Hiring for Social Media: Part 1

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

One of the most challenging parts of this field I love is finding experts.  I have seen people that look great on paper, but when you talk with them, their knowledge is only paper deep.  I am going to tell you a story about John.  John was absolutely fascinated with social media and worked at a company that did some in the space.  He managed to get to work on a project!  He listened and absorbed.  In his next career move, he elaborated on his resume.  Perhaps he was not just a participant on that single project.  Perhaps he was the mastermind.  Sure he knows all he needs to, he lands a position as a strategist for a medium sized company.  Now that he is in the position, he is struggling because he is not the social media professional the claimed to be.  There are plenty of “Johns” out there.  Beware.

Ok, so at this point, you are like, ok Dawn. So how the heck do I know?  Well let’s start with what kind of social media professional you are looking to hire.

Part 1:  Strategist

Part 2:  Faceman

Part 3:  Moderator

Part 4:  Technologist

Part 5:  Vendor/Company

Community Strategist

This is a professional position that will manage the strategies, implementation and projects for your community.  This person needs to be a seasoned professional with demonstrable successful projects to share with their resume.  Ask for examples.  When I say samples of their work, I am not meaning a personal blog where they explore their expertise area, but actual projects on behalf of a company.  While a personal blog in the area of expertise might be a way to demonstrate their knowledge, it doesn’t show success.  I could do enough research to have a medical advice blog, but that doesn’t mean I am capable of actually practicing medicine.  Some of the people in this industry that I admire most are almost completely behind the scenes.  The high participation members of their communities will know them, but from a passing glance, you would not necessarily.  This person does not need to, necessarily, be an expert in your business area.  You will have experts within the business.  This person needs to be an expert in communities.

You should research this person.  Look carefully at their implemented sites and see if they are actually successful.  Are people participating?  Is the site itself nicely done?  Is the company participating?  Use this research to drive questions for the interview.  Ask to see the scorecard from there existing community. (there will be a future post on scorecards and metrics)

Other skills attributes and abilities: (in addition to the Social Media/Communiy skills above)

  1. Organized with Project Management skills
  2. Passion for Social Media/Community
  3. Process oriented
  4. Manages up well- comfort talking with, selling concepts to, etc.
  5. Can lead a team from various departments that may or may not actually report to you.
  6. Diplomatic
  7. Creative thinker.

Interviewing questions:

Use the interview to do a deep dive into the sites they have done before.  Ask the hard questions.  If no one is participating… ask why,.  Ask why they chose the tool that they did.  Ask about corporate support for the effort.  Ask what the budget was.  Ask about the technology vendor.  If you ask specific enough questions, even “John” should stumble and show his true colors.

Give a real life scenario that is currently happening at your company.  Like say you are trying to engage a new audience and are not sure where to start.  Ask how they would begin and the first several actions.  It will give you a window into their skills.

Ask a scenario question (you make up) about an exec that doesn’t buy into the social media effort and the candidate has to convince them to join the movement.  See if their ideas are close to your corporate culture and if the candidate has the right thought processes to sell and idea.

If there is no current social media program, ask them where they would start to create one.  If they answer with a tool (before they even found out the corporate goals) this should be a big red flag.

Ask how they keep up with social media.  If they don’t list several of the industry blogs and books, be concerned.

Finally and critically important… check the references carefully.  I have found that while many companies don’t want their managers to recommend people, they will still verify the role and scope.  I had a conversation recently about a candidate with a manager that readily told me he couldn’t talk about performance of the person.  I asked if he would just verify the magnitude of the role.  It turned out that when I read the role description from the resume, it was grossly over stated.  The manager was HAPPY to tell me that.

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