While at the Social South Conference this weekend I had the opportunity to co-host a round table discussion with @ScottSchablow and @Griner (David Griner) where the discussion focused on "Building your social media team."
Personally I find hiring a social media manager (for lack of a better term) the single hardest hire in an agency. The position requires a great depth and breadth of digital knowledge (platforms/customs/etc) which is hard to find.
Making it harder, the person has to know marketing strategy. I don't mean the textbook stuff they taught us in college, I mean good honest to God marketing strategy. They have to be able to link what they are doing in the social media arena to achieving business goals, which don't usually include "discussion." They have to understand Facebook isn't a strategy it's a tactic. They have to understand that while it's lots of fun to create and manage that Twitter hashtag the brand's fans love -- marketing is about building more than love and fun discussions. Marketing is about selling more stuff. As I think someone mentioned during the round table, CEO's don't care about conversation. They care about cash.
So once you find these folks, you have to weed out anyone who isn't a self-starter and works well unsupervised. You see, social media networks don't start at 9am and close at 5pm. Consumers are actually really active after hours when they're sitting on their sofa telling their friends about their day or worse, bitching about how your product failed them that day. And when it is time to talk to them, you kind of need to do it now versus "running it up the ladder" to see what your boss thinks you should do.
Still have any candidates left? Good. Now probe to find out their curiosity level. We all agreed that a good social media manager has to possess natural curiosity. They have to want to always be learning. This is important because the social media platforms, technologies and "rules" are changing all the time. It is a space that demands constant education and re-education of it's participants. So the perfect social media manager has to like homework.
Ok, so now you are down to a handful of top prospects who meet all of the requirements above. This is where the conversation got interesting. There were a number of views on this point, so I hope you'll add yours in the comment section.
Some felt that if you had the items above you were fine. But I feel one more characteristic is essential. Pure, natural interest for the subject matter. If I'm Coleman camping products, and I'm hiring a social media manager, I need a camper. Someone who is passionate about camping, camping products and talking about camping and camping products. If I'm a bourbon brand, I need a bourbon drinker. And not just a bourbon drinker a bourbon geek. Someone who knows a thing or two about distillation and barrel aging and can really talk the talk because unlike Vodka for instance, serious bourbon drinkers are very much about the science behind the product.
I feel you have to have a person who is passionate about the brand and category because they're going to spend a whole lot of time talking about the category and creating and sharing content about the category. And anyone who blogs regularly knows, coming up with new content day in and day out is very, very hard. Without a passion to create the content, I just don't think you can stick with it or the quality of your content will drop. Neither of which is good.
Many in the room felt that reporters where not only a perfect match for a social media gig (great content producers, curious, good at getting up to speed on new topics, etc). I'm not exactly sure I agree as I've met many a reporter that while being great at writing, didn't possess all of the requirements above. But even if you agree that reporters are the natural talent pool to fish in, remember this, reporters tend to specialize. I think this is because the realize that they need to really care about a topic to be a good reporter of said topic, but I've never worked in a newsroom so I might be off base here... but then that is what the comments section is for so let me know.
But in closing, even if you find someone who fulfills all of the requirements above -- there are two more requirements (one more if you're hiring client side) that must be fulfilled.
When I hire a social media manager they have to fit our culture at Zehnder. Our founder was pretty smart when he based our company on strong cultural norms. As we say, some folks are either Zehnder people or they aren't. And trust me, when we hire one that isn't -- well let's just say it's painful.
But even if they're a good fit at Zehnder, I also have to make sure they're a good cultural fit for the brand and with the brand's company culture. You see, for an agency side social media manager to be effective and actually represent the brand on behalf of the brand, they have to have total access to the brand. That means they not only have the brand manager on speed dial, they have the head of merchandising, distribution and maybe even the inventor/founder of the brand. They need this because they will encounter situations where a quick response is required and they can't simply go to the brand manager and have that person seek out the appropriate person internally to answer the question. It takes too long and much is lost in translation. So good agency side social media managers are in essence an extension of the client's brand management team and thus must fit that culture too.
So now you can see why I think hiring a social media manager is so darn hard. What about you? Do you agree with the points? Did I forget a few? What do you look for? Let me know won't you?
Thanks to David Griner for the photo