How to Hire for Social Media Positions 1

With more and more companies looking to social media to drive business goals  many are having a difficult time hiring for social media positions.  Their desire to ramp up a social presence is outpacing their ability to hire the proper staff to do the job effectively.  This, combined with the myriad of people with varying degrees of social media expertise, is creating confusion among executives on who to hire, what compensation level is appropriate and what title to bestow.

Many companies are going for the quick fix in hiring the young marketing coordinator or intern who definitely knows the technology but doesn’t necessarily understand the business aspect and the role social media needs to play in an overall marketing strategy.  This can create frustration on the part of executives, who may have trouble grasping why social media is important and are looking for ways to prove its ROI.

Two distinct positions are becoming prominent with forward thinking corporations; the community manager and corporate social strategist.  Many companies are looking to fill these roles with one position but it’s quite apparent that these two roles require very different skill sets. Here’s why:

Community Manager

Community managers are on the front line in a customer facing role and are the ones trusted by your audience. They’re the people that are the voice of your brand and are having online conversations with your potential customers every day. They have a passion (or should have) for the organization or brand and this shows in their discussions.  The strange thing is that this person usually is not working in the marketing or PR department.  They may be in customer support or a regional manager or cashier or may even be the janitor.  They point is they have a passion for the brand, they know it backwards and forwards and when they speak to people about it their passion shows through.  Finding the right person who has the online skills plus the passion is a critical component to a brand’s social strategy.  (see Duluth Pack)

Altimeter Group

Corporate Social Strategist

This position is responsible for the overall social media program and is focused on deciding which listening and engagement platforms to use, educating executives on why social is important, integrating a brand’s social presence with customer service, marketing, PR, partners,  stakeholders and most importantly delivers on the ROI question.  A social media strategy won’t get off the ground without measurement therefore it’s important to find someone who has business experience who can tie in a brand’s social media efforts to overall business objectives.  The difficultly lies in finding a person who knows the business side of things but also has a deep understanding for social technologies. Aim high when hiring for this role as it’s critical to your brand and customer relationships.

For a deeper dive into hiring for this position check out this article: Career Path for the Corporate Social Strategist.

The truth is that until social media begins to play a larger role in a company’s overall business strategy, these roles will be wrapping up into one job or is a part of an existing position. However, this won’t be the case for long as corporations are planning significant increases in social media staffing and platforms for 2011.

Altimeter Group

Standards for Hiring

So how should a company move forward in hiring a community manager or corporate social strategist? One social media’s thought leaders and the one I admire most is Jeremiah Owyang from the Altimeter Group who’s done a great deal of research into social media strategy and how companies can ramp up their social media presence.  I combined his suggestions with some of mine in laying out standards for hiring and supporting the community manager and corporate social strategist:

Community Manager

  • Find someone who has a genuine passion for your brand, organization or industry.
  • Look for someone who’s fun, creative and has an engaging personality
  • Stay away from anyone calling themselves a “Ninja” “Guru” or “Rock Star”
  • Ensure a cultural fit, as the community manager will be the voice of your brand
  • Scrutinize how they have used social media in the past
  • Find a natural born connector – both internally and externally
  • Life experience trumps youthful enthusiasm so look for the former

Corporate Social Strategist

  • Hire a program manager rather than a social media “Ninja” “Guru” or “Rock Star”
  • Seek candidates with a track record of early technology adoption in their careers
  • Seek backgrounds that demonstrate the ability manage dotted-line resources and agency partners
  • Look for a corporate entrepreneur,comfortable with “calculated risks”
  • Ensure a cultural fit, as the social strategist will tack change management
  • Find a natural born connector – both internally and externally
  • Celebrate those risks by enabling them to “fail forward,” while clearing their obstacles
  • Enable them to connect to peers and invest in their knowledge and career growth
  • Protect your investment by providing new challenges, and compensate well – they are highly coveted

About Jason Sem

I develop strategic direction for social media and digital initiatives; specializing in the integration of digital, social, mobile and off-line channels to engage consumers at all points along consumer’s path-to-purchase.

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