Most organisations don’t hire social media managers, strategists or consultants without careful consideration.
In the beginning, it was mostly because of skepticism that it’s just another passing fad. Nowadays, many have become more aware that it’s not the job that an intern or volunteer can take on their own. And, it’s not just another task for any staff member to take on.
It takes time and resources to build a useful social media presence.
That’s why organisations shouldn’t be just jumping in because everyone else seems to be doing it.
Some of the things that I suggest to anyone considering the idea of hiring a social media strategist, consultant, or manager include:
No, they don’t need to be completely enthusiastic about it. They don’t even need to understand it completely. But, it would be useful if they would at least acknowledge the fact that yes, it’s something worth allocating some resources to. They are willing to see what they can do to help it to succeed.
I once had a potential client who called me into their office, interested in hiring me to work on their organisation’s social media accounts. The CEO and founder of the company was the one who contacted me initially. She was familiar with my work and she wanted me to show her and her organisation how they can utilise social media for their business.
However, when I sat in their conference room with her and her COO (her second in command), the COO was very antagonistic towards the concept of social media in business. I was taken aback by the difference between the vision of the CEO and the COO when it comes to social media. One wanted to make it work well while the other one said something along the lines of: “I don’t want to be spending business dollars for someone to sit in their living room, just Twittering and Facebooking.” Right.
Well, even if I could’ve used a new client right that moment, and I really wanted to work with that particular CEO, I didn’t try to sugarcoat the situation. I was upfront and said something like: "If you want someone to do social media for your organisation, you need to know exactly why you want it. And, you need people within your company to champion it. Otherwise, you’re setting it up for failure."
Sure, there are social media efforts that don’t get management backing. They can keep going. And, sometimes, they even grow a bit. But, I have yet to see successful social media implementation without a decent management support.
In one of the organisations that I used to work for, I even went as far as having one-on-one meetings with Board Members, explaining what I was doing in social media for the organisation. Just to keep their minds at ease.
Yes, you do what you need to do first to make sure that top level folks understand why precious business dollars are being allocated for social media.
And, in case you’re wondering: I didn’t end up working with that organisation. And, to be honest, I was relieved that I didn’t get hired. It would have been difficult to work with an organistion where I would need to battle it out with management every step of the way. In fact, they probably never got around to looking further into the whole social media thing because at the time of this writing, that organisation’s Twitter account still has less than 30 followers and they have only posted twice in over a year since they asked for a quote for my services.
Using social media for the sake of using social media is not something I support. It’s not just a “feel good” thing. Organisations need to see beyond the buzz and the warm and fuzzies.
You see, I don’t believe using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, etc should take priority in an organisation that doesn’t know what they are aiming to get out of these channels. In fact, I don’t even believe that all businesses and organisations can realistically be active on social media all the time.
But, I believe that all businesses and organisations should have at least a basic social media plan. Even if that plan just includes: "Make sure we reserve our organisation’s name/URL in all the major social media platforms and post a placeholder that can help our branding and marketing." And perhaps, some policies on social media usage by employees during office hours and similar guidelines.
If you’re not sure what should be in your social media plan, hiring an external consultant to help you along would be your best bet. It’s a one-off expense that will pay-off in the long run. But, yes, make sure that you have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish first. Don’t let any "social media expert talk" you into doing social media outreach that you’re not sure about or not comfortable with.
If a social media consultant suggests for you to go on Twitter, Facebook, start a blog, etc, ask them why. Allow them to show you the benefits for your particular organisation and industry – not just general statistics. In fact, if they can provide you with some examples of similar organisations (especially your competitors) on social media, all the better. Ask for advice on the best way to utilise social media within your budget and your plan.
Not all social media professionals are created equal. The same way not all doctors, lawyers, authors, teachers, etc are created the same way.
Make sure that when you consider hiring a social media professional, you’re looking at more than just their enthusiasm for using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any other platform. Depending on what you want done for your organisation, consider the experiences of your potential social media manager / consultant / strategist in:
Also, look at your potential social media professional’s personal inclinations when it comes to their approach to your brand. This is especially important if you’re hiring someone to be your organisation’s social media voice. Someone who’s naturally technology-orientated would make great social media managers for technology companies. Someone who has had experience working in nonprofits would have a better understanding of giving a voice to your nonprofit organisation.
If they have no experience or knowledge of your brand and/or your causes, it doesn’t mean that they won’t make great advocates, of course. It might just take a while before they can appropriately represent your company in your social media channels. But, if they have a natural interest or love for what your organisation represents, they might learn to be your organisation’s voice a lot quicker.
Bottomline: You are the best judge if your organisation is ready to hire a social media professional, either on a part-time, full-time, freelance, or contract role. Take the time to consider what it means for you and your organisation to have a “good fit” for the role.
Shai Coggins is the Manager and Chief Digital Media Specialist at Vervely, an Australia-based agency serving local and international clients. One of the company's main clients is Microsoft. Shai has been featured in a number of media due to her online work, including being named as one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list (2009).