4 Experts Discuss How to build an All Star Social Media Team


In our How to Build an All-Star Social Media Team guide we discussed important topics like defining your social media goals & objectives, how to establish your social media policy, what type of people to hire and how to integrate social across sales, marketing and IT. If you haven't read it yet, you really should !!. In this edition of our interview with the experts, we ask 3 of the industry best for their feedback on how they would build a killer social media team.

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Lisa Barone

Co-Founder, Outspoken Media

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, a social media company based in Troy, NY. You can catch Lisa on Twitter at @lisabarone or every day blogging on the Outspoken Media blog.

1) If you were building the ideal social media team for a company, what roles would you include as "must haves"?

In a perfect world, I’d split the responsibilities up like this:

  1. The Evangelist: You need someone whose job it is to bleed the importance of social media throughout the entire organization, regardless of role or title. This person is responsible for getting everyone on board, recognizing internal social media success, and making sure the company is sticking to a culture of socialness. Your Team Leaders below will be your outward social media face, this person is your inward face.
  2. The Strategy & Numbers Gal: This is the person responsible for creating the social media plan, ensuring that its implemented, and is in charge of monitoring metrics and ROI. Someone has to be watching the company’s investment in social media and making sure that everyone’s staying on budget. Without this person, you’re really just “dabbling” in social media, not investing in it.
  3. Social Media Team Leaders: More often than not these are the people actually engaging in social media on behalf of the company. They’re job is to be a brand advocate, answer questions, join in and create conversations, and lead people back to the main Web site. They’re the people implementing the social media plan laid out by the Strategy & Numbers person.

2) With social media being relatively new, it’s not something most people would have studied. What do you feel companies should look for in people who are looking to join their social media team?

  1. Strong ability to communicate
  2. Social/Diplomacy skills
  3. Knowledge about the brand
  4. Passion for the brand

For the most part, everything else can be taught. You can teach someone how to use Twitter or how to use Facebook, but you either know to communicate with people or you don’t. You either like talking to people or you don’t. And if you don’t, then that’s going to come through. It’s often that simple.

I’d also encourage businesses to find the person with the most passion and excitement, not necessarily the most experience or credentials. Because passion is contagious. If someone is talking about your brand and people can sense their excitement and fire for it, that’s going to mean way more than forcing your CEO to blog or tweet. People want to connect with you and we connect with people who love what they do. You can fake excitement about something and your customers can tell the difference..

3) Do you feel the hiring process for social media roles needs to differ in any way from other disciplines?

No. I think you’re looking for different traits and qualifications, but I don’t think the process is different. Where businesses start to get in trouble is when they don’t look and plan for social media the way they would any other department in their company. They just throw someone into the role, let them do what they want, and then they stare at the numbers six month later and wonder where their “investment” went. Use the same process, but realize you may be looking for entirely different skillsets.

4) Should companies look to hire externally candidates who already possess social media experience or look to transition people internally who may have better knowledge of the brand?

Ideally, there will be someone on your staff, regardless of position or title, who is enthusiastic about your brand and the chance to share that enthusiasm with your audience. If not, I think the worst thing you can do is put someone on your team in charge of social media simply because they know a lot about your brand and you’ve already hired them, and not because they want to be there. As I mentioned earlier, not everyone is suited to be the voice or the face of your company. It really takes a special kind of person to enjoy that level of interaction. Look for that first, you can teach someone the details about your brand. If you do hire someone from the outside, make sure there’s ample opportunity for them to not only learn about your products, but to work alongside the rest of your team so they understand the culture, common issues, etc.

5) Are there any words, tips or advice you can provide for companies who are currently in the process of building a social media team?

Don’t expect that social media is just going to be one person’s job. It’s not. In order for your company to truly benefit from social media, everyone has to be on board. You can’t lock social media in the basement and expect it to work. It has to be something that’s considered in every process – the same way SEO does.

 

Also, before you send your social media team loose, make sure you’ve created a corporate social media policy to help guide their interactions and to teach them how to deal with common issues and occurrence. It will be their life raft once they enter the social media waters.

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Kristy Bolsinger

Sr. Consultant, Social Business Strategy & Colony Culturist, Ant’s Eye View

Kristy joined the Ant’s Eye View team most recently from RealNetworks. She worked there as a Social Media Marketing Strategist in the casual games group. There, she grew the GameHouse social media presence from the ground up and took part in product life cycle management, new product development and customer service/community support.

Over the years, Kristy has worked with her clients and companies to develop solid social business strategies, improved SEO rankings, and created key messaging for promotional and listening campaigns, brand development programs, and overall customer experience.

Prior to her time at RealNetworks, Kristy earned her MBA from Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management where she focused her attention in traditional and online marketing. You can find her on Twitter @Kristy.

1) If you were building the ideal social media team for a company, what roles would you include as “must haves”.

That is a great question. If I were going to pull together a social dream team it might look a little something like this:

Strategist: It’s very difficult to step back and see the organizational and landscape “big picture” if you’re buried in the day-to-day grind. A dedicated strategist can help a brand navigate the ever-changing landscape while also working cross-functionally to build out a completely integrated approach.

Analytics/Measurement: You’re only as good as your data. Having someone that specializes in analytics and measurement helps keep programs focused on the goals at hand as well as proving value of the team’s efforts. Meaningful insight can come from the data as well. You won’t know it’s there if no one is looking.

Listening/Monitoring: Conversation monitoring is critical...and can be time consuming and overwhelming to many. Dedicated resources ensure the company’s “ear” is tuned to the right “frequency” and the most relevant conversations are being picked up and leveraged appropriately.

Community and Support: Optimizing a brand’s community and support for social engagement effectiveness is a key since increasing numbers of consumers are turning to the social web for help and support. Leveraging community can help an organization scale their resources and find operational efficiencies they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Community Manager: Managing community is more than just forums these days. Communities are all over the social web including Facebook, Twitter, niche community sites etc. Building this community also means conducting outreach based on listening opportunities. This is also a great place for leveraging opportunities towards link-building and SEO goals.

2) With social media being relatively new, it’s not something most people would have studied. What do you feel companies should look for in people who are looking to join their social media team?

Diplomacy, curiosity, and creativity are the three qualities I value in Social professionals that are the hardest to teach and train. Skills around data analysis, project management and communication are also incredibly important and I see as must-haves.

I think having a clear idea of the expectations of the role and how you may wish to leverage that person/role in the future will tell you everything you need to know. For some roles, depending on the needs of the company, it is important to consider that it may be easier to teach the specific elements of social media you’d like this person to undertake than it would be to educate them in business fundamentals.

But every role will be different.

Ultimately it’s important that the abilities of the candidate align well with what you aim to accomplish by hiring this person – don’t get distracted by huge Twitter followings or high Klout scores. When it comes to ability to execute: They. Don’t. Matter.

3) Do you feel the hiring process for social media roles needs to differ in any way from other disciplines?

Yes and no. Let me qualify the “Yes” by saying also that it’s two-fold.

When it comes to hiring a social media professional there is (often) a great deal of information available on/about them online by nature of their profession. This can be a misleading security blanket however. Some of the smartest people I know working in social business have the lowest Klout scores, or unimpressive Twitter following numbers. Don’t let those things become such an engrained piece of your search process that they prevent you from finding ridiculously amazing talent. That said – beware of individuals who don’t at least have a presence. It’s very hard to be knowledgeable about something you do not even participate in.

It is important to use the information you have at your disposal so I say go for it. Just use it wisely and within context. You can learn a lot more by reading someone’s blog than you can by evaluating his or her "influence" metrics.

So does it “need” to differ? Perhaps. But “will” it differ? Almost assuredly.

4) Should companies look to hire externally candidates who already possess social media experience or look to transition people internally who may have better knowledge of the brand?

Whether or not a company chooses to cultivate a social media professional out of a current internal candidate or hire externally depends on their brand/product and the role itself. For some businesses and/or products it could be incredibly difficult to train an external social media professional on all of the intricacies and required knowledge of that particular niche if you’re looking for a community manager. An example of this could be a highly technical arena like a Developer-centric community. For a role like this I would recommend that they look within for individuals who have a propensity for social media. If you’re looking for someone to drive strategy I would be more worried about their knowledge of the industry, customer base and trends than their depth of knowledge around specific products or brands. Although it is important to note that many best practices are industry agnostic and are completely transferrable.

Another important consideration to make is the role itself. You’ll want to see different attributes, skill sets and knowledge base in a community manager than you would in a strategist for example. Evaluate what is most important and what is “trainable” and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

5) Are there any words, tips or advice you can provide for companies who are currently in the process of building a social media team?

Consider the total environment you’re asking this person to work within. Is it going to be highly political? Staff accordingly. Is the community high touch and eccentric? Staff accordingly. Is your organization intensely data driven? Again – staff accordingly. Knowing what your expectations of this role are will help you staff it appropriately.

Word of mouth is powerful. Smart and talented people know smart and talented people. Use your networks to source candidates.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool. It makes it very easy to find talented people and gives you the ability to vet them before you even begin a conversation. And don’t underestimate the value of talking to people who are currently employed. They may be open to new opportunities or even currently looking under the radar.

 

Be real about expectations with candidates. Good talent is not easy to come by so when you get it you want to keep it. Being as honest and transparent about your company before hand helps candidates make the right decision as well. Remember these are two way interviews!

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Rand Fishkin

CEO & Co-Founder, SEOmoz

Rand Fishkin is the CEO & Co-Founder of the web's most popular SEO Software provider; SEOmoz. He co-authored the Art of SEO from O'Reilly Media and was named on the 40 Under 40 List and 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30. Rand has been written about in The Seattle Times, Newsweek and PC World among others and keynoted conferences on search around the world. He's particularly passionate about the SEOmoz blog, read by tens of thousands of search professionals each day. Follow him at @randfish

1) If you were building the ideal social media team for a company, what roles would you include as “must haves”?

It really depends on the size and structure of the organization and what they're hoping to achieve. If you're an offline brand or a brand that rarely publishes marketing-focused content to the web, you may be just fine with a community manager (who's actively representing the brand and interacting with participants), a data analyst (to collect metrics, compare the value of various channels and show where investment, improvement, engagement should be increased/decreased/changed) and customer service folks (if you're receiving those types of inquiries over social channels).

If you have a company that invests heavily in promoting their brand through classic inbound marketing (including content, SEO, social + conversion rate optimization), all of those functions need to exist. A content strategist or blogger-in-chief, possibly with a team of content creators, should be producing the written + visual materials that help get your brand noticed. The community manager (or multiple community folks, often led by a manager) works to help promote and spread the content, conduct outreach and interact. A web analytics specialist can help with the analysis, though often the content strategist or community manager themselves have these skills and do the work.

2) With social media being relatively new, it’s not something most people would have studied. What do you feel companies should look for in people who are looking to join their social media team?

First, a keen understanding of the unwritten rules/language of the web and social interaction. Second, a remarkable memory for facts, details, people and events. Third, an addiction to metrics and a deep appreciation for data, but in a way that doesn't overwhelm good sense and human interaction. Table stakes, of course, include a knowledge of the social platforms, hopefully some experience building personal and professional brands (note to aspiring community managers - start a personal project today and become your own community manager), familiarity with the tools of the trade and great written communication skills.

3) Do you feel the hiring process for social media roles needs to differ in any way from other disciplines?

Not tremendously, though roles of every kind are getting more specialized, particularly in marketing + technology. I would strongly recommend that applicants show off their abilities by engaging with the brand early and often, but appropriately. We've been impressed at Moz by those individuals who've interacted intelligently, shown social media savvy, but haven't gone overboard in volume or detail.

4) Should companies look to hire externally candidates who already possess social media experience or look to transition people internally who may have better knowledge of the brand?

Both are good options. A socially savvy individual can often work with a member of a classic PR, content or marketing team to learn the culture while efficiently managing and growing social channels. Likewise, an insider can often pick up the skills necessary to do great social marketing, so long as they have the aforementioned basics (empathy, good judgement, writing skills, etc).

5) Are there any words, tips or advice you can provide for companies who are currently in the process of building a social media team?

#1 - Don't get caught up in raw fan/follower counts, especially early on. Engage positively, learn what attracts people to your side and execute.

#2 - Share outside your own site. Navel-gazing is terrible for social while generously promoting content from your fans, ecosystem and even competitors is a great way to earn the respect and following of thousands. 

#3 - Don't get drawn into conflict over social media. Take it offline respectfully and if you continue to have problems with individuals, stick to your guns about using private email or phone to resolve. A public fight is bad for everyone.

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Niall Harbison

Simply Zesty

Niall Harbison is the Co-Founder of Simply Zesty, Ireland's leading social media agency which has grown to 27 employees within 2 years and has a large range of large international clients including Vodafone, Sony and Universal Music. The company blog shares social media tips, news and case studies from around the world. You can find him on Twitter @niallharbison

1. If you were building the ideal social media team for a company, what roles would you include, as “must haves”.

As social media is a relatively new discipline there is nobody who is going to have 5+ years experience so you are really going to have to look for people who have a strong background in a relevant field (customer service, marketing etc) and who also have a couple of years recent experience in social media. If somebody tries to tell you they are an expert and they know all there is to know about social media they are lying as the business evolves so fast that is just not possible. I'd always look for somebody who is social and understands people coupled with a strong focus on being able to understand data and analytics.

2. With social media being relatively new, it’s not something most people would have studied. What do you feel companies should look for in people who are looking to join their social media team?

Without generalizing it tends to be younger people who understand social media the best. Graduates leaving college now have been immersed in tools like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube for the last 4 years socially so the jump to using them at an enterprise level is not that huge. You are going to have to shape people in your team to fit in with the way you use social media as there is no set formula so most of all I'd be looking for somebody who can adapt and who is flexible.

3. Do you feel the hiring process for social media roles needs to differ in any way from other disciplines?

It probably does yes and one of the first and most obvious steps would be to look at a possible employee's own social media profiles. It's amazing how many people say they are experts in social media yet they are not even active themselves.

4. Should companies look to hire externally candidates who already possess social media experience or look to transition people internally who may have better knowledge of the brand?

A mixture of both would be best. Many companies have a wealth of social media talent internally and people who are passionate about the discipline but most companies ignore them looking for some sort of special candidate externally that might not exist. There may however be a need to bring in some specialists for particular disciplines

5. Are there any words, tips or advice you can provide for companies who are trying to understand how best to build their all star social media team?

Find young people who are passionate about social media themselves. Check their own social media profiles to see how active they are and ask them how them are going to measure their results and provide real value to the business on the bottom line.

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