How to Hire a Social Media Manager

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If you’re reading this, you are probably looking for a social media manager, or you’ve been told by someone that you need one. My guess is that you’ve already been approached by people who would like to manage your social media, but you don’t know how to determine who to hire, or where to look.

This post is meant to be a general overview of the hiring process. We will cover the types of social media manager available on the market, their prevailing theories as well as their strengths and weaknesses, what to look for in the hiring process, and some final words on hiring a professional.

Types of Social Media Manager

There is no one rule of thumb when it comes to social media management. There are as many different management styles as there are brands in the market, but there are currently two prevailing schools of thought.

High conversion, low engagement.
This school of social media works best for online retailers with extremely low overhead and content-generating advertisers or “click-bait” factories. This is typically the less expensive option.

Managers taking this approach look to invest as little time and money as possible in creating traffic to websites that make their money on clicks or online transactions. Much of what they do is automated.

They are bad at customer retention, branding, or service. Their major concern is what gets people to “convert” or click and buy/share. Expect experienced contractors to ask for a portion of your profits, or base their pay on successful conversions.

High engagement, low conversion.
This school of social media works best for businesses that thrive on in-person and customer service transactions. It can be very expensive.

Managers taking this approach look to network with brand partners, customers and potential customers in order to create a long tail before and after a customer comes into the store or speaks to someone in the businesses they represent. They typically reject automation, but do take advantage of scheduling. They use a great deal of person-hours monitoring channels, responding to comments and questions from your customers and composing their content so that it is on-brand and attractive to your customer base.

They are good at customer retention. Once you have an experienced contractor working with you in this style, there’s not much they are bad at. However, it will take even the most experienced contractor at least 6 months or a lot of money to determine the nuances of your audience and build an effective strategy. This means that their effectiveness is cumulative. You will not see high returns at first.

Expect experienced contractors to ask for a long-term contract, to charge a monthly fee and to ask for quarterly or even monthly strategy meetings where they report on progress, provide analysis and ask for content.

Tips for hiring your next Social Media Manager

As you can probably tell, I am a high engagement, low conversion manager. I believe that building a customer base and focusing on retention is the most reliable and durable marketing strategy an organization can have. However, this is a good time to say that any marketing manager will tell you their theories are the most sound. If they did not believe that, they wouldn’t be using them.

When hiring your next Social Media Manager it is important to:

  1. Look for logic. Social media is more of an art than a science. Which means that like many customer-facing positions, each person has their own style. Look for someone with a clear process. They should be able to articulate their theories and speak to expected outcomes in general terms.
  2. Evaluate past performance. If a potential manager can’t show previous campaign success, they probably don’t have any, or they don’t have enough experience to know that they should have documented it. Be wary of someone who tells you what they can do for you, but doesn’t show how they’ve done it for others.
  3. Prioritize relevance. If someone was a global brand manager for Nike but you’re a small garden shop, that experience is not relevant to you, however impressive it is. When looking at a resume or portfolio, focus on how their previous clients and employers did business, and who they did it with. If the how and the who match up, they will likely be able to quickly integrate into your team and easily find your voice. In other words, Nike is impressive, but volunteering for the community garden is relevant.
  4. Tone is everything. This person will be your brand’s global voice. There’s no way around that. Look carefully at their previous work, it will likely have a certain tone that persists over different accounts. This is their professional style. Make sure it fits your brand.

A word on professionalism

Whether you’re hiring an employee or taking on a contractor, you will want to identify a professional to entrust with your brand. You wouldn’t send an untrained person to run the Boston marathon, even though most people know how to run. The same principle applies to social media.

Someone may be a social media fiend, or be really interested in the concept, but unless they have other qualities that make you want to encourage them through this career transition, don’t hire an amateur to do a professional’s job.

A professional is someone who takes constructive criticism well, who can easily switch out of technical language to explain complicated concepts in terms anyone can understand. This person will be responsive and available, even when other projects or clients are taking a lot of focus. A professional knows how to communicate failures as well as successes without being afraid that the former will reflect poorly on them, or that the latter will allow them to rest or back off their strategy.

Professionals also demand professionalism from their employers and clients. They will likely not be open to negotiating their fee unless you are offering another form of compensation (in-kind goods or services) to make up the difference. They will also expect you to meet deadlines and take their analysis into account when planning your marketing campaigns.

See my piece What Should I Pay a Freelancer? for more details on pay rates and expectations.