As more companies channel money toward social media marketing efforts, there inevitably comes a time to hire a social media professional. One job post can yield hundred of applicants. A fraction of them will be remotely qualified.
"Human resources departments are still figuring out how to source and how to evaluate and how to hire digital marketing talent including social marketing managers, and the reason is because these are new skillsets," said Gartner analyst Jennifer Polk. "It's not always easy to differentiate someone who really knows what they're doing from some who just has a lot of fans and followers or is active in the space or talks a good game."
If for you that time is now, here are six things to keep in mind when trying to find a solid candidate.
Don't make assumptions based in generational stereotypes
Glassdoor's head global recruitment Will Staney said one of the most common mistakes companies still make is treating the role of social media manager like it's an entry-level position. And what's more, there's the danger of falling into the belief that just because a candidate is younger, he or she is more adept at social.
"While you can assume that Millennials are good at social media because they grew up with it — when you do that, you'll find out you're mostly wrong," he said. That's not to say a company should avoid hiring younger professionals - they just shouldn't lean on a generational stereotype as a guarantee of ability or prowess because there is a more complicated skillset required for the job than just personally using various platforms.
"Find a way to start aligning what you need with skills that go beyond just familiarity," Gartner analyst Julie Hopkins said.
First, there are few, if any, decisions that can be made in social media divorced of a clear understanding of your company's business goals.
"Understanding how social marketing and social media is going to help you and understanding why you're doing what you're doing, and why you're investing the way you're investing is going to translate into understanding which skills you need and in what form those are going to take and how you should bring them into the organization," Hopkins said.
Find someone who sees the bigger picture
"Everyone's going to think they're quote-unquote 'good' at social media," said Ken Sundheim. CEO of KAS Placement, a recruiting firm that specializes in sales and marketing. Using social media for fun isn't the same as for business, and adding friends on Facebook isn't the same as growing a community. Make sure they have a sense for how they can take what they know, and apply it to your company's specific situation.
Hopkins said that one of the qualities that gets undervalued is the degree to which a candidate understands how to really think about customer personas, how to do customer insight work, how to consume that work and translate it into what they do.
Find someone versatile
"Community managers are sort of a chameleon around the company," Staney said. They deal in PR, marketing, customer service, they're a brand ambassador, and have to know who to reach out to within the company depending on different situations that may arise online. "It requires a whole lot of skills," he said.
A big part of that skillset is interpersonal skills.
"This person is kind of the boots on the ground in terms of representing your brand in the social space and that's a one-to-one environment," Hopkins said. "On a certain level, you're going to want them to have the ability to understand other people, understand dynamics, read situations, do some quick on-their-feet thinking."
Find a organizational geek
Organizational skills are important. Staney said finding a candidate who not only gravitates toward collaboration tools and is good with things like editorial calendars, but is methodical about benchmarking community growth and engagement metrics is a must. In fact, he said finding someone who likes benchmarking and looking at data might be the most important thing he looks for.
"I think it's important to seek analytical rigor and analytical skills in your social staff," Hopkins said. "Social marketing is a hard collection of activities to link to end goals." There's a big difference between just counting followers or likes and being able to prove or communicate in a report that you've created value for the organization based on the money invested.
Find someone who maintains their own brand and network
There are a two parts to this. One: Vet the candidate's own social presence. "Why would I trust you to be the voice of my company online if you don't know how to spell or use proper grammar?" Staney said. Or, if a candidate has a tendency to post non-business appropriate things on their own profiles, it's worth considering how many times social media managers have accidentally posted something they intended for their account, to a corporate account. People get fired. Brands are embarrassed.
The second part of vetting has to do with the type of network the candidate has. You don't want someone with too few followers, you also don't want someone with so many that it's obvious they're inflating the number and not necessarily engaging in any meaningful way. Plus, if you can snag a hire who is already in a similar space to your company or brand, then you're getting their network, too.
Find someone with thick skin
Having good judgment is an important part of being a social media professional. Beyond knowing what's okay to say and not to say from a public relations and even legal perspective, a good community manager doesn't get emotional.
As Staney said, people on the internet are mean and because social media is external-facing, there are times when the social media person ends up being the "garbage receptacle" for the company. "You have to have a very thick skin as a community manager to be okay with people pretty much just bashing and trolling you on the internet constantly," he said.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.