By: Emily Bennington
When Ted Rubin (@tedrubin) touched down in Asheville, NC after a particularly unpleasant flight with a carrier he rarely uses, he immediately posted an update to his 54,000 Twitter followers. “Just landed…boy do I miss @JetBlue.”
A few minutes later, a representative from Jet Blue responded to say thanks. While Rubin tagged the other airline in his original tweet, he never heard back from them. “Guess who I’ll be flying next?” he laughs.
Rubin, who serves as Chief Social Marketing Officer for the shopping website Collective Bias, says this type of personal engagement isn’t a novelty anymore -- customers have come to expect it. “Social media is way deeper than most companies understand,” he says. “It’s time to recognize that social isn’t just campaign-based, it’s an integrated part of your ongoing business strategy.”
Let’s face it -- your social media strategy is about more than monitoring social media -- it touches customer service, vendor relations, social media recruiting and more. Thus many organizations are bringing in new staff to handle their social media strategy.
WHEN Should You Hire?
Because sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google Plus, etc. give anyone a platform to say what they think, it’s important to remember that every company has a social media marketing presence -- even if they’re not involved.
As such, the “tipping point” of hiring staff a social media officer may be when you’re building your company brand, or when maintaining your social media strategy becomes too much for your current staff to handle.
According to Peter Kim (@PeterKim), Chief Strategy Officer for social media advisory firm Dachis Group, you should also consider hiring when you don’t have enough in-house talent with a background in digital strategy.
Still, he cautions, anyone who “takes the wheel” of your company's online presence is essentially speaking on behalf of your organization, so their technical knowledge has to be balanced with a mature leader’s perspective.
“The right person to lead this initiative within a company must have a strong understanding of the business and its operations,” he says. “This includes the internal political landscape -- as well as a finger on the pulse of the constantly evolving external market.”
WHO Should You Hire?
What qualities should you look for when hiring a social media specialist to implement your social media strategy?
Just because someone is a “digital native” does not make them uniquely qualified to manage your online branding. Avoid the mistake of allowing the person who knows the least about your organization to handle potentially the most powerful communication tool you have.
Second, be wary of the so-called “experts.” “Anyone who claims to be a social media expert should be treated with at least a little skepticism,” says Matt Charney (@monster_works), Social Media Engagement Manager for Monster Worldwide.
“This medium is simply evolving too quickly,” Rubin agrees. “If you’re evaluating a candidate, take a look at their social media presence. How many followers do they have? Are they engaged and involved? How do they respond to criticism? The reality of business is that very few people tweet -- for example -- just to say ‘I love you,' so responding to negative comments in a professional manner is critical.”
These questions are especially important as many businesses find that their company brand has a tendency to get folded into employees’ “personal” brands over time.
“I certainly have two personas online,” says Charney, including “the ‘Monster for Employers’ presence as well as my own online presence.” Both voices, Charney points out, “are authentically me.” In other words, your social media officer should know how to speak genuinely and appropriately, in any online setting.
HOW Should You Measure Success?
While social media strategies are as unique to a business as its logo, there are two benchmarks you can use to evaluate success, beginning with tangible results.
Start with how many followers are you building. If you set a goal to increase Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers by 10% over a three-month period, did your team hit the mark?
Beyond volume, it’s also important to measure the engagement of your followers. One way to monitor this is to recount your retweets and your post comments. (Note: Don’t just count though -- respond!)
Additionally, Kim says there’s another way to measure your social media team’s performance that is equally important -- the ability to drive business results from experimental stages to full-scale implementation.
“The performance of a social media officer should be based on the ability to take a wide range of innovation concepts from early stage to a narrow set of initiatives in production, contributing to business operations, thus impacting revenue.” Or, as Rubin notes, “Social media isn’t just about a short-term sales boosts. It’s about putting people in place who can build relationships for the long-term.”
Coincidentally, Rubin experienced this first-hand a few months before his unpleasant Asheville flight while serving on a social media panel at a marketing conference. While Rubin was describing another example of Jet Blue’s social attentiveness -- i.e., he was able learn, via Twitter, why a flight was delayed -- Morgan Johnston, Jet Blue’s Director of Communications, looked over and said, “That was you?!”
Turns out, Johnston regularly answers customer questions on Twitter, and had handled the request personally. “That’s what I’m talking about,” says Rubin, “If only every company knew how to engage their customers like that.”
Emily Bennington is coauthor of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of career success and the founder of Professional Studio 365, which provides onboarding services to new grads and their employers. Emily has been featured on CNN, ABC News and Fox Business. In addition to writing for Monster.com, Emily is a featured blogger The Huffington Post and Forbes Woman. She can be found online at professionalstudio365.com or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.