Taking the LA Times To Task: Why Their Article About Hiring Social Media Experts Is Bunk

All over Twitter this weekend the following link was splashed across the feeds of many: Employers are liking — and hiring — social media workers http://shar.es/bmyRv the link takes you to the LA Times where the article talks about how SO many brands are hiring social media experts.

On any given week, we may see hundreds of new social media jobs posted,” said Kathy O’Reilly, director of social media relations for job recruitment site Monster.

The number of social media-related jobs on Monster has surged 75% over the last year, O’Reilly said. About 155 positions are available a month, up from an average of 88 a month a year ago.

But what are the qualifications for the job? Cunningham admitted it’s a vague area.

 

Photo Credit: http://blog.moviefone.com/2011/06/10/best-teen-computer-hackers-in-movies/

This is the part that has me shaking my head.  How can a position engaging DIRECTLY with your customers, your suppliers, prospects and anyone who really wants to reach out to your brand have VAGUE qualifications? This position essentially has to embody everything precious and proprietary to your brand’s good name and brands are willing to just hand this over to anyone who can dazzle them with some BS? Whoa. Stop the presses, indeed.

 

It is this line of thinking, in my humble opinion, which is causing major damage to brands and impeding their success in social media. No one would hire a director of marketing, communications or customer care without first having very specific qualifications and required experience. But this is where it gets muddy for employers these days. Just because someone has a Facebook page, a Twitter account with 28,932 followers and has tweeted with a celebrity DOES NOT make them a social media expert.

 

What I’m going to say right now is sure to cause some controversy—every brand or company ALREADY HAS A SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT ON STAFF. There is someone or multiple people, if your brand is *that amazing*, living and breathing your brand promise with passion, both inside and outside the hours of work. Each brand or company has an employee or brand advocate who truly, madly, deeply looooooves your brand. They know everything (that matters) about the company (more than the bigwigs, in some cases), issues facing customers, have competitive insight, and have great ideas to make your company better. They pipe up about your brand to defend it, promote your latest news almost before you can–they are excited about Your Company and all that you do! Regardless of this person’s current job title–this, dear friends, defines what a social media expert should be. As I always tell my clients, “You can’t train passion”.

 

Social media is a tool. It is a means of connecting with customers, advocates, potential and past employees, suppliers,  and prospects. It is not a mystery. How to use social media in a professional and engaging way can be taught to any staff member/advocate with a true passion for your brand. The technical details of how each platform works may require an outside consultant if the brand has not yet ventured into social media and needs guidance on usage and best practices. But the rules for social media are the same for any qualified marketing/sales/communications/public relations professional:

  1. Be professional AT ALL TIMES. Even when the urge to get snarky appears, your brand’s social media personnel cannot let a goader get the best of them. They have to rise above the complaint or exchange and keep calm.
  2. Be empathetic. Social media is about the customer, or the person who has engaged with your brand. Personnel should be empowered to solve customer problems while upholding the company’s values and brand promise. Not so easy, is it? Because it’s not. It can be a delicate dance, and this is why brands should be putting their BEST people forward in social media.
  3. Be social. Running contests, encouraging people to “like” your brand page, and talking only about your brand is not being social. It’s the equivalent of standing next to someone at a cocktail party who talks only about him/herself never pausing to ask you about yourself—BORING. Engage the people who love your brand. They are already talking about you. They are already taking pictures of your stores, products, locations, and telling their friends and family how much they love you. Use social media to show them some love and keep the passion burning!

 

What do you think? Should brands be rushing to hire social media ‘wizards’? What’s your reaction when you see ‘Social Media Ninja’ on someone’s business card or email signature?

One thought on “Taking the LA Times To Task: Why Their Article About Hiring Social Media Experts Is Bunk

  1. […] your brand and your customers better than the brand ambassadors you already have working for you. Like I said in this blog post, hire for passion and train for skills. Take back your social media, get into the trenches about what is motivating your customers these […]