Hiring for Social Media Part 3: Community Moderator

This is part three in a series on hiring a social media person or company.

Part 1:  Strategist

Part 2:  Faceman

Part 3:  Moderator

Part 4:  Technologist

Part 5:  Vendor/Company

This is the entry level position within the social media team.  This person is the first interaction that most of your community will have, so this is a critical hire.  First, what kind of community do you have?  A support community?  If so, this moderator needs to be technical enough to answer basic questions and to triage the rest of the questions.  Another example, if your community is based on an interest group of say fly fisherman that buy your custom flies, you would want to hire someone with passion for fishing.  If at all possible find someone that your demographic will click with.  Maybe you just have to be close, like someone who fishes, but not specifically fly fishing.  This person does not need to have previous social media experience, but needs a set of specific other skills.

Start with personality, specifically on-line personality.  This is an interesting distinction and one that is hard to identify.  People that often have much personality in real-life, can struggle with the on-line space.   Likewise one of the best online personalities I have ever seen was so shy she couldn’t even sit in a staff meeting.  So define online personality…  First and most important, it has to be your real personality.  Second, you have to actually show it.  Many of us have spent years learning to write professionally… this is a departure from that training.  The “voice” while still professional, should be much less formal.  Remember the goal is to connect with the people in your community.  It is hard to connect with someone that sounds like the robotic voice from the National Weather Service.

Warning:  I know I have said this before… but let me say it again… don’t create a personality that either does not exist or is not you.  What if the community is an overwhelming success and your characters are invited to go to a speaking engagement?  Your community will be crushed to know this person does not exist.

Other skills that I think are needed for this position: Organizational skills, follow through, good crisis management thought processes, ability to interact with people at a variety of levels, company and product knowledge.

Interviewing for this position:

Screening a candidate for the skills I mention above is fairly routine.  The places that become more challenging are around their interest in the subject area, their writing skills and on-line personality.  There are several resources to help in this process.  Picking the right screening criteria before you even interview is a big help.  Start by requiring writing samples with the resumes.  People that are actually fearful of writing will drop out here.  Next consider creating a couple of scenarios for your candidate to demonstrate their abilities.  I recommend that you use this for both the writing screening as well as the personality (although you don’t have to tell them about the personality part).

Writing Sample:

Let’s break this down to the simplest components.  You want to see how someone writes as well as how they interact with the world.  Create a couple of scenarios.  The first is a “how to” scenario.  If the role is technical, consider making this a technical topic.  If not, select something generic.  For example you might ask someone to submit how to instructions for determining what kind of sandwich someone wants and making it for them.  By giving them a simple topic you can see how detailed they are and match that to what you need for the role.

The next step for me would be creating a scenario to see how our candidate does under pressure.  Create a fictitious angry person on the community and through email send the first post as that person.  The candidate then responds to the email as they would as the moderator.  You continue the back and forth until there is a resolution.  The beauty of this kind of screening is that you get to see them under pressure and feel from a customer’s perspective how they interact.

Interviewing the candidates

So you found a candidate that meets the skills list and even passes the writing portion (sounds like the events in a beauty pageant).  How do you ask the right questions in an interview?  Start with the questions that you would always ask a prospect to gauge company and position fit.  Here are some additional questions specifically for the social media components.

Interview topics and questions:

Comfort with social media technologies:

What social media platforms do you use?  (Personal or professional)  You are looking for someone that uses forums, blogs, makes comments, uses myspace or facebook, etc.  This gives them a base understanding of the space.  Someone that has none should be a red flag.

Comfort interacting with customers in all venues:

I liked the way you handled the scenario of the angry customer.  When and why would you consider actually calling the customer?  In this instance I am looking for comfort in talking with customers as a method for diffusion of the anger.

I would also include a question about travel.  Often very successful moderators become mini celebrities that you might want to bring to events.  Good to gauge their comfort in public and public speaking along with their willingness to travel.  This is also a consideration if you are planning to globalize the community and might have training needs.

Community Channels (tools)

While chatting with the team here at Google this week, they asked what I consider the tools within the Community space.  Here is a synopsis of what I shared with them:

Ideas/ Ideation Sites
Group of sites that ask for user ideas.  Sites range from open ended give us any idea to specific brainstorm sessions that are focused on topics provided by the company.  Example: http://www.ideastorm.com
Traditional user boards that allow for questions and answers or dialogues by users posting responses to threaded discussions.    Example:  http://www.google.com/support/forum/
Blogs (with comments)
Informal information sharing platform that focuses on a publisher of information and users that are able to comment on the content.    Example: http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/
Content Exchanges
Site that allows users to generate content (documents, templates, reports, code, etc) and share it with others in the community via upload and download.  Often includes voting on content quality and comments on the content.    Example:  http://thwack.com/media/

Webinars and Videos
(with interaction)
Video based content that is offered as training or demonstration.  Generally has some interaction via comment or content rating.    Example:  http://cnettv.cnet.com/2000-1_53-1.html?name=Product%20Videos&type=videoProfileId&value=11,19,18

Ratings and Reviews

Generally a rating is a 1-5 star (or other simple mechanism) while a review is a more in depth and descriptive review of the product or service.  Example:  http://www.amazon.com
3rd Party Sites
This is the participation of the company (or representative of the company) on sites that are used by their target audience.  The goal is to provide a positive brand experience by demonstrating expertise.  Requires company users to add value to the community vs. push selling.    Example:  http://www.facebook.com  or http://www.ittoolbox.com
Monitoring and Listening
Using one of many tools ranging from Google alerts to Radian 6 to monitor brand mentions as a way to understand the nature of the discussions.  This might be for research only or can be as a driver for interaction on what you find.    Example products:  radian 6 or Visible technologies or Meltwater Buzz
Closed Communities
These are often used for marketing research and are often paid.  These are communities that are by invitation only and have a “question a week” and require response to get paid/rewarded.
These are subdivisions of the community by commonality.  Might be by product or use.  Will often include several channels within a group.  Combines “people like me”.  Example:  http://en.community.dell.com/topics/home.aspx?tid=fe33d491-78a8-46e3-8e05-eedb35c3cae4&top=fe33d491-78a8-46e3-8e05-eedb35c3cae4
Loyalty Programs
This is a program that tracks and rewards the users for their activity.  Can be “surprise and delight” rewards or an actual points based rewards system.
Asks the community a question, allows a user to vote and then displays the vote percents.  Great tool to drive the “light contributions” that move the watchers into creators.  Example:  http://espn.go.com/
Tool that is for document creation.  Allows users to create a document and then edit each other’s documents.  Very flexible collaboration tool.  Can be very labor intensive particularly at the beginning before you gain high end contributors.    Example:  http://www.wikipedia.com

Profiles and Searching Profiles

Profiles allow people to find users like themselves and to follow/interact with those users.  Can be difficult to get the masses to populate the information.  Example:  http://help.yahoo.com/l/ca/yahoo/profiles/
Event calendars
Displays happenings/events in a calendar that shows “more information” and can allow people to register within the calendar.  Helps to drive continued engagement within the community.  Example:  http://www.austin360.com/calendar/content/events/index.html

PLEASE note:  This is not a comprehensive list, only the most common.  Many companies use a hybrid or custom solution to deliver the business value they want.  Please DO NOT base your strategy on a tool, but rather, make sure your strategy leads to the right tool!

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