Posted by Dana VanDen Heuvel, September 21, 2009
It’s no secret that many brands are embracing social media. From international heavyweights like Ford and Coca-Cola to local ice cream shops, everyone is trying to figure out “how to get social media done.” In several client meetings recently, the discussion has turned to the subject of staffing up for social media and to then training those staff to ensure that they do “the right things right” in the social media space and flawlessly perform the role of “brand steward”.
There are a few questions you should ask as you’re considering the social media staffing issue.
Should I hire or outsource?
I’m biased here, but I’ll tell you from experience that the most successful social media work that I’ve seen involves social media personnel inside of an organization. Yes, you need to have some who gets your company, culture and (deeply) understands the market(s) you serve and the industry you’re in. A true steward of the brand (a phrase I use daily to describe those who work in the social media space on behalf of their company) should be embedded in the company. (caveat: A contract social media person can be embedded as well…but they need to really “get you” in order to work out). If you want some more ammo for this discussion, check out Beth Harte’s 25 Signs You’ve Got a Strong SM Consultant or Agency.
What role should I absolutely hire for?
If you’re really serious about social & digital media, one of the most popular roles that brands hire first is that of “community manager”. Basically, the community manager is the brand steward within the community of customers, prospects and partners that you serve.
What qualifications should they have?
I could write a laundry list of which qualifications one should have to do social media for your brand, but at the end of the day, there are a few non-negotiable things that I’m stuck on.
- Community managers should be advocates, ambassadors and stewards of the brand in one – This is a delicate balance, but they are first, and foremost, representatives of the company but they must understand and communicate well with the community they serve.
- Community managers must be able to communicate in writing, video, audio, 140 characters and in any other mode that’s social media ready – A good sense for good copy, proper etiquette & tact and a generally approachable nature are essential.
- Believes in the core “social media ethic” which is to always ask “how can my company be useful, relevant and helpful to the community we serve?” – A sharing, caring & “ready to educate” mentality is the hallmark of a good social media community manager.
- Loves what they do and loves people! – Great community managers love people, love helping out and love technology and communication. They will be as adept behind a Twitter handle as they will be out at a trade show catching video from community members.
What if I can’t hire anyone?
That’s a great question, and you have a couple of options. First, you can “do” social media in less than 20 minutes a day if you have a defined process. That way there’s no capital investment, only your time (which can be worth quite a lot, so choose your channels wisely). You can also hire in help. While I don’t advocate that brands “outsource social media” wholesale, a growing number of businesses are embracing social media by hiring part-time employees or contract social media folks to operate Twitter, Facebook and similar sites on their behalf. Some companies, like Garrett Popcorn, have hired people to tweet for them. In their case, they hired Alecia Dantico, a doctoral student in communications. If you’re going to go it alone, then your readiness comes into question. Here are a few questions to ask, compliments of David Armano, that I feel you should take pretty seriously:
- Do you have a passionate and dedicated team who will obsess over your efforts?
- Are you trying to provide value or “quick hits”?
- Are you willing to engage your customers/consumers?
- Are you willing to empower your employees/agencies to represent you?
- Are you willing to risk failure?
At the end of the day, I believe that organizations that take social media seriously will either dedicate staff, or a portion of their time to the discipline, or hire in professionals to help out with social media. I’ve advised a number of brands to hire community managers and interns to help out with the process with great success.
Have questions about social media professionals? Need help staffing up for social media? Drop me a line. I can help.
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