When it comes to hiring for our social media division at Tank, I’m often asked how we go about finding someone trusted to be the public presence for our wide range of clients. These national and international brands all have their own rigorous recruitment processes, so it is only right that we reflect this by bringing the best people into our agency.
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In my mind, the ideal candidate is confident in using different technology and social platforms, while also capable of adopting whatever brand voice is needed driving it forward. We work closely with our clients to build their social media strategy and ensure they are represented correctly online. This means we need someone who is capable of helping to implement it.
So what qualities should YOU look for when hiring? Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned during my time recruiting the best social media talent.
“Why do you want to work here?”
It must be the most common interview question, but it still catches many people off guard. If someone can’t tell me what the company does from the website, then, for me, the interview stops there. Visiting the “About Us” section of a website is not rocket science, so if they do not take a few moments to read this then it is better to save everyone’s time and move onto the next interviewee.
In a competitive market, we do need more than the basics. Frankly, I don’t give a damn if a candidate has a lilac mohawk, two full sleeves of My Little Pony tattoos, hardly any references, and a personal blog about taxidermy owls – I want to see passion. This is particularly true when it comes to in-house roles, because they need to be genuinely enthusiastic about the brand they’re representing.
People who care about who they are working with are usually those who are motivated to achieve more, and they will put in the time to make it happen. Their passion is also infectious, and this provides a boost to the rest of the team, like a breath of fresh air. It shows to the community in the channels.
In any business, there really is no substitute for being proactive and genuinely caring about the product or service on offer. We need people who will help to drive a business forward and are comfortable being the brand representative and voice. Existing brand evangelists are worth their weight in precious metals, and additional experience is an added bonus.
Naturally, if you are a major brand looking to hire your head of social media, then you need someone who ticks all the boxes–and then some. However, if you are looking to fill a more junior role, don’t dismiss applicants who haven’t yet held a position within a social media team. College graduates, ready to cut their teeth, often prove to be a real asset, and I start by looking at how they run their own social channels. Once they have begun working with us, we can train them on the specifics of how to post and best practices, while offering support as they progress.
If they have worked with brands before, this is obviously a bonus, but I’m just as keen to see how they manage their own Facebook hobby pages, their Twitter account, their LinkedIn profile, and Snapchat, as well as how they control their personal brand online.
I can see if their channels are complete, how they are engaging with other online users, and whether they are using the latest services offered by different social platforms.
A few minutes spent examining someone’s social media profile offers an insight into their interests, such as whether they have a blog, what news they read, the videos they watch and, crucially, whether they are conscious of their public persona.
As an agency offering social media services, we write in a wide range of styles, but it is exceptionally rare that broken grammar or poor punctuation forms part of that brand identity. Starting a sentence with “and” or “but” is the kiss of death for me, and it goes without saying that accuracy should be the basis for every single post. To reinforce this, we insist on a written test during the interview to remove anyone not capable of producing the correct posts.
Another question I ask is, “Can they write in the voice of a specific brand?” During my career, I have written messages targeted at African-American women in their early 20’s, and for scientific brands that want to talk about marine stewardship. Social media professionals must be adept at speaking in different voices and to a diverse audience, while working unsupervised – although nothing should ever be sent out without following a rigorous approval process.
Simply put, I need to find out if I can work with this person. Those that are able to strike a bond when they come for the interview are often the ones who will get on with other people in the agency, and, of course, the clients. While I do not expect them to dress in stereotypical corporate attire, I do want them to be presentable, professional, and friendly.
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Confidence is also important, and they must have the potential to become an authority on social media, particularly when addressing organizations where it is still something of an “unproven” science.
Reports and Analysis
Most people can press a button to generate a report, and there is plenty of social media software that will do this for you. However, there is no substitute for having a grasp of what these numbers mean and, more importantly, what they mean for a client. To illustrate this, I point candidates to one of the largest Facebook accounts we manage and ask them to tell me what type of content is most engaging and who the obvious brand evangelists are.
These are some of the basic forms of analysis, so if the candidate knows where to find the data that is a great start.
Traditional Branding and Marketing Knowledge
Despite the emphasis on digital, it is important not to neglect the fundamentals of marketing. Some of the people we interview will have a degree, or will have undertaken professional qualifications, so it is important to test their understanding of the core concepts like brand personality or traits.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to ask them to describe a couple of social or traditional campaigns that they believe have worked well.
As well as having the creativity to write engaging content, social media executives should be adept at using different online applications to enhance their posts. This could include PhotoShop and Gimp to create titles for a video, as well as easy-to-use tools like PicMonkey, Giphy, or Canva and a keen eye for an Instagram picture.
Can they shoot a simple video and add some titles? Social media managers should be polymaths who can turn their hand to anything and generate a diversity of content that will stimulate a community.
Another typical interview question is to find out what someone enjoys doing outside of work, and this is particularly important within social media. In this line of work, you need to be able to immerse yourself in a million and one subjects, so it is useful to be able to draw on your team’s experience. Tank, for example, manages the social media channels for a pet food brand, and we regularly call on the agency’s dog and cat owners for ideas and anecdotes. Over the years, my new recruits have helped me fill in the gaps where I am lacking in knowledge, from football to vegan cooking and women’s fashion.
My interest is always piqued if I see people have a love of amateur dramatics or table-top role play, and I have noticed that engagement seems to come far more naturally to them.
Anyone can be trained to use social media, and I don’t expect a candidate to know everything straight away unless they are starting at the top of their game. With experience, an executive can soon become proficient in the social media tools now available, and there are plenty of online resources, including video courses and even university programs.
If an individual is driven, they’ll soon pick up the skills they need, and I’d encourage anyone looking to break into the industry to read articles on social media and experiment with their own projects and pages. A curiosity to learn and a willingness to try something new is all part of that passion we’re looking for. Once you have found the talent you are looking for, it is your job to nurture it and help it to grow.