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As organizations move their social media strategies from theory to practice, they discover a difficult truth they must confront: Finding the "perfect" social media talent is practically impossible.
To start, the field is flooded with thousands of self proclaimed "experts" who have reinvented themselves to take advantage what looks like a growing business opportunity. Maybe they do know social media, but many don't. They need to be vetted.
More broadly, most candidates for social media positions fall at the ends of a spectrum. On one end is the person who really gets it and has deep expertise in social media, but lacks the potential to plug into your business culture. On the other end, there is the candidate with plenty of practical professional experience who will fit in easily with your culture, but who maybe doesn't have deep social media experience.
Ideally you'd find the candidate in the middle of that spectrum, but that's proving to be a remarkably rare individual. Trust me, I'm in the middle of a job search for this person and it's a time-consuming, intensive effort.
But in the process of hiring, I've learned some ways to help move the hiring process forward to attract some of the best and brightest emerging talent at all levels. Here are six emerging practices for hiring social media talent.
Empower anyone to recruit. Candidates deeply immersed in social media usually participate across multiple networks--likely the same ones that your employees use both professionally and personally. Empower employees to use their networks to uncover people who may be looking for an opportunity.
Leverage your beacons. Professional activities tied to social media are still relatively new and everyone is learning. That said, if your organization has individuals who are well known in the space, be sure to leverage their social and professional equity in the recruiting process. For example, if one of your employees earns a following in the social space, reward them by supporting their initiatives. Harness their passion for the benefit of your business. A shining light will attract others to it.
Go where they go. The professional world has been slow to embrace social media events such as "tweetups" (meetings organized by participants on Twitter) or conferences like South By Southwest, a kind of spring break for technophiles. But the reality is that these events attract social media enthusiasts--many of whom may become tomorrows corporate superstars.
Show off your case studies. Candidates in this field are typically familiar with the more publicized social media case studies (Ford, Zappos, Comcast, to name a few) and are hungry for more. If your organization has had success on either an internal or external initiative, don't be shy about touting it. But be sure it's something worth talking about. Also, be honest and forthcoming--share failures as well. If you aren't failing, you aren't doing.
Upgrade recruitment tactics and technology. Contract with recruiters who are extremely proficient in engaging with prospects across multiple networks. They must also be conversant with typical social media job descriptions. Make sure your technology infrastructure is upgraded to help recruit socially. For example, simply tracking the links to your job descriptions with a service called bit.ly will show you not only how many times your ad was clicked on, but how the link was socialized and shared across a variety of networks. This data can provide valuable insights into the recruiting process.
Groom internal candidates. Don't forget you probably already employ good candidates for a social media job. They likely already have the cultural qualifications but perhaps lack knowledge or skills in social media such as being comfortable engaging with individuals in public. It's the responsibility of management to ensure that internal prospects can be trained and groomed for opportunities. This means potentially setting time aside for those who have the knowledge internally or bringing in expertise externally for assistance.
These are a few recommendations to consider as you look for quality people to make a social media strategy a reality at your company. If you have had success in recruiting and or training in this space, I'd love to hear what worked for you.