paid Features including ALL of the following: Facebook’s Sponsored Posts, Twitter’s Promoted Tweets and LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates.
  • Allocating a social media budget.