How Would You Fix this Disconnect in Social Media Hiring?

Photo cred: madebytess

My friend Amber Naslund had a great post recently about the problems with social media job descriptions. I agreed with much of what she said.  So many job descriptions for social media related positions really just make me laugh.

My first reaction is usually to blame the company.  They obviously don’t get “it” and are making themselves look foolish with these job descriptions they’re posting online.

But wait…

Why am I blaming the company?

I thought we’re encouraging companies to start to experiment with social media platforms.  I thought companies are supposed to open their mind.  Now when they take their first step into social media, we judge them for not getting it right?

Amber really got me thinking.  How can companies, who know nothing about social media, know what to ask of a social media job candidate?  There’s a disconnect there.

How can companies fill this disconnect?  Should they start by approaching social media platforms with the employees and resources they already have?  Then when they’re a bit more comfortable with it, they can hire and build out a full team?  That’s what Lee Aase and the Mayo Clinic did and it seemed to work pretty well for them.

Or do they rely on external recruiters? Hire someone to hire someone?

I have my own ideas which I’ll end up sharing in the comments, but I’d like to hear your thoughts first.

What do you think?

18 thoughts on “How Would You Fix this Disconnect in Social Media Hiring?

  1. I think the company needs to test the waters for a bit first before they jump into hiring a social media professional. If they have no idea what it is or how it can be used, how do they even know if it’s the completely right thing do to for their company? Also, by doing some research, for example reading blogs and seeing how successful other companies are with social media, they can set some type of standard or parameters for finding a social media employee. How can you find a social media candidate without even truly knowing what they can do for your company through social media?

    1. Right. It’s tough though. When researching how other companies approach social media, the information that exists is really only the stuff that exists on the surface. They see blog posts, and tweets and maybe a case study or two about their approach. It’s very hard to get a full understanding of the behind the scenes action until you’ve been there yourself. So what then?

      Thanks for the comment Aysel (=

      1. Test the waters, like I mentioned earlier. Actually get in it and start it yourself. See what happens. Listen to conversations. Make connections. Just really try to understand what social media is about and how it can be useful specifically for your company. I definitely wouldn’t recommend companies to participate in social media just because everyone else is doing it. They need to find the true value in social media.

          1. Well… they need to set up some type of strategies or company goals. If with time some of these goals are met, they will understand the value of social media. Time and patience is the key though.The goals have to be measurable in some way, whether it is increasing profits with a specific target audience, creating lasting relationships, listening to customers and actually responding to their desires, etc. Every social media campaign needs to start with a strategy though.

  2. My thoughts..

    Start off with someone who has the passion to see social media within the company succeed. Then connect them with a few key marketing and communications team members to help keep them on track with corporate goals and position.

    Have that member start to educate their teams across the board (sales, marketing, leadership, HR, operations, corp comm, IT, etc). They’ll not only need to see case studies of successes and failures, but also the plan of actions that you will take to create results. How will you track results?

    So now a plan is set in place; and this will change over time. But hopefully from there (a few months in), the majority of the key players in the company are feeling more comfortable. The ‘passionate amateur’ was able to teach them pros and cons of social media, while backing it up and showing how they will be forward.

    So now its 9-12 months in, and you’ve been listening to your brand, your competitors brand, your products/services, and have found key players in your industry… you have pretty good idea of where you need to go next.

    You’ll need more passionate people to assist from across the board. Some of these folks need to be dedicated. Others need to engage when necessary, but everyone needs to be consistent.

    Social Media will be across the entire company, and it is tough to know everything about the company you work for (hence the many levels of management).

    So create a list of key players in the company (region-wise and organization-wise) that will be key people to get the answers you need asap.

    I think one big thing to note when “jumping in” is that if your teams are not consistent, you need to re-address, change up the process, or find new people within the org that will dedicate to consistency.

    So.. How would I fix this disconnect in social media hiring?

    I would note that it takes time and dedication. The company needs to understand that they can’t expect results in your first 60 days. You need to be able to do the research and have a plan of action. That could easily take 6 months (some folks maybe 12 months). Sure they can start out small, but while doing so, they really need to take the time to listen – and that takes time, especially if you are a brand with many leafs around the world.

    Maybe their first bullet point should read:
    – Your first 6 months will be to listen and measure our company brand as well as our top competitors.

    1. Interesting. The only downsides are that 1) that relies on you having an employee to enthusiastic about social media that they’ll be willing to commit the time and effort to educating the rest of the company and shifting their focus from their primary responsibilities (or take on the additional responsibilities on top of their usual job). Also, an employee that is passionate about social media isn’t necessarily (and probably isn’t) strategically savvy in approaching social media from a corporate standpoint.

      1. Thanks for the response Dave. Let me clarify a bit on the downsides you bring up.

        1) I think it SHOULD be the goal of the social media marketer to spend their time and effort educating the company. That includes creating policy and guidelines that follow strategic imperatives of the company and sits within media relations and legal standards.

        2) Agree with you here – that passionate person may not be strategically savvy (in corporate standards), but when working along side the strategic marketer (probably Gen-X that has been there for 15 yrs), the two minds combine as one to effectively tackle issues, plans, goals, etc..

        The hybrid approach for the first 6-12 months would be beneficial to the company as well as the key strategic marketers that want to get into social media but aren’t sure of the best approach. They need that passionate individual to do their due diligence to learn about the company and industry from their team, do the research, educate, and collectively create their strategic social media marketing plan.

  3. I definitely agree that Amber’s posts on social media hiring were great ones. What gets me is since these companies may know next to nothing about social media, it’s very easy for all of these “gurus” out there to flash their Twitter follower count and slip into the position without any real experience, plan, or even passion for the subject.

    As to how you prevent this, whew, tough question, haha. I’d say the hiring people should first do some preliminary research on their own, whether it’s reading some of the top blogs online or picking up a book on social media. This way you can at least have a basic understanding when you’re talking with people.

    Then, I think if you can find someone that you trust to help you in the process, this would be very valuable. Maybe it’s someone you’ve interacted with on the blogs you’ve read. If you could get them in on the interview process, that would of course be great, but even if you could just ask them to give you some guidelines for what to look for. Even if you have to pay them a small fee, this is far and away better than wasting 3 months working with some social media scrub who managed to pull a fast one on you.

    Then, after you’re done hiring, it’s important to not just let them go at it on their own and trust they’re getting the job done. IF you’re not seeing results, then they’re probably not the right fit. Hold frequent meetings to check on progress and understand that yes, you need to be patient since it’s not an easy thing to get results from, but they should at least have a vision for success and a plan set in place to track their own progress.

    Wowzers, long comment, but I’m interested to see what others thoughts are.

    1. It’s certainly a tough one to answer. I think you’re on the right path with the research idea. It’s about education. The problem is, how do you know whether or not the blogs your reading, and the content that your research leads you to is legit? How can companies know if they’re reading the bullshit or the real shit?

      My answer is to bring in an educator. I say educator because I think it’s more fitting that consultant. This educator would come in, and teach all different departments in your company how they could help their company using social media. Then, as they see the need for “social media specialists” they’ve already seen first hand what they need and can hire accordingly.

      May just follow this post up with my answer 😉

      Thanks for stopping by jackie.

  4. It changes from company to company, IMO. If you have the resources to go out and pay someone like Dave Fleet to help you, why not? If you don’t, just dig in and get dirty. The best way to learn anything is to immerse yourself in it.

    Even if it’s just one person who isn’t even publicly representing your company online, they can gain insight and experience and report back.

    Also, I *hope* anyone who is engaged in social media can recognize a company who wants to use social media the right way before taking a job there. That’s probably being optimistic, however.

    1. true that is optimistic as many professionals would take the best opportunity they are offered. One can still hope thought right?

      The issue with bringing someone from the outside to help in the hiring process is they know why the person you hired is good for the job, but do you? Once this imaginary social media god you call “Dave Fleet” leaves, the company won’t know what to expect of their new employee. They won’t know how to track their successes and failures.

  5. Before hiring anyone, companies should first learn what Social Media is and what they want to do it in. If they need help crafting a strategy with an outside company or consulting firm then so be it.

    If you hire someone to do a job that you have no clue about, you are leaving yourself open to being duped.

    Yes that may seem a little backward, but you’d be surprised at the companies who just go ahead and hire the employees because they can and then have no clue what the new employees are doing, except that they are there to ‘do social media.’

  6. I agree with what a lot of people are saying here that it’s about education and knowing what you want first. It would be so easy these days to get duped by someone with a lot of followers or fans yet no real experience. There’s really probably no substitute for getting a little education yourself. However, knowing how pressed executives can be for time I understand how hard that could be as well. Interestingly enough I was reading Olivier Blanchard’s post earlier on his new endeavor, the Red Chair Group: http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/whats-next-operationalizing-social-media-huh-what/ This might be the answer to getting these guys enough of an understanding that they can cut through the phonies and get good employees. The cost of the seminar then makes total sense because the damage that could be done by the wrong employee could be infinitely worse.

    As part of what I do as well now, our business model we’ve created involves bringing us in to help develop a strategy from goals and objectives to implementation and then to train a team to take over (which we may help identify from internal or external sources). Instead of walking away, we reduce involvement to work at a high level capacity once the team is trained to ensure it’s all working well and they are performing against the objectives. Once they are confident all is going smoothly (and the measurement proves it), we will back out and leave them with a subscription to some premium web content to help both executives and the team to stay informed at the appropriate level – strategy level for C-suite and tactical level for implementation team.

    I think they could jump right in themselves without spending the money, but the potential damage and/or waste of resources might not be ideal for some. If they are serious, I think it’s best they seek good people to help them through the process. Plus, it’s easier to terminate an agreement for a strategy session that’s a couple thousand dollars and done in a few weeks than to hire someone for $50,000/year and take 3 months to figure out they were full of it and be right back where you started.

    In terms of knowing if we are good, ask for recommendations and follow up with those people just as you would in hiring anyone else. I’m definitely interested to see your follow up blog post on this David and to hear if you have thoughts on our business model and it’s value to companies.

  7. Good discussion here. I think it’s important to find the passionate folks you already have in your organization and encourage them to find the right applications. If you start with a big, expensive hire or team for social media you will be under more immediate pressure to get quantifiable results (the dreaded ROI) which will lead you to do things that are against the social media ethos, and thereby actually hinder your long-term prospects for social media success. Having someone who knows company culture and is developing (or at least highly interested in) social media culture is, I think, a more sustainable way to go. I’m obviously biased by my experience, but I think it makes sense to find an internal advocate for whom the opportunity is energizing instead of hiring initially from outside.

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