Smart companies are leveraging multiple social media platforms as part of their overall strategies, and are bringing on board talented, progressive staff to manage their active online presence. But since social media is a relatively new arena, hiring someone to direct your online strategy can be challenging. What skills and attributes does a qualified candidate possess, and how can you identify them in an individual?
Of course, experience is paramount. However, the right kind of experience, where social media is concerned, can be hard to detect, especially when you’re at the stage of sorting through resumes. In today’s online world, anyone can brand him or herself an expert.
Deborah Weinstein, president of the Toronto-based PR firm Strategic Objectives, points out, “There are a lot of people masquerading as social media gurus and experts. For whatever reason, people from a lot of different professions are looking to move into social media as an opportunity. But do they have experience? More importantly, do they have paid experience? And is it direct experience in your industry, or is the experience transferable?”
Transferable experience is critical when your target audience constantly shifts. For instance, a social media campaign which speaks to consumers will have an entirely different approach than one which is run for a company with a B2B focus. Even the different platforms utilized may be different. If you’re speaking to the business community, Instagram may not be an effective place to run a social media campaign; LinkedIn or Twitter may be better for your intended audience. Weinstein insists that a qualified candidate must possess the judgment to determine if a particular platform is worthwhile. “As a PR firm,” she says, “we are not on Facebook. We know all about it, but that is not where our audience is.”
One way to determine if a candidate can speak to different audiences, according to Yusuf Gad, creative director at a5MEDIA, is to ask for writing samples which show the applicant is able to adapt to various writing styles. “The person needs to know how to change their voice,” he says. “A lot of the resumes we see come from fashion-based social media experience. That is fundamentally different than a corporate culture, which in turn is different from medical and financial. The right person should be able to change their voice.”
Before anything else, Deborah Weinstein recommends that you look at your candidate’s online profile. She says, “It is very easy to check someone out online. That is the number one thing I’d recommend if you’re seriously looking to engage and hire a social media director.”
Kashif Khan agrees. As the Managing Director of Buzz Public Relations, he’s had experience hiring individuals to manage social media profiles for his clients. He says, “If they have built their own online presence, and maintain it, then that is a big indicator. You need people that are current with the trends, that live and breathe social media. That is something you will see right away in their online presence.”
Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know just how much work social media can be. Yusuf Gad notes that social media is not just about posting, it’s about engaging. The aim is to get your target audience talking both about you and with you. “Social media is the most unappreciated, the most underinvested in marketing platform,” he states. “The more popular your campaigns become, the more time you will spend on social media. Your budgets will get larger, and so will your team. You need someone who will understand what that curve looks like.”
A candidate’s resume, Gad argues, will speak volumes about his or her knowledge of social media. It should list more than just positions held and campaigns worked on. “Does their resume track metrics?” he asks. “A good social media director gets metrics. It’s not social media for social media’s sake, there is a larger goal behind this. Usually the right candidate will state upfront that they know the importance of metrics.”
Don’t forget personality
Once you’ve sorted through all your resumes, and you’ve short-listed your candidates, what are the next set of skills and attributes to look for? According to Kashif Khan, personality is an important factor. “A social media person is, first and foremost, social. And we find that the people that really thrive in the role, whether online or in person, are social people. For them it’s not a job, it’s their way of thinking. They like to work in groups, they work well with their peers, their past job experience has always been sales or marketing, or something in a very social environment.”
Weinstein agrees that the right person needs to be socially adept. She adds that he or she needs to have leadership skills, and points out that this person will likely be leading a team, and interacting with your board of directors, your investors, your customers, and your executives. She says, “So many digital and social media people are good at typing, but when you meet them in person, they can’t talk, they can’t shake your hand.”
Besides being socially adept, a solid social media director needs to blend a high degree of creativity with a shrewd business sense. Writing content and creating campaigns is a visually and intellectually creative field. Yet, at the same time, that person needs to constantly seek out new opportunities. They want to find that “next big thing” and get there ahead of everyone else.
Khan says, “We find that when we’re hiring someone new in social media, the best people are always the ones that have taught us something…When there is that one person who comes in and tells us about something we’ve never heard of, we know they’re current. These people are the early adopters, the ones always looking for the new best thing. We find that those early adopters are going to lead social media teams effectively, get in early, and be ahead of the curve.”
While social media may be here to stay, it has not replaced traditional marketing. Because conventional media still exists, a key strength of a social media director is the ability to understand the other end of the marketing spectrum, and integrate campaigns running on different platforms. Khan states, “It is difficult and costly when you have a social media team that has a great campaign, but there is no integration with the campaigns running through traditional media. You’re throwing money down the drain that way, and from the public side, it looks like there is no internal communication at your company. So campaign integration is extremely important.”
Admittedly, there is a lot to consider when hiring the right person to lead your social media strategy and team. If you find the process overwhelming, Yusuf Gad of a5MEDIA suggests two things. First, he says that, before you hire someone, you need to make sure that having an internal, dedicated person makes sense for your business. Sometimes, hiring an agency to do your social media marketing makes better sense, since social media is so labour intensive, and often takes a team of people to execute a strategy.
If you do decide that hiring someone is essential, Gad suggests secondly that you partner with a creative staffing agency to help you with the process. “If you put a general want ad out, you’re going to get a thousand kids applying out of high school. With a creative staffing agency, on the other hand, they’ve already vetted the applicants and done their reference checks. They can help you curate that list of truly qualified individuals to make your life easier.”
Once you’ve found the individual who possesses both the skills and attributes to handle your social media, and who fits well with your corporate culture, Weinstein offers one final piece of advice on how to allow him or her to thrive in the new role. She says, “If you’re looking for that person to take on your social media marketing, to be a dog with a bone so to speak, you really have to empower them to move forward, and move forward quickly. Give them their goals and objectives, then let them run with it and see what they can do. You can’t be hovering over them all the time. The less you crack the whip, the more likely you’ll allow that true innovator to take the job and run with it.”
Photo of Deborah Weinstein courtesy Deborah