Interviewing for Social Media Positions

I stumbled across this comic while reading a by Phil Bauman, a blogger who writes about social media and healthcare. It made me think about my experiences and many of my friends that are interviewing for the many social media positions that are spurring.

I cannot stress how important it is to address simple five questions upfront in the interview, in order to fully understand the scope of your position and the challenges you may face.

Naysayers think using social media for business is easy. Who gives a Tweet anyway? Trust me, social media is not easy. Have you ever tried to get your mom on Facebook? Imagine what it would be like trying to get a Board of Directors to approve a Twitter account or a CEO Tweet as himself, and in most cases it takes more than then shouting at a board meeting “c’mon, everybody’s doing it!”

Social media is not a science nor is it a cookie-cutter PR program, It’s a relatively new media engine that should only be fueled by a team with a solid background in execution. Whether you are an expert or a novice, social media as a new space that we’re all relatively new in learning.

Below I give some insight on critical questions to ask when interviewing for a social media position-

1.       What clients would I be doing social media for and what’s the client/ c-suite buy in? 

If the agency is conducting a “listening phase” then you may want to hold the pen before signing. Why? This means your agency/company is in the initial stages and has not yet executed on a program. In many cases, if a company is just getting on board it could take weeks or even months until the c-suite executives are sold on executing a program. Make sure you gain a clear understanding of the phase that the company is in.

2.     Who are the other social media experts involved and what’s their background like?

Businesses that excel at social media understand that it’s primarily driven by strategy into robust campaigns, not a college grad that can work within a 140 character limit and hit Post. And, since none of us majored in social media at college, you may have wonder how in the past five – seven years, all these “experts” have emerged. Understanding who your team is and where they have learned their experience is important, if not crucial to your success down the line.

3.     What’s the budget?

Discussing money is always uncomfortable, but in your case it’s necessary to have a clear sense of what your future holds. Do your research on the client ahead of time. You may want to view their annual report and the competition. If your client is unstable, then so can be your livelihood when working for most agencies. You may ask “is the client on a retainer?,” “have you found the agencies social media jobs to be profitable?” or “how much budget do they have left for the year?” Social media is appealing to many businesses on the outset because of the free tools and features, but again – it’s success lies within the strategy, which translates to billable hours and is therefore costly to execute with a team. Most clients don’t realize this until they are hit with a quote after the listening exercise. I’ve seen the newness of the space generating hiring sprees that lead to layoffs shortly after, mostly due to clients becoming flighty about costs and hesitant to execute on programs.

4.     What’s the agency’s relationship with the client?

In most cases when working at an agency, your success relies heavily upon your client’s trust with senior management and therefore it becomes crucial for you to have an understanding of what the relationship is like before you join. Look for clues that the relationship may not be as “sunny” as they state it is and always trust your gut feeling.

 Or, if interested in doing social media for a corporation, ask to meet with a few of the c-suite executives before accepting the offer and ask questions pertaining to their acceptance of social media. Many times you will find if the company is new to the space, those at the top don’t have facebook pages or LinkedIn for that matter. Although those at the top are realizing social communications are a core function of marketing/PR that can’t be avoided, there are still many that view social media as something their kids play with. If in the case you are interviewing to become the sole social media extraordinary of a company, then patience is one of your best qualities. If the thought of dissecting every Yelp review with senior management makes you cringe, then you may find you are better off with an internet company or agency.

5.     Will I have a prize budget? What are some ways that the agency/company can integrate social media into existing marketing materials?

You may be wondering why these two unrelated questions are both stated here. Well, both questions are tied to the big question that companies all  demand, “what will our ROI be?” You will also hear a lot of “I want a more followers on Twitter and Facebook – I want more people to LIKE us!”If you are interviewing for this type of a position then you probably know that simply throwing up a Twitter or Facebook page isn’t going to cut it. Consumers and other business don’t necessarily search every company/product and hit “like.” The followers come in masses usually through the company paying an agency a lot of money to come up with a brilliant campaign, or the company is giving away stuff that is free, listening to complaints and responding; and finally because the marketing department is adds the company’s Twitter and Facebook buttons to collateral.

Ultimately, I say hirings during listening phases are a red flag, you are safe with a cool team of experts that already have the experience you want; and no money and/or buy in = keep searching.

I hope these questions set you up for success in your next interview. Remember in this new media age your job is to get heard – so ask questions and be LOUD!

Until next time…

The Louder Professional

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Posted on June 4, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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