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Why is it still not uncommon to attend a social media or digital marketing conference and overhear stories about people with little to no significant experience who recently filled new mid-management social media marketing positions?

We laugh at the absurdity, but if firms can't differentiate between experts and newbies, how will they differentiate between the value of social media marketing and a hiring mistake when it all goes awry?

Really people, get it together. These types of hiring mistakes were perhaps understandable a year or two ago, but given the daily diet of social media news and articles available on every front, I can't believe it's still happening. How can it be that employers who have Google and social media platforms at their fingertips are still getting snowed?

Clearly, some basic hiring tips are in order. You may think I've set the bar too low, but I kid you not, people who are not on Facebook or LinkedIn, or with profiles so new they're not dry yet, are getting hired for these positions. So yes, there are recent hires who don’t meet these criteria who may be earning twice your salary (at least for now).

You don't want to hire that social media candidate if:

  1. They’re not on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s pretty much a given the employer in such cases knows absolutely nothing about social media. (Really? No teens at home, no former college roommates looking to get in touch, nothing?). If they were on these platforms, they’d know that at a minimum someone who says they’re a social anything should be at least on, never mind active, on several of these platforms. What's active? Wild guess, but somewhere on the order of say 300 - 500 or more connections, friends, or followers is probably a good indication they're actively using social media. If they say they have experience, say on Twitter, check if they have an active account.
  2. They’ve never implemented a social media program. Many a clueless, desperate manager has taken credit for the work done by their savvier team and/or agencies.  Learning via managing might work for other activities, but social is not one of them. It’s more akin to learning how to swim. At some point, you have to get in the water and get wet. Visit the social pages/sites they say they created. Are they active, or ghost towns? Setting up a page/site is easy; getting people to join/participate is the hard part.
  3. They’ve mastered the art of self-promotion, but little else. This is perhaps the most common problem. Employers assume someone who has the ability to promote their own blog or Twitter ID, can, by default, also craft social media marketing plans that will benefit the firm’s bottom line. Not necessarily so. They may have an active blog, or many Twitter followers, but you need to press on and find out how much experience they have coordinating larger social media programs with other marketing activity and/or measuring value. Just because they’re naturally good at it doesn’t mean they know how to get your product development team to join them.
  4. Their expertise, limited as it is, is not what you need.  OK, you plan on dumping the entire effort in their laps. But how do you plan to evaluate their work after you hire them? I pays to familiarize yourself with some basics. There are a lot of great books out there:  Idil Cakim’s Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Customers or Li Evan’s Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media. You want to understand at least a little about various platforms. Each has different constituencies and supports different activities. Hence you’ll want to ensure their professed social experience matches your firm’s needs. Community managers aren’t necessarily the best choice for social media crisis management, and vice a versa. Someone who only has Facebook experience is probably not the best choice for a B2B firm, and an IT expert who’s deployed a social application may not be the right person to manage your consumer company’s social customer service program.  ‘RTFM’ may make a brief tweet, but it's hardly what a distressed customer want to hear.
  5. They believe social media activity = strategy. I’ve seen way too many social media strategies and plans, even from large agencies, that are essentially padded ‘to do’ lists. Here’s a hint: if replacing ‘create Facebook fan page’ with ‘mow the lawn, and ‘set up Twitter ID,’ with ‘pick up milk,’ leaves you with a perfectly good list of weekend chores, it’s not a strategy. These activity lists are, in part, the reason you see thousands of fan pages, community sites and blogs with next to no activity. You might ask the interviewee to outline what they might do to achieve x, y, z. Then pay particular attention if they mention how they intend to generate participation. If they skip over that bit, move onto the next candidate. People, not platforms, add value. Knowing how to get them to participate is in part what separates the pros from the amateurs.


Here’s hoping employers do a better job separating the wheat from the chaff in the future, spelling the end of 'you won't believe this' employment stories at digital marketing conferences.

Photo credit: flickr/derek138

Pauline Ores

Published 21 October, 2010 by Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores is an Enterprise Market Relationship consultant and a contributor to Econsultancy.

8 more posts from this author

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maps4pets

Met enough of those sort to last a lifetime.

almost 6 years ago

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Chris Russell, Digital Marketing & Web Analyst at Chris Russell Digital Ltd

Very good and true. Reminds me of this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKCdexz5RQ8 (NSFW)

almost 6 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Those are all important points to include in any checklist, but there's a 6th that is such a major bugbear of mine it's worth mentioning again. In some ways it's a deeper definition of your #1st point about being active. Some will claim to be social media savvy because they've got hundreds of Twittter/Fb/LinkedIn friends or because they post comments on their own (or agency's blog). We call it social 'networking' for a reason - experience based on a one-to-many broadcast type of relationship is a long way away from the 'intervention' based skills they'll need to successfully enter external communities. You can't manage a brand's social web presence merely through a Facebook page or Twitter feed. Social extends as far as the brand is (or would like to be mentioned), which includes forums, specialist blogs and communities. Speed dating is easy when all the candidates come to you, it's a very different challenge when you walk into a room full of strangers and have to form new relationships. I would therefore be very sceptical of anyone professing expertise in social media without first being a regular contributor within a range of communities.

almost 6 years ago

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Xavier Izaguirre

Agree overall, but:

Everything has a context. I have very little followers on Twitter ( although I've been over two years on it, good metric?) for a myriad reasons but perhaps mainly because I have been busy setting up and maintaining accounts for other people. Same with Facebook, plus I like it private-ish.

I think a company shoud ask the potential employee how they had created value and met objectives. You can do a lot with private groups, ultratargeted websites, and methods that are not facebook pages and Twitter accounts. ( plus it gets really boring to do what everyone else )

But I agree, I agree, many to-do lists and people measuring the wrong things.

almost 6 years ago

Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Relationship Consultant at large

@Xavier - I completely agree with you. My heritage in this space is community building, and we have different skills that are reflected in different ways/results. Also, when working at certain firms, you have to filter yourself so much it's hardly worth it. I'm sure some are just working the numbers -- as if someone with 4K followers is twice as good as someone with 2K followers. That's another post in and of itself.

almost 6 years ago

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Mikko Rummukainen

Thanks for the post! Valuable tips for evading some of the hazards behind those 'social media evangelist'-titles.

From where I stand, I would argue - and this might not be a very popular viewpoint - that sometimes the people you have might actually be the people you need. Sometimes it is the tools that are lacking, and not the talent.

Funny thing, I just posted about this today at our blog:

http://www.whitevector.com/blog/2010/10/21/listening-comes-first/

almost 6 years ago

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Thierry Hubert

I could not agree more with your top 10. Finally some who points out the elephant in the room. Great article! By the way, I discovered your post via http://Social.DarwinEco.com

almost 6 years ago

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Steve Ardire

Hi Pauline - most excellent diatribe and esp. #5 They believe social media activity = strategy ( padded ‘to do’ lists ) is like a hot knife through butter ;)

almost 6 years ago

Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Relationship Consultant at large

@ Steve. Thanks. I'll take that as high praise given you're one of the leading experts in your field.

almost 6 years ago

Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Relationship Consultant at large

@ Steve Davies - I will definitely explore "point #6" in another piece - as it deserves it's own post. Certainly this point is not lost on community builders, who have been at this for decades.

almost 6 years ago

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Stephen Johnson

I can see this happening.

The employer should no better and so should the newbie. 

Technology is just the tools, knowing how to use them doesn't make anyone an expert :-)

almost 6 years ago

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SEO Philippines

Thanks for the article. Admittedly, it reflects some of my own errors in my own campaign. You have to treat the Social Media experience as if it were real life - and there lies the difficulty. People will generally mind their own business unless you really have something good to say.

almost 6 years ago

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Brian

Love #5 - the old don't mistake action for progress type analogy.

almost 6 years ago

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Dave Woodson

I don't like "experts" but I do get paid to implement a strategy that both the client and I agree upon. And, I just did not happen into the world of Social. I've been blogging for sometime, networked with tons of other like minded and actually halted all my other off-line strategies where the ROI was not as good as my online activities such as Twitter, Facebook, blogging or Linkedin. 

My real goal with a client is not to do it for them, but to teach them to do it when I walk a way they can do it with out my help. 

Dave

almost 6 years ago

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Dave Wieneke

There an inflation of both egos and expectations among freshman social marketers. If you liked this article, you may also like the post Kill the Ninja, which proposed a few simple upgrades to help make social marketing better Translate social puffery to what the words really mean: * Guru = “Windbag” * Ninja = “Novice” * Rockstar = “Marginally competent” See more of this wee rant at: http://usefularts.us/2010/10/18/how-to-blog-better/

almost 6 years ago

Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Relationship Consultant at large

@Dave Wieneke - your Ninja post made my day. Agreed, the '#-here' something something' blog titles (see above ;-) ) feels like reading Cliff Notes vs the book - a cheat of sorts, but metrics indicate they're still very popular. The result of living on a diet of snack-sized content, on the go, I suppose.

almost 6 years ago

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barry furby

To be honest I expect more from eConsultancy than playground finger pointing... In every industry there are people with inconsistency, Why do we need to cry about it on a leading industry blog? Sorry...

almost 6 years ago

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Zoe Macerlean, Social Media Manager at TESCO

As a social media manager, I focus on representing the brand, not myself so fundamentally disagree with point 1.

almost 6 years ago

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Pamela Wolf

Thanks for the article Pauline. I'd add point #6 or 7: They think that Social Media is the begining, the middle and the end of all communications campaigns.  We all have enough experience to know that it's only a pience of the puzzle. How many times have we heard that the job goes to the young kid with the smart phone attached to his (her) hand, who has little or no business experience and doesn't understand how what he does fits into the Big Picture called the bottom line.

almost 6 years ago

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Anonymous

Or indeed any social media 'expert'.

It's not difficult to monitor the work of the biggest names in the field to see how little real value their clients are getting in return for their investment. I don't want to quote specific cases but a hugely busy Facebook page (in terms of exemplary content) with just a couple of hundred fans after 5 months is not a position I'd like to be responsible for as a marketer.

If you are a brand owner, I'd suggest bookmarking the social media presences of brands that are making a concered social media push with renowned agencies and consultants, it is a sobering experience.

almost 6 years ago

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Russell O'Sullivan

Everytime I meet a so called Social media expert or guru it makes me feel a little sick. The media is too young to be a guru as of yet. | You have made a great point above, its a combination of knowledge, experience and understanding of how to implement a winning strategy, rather than someone having set up and implemented a "ghost town" social media element to a site.

almost 6 years ago

Justin Hayward

Justin Hayward, CEO at Make It Rain

Nice article. This is all very true. Many social media 'experts' forget that to be successful you still need to follow basic marketing principles: Research what's going on in your marketplace Identify the audience and channels to use Where does it fit in the rest of your marketing? Match your message/content - added value/USP not just discounts!! Monitor and engage Keep the conversation going! Not every campaign will become a case study in social media success, but if you do the groundwork first you'll have a much greater chance of creating positively engaged users.

almost 6 years ago

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Steve Ward

I think there are valid observations being made, but to bring a `one-size-fits-all` approach is not helpful. Yes I have seen hires - often client-side - that smack a little of the accusations labelled in the article. But experience is relative. A person with 6 months commercial SM experience knows more about SM implementation that a whole company who have never ventured there. So their `Social Media Manager` title is internally justified. Was it a bad hire? - sometimes yes, sometimes absolutely not. Generally, I advise to recruit for the things you cannot train - attitude, potential, cultural-match, professionalism - alongside naturally a good/logical experience match. But don't rule out those people because they haven't perfected their personal branding on Twitter or implementted the perfect social proghram/strategy - I mean come on... who has yet? Take people in on the upward curve, and feed that talent with enhanced knowledge and expertise to foster an effective employer-employee partnership. If you take on the 100% perfect person hankered after in the article, they will have nowhere to go in experience or career-plan - and will likely leave in 6 months. Social Media is embryonic and is developing fast, recruit the people who are developing with it; rather than the people who say they know it all.

almost 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Steve Ward - Good points. When I hire anybody I'm looking for the right characteristics... intelligence, common sense, passion, desire, transparency and a Plain English approach to conversation). It is not necessarily about having X years of experience, or a first-rate education, or knowing all the buzzwords. Our social media manager has all of the right characteristics required to excel at that role, in our particular environment.

There are always cowboys and charlatans in any nascent industry, and you need to proceed with caution, though not at the expense of taking a risk and experimenting. I think it's pretty easy to spot the fakers and the embellishers.

The key of course is self-education. If you don't know anything about a topic then you need to brush up before handing out employment contracts to the wrong people. You wouldn't want to be blinded by pseudo-science.

almost 6 years ago

JP Holecka

JP Holecka, Creative DIrector and Strategist at Powershifter Media Corp.

Luckily these types are going the way of the Dodo bird. There is so much more real expertise now both on client and agency side. It's no different than the web experts of the 90's. Eventually just being first in no longer qualifies. 

almost 6 years ago

Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Relationship Consultant at large

@zoe - you're absolutely right re: point #1. I should have outlined some exceptions such as 'unless they hold an existing position" as well, especially as I myself am one of those cases. Most of my 'social' work was internal, involved community (forums), and any external contributions I might have taken on would have had to be so filtered it was hardly worth the effort. This is my 'second' guest post here at Econsultancy - my first on creating social media centers of excellence was so long it had to be turned into five posts. This as you point out was perhaps too brief. Hopefully, like Goldilocks I'm wending my way to just right.

almost 6 years ago

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Gabriele Maidecchi

That list sounds so familiar, especially in Italy. Many brands just jump in the social media bandwagon using it as another advertising channel without any strategy whatsoever. However, in most cases they don't even feel the need to hire any special figure at all.

almost 6 years ago

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Vishal Pandya

Very good post Pauline. It covers important points to consider before jumping onto social media marketing train. Especially points 2 and 5 highlight some hard facts of social media world...Thanks for putting this together.

almost 6 years ago

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Tracey Dooley

Great article, Pauline. However, as with Zoe, I don't agree wholly to #1 for the reasons both she and later you point out. Other than that, a very useful read for anyone thinking of hiring a social media 'expert' or 'guru' (seems to be 10s or even 100s of them popping up from the dark corners of cyberspace every day!). ;)

almost 6 years ago

Pauline Ores

Pauline Ores, Enterprise Market Relationship Consultant at large

@Tracey. Thank you. I had no idea how widespread this was, but judging from the comments and tweets, apparently so. It's beyond absurd employers don't bother to check that these experts at least have a profile or an account. Especially as one needn't hire a detective agency. This information is two or three clicks away.

almost 6 years ago

kenan turk

kenan turk, President at Posta Reklam?

Hiring depends on companies budget for ads. But indeed if the person has noone for following and updating social media, he needs to hire for better performance.

almost 6 years ago

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RL COMM l Social Media Expert

There are many whose claiming that their and expert or guru. Best thing to do is to follow this person if he or she is really an expert. The achievement of a person can tell who really he/she is. Thank you for your article.

over 5 years ago

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