3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

I don’t care if you are hiring someone as a fulltime employee, hiring an agency to support your business, or looking for a position in social media. There are three principles you really should consider. They are so rational and make sense for any position to fill, but often are ignored when securing social media positions.

This coming week I start a new chapter in my social media adventures. I will be heading up social media strategy at a performance marketing agency. In the past, I have been hired as a consultant and someone to lead another social team. I have hired social talent to be part of a team and I’ll be doing that again. Given my interviewing experience on both sides, I thought it would be valuable to share three common mentalities often overlooked. So I hope you take some missteps I have witnessed by both candidates and companies in the social media hiring process and change things for the better.

Simply Show You Are Social

For Candidate:
Be prepared to bring and show examples of your social footprint. This is more than using Facebook and Twitter. Do you blog? Can you give examples of generating earned and shared media?

When I hired some social media managers in February, 2010, I knew I would not find many that have done what I was looking for in a professional setting. I found a number of good candidates that “lived” the social thing. They were producing content and capturing a following in their personal life because they enjoyed doing it. They were engaging and building relationships. Can you demonstrate this?

For Hiring Company:
Social media success starts with having the right mentality. I have emphasized this in my article “Forget Social Media – Let’s First Start with Social.” Let me make the point through two contrary experiences …

Company A: I was interviewing for a position to head up social media for a major retail brand you all would know. The process was going well and I received an email from HR stating, “____ (the CMO) mentioned that he had a great conversation with you and he is interested in you for the role … I will connect with you first/second week of May to discuss next steps.” Then, I never heard back from them and they did not return my call and email. I do not think it is acceptable for any company to go cold after sending such a positive note – even if they are having some internal issues. They should be transparent (I am not saying totally and show their warts) and follow up and say we are having some delays for some unforeseen issues. If this is how “social” they are to their prospect team and this is their culture, how social do they expect their staff team to be with their customers?

Company B: After interviewing with the CEO (a very busy person), I sent a follow up note stating thanks and why I thought I was a great match for the position. You know, the type of follow up letter we always do. Do you ever get replies to them? I never did and least not until my experience with Company B. The CEO returned a simple note and said, “Thanks for the info. Looking forward to continued conversations.” It took all of 15 seconds to do this. Others there returned my follow note as well. This is a “social mentality company.” Yes, I was extremely happy to receive the simple note and you know what – customers really appreciate when they receive responses from corporate staff as well. No surprise … I start working for them on Monday. 🙂

Know What You Are Looking For

For Candidate:
A common question in any interviewing scenario is “What are you looking for?” To be honest, I have not always been good at answering this question – at least not in the beginning of my job search. Yes, I have interviewed at a number of companies and it took some time for me to know exactly where and how I wanted to make my impact. But I do think this uncertainty hindered my ability to connect with some companies early in my interviewing endeavors. When I knew exactly what I looked to accomplish, I was able to develop stronger relationships even at first meetings. It is okay to go out there and feel your way around for a bit. But realize you need to work to determine a definition of what is right for you and you will see greater success at that point.

For Hiring Company:
There have been a number of companies that I have interviewed with that did not know what the responsibilities would be for social positions and even where the position reported into. I have experienced multiple cases where I was to report to more than one person because of uncertainty. Social media must be accountable to the entire company – yes. But reporting structure is not a replication of accountability.

If you are not sure what you are looking for, set up information sessions and label it as such. Way back when, we used “RFIs” (Request for Information) as a method to learn more about vendors that could solve problems for organizational needs. Bring this same mentality to the social hiring process. It makes no difference if you are searching for agency support or securing a fulltime position. A real “social media expert” would be glad to share information and food for thought with you.

I have a number of war stories on this subject. Yes, I share my experiences, but will not reveal well recognized entities – there are many. Kiss and tell – no. Share lessons learned – yes.

Connecting Social Media to Business Objectives

Here, it is really the same objective for the candidate and the hiring company. It is not important to hire someone who knows social media … It is important to hire someone who knows how to successfully connect social media to the company. There are tons of people out there that understand social media. Heck, most digital natives (or millennials) understand it and get it. But it is a whole lot different to be able to understand a brand position, its target market, what the target market values, where the prospective audience congregates, and being able to establish a social media practice that fits in. If you are the candidate or hired agency, do understand how you measure success and define a social program that bolts into your awareness, lead generation, and sales process strategy and activities of the hiring company? If you are the hiring company, do you know how to determine whether your hired prospect or agency has the ability to integrate social media into your operations and can articulate KPIs (key performance indicators)? Can he/she provide added value by building and increasing loyalty and advocates? Don’t you think a company will experience much greater success with this ability rather than hiring someone that simply knows social?

Wrap Up

Let’s be honest. Nothing I have written here is earth shattering or profound. We apply these mentalities quite often. But for some reason, it has been my experience that this is not the case when it comes to social media hiring. Why? Because social media is new and some look at it like it is a great mystery. While I can accept this, I am suggesting that the solution is simpler than we are making it. And just one more thing (or really three things) … make sure to pay attention to the areas I have covered here. It should result in a solid match for the organization and the hiree.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under company organization, employment, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

20 responses to “3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

  1. Very informative !
    Looking forward to more articles like this!
    Good Luck

  2. Steve you’re always worthy of sharing, and so right that it’s not a mystery i advise people to stop thinking of the interent as magic, myth or mystery because real people don’t they just use it. I’d like to think I can cover most of what you say, but seriuolsy could do with refining how I do things a little more for mroe own brand as opposed to everyone i work with and for.
    I always try to tell people to forget the technology as that’s the least part of your worries the most important is to understand yourself and then your audience and connecting the two using what’s available will help the two of you.

    Thanks for another great article, most importantly putting it in one place, I’m ready to be hired now 🙂

  3. Your comments are spot on, and not just for social media positions but all job connections with companies. How a company treats a potential job applicant should send a clear message as to how you may be treated as a customer of this same company. Some companies get away with poor customer service as they are the only provider in some markets. As a customer, many times we have a choice and should exercise this choice to send a clear message when possible.
    In today’s market, recruiters are challenged in getting back to the many candidates that apply. Many applicants are not truly qualified. The use of an automatic response note (via email) is protocol for large companies with applicant tacking systems (a.k.a. ATS). Although this allows the company to respond, it is impersonal and does not provide the social aspect that is referenced in this blog.
    When reviewing your prospects, think through your expectations and during your meeting, ask about how you can best follow up and when you can expect to hear back from them. Hopefully, the recruiter with be genuine in their reply and follow up respectfully.
    Thanks for sharing your insight – as always, helpful and useful!

  4. Manuela Matias Matos

    I’m new in the area and I always learn so much with your articles!
    Thank you!

  5. Yet another insightful post, Steve. All critical questions and actions to consider in the hiring process. Good luck this week in your new position, and thanks again for your time last week.


  6. I am especially with you when it comes to “Simply Show you are Social” and returning calls and emails. In your scenario, you had already earned a right for a response because of personal interaction. That wasn’t a cold email or email blast. I get disturbed with where our society has gone when it comes to lack of responsiveness. Guess I’m a big fan of courtesy.

    I like the dual perspective of candidate/employer. Nice job, Steve.

    • Thanks Brian – appreciate it. And I agree with your being a big fan of courtesy. It truly scares me that the lack is too often carried over to customers.


  7. Shehzana

    Very insightful Steve!

    I’ve always been passionate about social media, read and researched a lot about that throughout my studies!

    Working on social media strategies at the moment and your articles are indeed very helpful!

    I totally agree with you that “understanding the brand position, its target market, the target market values, where the prospective audience congregates, and being able to establish a social media practice that fits in” are fundamental criteria! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!
    Looking forward to more articles!


    • Shehzana,

      Thanks! I think it all starts with “understanding the brand position, its target market, the target market values, and where the prospective audience congregates.”


  8. Peregrine

    Steve, as always your commentary cuts through all the fluff and hits right at the heart of the issue. I wish you were around when I was taking classes in PR and Communications! I always note that social media in business is PR and Communications by yet another means; so, adapt the rules and move on. Your insights apply there and to International Relations as well. Thinking about what you want, planning for that and always with it in mind, and finding talent that gets the company are cornerstones. Thanks again for the great advice.

  9. Ed

    Thanks, Steve. It is indeed reassuring for a company hiring “social” to walk that talk.


  10. Interesting. Thanks for the tips as I’m working on getting a social media job right now.

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