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Finding the right social media strategist

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3575716168_566298edb7_oHiring a social media strategist. It’s a process that no one has completely figured out yet. And how could they in such a new–and constantly changing–space? As with any new field, industry or discipline, learning is key and organizations, recruiters and hiring managers will make mistakes along the way. But, we also need to learn. And get smarter about how we identify the right talent in this evolving space.

The process is filled with challenges. Many times, the folks making the hiring decisions have the slightest clue about social media. Quantifiable qualifications are hard to come by. And with so many people calling themselves “experts” these days, how do you separate the wheat from the chafe?

My feeling is, for the most part, most companies are taking a leap of faith with their social media hires right now. How do you really know the candidate you hired has the skills you’ll need in six months? You don’t. Now, that doesn’t make it that much different from any other job in your organization, but I think the odds are longer right now when it comes to making the right social media hire. 

Given that, let’s talk about four ways you can minimize those odds and identify a social strategist that can effectively integrate digital strategies into your existing marketing and communications mix:

* Review the candidate’s tweet stream. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn by digging back a few weeks. Who do they interact with? What’s their “reply” to “send” ratio? How many followers do they have? More importantly, how many people are they following–and who? It all should play a part in your evaluation. 

* Look at the candidate’s “digital footprint.” Take a look at all the social platforms the candidate is active on–not just Twitter. Read their blog. Look at how often they post. Look at the number of comments. Notice the topics they blog about. Are they offering innovative ideas/thoughts? Or, are they re-hashing previously discussed content? What blogs are they commenting on? What are they saying? Do they have a YouTube channel? On Vimeo? Trying out FriendFeed? Posterous? All this information will give you a more complete picture and a much better for what kind of candidate you’re looking at.  

* Go beyond social media skills. Social skills are just part of the job. What about basic marketing and PR skills? Those are essential. The ability to understand the more technical side of digital. And a solid understanding of business principles. The funny thing about social media jobs is the social work is conceivably the easy part–it’s the business, consulting and integration work that’s the tough part.

* Dig deep into LinkedIn. Go beyond the cursory review of the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. Everyone has recommendations. But does your candidate have an integrated LinkedIn profile? Does the candidate feed their blog into their profile? Does he/she update their status regularly? What do those status updates say about the candidate? What other social media thought leaders across the country are they connected with? What Q&As have they been involved in recently? Do you see any trends? Again, it’s about more than just the resume and number of connections the candidate has.

These are just a few ideas. What else can companies do vet candidates for these social media roles?

Photo credit: judedcoutho via FlickR Creative Commons

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Finding the right social media strategist

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