Recently, I’ve had several folks ask me what it takes to hire someone to manage and direct their digital, social, and content marketing. They’ve been trying to hire someone who can naturally do the top of the funnel and branding work that connects markets with customers to companies with products.
I’m always really happy to get one of these questions, because sometimes the content and social can be ignored. Not every company realizes how much time is invested into developing a strong brand on social media. It’s just Facebook and Twitter, right? How hard is it to set up?
“The problem [with calling it “social” business] is that the deeper meaning and richer context is being lost on executives who still think the word “social” indicates a frivolous time-wasting pursuit.”
I agree with the branding problem that the word “social” has in a professional environment. I constantly feel a cultural pull against calling anything I do “social media.” The word social doesn’t seem to endow my work with much credibility. What’s “social” about what happens in a successful, well-oiled company? Isn’t it serious business? Aren’t we supposed to sit quietly behind our cubicle walls and stare dutifully at our spreadsheets?
In the same blog post, Chris goes on and explains exactly what effective “social businesses” accomplish, and why cutting-edge companies see the value and are incorporating people who can execute these strategies into their ranks:
“By being more connected and transparent, we increase the flow of information inside and across the organization. By being more authentic and empathetic, we can increase trust with our peers and our clients. For the acolytes, becoming a social business is about the future of business, and how great everything could be if we fixed what’s wrong with the status quo.”
Authenticity and transparency create trust with partners and clients. Social media gives organizations the means to connect readily with customers 24/7, and it turns out customers like being connected with the companies they buy things from.
Social media can become the front door for your organization. Every conceivable relationship, from support, to sales, to partnerships, to VIP relationships can and will begin on social media. Every tweet is an opportunity, and every like has significance.
But it takes a unique sort of person to thrive on managing the volume of interaction happening via those social channels. It’s hard to find a pre-existing job description that calls out to that person who wants to manage all those conversations.
Once Facebook and Twitter are set up, and you begin to build an audience, how should you begin to look for that communicator to put at the helm of your social presence? Here’s a list of qualities to look for in your Digital / Social Media / Community person to get you started.
1. Takes initiative to develop relationships
Social media is a channel where opportunities walk in the door all the time. Every person who interacts with your brand has their own following, their own relationships, and their own sphere of influence. In my career, Twitter has put me in contact with everyone from venture capitalists, Fortune 500 CEOs, influential bloggers. Done right, those initial interactions on social bring influential people in your front door to stay.
Because social media is a low-investment medium, it’s easier to begin a relationship on social than via email or a cold call. For example, 140 characters is “cheap” in terms of the opportunity costs for someone of influence to make contact with you, or for you to make contact with them.
140 characters takes 20 seconds to read – no big deal. On the one hand, that makes social a trivial medium, something you take as seriously as reality TV. On the other hand, because it’s a trivial medium, it’s easier for a potential customer to reach out than picking up the phone. And if you reach out to them, they’re less likely to ignore you, because, hell, it’s only 140 characters.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how social media can generate hundreds of tiny connections with your customers and your audience every day. That’s hundreds of tiny opportunities to connect with the folks who are the true lifeblood of your business – your customers. The best community people are born with an innate ability to take the smallest connection with an influencer,and turn it into a long-term relationship that benefits all involved. That’s the person you want at your organization’s front door.
2. Is a natural evangelist and self-promoter
A self-promoter is never off the clock. They’re always selling you on their new venture, or the new fad they’re into We all know that guy who never shuts up until you’ve tried whatever it is they’ve discovered that week.
A confession: In my social circles, I’m usually that guy.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about yerba maté, a South American tea that I drink instead of coffee. Maté has a number of health benefits that I obsessively researched, and shared in the blog post. I wanted to share the tea with my followers because I believe it’s superior than drinking coffee in almost every way, and I backed it up with evidence that I had after months of researching the tea when I first started drinking it.
In the month after I shared the blog post, two-dozen people tweeted and shared Facebook photos of themselves buying the brand of yerba maté I recommended to them. It was a simple post promoting a seemingly trivial part of my lifestyle, but I cared about sharing it with the readers of my blog, who took action and spent money based on my recommendation.
You want to find someone who naturally promotes the things that they’re passionate about. They can’t help but share things that they think are cool with everyone who will listen. If you have an amazing product, and customer experience, they won’t be able to sharing their passion about the company mission they get to be part of, and they’ll find ways to share it in almost every interaction that they have.
3. Is self-aware enough to build trust
The flip-side of being a good self-promoter is being self-aware. Self-awareness combats the negative connotation that comes with being known as a “self-promoter.” Usually the person who earns that title incessantly repeats the same elevator pitch to you every time you talk. They don’t know when to just shut up. You sort of hate them.
The truth is, effective promotion is rarely about being the loudest, or even the most persistent about delivering a message. The loudest, most incessant people on social media are the ones who get blocked the fastest.
In reality, the most successful self-promoters I know are aware that evangelizing an idea starts with developing trust first, and they know trust is earned over time. Earning your audience’s trust means when you recommend something, they’re likely to take you at your word. World-class community evangelists have a natural awareness of when to talk and when to listen. They *just know* when they’ve build up a cache of trust with your audience, and can ask for a testimonial, or send them to a salesperson.
4. Loves people…at scale
Social media, is just that: Social interactions, but at scale.
Over time your social media channels will become non-stop conversations. Everything from testimonials, to customer support, to sales questions, to partnership interactions will come in via social media. For a very long time, I’ve had all those interactions pushed directly to my smartphone. In effect, that means that every customer our organizations works with has the ability to text me 24/7. I love the work we do, so it doesn’t *feel* as much like work to me, but if you’re thinking “perish the thought” I don’t blame you.
Imagine 10,000+ customers, each of whom has a direct line to your cell phone. Social media doesn’t have a shut-off valve. You can’t clock out. If your customers can interact with your product 24/7, they’ll find a reason to tweet you 24/7. Even when I’m technically “done for the day,” I keep my phone on me in case one of our customers needs help. I want to be there for them. The pre-eminent example of this is Rob La Gesse, who leads the customer support at Rackspace. He’s famous for giving out his cellphone number to customers on his Twitter profile. Frankly, I believe he sincerely loves every time they give him a call.
Life is too short to be the social media person and not love working with customers to ensure their success.
5. They know how to sell, but they don’t have a need to
Everyone needs to buy stuff, but nobody wants to be sold. If you can avoid dealing with a salesperson, you usually do. If there’s a self-service option, more and more customers will take it. A recent study by Google and CEB found that today’s business buyers are making their way through 57% of the purchase process before they ever reach out to a sales person. That means Google is finding 57% of the information your customers need to buy rather than your sales team.
It doesn’t matter if the question is answered in a blog, or on Twitter, it just needs to be indexed in Google for a customer to find. But social media is almost never an appropriate place to close a sale, so the person manning the Twitter account needs to know the difference between “selling” and “helping someone buy.”
Content marketing and social media is essential to help potential customers answer their own questions, and qualify themselves as potential customers. This means that by the time your sales team ever connects with a prospect, your content and social team have had a huge opportunity to warm them up for the sale. Unless it’s an enterprise sale, by the time a customer calls in, they should have their credit card in-hand.
6. Their writing and “social work” shows up everywhere
The final thing to always look for in good community people is that they’re putting their work out there on the internet. If I were hiring someone to manage my social channels, and they didn’t have a decent body of work that you can find with a simple Google search, then I would immediately begin to question them.
This ties into the idea that your social media person should be a self-promoting sort of person. They’ve naturally got ideas, and the creative energy to launch them into the wild, you’re just harnessing and focusing that energy within your product.
So while you’re on Google, match the sort of work they naturally do with the social networks where your company needs to develop its presence.
If you’re doing technology sales, or have a need for social customer service, Twitter and Facebook are going to be two of your major networks. Look for their followings on both networks, and look for an active blog where you can evaluate their writing. If you’re a consumer brand, you’ll probably be on Instagram and Pinterest because those give you the best opportunity to showcase your products. Look for folks who have active accounts there. Each social network develops its own etiquette and social mores – the natives can tell when you’re new and when you’re native.
I’m hoping to expand on this list in the next few months, so please feel free to weigh in with your own ideas and suggestions for what makes a good Social / Digital / Community evangelist. There needs to be a good resource for organizations looking to hire these folks, and for these folks who are looking to be hired.
And yes, if you disagree with any of the above, please do let me know as well.
Hope this helps.
Austin W. Gunter