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What a good social media manager looks like

August 29, 2010

A question I got a lot in my last job and that I continue to get asked today is “Who should I put in charge of social media?” As someone who managed the day-to-day operations of a large-scale social media operation in a difficult bureaucratic environment, it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. When it comes to social media, I think that who is managing your social media is more important than how much money you have, the cool tools and tricks at your disposal, or the communications challenges you’re tackling. If the right person is in charge, they can find creative solutions and work through complex problems.

Unfortunately, working in government I saw way too many people who put little effort, or the wrong effort, into who they hire for their social media efforts. It’s no surprise that federal hiring is a pain in the behind. Getting the right person into the position is a complicated paperwork challenge to begin with, and the federal hiring system is not always designed to work in your favor as a hiring manager. That said, I think there are a few points specific to hiring within the federal government structure that are important to keep in mind.

1. Craft your job description well. In the hiring system, the words of the job description should be designed to match resume phrases (applicants generally think of writing their resumes to match the position – it’s equally important the description matches the resume of the candidate who you desire). Carefully consider your wording and if particular platforms are critical to your social media efforts, or you’re looking for someone with a specific expertise, be sure that shows up in the description.

2. Look within your organization for good people, but don’t be afraid to cast a wider net. Some of the best social media managers don’t necessarily have government experience before they enter your organization. There’s something to be said for a fresh set of eyes, and if you limit your position to within-house hires or only those with veteran’s preference, you may find yourself with a sub-par candidate.

3. Look for the right balance of knowing your organization and being an expert in the craft. What I generally found with military and government social media managers is that they tended to be heavily concentrated in either knowing a lot about social media, or knowing a lot about the organization they were working for, but not having the right blend of both. Military social media demands a person who knows Operations Security, acronyms, and the unique protocols of their particular service. A person without that knowledge can’t properly manage your online messaging, no matter how Twitter-savvy they are. That said, if you find a candidate with the right enthusiasm, and who expresses a real desire to learn the ropes, don’t be afraid to put the effort into educating them. Motivation and enthusiasm pay dividends, especially in a government organization.

4. Personality matters. This is why interviewing candidates – ideally in person – is critical. The right social media manager will need to combine communications savvy with knowledge of the latest tools, a desire to learn with the ability to learn quickly on their feet, and most importantly, be able to bridge relationships with a variety of individuals, both in-person and online. I could go on, but there are a number of other posts out there that talk specifically about this topic, including a recent blog post about “identifying the right people to manage your social media initiatives” by Steve Radick.

At the end of the day, knowing what you want to accomplish and thinking through who can best do that is the first step toward hiring the right person. Then, do your best to get your human resources department on board with your needs, and work the system to make sure it works for you, and helps you hire the kind of person who is going to truly take your social media efforts where they need to go.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2010 3:20 pm

    Solid post Lindy – this quote sums it all up really nicely, doesn’t it?

    “I think that who is managing your social media is more important than how much money you have, the cool tools and tricks at your disposal, or the communications challenges you’re tackling.”

    I see the same thing in regards to hiring social media people – they tend to either be crazy Internet marketer or political campaign types who know the ins and outs of the technical side of social media or they’re career public affairs types who know the [name your gov’t agency here] better than anyone. Finding people who both understand social media and the government are few and far between. If you’ve got someone like in that in your agency, get them into that position now. Forget about how many years of experience they have or what their GS level is and find a way to make it work.

    • August 29, 2010 5:52 pm

      Heh. Then you have people like me who fit into both categories yet are unemployed so are harder to locate.

  2. Ash permalink
    August 29, 2010 10:41 pm

    oH hOw YoU sPeAk ThE tRuTh…

  3. September 19, 2010 5:48 pm

    I lately came across your blog and have been reading along. I imagine I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say, except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice site. I will keep visiting your site very frequently.

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