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4 skills brands *should* be seeking in their social media talent

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2010 was the year when every brand hired a social media specialist. OK, maybe not *every* brand–but we saw a significant uptick in hiring in the social media space in the last year. Just look at Jeremiah Owyang’s People on the Move in the Social Business Industry list for proof.

But, as organizations have hired these folks have they really looked for the right skill sets and talent?

We know larger organizations have struggled with this concept in the past (remember Best Buy crowdsourcing one of its social media jobs a while back?). And, while bigger brands have certainly got a lot smarter about what to look for in social media talent over the last year, I think midsized and smaller organizations still struggle with identifying the skills and talent they need to be successful online (in fact, I’ve seen it first hand a few times this past year).

So, I thought we’d give those organizations some help today by talking about the skill sets these companies should be looking for–instead of the ones they are looking for.

Let’s start with these four:

* Instead of looking for specific Twitter follower numbers or blog stats, seek candidates with a real understanding of how social and online analytics work–and how that translates into action for brands. Instead of worrying about what kind of personal following the person has, shouldn’t there be more focus on finding out if your candidates really understand social and online analytics? And, more importantly, can they take those analytics an translate them into real, viable action steps for brands? That’s the gold many organizations and agencies are looking for right now. My friend, Elizabeth Sosnow tends to agree with me in this guest post from last year.

* Instead of looking for community management experience–seek candidates with journalism and storytelling skills. Sure, community management skills and experience are important, but I’m not willing to put it above storytelling skills in the larger scope of what I’m looking for if I’m a brand right now. Think about it. What’s the one consistent area where most brands fall short when it comes to interaction online? Content, right? Real, compelling content. You’re not typically going to find that skill in a traditional community manager. But,  you will find it in those with journalism backgrounds. They know how to write. They know how to tell a story. And, maybe more importantly, they can write those stories quickly. Remember, speed is critical on the social Web.

* Instead of looking for experience in a specific industry, seek candidates who have a general openness to experimenting and failing. During my time in the health care field, I was consistently surprised by the weight hiring managers put on getting candidates with “health care experience.” I always tended to think we needed folks with different industry experience. That would have brought a whole different mindset to the table. In general, I think “industry-specific experience” is overrated–across the board. My theory: If someone has the skills critical to do the job at hand, I can teach them about an industry. But, it’s tougher to coach up those key skills. Same holds true with social jobs. I’d be more apt to focus on finding someone who’s open to experimenting and failing. With the test-and-tweak method with which many smart people approach the social web these days, that kind of mindset in candidates is absolutely critical. You get a candidate with strong industry experience, but someone who’s a linear and traditional thinker, they’re probably going to fall flat (or run crying) within six months. Do you want that outcome?

* Instead of looking for hardcore HTML or coding skills, seek candidates with a deep understanding of how to interact and talk with programmers and an ability to translate that to the client side. One of the softer skills that few talk about in the social business is the ability to play translator. I’m of the opinion that to succeed in the social industry, you don’t have to be a complete geek. You don’t have to know HTML inside out. Don’t need to know the inner workings of APIs. Or even FMBL, for that matter. But, you do need to know how to talk to those who do know about this stuff. You need to know the basic language they use. You need to know how to give these programmers what they need to do their job–and know how to get what you need to give to the client. It’s that ability to take what you learn from the technology experts and translate it into language the client will understand–that’s the skill set brands need. And, it’s very hard to find.

So, those are my four. What do you think? Am I off-base? What would you add to this list?

Note: Photo courtesy of mringlein via FlickR Creative Commons.

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4 skills brands *should* be seeking in their social media talent

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