Social Media Directors should know how to do their jobs without having to ask for help every five minutes:
So I look down and the (twitter) DM reads: “Hey, can you help me out? Not sure how to do this. How do I use Twitter to gain traction for my company? Thanks!” I stare at it for a while and decide to blow it off for now, not because I have better things to do (which I do) and not because I don’t really have time to build a Twitter business plan for this person right this second (which I don’t), but because that DM comes from a newly minted Social Media Director at a fairly visible company who basically just asked me to help them hold on to a job they obviously didn’t deserve to be hired for.
I slide my Blackberry Storm into my back pocket and find myself flashbacking to 11th grade: It’s final exams time and I am in hour two of IB Biology. The essay section. One of the kids in my class is behind me, gently kicking my chair, whispering, begging me to move my scrap/notes where they can read them.
And I am almost tempted to do it.
That same conversation starts taking place in my head. I’m in a position to help someone in need. But wait… cheating is cheating. Don’t do it. But still, I feel that I should help. Arrrgh…
I reach for the blackberry, launch Twitterberry (which is not my favorite app, by the way), and respond: “Wait… You got the job, right? Don’t you know how to do this? Isn’t that why you were hired?”
For hours, no response. And then it comes. “Yeah, but I’m in a little over my head. I’ve never worked with Social Media in a business context before. “
Again. This from a Director-level individual now working for a pretty well known company.
I suffer through similar exchanges weekly now, and I am not happy about it. What does this trend say about what types of people are going after Social Media management jobs – and landing them with alarming frequency these days? At the very least, I am worried about how this is going to end up hurting Social Media’s legitimacy in the business world. (Watch the video for my reasoning on this specific point.)
If the video doesn’t launch, you can go watch it here. Thanks, Viddler).
With this disturbing development weighing on me more and more these past few months, I’ve been thinking long and hard about what is going on in the Social Media “management” world, and I’ve basically come down to two conclusions: The first (which we’ll get back to in a few minutes) is that the qualifications of Social Media Directors may not be entirely clear to the folks interviewing and hiring applicants for those positions. The second is that as a result of this, confusion, we are now looking at three distinct types of Social Media Directors/Managers scampering about in the corporate world, some good, some okay, and some really bad.
The first type is the best type: These folks are super smart, talented, experienced in a broad range of disciplines, have an established footprint in the Social Media space (through blogs, Twitter, Ning, various communities), are recognized as thought leaders (or as emerging thought leaders), and are unquestionably passionate about what they do. Folks like Chris Brogan, Frank Eliason, Amber Naslund, Mack Collier, Beth Harte, Valeria Maltoni, etc. These are folks who are truly writing the book on how to build social media practices and smoothly integrate them in the organizations they work with.
The second type isn’t quite as savvy, but it isn’t lacking in talent, smarts and enthusiasm. These are people who basically don’t know how to be Social Media directors yet, but are learning fast. And most importantly, they are completely open about the fact that they are still in that learning stage, which means that their employers are okay with it. In spite of the fact that they are still very junior, the companies they work for saw in them a lot of potential and decided to hire them toward that end. (I dig people like this a lot.)
The third type is what I would call the bad type. Not bad as in cool, but rather… bad as in unethical, inept and unprofessional. These are the con artists. The shams. The hacks. The folks whose egos and selfishness led them to a moment in their lives when they unapologetically took a job they knew they weren’t qualified for. And now here they are: Social Media Director for Company ABC, soon to move over to Company XYZ, and so on. One position validating the next, one impressive brand on their resume justifying consideration by the next, and so it goes: A perpetual daisy chain of high profile Social Media management job built on unadulterated douchebaggery and thinly-disguised mediocrity.
(Ironically, this third group tends to be the same one that perpetuates the notion that Social Media ROI either doesn’t exist or is “unwise” to try and measure. Yeah. Convenient, isn’t it?)
Before we go on, here are some red flags to help you identify deadbeat Social Media Directors:
Every time you see a major global consumer brand engaging with less than 5% of its active (vocal) customers on a popular Social Media platform like Twitter after 8-10 months of activity, you can bet that their Social Media Director belongs to that third category.
If every time you walk into your monthly status meeting with your new Social Media Director and ask them for the latest, they either talk to you about google analytics, confuse you with endless spreadsheets or launch into a “Social Media takes time” monologue, chances are that they belong to that third category.
If you ask your Social Media Director why their efforts aren’t scaling very fast or producing the numbers you expected and they give you a story about engagement not being a numbers game, chances are that they belong in that third category.*
If when you ask them for real business metrics, impact analysis and (god forbid) ROI and they either give you a blank stare or explain that these things don’t apply to Social Media, they probably belong to that third category.
And when you ask them how they plan to integrate Social Media into customer service, Human Resources, Public Relations, Marketing, Business Development or any other silo in your organization and they schedule a later meeting to address that instead of answering on the spot, guess what category they probably belong to.
The thing about that third category is that they’ll never admit that they don’t know something. Because they get by every day by producing massive amounts of bulls**t, they will automatically default to making something up on the spot or deflecting questions with well crafted excuses. That’s their most damning trait, and what gives them away every time: They always know, and they’re never wrong (except… they don’t, and they are, and now you’re wise to it).
* Simple test to prove or disprove a “depth before breadth” response:
First – On Twitter, look at the number of brand mentions vs. the number of your brand’s account mentions. Big difference? Ask why. Then ask your Social Media Director what they are doing to raise awareness for your presence in the space. Breadth matters, no matter what your overpaid hack of a Social Media honcho tells you.
Second – Look at the number of comments directly aimed at your account. 20 per day? 50 per day? Now look at how many of these requests for attention were acknowledged with some sort of reply. 100%? 80%? Less than 25%? If your Social Media Director claims that they are focusing on depth of engagement instead of breadth, yet they only respond to less than half of the handshakes thrown at them daily, maybe it’s time you found out what he/she actually does with his/her time.
What should you be looking for in an applicant interested in becoming your next Social Media Director ?
I could go on with my indictment of poser Social Media Directors all day long, but I would rather put this post to a more productive use: Since so many of these hacks are getting through the recruiting filter, why don’t we focus on helping interviewers distinguish good applicants from bad ones, starting with some traits and skills they want and need in a Social Media Director. Think of this as a checklist for would-be Social Media Directors, and please feel free to add your own suggestions by leaving a comment.
- Applicant has developed and managed marketing programs before. Not just campaigns but programs.
- Applicant has had a continuous professional presence in the Social Media space (via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Ning or other platforms) for at least one year.
- Applicant has managed a business blog and/or business community for a minimum of one year.
- Applicant has built or managed a community for longer than one year.
- Applicant has at least two years of experience managing projects and working across organizational silos.
- Applicant has managed a brand or product line for more than one year.
- Applicant has demonstrated a strong ability to forge lasting relationships across a variety of media platforms over the course of his/her career.
- Applicant understand the difference between vertical and lateral action when it comes to customer/community engagement – and has working knowledge of how to leverage both.
- Applicant demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the Social Media space, including usage and demographic statistics for the most popular/relevant platforms as well as a few niche platforms of his/her choice.
- Applicant has managed national market research projects.
- Applicant demonstrates a throrough understanding of the nuances between Social Media platforms and the communities they serve. (Example: MySpace vs. Facebook or YouTube vs. Seesmic)
- Applicant understands the breadth of tools and methods at his/her disposal to set goals and measure success in the Social Media space. (Applicant’s toolkit is not limited to Google analytics.)
- Applicant can cite examples of companies with successful social media programs and companies with ineffective social media programs. He/she can also argue comfortably why each was either successful or unsuccessful.
- Applicant has been active on Twitter for more than 8 months.
- Applicant knows who Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang and Peter Kim are.
- Applicant is comfortable enough with business measurement methods to know the difference between financial impact (ROI) and non-financial impact. He/she also knows why the difference between the two is relevant.
- Applicant demonstrates the ability to build and manage a Social Media practice that works seamlessly with PR, product marketing, event management and customer support teams within the organization.
- Applicant has managed a work team for more than one year. He/she was responsible for the training and development of that team.
- Applicant has spent at least one year in a project management role outside of an ad agency, PR or other Marketing firm.
- Applicant can tell a personal story involving either Digg, Seesmic or both.
- Applicant has been responsible for managing a budget/P&L.
- Applicant demonstrates a high level of proficiency working with popular Social Media platforms and apps such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Ning, Seesmic, YouTube, FriendFeed, WordPress and Tumblr.
- Applicant is capable of mapping out a basic Social Media monitoring plan on a cocktail napkin.
- Applicant is more excited about engagement, building an internal practice and finding out about your business’ pain points than he/she is about firebombing you with the full scope of their Social Media skills’ awesomeness.
- Applicant already has the framework of a Social Media plan for your company before he/she even walks through the front door, and thankfully, it doesn’t involve setting up a fan page on FaceBook.
- Applicant actually knows how to use Twitter to help your company build brand equityonline and offline without having to DM people for help.
Your turn. What do you think is missing from this checklist?
And how do we stop this kind of nonsense?