How to hire social media strategists

Klout's a cool tool, but is it the best determinate of a candidate?

Earlier this week my friend  Michelle Tripp, blogger/CD/social media consultant asked how Mullen assesses talent when we hire people to develop strategy, content and online presence for our social media clients.

Specifically, Michelle wondered if we’d starting using tools like Klout to evaluate someone’s online presence, influence, and community engagement, and if not, did we have a formal approach to determining someone’s social media skills?  Apparently, Michelle has clients who are starting to check candidates’ Klout scores before hiring them.

Anyway, the answer is we don’t.

While Klout is a pretty cool tool, and will no doubt evolve,  it appears to emphasize the impact of one’s “push” content on Twitter and Facebook – reach, influence, re-tweeting. But it can’t identify the rest of the qualities – conversation strategy, flexibility, timeliness, and authenticity – that a smart agency or brand should look for in a social strategist.

Obviously there is no magic app or metric to determine whether someone will be good at all the skills you need to them possess: add strategic thinking, creativity, familiarity with tools, writing, blogger relations, and a knack for collaboration to those mentioned above.

Being on Twitter, having a large following, writing a blog, and generating content for one’s self may be a good sign that someone gets how social media, content and distribution work. However, I have met plenty of candidates who were brilliant at promoting themselves and creating a personal brand but would have no clue how to generate ideas for a client.  I’ve also encountered people who were great at knowing how all the platforms worked, but had little or no talent for determining the best way to use them strategically or creatively when challenged with a specific assignment.

Today, everyone in our business should be social. They should have an online presence, a community, and a basic familiarity with the popular platforms. They should know the protocols and acceptable practices for each, embrace virtues such as transparency, and understand how a brand has to behave when it’s earning attention versus buying it. But even that’s not enough.

What we inevitably look for in our social influence group are smart, talented people who have all of those qualities but are then experts at something –strategy, analytics, SEO, blogging, story telling, video content. More importantly we try to make sure they possess a clear sense of how their particular skill contributes to a larger platform or campaign.

Yes we’ve hired social media strategists or practitioners who were early adopters of Twitter and had amassed thousands of followers — people who had Klout, if you will.  But we’ve also recruited people who were masters of technology, tools and SEO techniques. We’ve brought in journalists for their writing and story development skill. We’ve even grabbed participants out of the Ford Fiesta Movement, knowing they could create content across all media. In every case we opted for talent first, then focused on whether they could be essential members of a larger social team.

I guess in the end we don’t care what someone’s Klout score is.  We’re more interested in whether they can have an impact on everyone else they work with and the clients who depend on them.

What about you?  Have any tactics for determining social media prowess and skill?

image by thekenyeung