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What to Look for in a Social Media Expert - 3/13/2012 -

As associations look into the wisdom of hiring their own social media expert, it’s important to know what skillsets you really need.

By Cathy McNamara

Social media marketing account executive. Senior product manager, social media. Director, digital engagement. Director, social marketing. Manager, social media.

As many of us have quickly learned, to build and maintain relationships with your members on the various social media platforms, at some point in the near future, it’s likely you—if you haven’t already—will need to bring a social media specialist on to your team.

Here are just a few things you may want to consider when you’re hiring:

1. Grammar. Ultimately, social media is about communication. And, while social media content tends to be delivered in quick, short bursts via Twitter, for example, the language you use is still essential. Make sure the person you hire has the capacity to write well. Some advice: In the position advertisement, include "Must be familiar with AP Style.” And, before you offer someone the job, give him or her an editing test. Good writing will always reflect well on your association. It will be as important in your blog as it is in your mailed publications.

2. Experience. Nowadays, many people are extremely active via social media in their personal lives. When it comes to hiring the person who will represent your organization, however, you will need someone who is not only familiar with how to Tweet and how to create a status update on Facebook, but with other types of platforms as well. The social media environment is expanding at a rapid pace, and your hire will need to keep up. Is the candidate familiar with how to edit video and post to YouTube? Could he or she use Pinterest to promote your products? Could he or she recommend which blogging platform is best for your website? Make sure the hire is familiar with the social media trends and which forms would be best to have in your association’s arsenal.

3. Marketing. Social media is designed to build relationships. These connections should always be based, however loosely, on what your association has to offer. The messages you post should be used to promote your programs or benefits. Your social media person will need to know how to spin these postings so that they best sell your association and all it has to offer. What’s more, you’ll need to consider an integrated marketing approach—how do your social media efforts support your non-social media products? How will you promote your magazine’s content via Twitter, or Facebook, for example? All of your efforts should support each other and drive home your association’s goals, and a solid integrated marketing plan will help you to do just that.

4. Research. Whether you’re at the beginning of your social media adventure or you’re already knee-deep in it, at some point, your leaders will start asking about ROI. Measuring the success of your social media efforts can be difficult, to say the least. Your social media person must be able to establish metrics and report them on a regular basis and in a manner that your leaders, many of whom may not use social media themselves, can understand, and find valuable.

Even if you are instituting your social media programs with caution, it’s likely that you ultimately will find that the position is much more than a part-time gig. You will need someone who is always planning, creating content, building relationships with current members, and strategizing how to bring new members into the fold. In your hiring, if it’s within your budget, consider looking to employ someone full-time to manage your social media efforts. It will be money well spent, especially if the efforts result in increased membership.

Your social media hire must work closely with your communications and marketing staff. People who specialize in social media have a lot of new, creative thinking to bring to the table. Current communications staff, including those who have little involvement in social media, will have a lot to offer your new hire via their guidance on language, goals, and policies. Together, both old-school and contemporary media, and the staff who manage them, can work together to create a successful and integrated social media approach.

Now all you need to do is run the ad.

Cathy McNamara is director, communications, for the Academy of General Dentistry and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee.


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