What to look for in a Social Media Marketer?

Now that we are beginning to feel the relief of the economic uncertainty that has been hanging around us for the past few months, I am beginning to hear a lot about the invention of some new roles inside organizations looking to get “social media”.

Typically this means hire someone who knows our “space” really well and someone who is an expert in social media.

Well it’s the latter part that is the hard part. Consider that in Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book The Outliers he goes into a discussion about Violinists and how long it takes them to become a master at their craft. So without spoiling the book for you – the bottom line was – it takes 10,000 hours to become a Master Violinist. This got me thinking about how it could apply to Social Media and how long it would take to become a Social Media Expert.

So if you practice Social Media on the job for a few hours a day, let’s say 3 hours a day learning more about social media and 2 hours a day practicing social media times 5 days a week that means you could become a social media master in 7.6 years. Throw in the weekends and that drops to 5.5 years! But wait, social media hasn’t been around that long!

So since you can’t hire an expert, what qualities would make for a good social media marketer? Here are 4 macro competences to look for:

1) Story telling – in social media you need to tell good stories, stories that people will be attracted to, identify with and want to share. Story telling is key!

2) Packaging – they need to be able to package the stories up and be able to make them shareable this means the content can be found in a variety of media forms not just one.

3) Reach – they need to know how to reach people with their content, the more forms the better. So that means they need to be fluent in many social media sites.

4) Measure – and finally the hardest part for most people is the measurement of the effectiveness of the media and the efficiency of the story being spread in those media.

12 comments to What to look for in a Social Media Marketer?

  • Tom O'Brien

    Hi Paul:

    Bit of a nit to pick, but social media has been around for lots longer than 5.5 years.

    The Cluetrain Manifesto (which is based on the premise that corporations, governments and mass media would be disintermediated by people connecting to each other using the internet) was published 10 years ago.

    Let's not define SM as facebook and twitter.


  • Paul Dunay

    @ Tom – ok fair point

  • Steven Woods

    I'm going to have to echo Tom's thoughts. Story telling and packaging are skills that transcend the technical platform that you use. Reach and measurement may have some aspects that are unique to each individual platform, for sure, but I think the advice of "go hire journalists" fits in the best category of how to find someone with the closest thing to 10,000 hours of experience.

    I think that it's really the first part – expertise and credibility in your particular space – that is the truly hard part. That takes time to build. To simply hire it, you might end up seeing that begins to look like social media "superstar" economics in competitive spaces.

    It will be interesting to see how this evolves, but agreed, different hiring practices are needed.

  • Paul Dunay

    @Steve – excellent feedback Steve – thanks for commenting and congratulations on your book!

  • Blazing Articles

    Good point people think they are going to make a fortune sitting around doing no work at all instead of considering network marketing as a job and the knowledge you need behind it.

  • Michael Ruiter

    Hello Paul

    Liked your blog! Added to what companies need to look for in a social media 'expert', is that this person needs to understand the function that each (new) SM has in the companies communication strategy as a whole. This requires a deeper insight in the use of SM than being a catchy writer or up-2-date on the different available platforms. It requires a thorough understanding of strategic marketing.

    In my opinion the best thing that companies can do is train- and allow their (marketing) employees to get confident with SM.

    The way SM is being used today by SMEs is still very limited compared to what it could be. Jumping onboard now without proper in-house knowledge means they will continue to be one step behind. Companies firstly need to invest in getting to know this/the new medium/media now.
    -How can the individual platforms be utilised best?
    -Which platforms should be used and which ones can be left aside?

    This will help companies to become used to SM, rather than just start posting everywhere. And by going through this learning curve themselves they are creating a long-term asset (knowledge) rather than a short term benefit (a HR asset that has current, ending expertise).

  • Jeff Ogden

    I think you raise valid point on social networking. Great story-telling is key. Why is 60 Minutes still a top rated show after all these years? Great story-telling.

    Mix the media. Reach out. It's all part of social networking. Things don't happen overnight, so be patient.

    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers
    Lead Generation Made Simple

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Jeff – great point

  • Paul, this is a really great article. I really enjoyed everyone’s comments as well. I personally agree with some of the things stated and really think all SM sites are tools. Using one or the other SM tools is not going to make the difference in your success. I feel you have to have a firm marketing strategy with a plan of attack that is focused on specific results that you are trying to accomplish.

    I was talking with a few clients the other day about this very topic and how there is going to be a time when you need to hire a professional that does nothing but works on blogging and social media presence. There will however be a time of learning to get this right because you do have the two sides – 1. expert using the tools with no knowledge of the industry & 2. expert of the industry with no knowledge of the SM tools. It will be interesting to see if these two positions will become one or if they will need to work together as a team to build the company’s brand online.

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Paul

    I think one of the major factors (and, usefully, one that can be sensibly tested in interviews) is empathy with the audience – to a degree that I think a psychologist might be a better model for the role than a journalist. For me, this underpins the competencies that you’ve listed so succinctly:

    1. Story-telling (you need a kind of intrinsic understanding of what people are interested in)
    2. Packaging (what’s the format people will respond to)
    3. Reach (where is it that the audience are able to be influenced)
    4. Measurement (what are we realistically expecting people to do and how will we track it?)

    That’s my rather belated tuppence worth anyway…

    All the best for the new year.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Paul

    Awesome thanks for commenting Paul

    I like your 4 compentencies – I have been thinking about a new blog post on the 4 S’s of Social Media Marketing and this is very close to it (will have to crank out that blog post now!)

    The 4 s’s I am thinking about are
    – Story telling
    – Stickiness
    – Social
    – Share widely

    something like that – will shine that up a bit more and get that blog post out – so stay tuned!

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