With more and more companies looking to use social media, it's no surprise that more and more of them are recruiting individuals for specialist social media job roles.

But how do you find the right person to mange your social media strategy and execute it on popular services like Facebook and Twitter?

That can be difficult, and unfortunately, many companies make big mistakes when recruiting for social media positions.

Here are six of the biggest mistakes you should seek to avoid...

Underestimating the importance of experience

The stereotypical social media guru may be a teenage or twenty-something wunderkind with 10,000 Twitter followers but that shouldn't fool you into believing that it's a good idea to hire a person who lacks formal relevant work experience.

Personal social media prolificacy doesn't necessarily give an individual the ability to execute a social media strategy for a business, so underestimating the importance of experience can be a huge mistake.

Undervaluing marketing knowledge

When it comes to experience, do not undervalue the importance of marketing knowledge. In other words, if you're considering hiring an individual who hasn't taken a real-world course of Marketing 101, you're doing your social media strategy a major disservice.

While there may be very good reasons not to hire somebody who has spent the past two decades in traditional marketing roles, you shouldn't be under the impression that the solution to your social media challenges is to hire an individual who doesn't understand basic marketing concepts and who, for instance, can do little more than write catch tweets and Facebook updates.

Courting individuals who don't know your industry

For obvious, it's difficult to be successful with social media if the people running your social media initiatives don't understand what you do.

Needless to say, if your company is in a niche market, it may be difficult to find candidates who understand social media and your industry, but at the very least you should recognize the perils of hiring someone who is effectively blind to the realities of your business.

Hiring before you're ready

For many businesses, social media is an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. But are you really ready to recruit a person dedicated to social media?

It's not always an easy question to answer, but there are some basic questions you should be asking yourself before you do so, like "Do we really know enough about social media to manage such a hire?", "Have we identified the responsibilities and objectives of the position?", and "How are we going to calculate whether this position is producing an ROI?"

Being seduced by the social media hot-shot.

As social media matures, it's getting harder for charlatans. But that doesn't mean they aren't out there. Be very, very wary of hiring somebody who promises the world and wants to overhaul your entire marketing strategy around social media.

Again, social media can be an important part of the marketing mix, but the operative words are 'part of.' Anybody who tells you that social media is the end-all and be-all of your business and who acts like he or she is applying for the role of CEO should be avoided.

Being lazy

Most hiring decisions are subjective. Yes, you can administer tests that aim to measure skills and knowledge, and you can filter applicants by objective criteria. But at the end of the day, tests and filters don't guarantee that a candidate really has what you need.

That's why when it comes to social media, which has so many qualitative characteristics, it doesn't pay to be lazy.

Apparently, for instance, some companies are actually using Klout scores to screen applicants for social media-related jobs, believing that Klout accurately measures 'influence' and that those who have higher Klout scores will be better able to put their supposed 'influence' to work for you.

Make no mistake about it: this is a lazy way to screen applicants. Social media is social, and you should be prepared to get to know your candidates, not the numbers that supposedly reflect how much 'influence' they have.

Patricio Robles

Published 2 November, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (9)

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Allen Thrasher, Marketing Director at InfoPrint Solutions

I disagree with the need to court people who know your industry. I find that those who have cross-industry experience are more valuable in the long-term.

For a savvy marketer, it is easy to learn an industry. We know what questions to ask and what needs to understand. It is much easier to learn an industry than it is to learn how to be an astute marketer.

I think without that, you are much less able to have effective, innovative marketing programmes.

almost 7 years ago



Your link to 'Klout Scores' is broken.

almost 7 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

Thanks Nick - the link should be fixed now.

almost 7 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

I definitely agree that your social media marketing hire should have a solid foundation in plain old marketing. That hire needs to understand how to leverage social media to build your brand, not just make your Facebook page look cool.

almost 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy


"For a savvy marketer, it is easy to learn an industry. We know what questions to ask and what needs to understand. It is much easier to learn an industry than it is to learn how to be an astute marketer."

Astute marketers may be hard to find, but I have seen way too many companies fall victim to the hubristic fallacy that "For a savvy marketer, it is easy to learn an industry."

No industry is "easy to learn."

The idea that a person who spent the last five years at a CPG company selling cereal is capable of jumping in and doing great work for a fashion brand, for instance, is in my opinion, naive. The difficulties are even more pronounced in the B2B space. You'll have a hard time finding a marketer who spent the last two years working for an HVAC manufacturer who in a matter of months is going to do great marketing for, say, an oil services firm.

The bottom line is that effective marketing requires the ability to speak to customers and prospective customers. If you don't know the industry, you don't know your customers. And if you don't know your customers, you're going to have a hard time speaking to them effectively and credibly.

None of this means that marketers with cross-industry experience aren't valuable, but to do great work as a marketer, you can't just have breadth, you need the type of depth that can only come with working in an industry for awhile. For social media positions, companies undervalue industry experience at their own peril.

almost 7 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

I am thinking a good option for many companies is to bring someone from outside to train an existing person inside the company, probably someone in the marketing department. That way you combine social media knowledge with company knowledge.

I currently manage social media from our American office but have been working on getting our European and Asian offices involved. We've developed some systems and best practices that work and we want to share them with other divisions.

I've realized my own limitations as I am not a technical expert in the company's field of expertise- there are tweets to our main account that I can't answer for example - so I am training those with the technical knowledge how to use social.

almost 7 years ago


Delfin Vassallo, Social Media Analyst at Financial Services Industry

Not fully agree with this:

"there may be very good reasons not to hire somebody who has spent the past two decades in traditional marketing roles"

There are few marketing professionals -like myself- that love keeping ahead, updating knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills to maintain competitiveness.

Being from the so called "old school" doesn't necessarily mean you don't get social media dynamics and even less that you cannot be successful doing social business (beyond marketing)

I personally think what better combination: experience + business minded + social media savvy + change management skilled = successful social media implementation

Loving the last two lines, online influence scores don't measure strategic skills.

almost 7 years ago


Pat Falgate

I think it is foolish to undervalue industry experience Allen..could not disagree with you more!

almost 7 years ago


Virtual Agents

Yes I agree with you that before you hire a person you should know him/her first. Ask him what he can contribute in your company. Thank you for this reminders.

almost 7 years ago

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