Hiring For Social Media: What I’d Look For

In my previous posts on, I pointed out some good and some bad on the social media job front. A few asked what I thought social media jobs should look like, so I’ll do my best. But I’m not going to write this like a typical job description, because I think the content is more important than the format.

Social media-exclusive jobs are okay for now, as foundation building for companies needing to learn the ins and outs, understand intent and strategy, and educate their internal folks. But eventually, these kinds of jobs will fall by the wayside (or at least evolve) when social media becomes part of each and every role in one way or another, perhaps with specialists that have particular experience in application of the tools within their roles. (Think of it this way: we don’t have email managers that do nothing but. The *use* of email and digital stuff touches every role, whether it’s inward or outward facing).

Attributes

In my experience, the folks who grok social media best have a lot of attributes in common:

Curiosity: The desire to explore new ideas, in detail, and without specific direction to do so. Curiosity about the intersection of human interactions and technology is a specific aspect that’s helpful, and a passion for the potential of the work and the organization’s purpose is key to instilling that in others, both internally and externally.

Innovation: Ignore the buzzy nature of this word for a moment and concentrate on what it really means: the introduction of something new. Social media implementation requires new approaches to existing processes, both internally and externally, including communication, strategy, execution, measurement, reporting, and training. (This needs to be carefully balanced with realism and pragmatism, too, but I’d rather rein someone in than have to prod them forward.)

Motivation: Folks thriving in social media jobs are self-starters, often capable of creating clarity from a bit of chaos, and devising their own marching orders without constant direction or specific instructions. If you can instill and nurture this in others, too, so much the better.

Collaboration: “That’s not my job” and “get out of my sandbox” don’t play well in these kinds of roles. They’re far too new to be that rigid, and they definitely need cooperation and work with others across the organization.

Translation: In many companies right now, we need people that have the patience and clarity of explanation to teach others about the impact of the social web, and who work well across departments within a corporate culture. These roles, most critically, need to know how to work and educate across silos, in the terms that make sense to the relevant colleagues.

Humility: The goal here is to elevate the entire company and your colleagues as contributing, valuable members of the community and leaders in the industry. Not you and your “personal brand”.

Diplomacy: Social media roles are today’s change agents. If you expect instant sea change inside your company without a lot of legwork, communication, negotiation, discussion, education, and trial and error, this job is NOT for you. And the outside community will present challenges to you; you need to be able to handle them with patience and tact. It’s a balance of emotional intelligence here.

Connectivity and Awareness: This is a people job, inside and out (and I don’t just mean community roles). You need to be able to talk to people, work with them, socialize with them, connect with them in multiple places. Understand how the network and the people in it need you (and don’t), and how all of those interactions work together to encourage more, deeper, and better connections that ultimately elevate the quality of your work and company.

Expertise

Business Process/Planning and Analysis: From the mid level on up, you want someone who understands financial frameworks for profit and loss, strategic and long range planning (including how to write goals and objectives), and how to map out execution at a tactical level. The key here is the ability to think at a global company level, not within a silo, and not in a linear fashion.

Social Media Anthropology & Participation: If you have someone spearheading social media, I feel pretty strongly that they need to be using it themselves in order to fully understand its implications and unique culture. Yes, that means familiarity with the most widely known tools and technologies, and some of the most consistent and popular applications (for better and for worse) of same, and interest and observation of what’s new on the scene (without the tendency to chase everything new because it is). Academic knowledge is good, applied is even better.

Hedgehog Management: Social media programs that are well thought out have lots of moving parts to manage and drive. People who excel at social media jobs can tackle projects that span multiple networks or areas, and keep all the pieces moving toward a bigger, crystal clear goal (or in Jim Collins’ terms, Hedgehog Concept).

Customer or Client Service: Whether it’s a formal title or not, you really want someone who has experience communicating with customers directly, and fostering those relationships in order to meet their business goals. The most powerful bit of social media is in mobilizing those relationships.

Written Communication Skills: Yep. Sorry, folks. I think this one is really imperative. So much communication and engagement online is in the form of written communication. If you can’t write coherently and professionally, you’re going to struggle. On this note, I also think a lot of social media positions will and should include elements of content marketing, which means that the ability to create and contribute solid content is key.

Social Media Roles And Responsibilities

Again, let me say that I’m writing this from the POV of a job that’s heavily or exclusively social media, and I don’t think these jobs will exist like this forever. And this is a broad, sweeping list that’s not meant to tie to any one job description (though I’m quite certain I have experience bias), but instead give you things to consider if you’re in need of a role like this in your company. A few things that might fall under this umbrella:

  • Establish and use listening platforms to gauge the health of the brand online, and potential for participating in new communities
  • Build outreach initiatives outside of sales or marketing goals to give our brand a personality and voice within the industry and the communities we care about
  • Engage the community actively and responsively, both in relevant outpost communities and existing resident channels (like brand communities), and teach and empower team members to do the same, with consistency and clarity
  • Build training programs to help other areas of the company learn and tap the potential of social media for their roles
  • Collaborate on internal communication programs to inform and educate around social media initiatives and their broader implications
  • Create and facilitate content in multiple media to further engagement goals, both internally and externally, and contribute resources and expertise to prospective and existing community members
  • Consume, curate, and share relevant, interesting industry information and content with internal and external communities.
  • Understand and observe the parallels and implications of other online activities, including web analytics, email, and search
  • Communicate and collaborate on how social media activities impact other business operations, including customer support, human resources, product development, sales and business development, and translate online community and social learnings into business insights
  • Establish relevant metrics (new or existing) to map the impact of social media activities in both a qualitative and quantitative fashion, and amend strategies based on learnings and patterns

Reporting wise, I’d put this position under whomever is charged with driving customer experience and a sustainable, positive company presence through online channels, and whatever business function is being most heavily supported by these initiatives. That might be someone in PR, marketing, customer service, client or donor relations, even product management. It needs, in whatever case, to report in to someone who gets the importance and potential of this, even if they don’t necessarily understand the “how”.

Your Turn

There’s no way my list can be exhaustive, nor can it possibly cover every subtlety and nuance of individual positions based on unique business needs. I’m painting with a broad brush, with the hope that it gets the gears turning for all of us to think critically about how these positions fit into business, from multiple perspectives.

So I need to hear from you! What’s missing? What would you included or have you included in your job descriptions? What have you seen that articulates the need for these jobs well? I can’t wait for you to weigh in. Comments are yours.

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  • http://youshouldonlyknow.com Erica

    I can’t express how wonderful I think this post is. As someone who has majored in Anthropology, started out in HR, moved to customer service and marketing and is now manages the company’s social media campaigns – this really hit home. I am not sure where my career will take me next, but this really pinpointed what strengths I need to focus on.

  • http://youshouldonlyknow.com Erica

    I can’t express how wonderful I think this post is. As someone who has majored in Anthropology, started out in HR, moved to customer service and marketing and is now manages the company’s social media campaigns – this really hit home. I am not sure where my career will take me next, but this really pinpointed what strengths I need to focus on.

  • http://www.researchgoddess.com Amybeth Hale

    I think this is a wonderful post, however, once again recruiting is left out of the discussion. Why is that? If you consider, as I quote, “whomever is charged with driving customer experience and a sustainable, positive company presence through online channels” – don’t you think of potential employees as some of the MOST important ‘customers’ to a company? Potential candidates could be the people who will be in charge of delivering these types of messages. Poor employment brand leads to difficulty in recruiting which leads to a mediocre workforce which leads to… it goes on an on. Marketers, PR folks, techhies – please stop leaving recruiting (NOT HR – there is a difference) out in the cold when you talk about using social media and those who should have a seat at the proverbial table. We have acknowledged the importance of understanding your roles in our daily function. I think it’s time you start realizing the impact we have on what you do as well.

    Amber, as always I have a great deal of respect for what you do and the things you write! You’ve put together a thoughtful outline of some attributes and qualifications. And I agree with you – ‘social media’ as a job function will eventually be absorbed into the daily duties of other functions. Thank you for this.

  • http://www.researchgoddess.com Amybeth Hale

    I think this is a wonderful post, however, once again recruiting is left out of the discussion. Why is that? If you consider, as I quote, “whomever is charged with driving customer experience and a sustainable, positive company presence through online channels” – don’t you think of potential employees as some of the MOST important ‘customers’ to a company? Potential candidates could be the people who will be in charge of delivering these types of messages. Poor employment brand leads to difficulty in recruiting which leads to a mediocre workforce which leads to… it goes on an on. Marketers, PR folks, techhies – please stop leaving recruiting (NOT HR – there is a difference) out in the cold when you talk about using social media and those who should have a seat at the proverbial table. We have acknowledged the importance of understanding your roles in our daily function. I think it’s time you start realizing the impact we have on what you do as well.

    Amber, as always I have a great deal of respect for what you do and the things you write! You’ve put together a thoughtful outline of some attributes and qualifications. And I agree with you – ‘social media’ as a job function will eventually be absorbed into the daily duties of other functions. Thank you for this.

  • Laura Chapman

    I still dont get why do we need to hire a Social Media Specilist instead of a PR person?

    Laura Champan
    wadja.com

  • Laura Chapman

    I still dont get why do we need to hire a Social Media Specilist instead of a PR person?

    Laura Champan
    wadja.com

  • http://www.twavl.com Brian Hayashi

    First, I’d suggest someone who can solve a problem using social media — such as “how can you help my company find the people who are talking about my company” — then demonstrate how they would do it. As in hospitality, the ability to improvise is key.

    Next, I’d ask them how they would measure their, and what are some factors that could distort those measurements. We are always being asked to prove our worth and social media will be no different.

    Lastly, I’d ask them how they would find ways to relentlessly reduce costs. The benefit of being digital is that you can constantly find ways to reinvent the way you do business. Just because a supplier is around today is no guarantee that they will be around tomorrow — and if a key vendor were to become a risk factor, you need someone who’s willing to roll up their sleeves and find an alternative solution that won’t require you to ask for more money.

  • http://www.twavl.com Brian Hayashi

    First, I’d suggest someone who can solve a problem using social media — such as “how can you help my company find the people who are talking about my company” — then demonstrate how they would do it. As in hospitality, the ability to improvise is key.

    Next, I’d ask them how they would measure their, and what are some factors that could distort those measurements. We are always being asked to prove our worth and social media will be no different.

    Lastly, I’d ask them how they would find ways to relentlessly reduce costs. The benefit of being digital is that you can constantly find ways to reinvent the way you do business. Just because a supplier is around today is no guarantee that they will be around tomorrow — and if a key vendor were to become a risk factor, you need someone who’s willing to roll up their sleeves and find an alternative solution that won’t require you to ask for more money.

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  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com Stephanie Sammons

    Amber great post. I’ve read through it numerous times and continue to think through it. I will say that I do believe that these roles could evolve into more permanent long-term positions for a number of reasons.

    1)STRATEGY: There is not really a significant level of expertise required to use the tools, but there is an enormous need to understand HOW to use the tools in order to be effective. Strategy drives success. You must have someone strategic on board who has industry knowledge, a deep understanding of company goals, and an ability to envision and incorporate an appropriate system.

    2)A NEW BUSINESS ELEMENT: A social media strategist really fits into at least 4 of the existing business process components; marketing/pr, business development, business management, client services. Social media is going to allow businesses to increase their capacity and manage more customers/clients effectively and efficiently. You need someone who understands all of these business components and can assimilate and accommodate the goals of each into the overall social media strategy.

    3)PAY FOR KNOWLEDGE/RESOURCES: The rapid speed of change in the merging of technology and social relationships will require someone who can stay ahead of the curve in order to capitalize on the most efficient and effective social media strategies. Not only do new platforms get introduced, but the major players are constantly changing their models. Many companies and professionals will want a seasoned pro or partner to stay in tune with this and will not be able to afford sacrificing the own time at the expense of current business needs. They will be willing to pay to outsource or create a new position/department within to gain a competitive advantage and have it’done right’…and it will not be their niece or brother-in-law. They cannot afford for someone to screw this up.

    4)CREATIVE THINKER: The creative element mentioned by a few other commentators is crucial. You must have a well thought out CREATIVE strategy that incorporates all of the elements of inbound marketing in order to engage the client/customer and enhance existing relationships, or acquire new ones. You’ve got to be able to get attention and create passion around an idea or concept that your company is connected with. This is the piece that shatters the idea that social media is ‘easy’ and anyone can do it.

    If a business owner stops running the business to focus on all of these things, he/she will no longer have a business. Email was much less complicated and more one-dimensional when introduced. Social media is multi-dimensional and has many facets, not to mention a massive ripple effect. This is a whole new animal and both companies and professionals will want to navigate strategically and have the right team in place.

    Again, I enjoyed your thought provoking article and it has really helped me evaluate my own value proposition.
    Steph
    .-= Stephanie Sammons´s last blog ..Telecoms May Be A Good Place to Sit =-.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com Stephanie Sammons

    Amber great post. I’ve read through it numerous times and continue to think through it. I will say that I do believe that these roles could evolve into more permanent long-term positions for a number of reasons.

    1)STRATEGY: There is not really a significant level of expertise required to use the tools, but there is an enormous need to understand HOW to use the tools in order to be effective. Strategy drives success. You must have someone strategic on board who has industry knowledge, a deep understanding of company goals, and an ability to envision and incorporate an appropriate system.

    2)A NEW BUSINESS ELEMENT: A social media strategist really fits into at least 4 of the existing business process components; marketing/pr, business development, business management, client services. Social media is going to allow businesses to increase their capacity and manage more customers/clients effectively and efficiently. You need someone who understands all of these business components and can assimilate and accommodate the goals of each into the overall social media strategy.

    3)PAY FOR KNOWLEDGE/RESOURCES: The rapid speed of change in the merging of technology and social relationships will require someone who can stay ahead of the curve in order to capitalize on the most efficient and effective social media strategies. Not only do new platforms get introduced, but the major players are constantly changing their models. Many companies and professionals will want a seasoned pro or partner to stay in tune with this and will not be able to afford sacrificing the own time at the expense of current business needs. They will be willing to pay to outsource or create a new position/department within to gain a competitive advantage and have it’done right’…and it will not be their niece or brother-in-law. They cannot afford for someone to screw this up.

    4)CREATIVE THINKER: The creative element mentioned by a few other commentators is crucial. You must have a well thought out CREATIVE strategy that incorporates all of the elements of inbound marketing in order to engage the client/customer and enhance existing relationships, or acquire new ones. You’ve got to be able to get attention and create passion around an idea or concept that your company is connected with. This is the piece that shatters the idea that social media is ‘easy’ and anyone can do it.

    If a business owner stops running the business to focus on all of these things, he/she will no longer have a business. Email was much less complicated and more one-dimensional when introduced. Social media is multi-dimensional and has many facets, not to mention a massive ripple effect. This is a whole new animal and both companies and professionals will want to navigate strategically and have the right team in place.

    Again, I enjoyed your thought provoking article and it has really helped me evaluate my own value proposition.
    Steph
    .-= Stephanie Sammons´s last blog ..Telecoms May Be A Good Place to Sit =-.

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  • http://www.keithprivette.com Keith Privette

    Great Post Amber! I really liked the non-specific nature of where to find the people that possess this skills. My feeling is, people that are drawn to social media and are pretty darn good and come from many different roles in many different industries. I really agree there are more soft skills that come with this job than hard skills, number 1 and 2 being curiosity and collaboration. If a person does not display these 2 qualities the climb to productivity, efficiency, and return on investment (real money making) will be rather difficult.

    I would like to challenge yourself and AmyBeth which I have the utmost respect for both of you! You will find the people needed for these roles in unlikely places. You will to find some of the people that possess about 80-90% of the skills of what you are looking for in non-conventional Marketing roles (trust me). AmyBeth could you be a community manager or a director of social media in a company? I think you would be fantastic! Guess what you are in the Recruiting industry not Marketing. To reinforce AmyBeth’s perspective, if you have people in your company with the passion, strategy, process, and technical skills for this type of career please pluck them out of their current roles back fill for that role and turn them loose for you company! I challenge the recruiting folks at companies to know their people and start their first, but to find your own employees you will need to find them by using social media. Try it and see what happens!

    The plucking and backfill will be a “6 monther” decisions, one of those decisions you look back in 6 months and say “Boy glad we decided to leap on that one!”

  • http://www.keithprivette.com Keith Privette

    Great Post Amber! I really liked the non-specific nature of where to find the people that possess this skills. My feeling is, people that are drawn to social media and are pretty darn good and come from many different roles in many different industries. I really agree there are more soft skills that come with this job than hard skills, number 1 and 2 being curiosity and collaboration. If a person does not display these 2 qualities the climb to productivity, efficiency, and return on investment (real money making) will be rather difficult.

    I would like to challenge yourself and AmyBeth which I have the utmost respect for both of you! You will find the people needed for these roles in unlikely places. You will to find some of the people that possess about 80-90% of the skills of what you are looking for in non-conventional Marketing roles (trust me). AmyBeth could you be a community manager or a director of social media in a company? I think you would be fantastic! Guess what you are in the Recruiting industry not Marketing. To reinforce AmyBeth’s perspective, if you have people in your company with the passion, strategy, process, and technical skills for this type of career please pluck them out of their current roles back fill for that role and turn them loose for you company! I challenge the recruiting folks at companies to know their people and start their first, but to find your own employees you will need to find them by using social media. Try it and see what happens!

    The plucking and backfill will be a “6 monther” decisions, one of those decisions you look back in 6 months and say “Boy glad we decided to leap on that one!”

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  • http://90milesnorth.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/hudson-valley-social-media/ 90MilesnNorth

    I think that writing skills have been very underrated in social media marketing. I can’t tell you how many campaigns I see that are marred by poor spelling and unintelligible tweets/updates. Think about how little space you have to make an impression – it better be spot-on, no? I wrote a similar piece recently about how to choose a social media firm.
    .-= 90MilesnNorth´s last blog ..The State Of Modern Social Media Marketing In The Hudson Valley =-.

  • http://90milesnorth.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/hudson-valley-social-media/ 90MilesnNorth

    I think that writing skills have been very underrated in social media marketing. I can’t tell you how many campaigns I see that are marred by poor spelling and unintelligible tweets/updates. Think about how little space you have to make an impression – it better be spot-on, no? I wrote a similar piece recently about how to choose a social media firm.
    .-= 90MilesnNorth´s last blog ..The State Of Modern Social Media Marketing In The Hudson Valley =-.

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