I shoot a lot of video for this blog that never sees the light of day. This one is from back in July, I think, judging from the tan. I found it in some archives yesterday and thought it might be worth pushing out because it asks a pretty important question: Are we putting too much of a premium on experience when it comes to social media management? Should we look instead to talent and adaptability in a field that is still so nascent? And if a balance must be struck between experience and talent, what should it look like?
If the video doesn’t play for you here, you can watch it by clicking here.
Be sure to thank Matt Ridings / @techguerilla for the inspiration. http://www.techguerilla.com/
I am curious to hear your thoughts.
PS: I think YouTube makes a point to freeze-frame my videos at the point where I look most like a dweeb.
Well I find the entire question of “experience” in social media – ironic. Yes, the field of social media is still nascent; so it’s rather difficult for me to wrap my head around how much weight is placed on ‘experience’ when it comes to hiring in the social media space. Really?
How much experience can one really have in a nascent field? No question the ‘elite group’ who have been nothing short of full of crap in my view, clearly operate in their own world in the space – and don’t seem to have convos about anything else.
Wonder what it would be like to meet them IRL, would they surprise me, or maybe I would surprise them? Hope so, because I’ve been less than impressed thus far.
I would put my real world ‘experience’ up against their experience any day of the week… just because they have a ‘name’ in a very narrow slice of the pie in the real world, doesn’t make them as experienced as everyone thinks – even in social media. I get completely disgusted when I see the groupies (most of whom I know are smart enough and talented enough on their own) flock to their presence.
So, to answer your question. In this field of dreamers – in my view, I would bring someone with talent, vision and real world experience to the table of social media management sooner than I would the person who has “experience” in social media.
Show me the money – what else have you done? What else do you know? It matters.
I think that when I talk about experience, I mean experience that plugs into the role, not only experience with social media only.
Here are a few examples:
1. A blogger who has A LOT of experience with social media suddenly finding himself in a role that requires him to also manage project teams across a complex corporate ecosystem. Can this person – who knows how to tweet and write blog posts – adapt without management experience to the culture, pace, politics and other requirements of the job?
2. Likewise, an individual who has spent 30 years managing a Marketing department might have all the experience in the world when it comes to being, say, a CMO, but couldn’t build a social media program for his company if his life depended on it – Because he only sees the marketing aspects of the discipline, and completely misses the PR, Customer Service, Reputation Mgmt, crisis mgmt, IT and HR angles.
Can someone be a Social Media Director if they do not have a well-rounded bag of experience – both in business management AND social media usage?
Thank you Olivier.
No, I do not think someone can be a Social Media Director who does not have a well-rounded bag of experience. I guess that’s what I meant by “very narrow slice of the pie in the real world, doesn’t make them as experienced as everyone thinks – even in social media.”
One would need to have good ‘transferable skills’ and a host of experience that translates.
So yes, experience that plugs into the role, i.e. real world experience in a variety of ways. I do think people are putting too much of a premium on experience.
And because it is a nascent industry many companies and organizations, public and private sector, are hiring people without understanding what they need or what they should be looking for – because they don’t really know social media themselves… they think it’s Facebook, or Facebook and Twitter.
As a result they are not looking for the ‘right’ experience and only focus on the social media experience.
I see a lot of orgs making that mistake, they are ‘only’ looking for the new media/social media experience and are missing a big picture.
I think you make a great point. I find it that very often companies and executives always place more importance on the experience factor when looking for someone to drive their social media strategy. It can be argued that this rationale is sound because at the end of the day, you want someone who has a proven record to deliver results. However, it is also important to keep in mind that in an environment that is still in its early stages of development, it is those who have the most innovative ideas who will bring the extra edge to your social efforts. At this point in time, the seasoned, “experienced” social media advocates (I hate the words gurus or experts) had to start somewhere. It was the people who decided to roll the dice and gave them their first opportunity to run with their, up to that point, crazy ideas, who reaped the benefits.
In my opinion, business owners and executives you have to listen and favor those strategies or ideas that are right for their particular product. As you propose, if you have to create a team in order to bring them to fruition, so be it. Sometimes you have to dare to be different if you want to have out of the ordinary results.
In my line of work, I see some young designers that are tremendously talented, but they don’t always have the experience from years of trial, error and business learning to be able to make the most of that talent. They have fresh ideas, great unique perspective, but not necessarily the “big picture” ability to forecast around problems or all of the details. In that case, I can come in with some of that experience and really make the most of the talent and new ideas these designers have.
That’s just one example, but either way, I think you really have to have both experience and talent, either in one person or a team, to make the most of opportunities that come up, or to develop ideas FOR new opportunities. At least in my line of work you do. 🙂
Nice, unexpected video. Thanks, Olivier.
Yep. You don’t always have both in one person, but your team should look for both. Talent should be mentored by the experienced, and the experienced should be inspired and elevated by talent. Agreed. One without the other doesn’t work.
Talent without experience = Big ideas that don’t come to life properly.
Experience without talent = Boring. No differentiation. “Basis points of change” results.
HOKAY. So, I’m a college student. To me, this video has been an invaluable wake-up call to the fact that fluidity is key. I think I’ve done a decent job of building up my experience in the interactive communications realm (I say that with the intention of it encompassing “social media”). At the same time, I find it valuable to note that flexibility, originality, tenacity, and an ability to learn on the go is just as valuable as those internships.
If anything, any internships/jobs/early job experiences I’ve had just been practices in being adaptable. I like to think that the experience/”talent”/fluidity is coming together, over the years.
Then again, I’m the young, naive, idealistic college student, so…we’ll see.
Well yeah, but you’re still at the start of your career, so experience will catch up to talent. I was talking more about a mid-career person who might be hired/promoted by a Nike or a Coca Cola to head their social media program. You’ll be there in… what… 8-10 years? 😉
I feel it takes both! Experience and Ideas, but the key for success is getting all that moving forward. Is it a key leader or key leadership group that sees things bigger than themselves and builds great team dynasties! Too many times I see hiring based on experience on a resume or they read the latest mashable article and have a marketing on resume and they give them the keys to the lambo and they don’t know how to drive stick because fastcompany article did not explain this.
Good leaders or people in general can spot talent a mile away and they gravitate towards these folks. Take a look next time online the people that have people gravitating towards them. What is the common traits honest, curious, courtesy, knowledgeable, willingness to connect….I bet these same people are not on recruiters radar for helping their company move forward because they were overlooked because they don’t have leadership experience, marketing degree, or ivy league schooling.
I challenge that these folks if you want to help take your company to the next level, you have to think outside the experience or talent paradigm and think more what traits does the whole company need you will see the team needs a huge mix of both. Byproduct of these hiring and retaining practices can lower cost of talent management (stop bleeding talent), increase sales, increase customer service, retain customers, get new ones, increase productivity, etc you know your business metrics.
One of the keys to making this work is a more open mind at your company’s leadership ranks at taking more risks to not rely on one or the other but build initiative swat teams based on a good mix of both.
“Good leaders or people in general can spot talent a mile away and they gravitate towards these folks. Take a look next time online the people that have people gravitating towards them. What is the common traits honest, curious, courtesy, knowledgeable, willingness to connect….I bet these same people are not on recruiters radar for helping their company move forward because they were overlooked because they don’t have leadership experience, marketing degree, or ivy league schooling.”
Sad but true.
Too many people place too much importance on ‘Strategy’; they think that a great plan is what results in well executed ideas, when the truth is most of what results in well executed ideas are good ideas and good tactics; the doing, not simply the creation of the framework to deliver it.
Most strategies I’ve ever written or been involved in tend to be documents or concepts that sit in the background, the ultimate aim of which just becomes knitted into everything you’re doing. You don’t need people sitting there and constantly revising, checking and revisiting a strategy; you need people to deliver it.
The key is in bringing everyone with you, and that’s achieved by everyone having appropriate input into your ‘vision’/strategy.
Excellent. I love it. You should leave the exact same comment on my recent post about “content strategy.” 😉
Excellent ideas in this video. I would tend to veer slightly toward ideas and enthusiasm, peppering in a little experience for strength.
As you say, social media is still in a nascent period so to name experience as the prime mover, I believe, would not be the best way to go.
Obviously, you want to have people aboard the ship who back up their ideas and enthusiasm with the inspired action that propels projects and the organization as a whole into orbit.
Thanks for posting this!
Experience matters only if it is relevant. I don’t care if someone has been doing Social for ten years, its all about execution. I don’t care about personal brands but I do care about what they have done.
If they are new to the field are they a learner?
In Social Media the ability and desire to learn are the only things that matter? Talent will be built on that!
As thought provoking as ever!
Without doubt you need both experience and talent.
Never easy for school/college leavers but you’re right in your comment to Kelly; the experience will eventually catch up the talent!
As this space is still so new I think you raise a really important debate. I see many people attempting to move into the social media management space and here in the UK we have an organisation that is MLMing social media managers. They seem to think that anyone can be trained to be given the talent to use without experience.
This I find quite worrying – to think there will be many business owners employing social media managers with very little talent and no experience! It feels like it must have felt in the days of the Gold Rush. Everyone’s jumping on the band wagon.
I read in Jeffrey Gitomer’s brilliant book “The Little Red Book of Selling” a recommendation for Michael Michalko’s book ThinkerToys – a handbook of creative-thinking techniques. It arrived yesterday and I recommend it to anyone who wants to give their creative thinking juices a little lift.
Ok, enough of the fear mongering everyone.
Yes, there will always be folks who are not qualified to lead that are hired.
Yes, there is an opportunity for better choices.
Can everyone be a star in social media? NOPE
Can businesses find qualified teams to create as well as execute their social media with their traditional marketing? YES
Will they have to work with people who have had years of experience? NOPE
Will they need to have someone who can craft a smart plan and strategy? YES
Will they need a team that has the passion and endurance to keep moving the ball down the line? YES
We are moving so fast, in both innovation, keeping up with changes from customers expectations and the shift of what and where we find solutions to be fluid with all the growth requires the same nimbleness in making choices and decisions.
Does the person you want to work with ask better questions?
Do they have the ability to craft a strategy and articulate it where you can see the advantages as well as disadvantages that come from executing it?
Have they worked with traditional campaigns to show the ability to move a team forward towards the results desired?
Maybe, you just need to stop thinking you can find the best people through traditional means and spend time asking them “What would you do to get the attention of this market?”
“What are your ideas that would allow us to increase our loyalty for this product?”
These along with another 20 or so questions will give you a sense of their values, character and ability …just like any other hiring decision.
Then do what we tell our clients to do LISTEN, deeply. LEARN, strongly. EVOLVE, consistently. LEAD, confidently.
Olivier there is no way we can completely cover this topic, so let’s find ways to create successes we can expand for our entire community.
As one of my fav leaders Tony Robbins says, it all starts with a decision, the beginning of action…where will we take action from there is the deciding factor for every business and business owner or leader. (Which is why everyone is not a huge success)
Talent over experience, surely. I’m not saying it’s easy to master social media marketing/PR techniques but ultimately most of what you need to learn is just sitting out there on the web, as long as you put the legwork in – and everyone can learn about every new development pretty quickly, so only a tiny handful are truly ahead of the curve (and many of these just seem to be “full time experts”, not marketers/PRs).
Right, well, there’s knowing how to use the Facebooks and Twitters, and there’s knowing how to use them for business purposes like digital brand management, lead generation, market penetration, etc. There’s also the whole aspect of building a program inside a company (before you can even manage it), which requires some pretty solid change management expertise. Not to mention knowing how to coordinate SM activity between various departments, measuring the right things, reporting to the brass, justifying budgets, hiring and training staff, and dozens of other things.
So… yeah, typing 140 characters and pressing “send” isn’t that hard, but this stuff only seems easy until you actually try to use it for business within the scope of a fully integrated program. 😉
Thanks for this – you have really helped to crystallise my thoughts on the experience/talent debate which I am struggling with here in the UK. I’m a PR with 15 yrs experience who has realised that if I don’t jump on the social media bandwagon soon I will have redundant skills. I love that social media has reinvigorated my passion for communication and also that it has given me something to strive for at a time when I was perhaps getting a bit bored of the whole game. But then I started to believe that the socialmedia “gurus” over here were right, after all what business did I have trying to persuade companies to employ me to help them get their social media marketing right? No experience = no success? The fog is beginning to clear – what really matters is the desire to succeed and the real world experience which has been delivering results for years. Every time a communications tool is “invented” the methods have to be tweaked – but at the end of the day, we’re not reinventing the wheel. People are people, however we’re reaching them – and that’s what I’m going to focus on. I’m an ideas person – I’ll leave the tech stuff to the techies.
Great vlog or blog – whatever it’s called. The content was spot on for me.
Yep, everyone has a role to play. As long as the cup gets filled with both talent and experience, it doesn’t matter how it’s done. 😉
Wow pretty much everything that can be said on this has been said on this here in the comments section…So I can only add that it will be interesting to see what the future holds for those that are successful both at managing their positions in whatever company structure they are in.I would add that whoever is in the position of Social media manager/etc that they take a broad look around them to see what other industries outside their industry are doing in regards to the social media space and learn from it. I already see the MMO space has huge blinders on in regards to getting new users and retaining them and they were some of the first experimenters/implementors in this space. Thanks again Olivier and if youtube gets you with a dweeby face look out for the kinect it will get you as well.
Great topic Olivier.
I believe you and @techgorilla are both correct, as you suggest in the video. Ideally, it’d be great to have a person who has both (creativity/vision + execution/management skills), however, that isn’t always going to be the case.
This reminds me of a Powerpoint conversation we were having on #usguys. Someone tweeted that the #1 skill to have in order to make a good PPT preso is Photoshop skills. I thought to myself—really? I don’t think so. It’s not easy to make a good PPT preso. There’s a lot of different things that go into making a stellar, powerful preso and it requires various different skills. And the best PPT preso’s I’ve seen have been where various people have worked on it and looked it over—not just one individual.
It brings me back to something you pointed out in the vid. Imo, companies have be smart enough to understand when they have someone who may be good at one thing (ideation for example), but not necessarily great at something else (i.e. management). And if they expect that individual to all of a sudden be able to pick up additional key skills that they may not have, they’re setting themselves up for disaster. As you suggested, bringing together teams can be incredibly effective. One team is good at one thing, the other is good at another thing, and together they can learn from one another, grow professionally, acquire additional skills they may not have, and push each other to be better.
Personally speaking, this is sort of what happened with me. I tend to be pretty good at ideation, creativity, and bringing something a little different and fresh to the table—but if you were to ask me to, let’s say, to present an analytical report to ‘prove my ideas’, I would be a total failure at that. Why? I’m no good at anlytics, and I’m no good at math. Numbers are not my strong suit. Ideation and communication are my strong suits. This was part of the issue with the last agency I worked with. They hired me knowing I was good on one end of the spectrum, but expected me to be just as good on the other end of the spectrum. It didn’t work out to say the least. Now, I am with an agency that understands my strengths and it’s a far better fit as they utilize me for what I am good at. Other team members handle the other end.
So, ideally, yes—a social media manager would hopefully be both creative and excellent at management, but a company needs to understand those people are far and few in between. Instead, build a team where those two worlds can meet, and feed off of each other, and you’ll have something pretty special. Well, hopefully anyway. 🙂
(P.S. Better lighting on this vid vs. the Dubai vid)
Sometimes, it takes two brains to articulate the obvious. 😀
Love the video and the discussion happening here (actually, checking it out on Cristian’s advice!).
While I agree with some of the above comments that this isn’t an either/or (“EITHER creativity OR experience”) — frequently it is. Cristian says above that he is more on the idea generation/creative side. I’m definitely more on the analytic/strategy/execution side. But we both emphasize COMMUNICATING.
In contemporary business settings, very rarely is a marketing strategy/plan, Powerpoint, sales presentation, etc. created by a single person — there is a team of people gathering information and data, writing copy, creating charts/graphs/animations, etc. Everyone is bringing their particular skill set to bear on solving a problem.
So if we’re talking about experience vs. talent for a social media manager-type position at a major corp (Coca Cola & Nike are the two examples you list earlier in the comments), you have to look at what the responsibilities of the role are (creating strategic plans? Managing employees? Generating reports to send back to marketing or PR or customer service?) — and select a person with the talent AND experience that are right for the role.
Thanks for the great post (and everyone for the great comments!).
totally agree with you. Doing is not the same as inspiring, managing. SO it’s about talent first, and surrounding it with people who have particular experience. Estpecially because it is most likelly that social media will lead to very different communities, and that you will need to find ressources to help you tackle particular issues depending on issues or opportunities. So the key is someone who is involved, and willing to get involved, who has the capacity to build an understanding: what’s here today will be so different in two years time. And someone who has the ability to get ideas and to find the ressources to get them made if he does not know.
Managing evangelists needs the talent to manage and to get people the stuff that will make them want to be evangelists.
You are raising a very important issue here, Olivier.
Perhaps the kind of experience needed for effective social media management is the “effective engagement experience” which is a talent in essence. I guess it’s like the eternal question: who came first the egg or the chicken!
I can argue both sides as well! I just recently had a client tell me they had a “friend” who was “savvy” at researching blogs in her niche market. She didn’t know anything about trackbacks or commenting though, so the client would be passing that back to our compnay. So some talent there without experience really creating more work. I think there are some talemted people out there who could be a real asset to a SMM team. However, I think you have to be immersed in Social Media everyday – to know the trends- to be be on top of new strategy, products etc. In addition, you need to know how to use all these tools for the client’s benefit. I lean on the side of experience knowing that none of us are “experts” in this new world. We are just on the beginning of a new world so big we can’t even imagine it.
Absolutely. Talent without direction has too slow a learning curve. 😉
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