Hiring a Social Media Professional: It's More Than Facebook, Followers & Frivolity

Just like your mom when you came home with that first tattoo – I was shocked when I saw the blog post from Cathryn Sloane entitled "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25"

Shock is the only possible reaction to this story, which advocates that social-media professionals over the age of 25 can’t possibly have a clear understanding of the medium. 

The interesting thing about the title of this young woman’s blog post is that it could have caused a brand-killing fire storm if she dropped it in a different community. At this point, all the damage seems to center on her personal brand. That black mark will take a long time to heal.

Articles such as this typically have some educational value. The author might define a body of metrics that could prove a particular point, or outline tools and the appropriate manner in which to use them.

After sifting through the essay, however, I don’t find any such value.

The only reason I will not go through great pains to shred this article is that it would give the author too much credit. The fact is this is probably the most buzz she may ever create in her career. From that perspective, she effectively did her job as a social-media professional.

The primary complaint from the author is that she, and apparently her contemporaries, cannot find social-media positions because so many gigs require five-plus years of experience. She claims that because social media is so new and dominated by young users, it’s not possible for the most qualified users to have that much professional experience.

Let’s come at this from a different angle:

Hiring a Social Media Professional: It's more than Facebook, Followers and Frivolity 

We will start with three simple questions:

  • Would you hire someone fresh out of school to be the single representative of your brand, company, culture, products and services?
  • Would you not want your representative to have previous experience with crisis management, standard operating procedures, content management, community development and campaign construction?
  • Do you assume that because someone is younger than you are, they have a better understanding of technology? 

An advisor once told me, “Make great decisions for the company; lead with those decisions and we will all succeed."

That’s great, simple advice. I continue to follow it every day. What I’ve learned along the way is that regardless of educational institution, GPA or major, no one can make great decisions without experience. It takes some bumps, bruises and scrapes.

When looking for a social media professional, you want a well-rounded representative for your brand, products and services, messaging and overall company culture. If you hire someone fresh out of school because of budget, it may do more harm than good in the end.

All brands have a very short shelf life now. Much like a musician who is only as good as the last song downloaded.

It takes three key practices to maintain customer retention and loyalty: consistency, understanding your business models, and thoughtful, progressive optimization to your messaging. In the future, companies will literally live and die based on brand perception.

So you're not Coca-Cola? You're not Apple? Oh, I see, you don't have built-in authenticity, storytelling and trust factor in the sea of affiliate alignments. So should I assume you can make mistakes progressively with your brand's reputation, and that you will come out at the far end of the rainbow?

The world of the social media professional is a journeyman's profession. We've all watched these tools develop progressively from our passion for integrated marketing, storytelling, advertising, and online content development. It's fair to say that those of us who grew out of the past 20 years of digital evolution can quickly spot trends, and leverage strategies and techniques. We can rapidly dive deep into campaign granularity, and make more sense of an endless array of metrics, analytics and data.

I will be the first one to tell you to hire young talent. You want smart, young, progressive thinkers within your integrated marketing.

However, the machine now has too many cogs requiring true leaders who understand not only social media, but also advertising and storytelling. When it all comes right down to it, they should be willing to go to bat for your brand as if it were their own.

The youth of today have not had an opportunity to make as many mistakes as we have. They haven't started and failed at their own businesses. They haven’t worked for miserable people and fantastic leaders. They haven't been self-employed. Drop your arrogant sense of entitlement, roll up your sleeves and get a shovel, we've been fighting the good fight for a long time.

They might just be able to learn a thing or two from us old geezers.

Posted on July 26, 2012 and filed under Advertising, Business, Education, Process, Soapbox.