Hiring a social media manager may not seem as imperative as recruiting a salesperson or IT technician, but if you consider the potential benefits of a strong social media presence, you may reconsider your strategy. Social media is where a significant amount of business is conducted these days. That's why businesses with a weak or limited presence generally fail to register on prospective customers' radars, which can mean scant brand awareness and fewer sales - not a recipe for success.
Some entrepreneurs think they can handle social media duties in addition to the multitude of other responsibilities involved in operating and growing a business. In fact, devising a strategy that drives traffic and sales leads to your site takes time and effort, as does managing responses to customer comments (good and bad), while keeping a consistent voice across various platforms. This generally requires too great a commitment for a business owner to handle alone, since it can put many other processes - such as hiring, finances, and building inventory at risk.
The answer in many situations is hiring a talented social media manager to boost your presence and leverage this resource to build sales. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Acknowledge the importance of this position. You shouldn't enter into the hiring process halfheartedly. Look at your own recent social media activity. Have you been posting content on an inconsistent schedule, and does your struggle come through in the content you offer?
If your own time and inclination prohibit such an approach, it's time to bring on a person with a clear-cut interest in social media. This individual can focus on current and projected industry trends, build up a thriving community of followers and fans of your business, stay on top of mentions of your brand, and compile analytics to assess performance. All of this information can be used to develop a strong presence on various platforms.
2. Hire for skills. A qualified job candidate should be able to demonstrate the types of skills needed to be an effective social media manager. Communication skills are essential, including the ability to compose strong and snappy messages for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. But an aptitude to handle longer written content is necessary as well, so that prospects drawn to your social media channels have the opportunity to learn about your business in greater detail. The candidate should also come equipped with a clear marketing mindset so that he or she grasps where and how social media fits in with your larger marketing strategy. Their input into the best ways to manage and protect your brand online can significantly affect your overall strategy for growth.
Determine if the candidate can "tell a story that's exciting, and will get other influencers to share your brand's content," urges Suraj Virk at Hootsuite. If all he or she intends to do is post pictures online "or share random articles no one finds useful" or that are not relevant to your industry, they're not the right fit for your business.
While it may not be the first skill you look for in a candidate, it’s also essential that he or she also have an awareness of the federal and state regulations related to social media.
3. Assess the candidate's own social media profile. A quick way to evaluate an individual's qualifications is reviewing his or her own online presence. How many followers do they boast on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on? What's the quality of those followers? Do they include prominent industry experts and other key influencers? What about the types of content they routinely share with their networks? You can get a strong sense of their familiarity with social networking, and their intuitive grasp of the potential social media can have by looking at their social networks.
Keep in mind, however, that this tactic may provide personal information about a candidate (e.g. race and religion) that is unrelated to their qualifications and could potentially lead to a discrimination claim if the candidate is ultimately not selected for the position.
4. Commit to a long-term strategy. Once you have a social media manager in place, don't expect results overnight. As social media expert Deborah Mitchell points out, anticipate a stretch of four to six months to build a substantial following: "Your audience needs to be engaged with your brand, so be prepared to give them quality content, tips, and news they can use - all information that appeals to your customer base."
With the right person in place, your social media efforts can make a difference in the reach and scope of your business.