When youre looking to hire a social media professional there are several really important things to look for. The first and foremost is how many Twitter followers they have. The second is.okay, totally kidding. I just couldnt keep a straight face on that one.
In all seriousness though there are a lot of social media gurus out there that are all talk and very little, if any, walk. Whether youre looking to bring someone in-house or staff your agency there are some key traits youll want to look out for when choosing your newest social media centric employee that have nothing to do with how many Twitter followers they have.
Big picture vision
Does this person have the ability to look at your entire business organization strategically? Okay, so youre not hiring your new CEO here but the ability for a social media professional to look at and understand the entire organization is key. The socialization of business impacts many different layers and each of these layers will have different constraints, norms and sometimes even regulations. The ability of the social media professional to help drive the business forward is tied directly to their understanding of business and ability to see the big picture.
Small scale attention to detail
So youve determined they are business savvy. They can see the big picture and all that jazz. But do they have attention to detail? In social media, as with most online marketing, youre dealing with a lot of intricacies including things like tracking variables, complex formulas in gigantic spreadsheets, 140 character content and loads of other very nuanced work. One mis-key can have a huge impact. You need to be sure that this person is detail oriented to avoid costly and problematic mistakes.
Not every organization is asking their social media pros to be responsible for their own P&L statements or forecasting quarterly demand. Nor should they. But a social media professional does have to make a business case for new initiatives, understand the financial and accounting impacts of their campaigns, help determine service level agreements with vendors and so on and so forth. A strong sense of business will help them be more successful and help you get more bang for your buck!
Not every campaign can be The Old Spice Guy. There is a lot of noise out there to compete with. You will need to have someone that can keep up with what is going on and turn that into creative and original campaigns for your organization. Ask for examples of past projects here and pay more attention to their process and ability to stretch than whether or not it was a success. You want that *spark*.
Creative and analytical? Sometimes a hard combination to find but your dedicated search will pay off. Determining the return on your investment in social media can be tricky depending on your industry and vertical. Even when its easy there is still a lot of reporting to be done and data to analyze. A key here is the ability to also derive meaning from the data and reports.
Business plans change. Organizations shift. The internet is no different. The ability to shift all of ones focus from Project X to Project Y in the blink of an eye is critical. To tweet empathetically with a customer and then turn to an executive and push-back on an initiative takes flexibility and tact. Look for signs of flexibility in prospective SM employees. Not everyone is great at it and your level of tolerance will differ " but definitely something to pay attention to!
Project Management Skills
Having solid project management skills is beneficial in many different lines of work. This holds true in social. The SM professional often finds themselves as the lead contact with agencies or vendors and internally pushing projects through prioritizations and queues. Without substantial project management skills in place things can spin out of control quickly and dangerously.
Increasingly, customer service is a bigger and stronger part of social media work so it should come as no surprise that you would want to ensure talent in this area. This person will likely be a major influencer for your customers coming from the social space so be sure they have a solid understanding of what it means to provide top quality service.
Social media professionals at nearly any level must be multi-faceted and dynamic employees. It can be daunting to find one person with all of the characteristics youre looking for but it is necessary. As with most anything, the hard work you put in now looking will pay off for you later. If you need to, consider prioritizing those traits based on those you feel comfortable teaching. Keep in mind that some personality types can learn certain skills better than others. Be sure the skill you are willing to teach matches up with one they are capable of learning!
Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.