Once a week we hear the same question: what should I look for when hiring a social media marketer? It's an important question and one becoming more critical as companies build their online presences.
Social media marketers can seem like an elusive new and unique breed, with super-human qualities. They can speed text, post more Facebook pictures than grandpa had taken in his lifetime, and have the magical ability to hold the phone just right for the most flattering selfies on Instagram.
But while their talents might seem mysterious, great social media marketers are really just smart marketers. Finding someone who understands the profession and the latest digital tools can be a tricky process but it's one that's made a little easier if you keep the following points in mind.
1. Find a true marketer. Marketing is a discipline and a trade. Too often, businesses believe that anybody with a Facebook or Twitter account can do social media marketing. But while anyone can write a Facebook post, not everyone understands a company's marketing needs. Find someone with proven experience building an audience, promoting a brand and working with a team or agency to acquire and retain customers.
2. Get a critical thinker. Good marketers analyze, test, take risks and balance new hypotheses with proven strategies. They know that marketing is an ongoing test-and-learn cycle and don't expect results overnight. They also realize the marketplace is competitive and that today's strategy won't be a winner forever.
Ask potential hires about a hypothesis they've tested in their past work to get new customers. Have them explain how they crafted that theory, tested it and what the results were. A solid candidate will give you a thoughtful, detailed answer and won't shoot from the hip.
3. Execute to perfection. An idea is only as good as its execution. Social media, being so tactical in nature, requires someone who has that patience, focus and know-how.
A few months ago I got a call from a small business that tweeted daily but wasn't seeing any traffic to its site. The company wanted to know what it should do differently. I looked at their past tweets (they were using a system that recorded all past posts) and we found that none of their tweets had links to the website. Zero links will certainly lead to zero visitors. In this case they'd put an intern in charge of the social media who simply needed more supervision and training. Their problem wasn't lack of resources, but the intern's faulty execution.
Keep execution in mind when you talk to your new hire's references. Ask them how realistic and practical your candidate was in their prior work. Did they prove they can execute? Were there any quality issues with the work? Were there any missed deadlines? Ask about common mistakes or blind spots this staffer had (since even All-stars have them).
You should be asking your potential hire these questions and matching them with that staffer's work samples to get a fuller picture of what they'll bring to your projects. Additionally, ask your candidate how they would go about a very specific, but small objective, such as how they would get 50 people to read a new blog post you published. Watch for specific and practical answers. Watch for simple solutions. Red-flag anything that seems too big compared to the small objective.
4. Don't look for social media celebrities. That's not to say you don't want to hire a social media influencer. But you need people who aren't so focused on their personal brand that they can't adapt their voice and tone to yours. Look critically at their personal feeds to see how they've built engagement and kept followers, but check their professional work, too, to ensure they can be loyal and represent a brand first.
5. Once you've hired, be involved. Since social media isn't magic, so expect to spend some time translating the culture of your company to your new employee. You have all the stories that would make you attractive on social media. They don't. So, once they're hired, help them with those stories, as well as with the content and images. Don't expect them to make miracles happen while you're off playing golf.
You should also help clarify expectations and put in the time needed to understand the long-term value of the work done. Show your commitment to seeing your social media efforts through. You can also help by holding your marketer accountable to goal-setting and follow-through. You are in this together, and you will succeed together.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.