The social media practitioner is any employee with sanctioned authority to represent the brand, the product, or service on the social web. They may or may not have “social media” in their job title and could very well be a customer support agent or an engineer. It is the person responsible for managing the daily operations of a community, or the individual tasked with routing service requests or product insights or sales inquiries to the appropriate subject matter experts and/or departments.
They are the ones who interact with the social customer.
The social media practitioner could also be the one who collects actionable intelligence, reports, and makes specific recommendations for editorial changes for corporate blogs and communities. They are anyone who understands the evolving world of social media and can apply that knowledge of the space to help guide in calculating go-to-market social media strategies. A social media practitioner may very well be the CEO, CMO and even the IT guy that just started with the company. Often times, the social media practitioner is synonymous with a community manager. It depends on how the company is organized internally.
The value of social media practitioners is twofold. First, they are seen as trusted sources of information, more so than corporate communications and advertising, as reported by the Edelman Trust Barometer. Secondly, the social media practitioner is the company’s first line of communication with the social customer so the trust factor is an extremely important attribute.
As companies begin hiring social media practitioners and community managers or decide to actively empower current employees to take on this responsibility, they must consider certain criteria before doing so.
Hiring Social Media Practitioners
It should first be stated that the phenomenon known as the “social media expert” is largely a myth. Individuals self promoting themselves with such a label should be avoided at all costs. The very nature of this space is that of constant change and adaptation. It is said that true knowledge is found in the understanding that there is always much to learn, and the same is as true for social media.
That being said, it’s still important for companies to hire and train social media practitioners and help them develop expertise about the brand as well as social media technologies and best practices. When hiring specifically for a social media practitioner, it’s important to look for certain qualities in candidates:
- Passion about social media. Knowledge of popular new social technologies. Ongoing interest in news related to the progression of social media and its application to business. Passion about customers. Passion about the brand and/or product.
- A people person that can communicate effectively online, offline, in blog posts and within 140 characters or less. Just as important is the ability to communicate the value of social media to senior management.
- A person that understands strategy with the ability set measurable goals and look beyond social media when creating marketing plans.
- An effective collaborator that can communicate across the company to various business units and geographies.
- An analytical person that understand various methods to track the effectiveness of any and all external social media engagements.
Whether a company is hiring social media practitioners or simply empowering and training existing employees, there needs to be some level of discussion as to the creation of external social media profiles, specifically with Twitter. When dealing with the social customer, it’s absolutely vital to be 100 percent transparent in all communications with them. Also, social media practitioners should avoid spamming the community with marketing messages and promotions at all costs. An overly commercial theme in messaging is an excellent way to establish social media irrelevance. Ensure that the candidate has a good understanding of the high-profile nature of the responsibility that comes with representing a brand, product, or service.
Michael Brito is currently a Vice President at Edelman Digital. He writes frequently in his social media blog and just finished writing his first social business book, Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization which will be released in July.