How to Hire a Social Media Expert
What to ask to hire the right professional for your business
A friend of mine recently posted an update on Facebook about the world of the social media expert and how s/he facebooks about facebook, tweets about tweeting and writes about writing. The update garnered a slew of negative comments directed at social media experts. Just like a few lawyers and car sales people have tainted entire professions, social media suffers from “experts” who operate their businesses dishonestly.
If you’re a small business owner just venturing into social media, the learning curve is overwhelming. To hire the right person for the job, you have to know the right questions to ask. And to know the right questions, you’ve got some research ahead of you. The good news is, there a lot of people willing to help – myself included.
Even better news, we can learn a lot from the Internet’s short history.
The dotcom bubble and SEO experts
When you’re creating something from nothing (the Internet), it’s all a game of chance – or chess – depending on your ability to strategize. When the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, more than a few multi-million dollar companies simply disappeared. In 2006, another group of internet based companies playing fast and loose with Google seeking to discover their power over search marketing – many of them also disappeared. In both cases, those who played fair and leveraged their online collateral in ways that served their consumers survived.
Search emerged as the key to playing this game well.
Enter the almighty SEO – Search Engine Optimization – Expert. He understood the rules and the hacks of the game and how to get past the competition. Trouble is, it wasn’t always easy to see whether he was wearing a white hat or a black hat – good guy or bad guy. If you chose to work with a black hat, you were committed to a continual massive monthly spend. While the white hat method yielded sustainable results, it took longer to get there. Confusing to say the least.
And then along came social media. We began to understand that through search we could find our customers and through social media we could create gathering places for them to connect with us and each other. Combine the two and you have the perfect marketing formula, right?
The only problem with the new perfect marketing formula is that it’s added another layer of expertise to an already confusing equation. It takes time to understand the delicate balance between search and social and how they need to contribute to each other to create a sustainable strategy. And many great social media professionals still don’t understand search, which makes it ever more difficult to understand. Who exactly is doing this stuff right?
Professional vs. expert
The problem in our industry isn’t the title – it’s the expertise behind the title. While understanding how to grow and nurture an online community and execute a great contest is important, business acumen separates the hobbyists from the professionals.
In short, many business owners are still hiring so-called social media experts to do a job that they’re not qualified to do. Tweeting from toddlerhood onward doesn’t mean someone understands how to use Twitter from a business perspective. Updating Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn account hourly doesn’t say expert – but it may point to an addiction…
How big is your but?
When I launched SocialNorth, I needed a lawyer. Everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who can write up your contracts for you – cheap. But when you’re launching a business, cheap isn’t always the most important part of the deal. My lawyer walked me through the process slowly and gave me time to digest information and come back to him with questions and concerns. And then he delivered exactly what he promised.
Just like my need for a lawyer (no buts allowed), your social media strategy has to work for it to be money well spent.
So what do you need to ask a social media professional to know how to weed the good talkers from the ones who actually deliver? Start with these weed-whacking questions and then share your own – I’d love to hear what else you think is important when hiring a social media expert.
Can I see your client list?
Many social media professionals can’t disclose their full client list because of privacy issues but move onto your next candidate if the slate is completely bare. If they’re willing to share, ask how long they typically work with clients and if there are any that are outside that standard – and why.
Show me your case studies.
Ask to see the challenge, action and results of a few clients. Understand that each client will have different goals for social media and that some of those goals will again be protected by privacy – but high level results should be easily discernible. The key to success in social media for businesses is understanding what motivates your customers to make decision.
How do you use social media personally?
Being a social media expert doesn’t mean being active on every online platform or even having 100K followers on each. But your candidate should be active on the ones you’re interested in using and be using it daily. Look closely at what they’re talking about and who they’re talking to. What is the overall feeling or personality of their channels – positive or negative, business or personal, chatty or informational. If they’ll be involved in execution (as a community manager) as well as strategy for your company, ask them how they’ll sculpt their voice to fit your brand.
How will you measure success?
Measuring social media success means being able to collect results from a variety of sources and compile those numbers to create a story. Before they explain how they’ll do this, they should be asking you about your goals.
What do you know about my market?
I recently recruited for a fulltime, in-house community manager for a client and the candidate we hired arrived for his interview with a well-researched report – in triplicate. He knew enough about the business and the industry to begin strategizing during the interview.
What tools do you think would work best?
It takes research to know which social media platforms are best for different industries and companies, but some idea sharing – with experience to back it up – is always a good sign.
How much time would you spend on my business?
Your social media professional should be able to map out their strategy for you in black and white. Let’s face it, if they’re planning to sprinkle social media love like pixie dust, your ability to measure success will be sorely limited.
How long will all of this take?
A social media professional will be able to ball park research and ramp up so your expectations match their efforts. Ask for milestones to help you understand key check-in points along the way.