By Tim Baker
One of my biggest pet peeves is the “social media guru.” You know the type, the person that spends all their time on Twitter retweeting Mashable articles and Chris Brogan’s blog posts and thinks that having 40,000 followers makes them an instant expert in marketing. These people are bad news for many reasons, but what makes them most dangerous is the damage they are doing to the term “social media.”
You see, as hard as it may be for you to believe, there are still many companies that don’t see value in social media. Whether it’s the fear of giving up control or the mentality that it’s just a fad, key decision makers in many corporations have cold feet. As time goes on and more of these companies begin to get more adventurous, they may make the mistake of hiring one of these “ninjas” only to see their biggest fears realized.
Before you hire your first (or next) social media employee, here are some things to be on the look out when attempting to filter out the true experts versus the snake oil salesmen.
1. There are no “experts” in social media. If your candidate is claiming to be an expert, chances are they have never worked in a meaningful social media job. You see, the people that are widely regarded as “experts” in the field will be the first to tell you that they’re always learning. The rate at which technology continues to grow and people find new ways to connect, it’s unrealistic to think one can ever truly be a social media expert/guru/ninja/maven.
2. If your candidate is using their Twitter followers or Facebook fans as a testament to their knowledge, chances are you’re dealing with a fraud. Rather than rehash the same diatribe that follower count does not equal influence, just know this: a Twitter account that posts nothing but facts about Justin Bieber (@OMGJDBFACTS) has over 4,000 followers. If that doesn’t convince you that Twitter follower count has nothing to do with one’s social media marketing knowledge, I don’t know what will.
3. Social media is nothing new. If your candidate thinks social media started with Friendster and MySpace, there’s a good chance they’re not as versed in the space as they’d have you believe. You see, before social media became the buzzword it is today, it was referred to as “new media.” Before “new media” – well, we just referred to it as BBSes, Usenet and chat rooms. The point is, the communication that occurs on the modern social networking sites has been happening since the minute people started connecting to networks via modems, it’s just become a lot easier for the non tech savvy to “join the conversation.”
4. This next point may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. Before you hire someone to run your social media initiatives, make sure they themselves are engaged. Ask them what social networks they use outside of Facebook and Twitter and verify that they are in fact using them. You see, anyone can say they’re blogging and using sites like Digg, Stumbleupon, Flickr, Reddit, Tumblr and so on, but take the time to check out their profiles. Are they active? How long have they been so? Social media is not unlike any other career path in that in order to be successful, one must know what is going on in the world around them. I’m not suggesting that one must be engaged in every social network out there, but if their only presence is Facebook, Twitter and a blog on social media, be very skeptical. (Note: for a very comprehensive list of the different social networks out there,Wikipedia has a great resource.)
5. Be on the lookout for “The Constant Marketer.” Maybe you’ve seen them in action, where everything they contribute to their community is related to social media marketing.One sure-fire way to spot one of these folks is to follow them on Twitter. If you receive an auto-response via direct message promoting their blog or telling you how excited they are to connect with you and look forward to your tweets, move on! These people obviously don’t get it.
6. Ask your candidate how they measure social media success. If they look at you with a blank stare or tell you that success in social media can’t be measured, move on. While organizations may have different reasons for using social media, every one of them can and should be measuring it.
7. With so many creative uses of social media out there, it’s a good idea to ask your prospective employee to name a few of their favorite case studies. Many companies have done some really great things, such as Ikea’s use of Facebook photo taggingand VisitPA’s partnership with Foursquare, two of my personal favorites. (Bonus points should be awarded if they can name something other than the Old Spice campaign!)
There are some really brilliant people that truly understand how to use social media, it just takes some effort to cut through the weeds to find the flowers. Hopefully these tips will help you find your true “rock star” and prevent the phonies from tarnishing the term social media any more than they’re already doing. Have any other tips? Share them in the comments!