How to Hire a Rock Star Community Manager

How to Hire a Rock Star Community Manager

Contributed post:  Michelle Berg, President & CEO of Elevated HR Solutions.

In January, one of my clients came to me asking to support their social media endeavors.  Although social media is something I’ve always liked to do in my spare time (remember IRC chat rooms…yeah…I was addicted back then already), it’s not something I do for clients.  Their response was, “Fine then – hire me a kick ass social media guru.  Or you know – a person who is an expert with online stuff.”

Jim Collins of Good to Great says, “The most important decisions business people make are not what decisions, but are who decisions.” That’s because who you have working in your company impacts everything from your personal AND company brand, to your operational efficiency to overall profitability.

So where does a company start when it comes to hiring someone to help out with social media?  It’s certainly not a role that everyone understands like accounting or sales.  But relax – it’s not that difficult to hire a rock star.  Here are some quick steps to help you out:

1. Don’t search for a “guru” or an “expert”

There really is no such thing considering social media really hasn’t been around long enough to garner such titles.  You wouldn’t go outward and say you are hiring an Accounting Expert or a Sales Guru. You hire an Accountant with personality or a Sales Executive that is driven.  Typical titles in the social media world are as follows: Community Manager, Manager of Interactive Communications, Social Media Specialist, Social Media Advisor, etc.  I typically advise Community Manager because of how encompassing it is.  But at the end of the day, it does come down to business preference.  They can be rock stars and/or kick-assed but you don’t need to place that in their title.

2. Define the role

Sure seems like a no-brainer, but in my experience, this is overlooked all too often.  Title aside, you need to know what it is that they are going to do.  If you don’t know – then it’s almost impossible to manage them and more importantly to ensure you can measure their results and make sure they are doing what you need them to be doing.

3. Define the characteristics of the person needed for the role

It’s one thing to know what you’re hiring for but do you know the type of person you need? In other words, WHO you need. I stumbled upon this blog and it helped beyond belief: (Notice it outlines the what and the who part of the role!)  Pretty sweet – I particularly like the fact that they mix cheerleader with traffic cop with pinata.  A well-balanced individual is key (and tough to find) when it comes to an online presence.  So be picky.

4. Alright, so now you know who and what you’re looking for

Are you sure you need an internal employee?  Salaried, this employee is worth around 50k.  Plus benefits.  Plus vacation and sick time. Plus training and development.  Plus performance management.  Plus continually challenging them. Plus…well you get the picture.  Did you know there are a lot of awesome community managers out there that have affordable options for your online presence?  There is debate as to whether or not you should have an outsourced solution but from my experience, as long as you interview a potential candidate (whether intended internally or externally) looking for the solid responses (like authenticity, transparency, how they will learn about and communicate the life of your organization) you could go either way.  And since I’m a supporter of outsourcing in general, I encourage companies to do this. Don’t get me wrong – not all outsourcing companies are the same. They have to get you, your company and have to exude the passion you have for the organization.  If they don’t – they aren’t going to do a good job at rallying your community for support.  But this is the same regardless of choosing someone to run your online community presence internally or externally.

5. Post the position

In order to ensure you have enough choice when it comes to choosing the right person for the role, you have to have a large pipeline of candidates.  Since you want someone to run your social media, use it to find someone. Why would you look for a non-traditional role on a traditional site?  If people are really into the idea of online community, they should be on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn already.  Look for them there.  Regardless if you are choosing someone internally or externally, you can cast your rod and get the right candidate using this approach.

6. The interview

When you call the potential candidates to come in and pitch themselves to you, ask them to bring a plan of action.  If they don’t know where to start or why, they probably aren’t right for your company.  They should have studied what you’ve done so far, they should try to understand your product as much as possible, and they should have an idea about the current climate of your online community (by studying competitors etc.)  Click on the blog again in point #3 – they should be able to show you how they would attack your community and be an asset to your company.  They need to show you how they would get results and more importantly, what the results are that you should be looking for.  Just because they grew up on Facebook, doesn’t mean they actually know how to use it to its fullest potential.  Solid business understanding is key to the success of your Community Manager – if they don’t get that, you don’t need them.

My client went with an outsourced approach.  Now that the online presence is motoring, the need for a full-time staff member just isn’t there – and in the end it saved the organization having to downsize the position.  Start off with the “who” AND the “what” and then ask the how.

And – as with anyone you recruit – have a plan and a need before you have a want.

Michelle Berg is the President and CEO of Elevated HR Solutions – an outsourced HR boutique specializing in start-ups and small businesses across North America.  She believes in supporting the entrepreneurial spirit that supports and advances growth.  Michelle works alongside management teams to create top employers and rockstar employees – from a fresh, renegade HR standpoint.

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