I fudged my way through my very first social media interview. I was a communications researcher coming from a firm on 42nd and Madison in NYC, and showed up to the interview hoping to fumble way through it by focusing on my mad research skills and how critical research is to social media. After a couple of months of searching for work in South Florida, I realized research wasn’t as common as it was in NYC, and that, if it was, I had to speak Spanish and Portuguese. As I sat across from a CEO and a VP in a large room looking out on the perfectly landscaped grounds that are common in South Florida, I realized my time in NYC (and Type A personality) brought something way bigger than social media experience to the interview –> work ethic.
The pair complained about how they were having issues hiring anyone in the area that was willing to work after hours, or work at all, for that matter. Most recent hires they had stumbled into the offices up to a half hour late every morning, and left just before 5. So, while I was pretending to know more about social media than I did, and made promises that I, myself, wasn’t even sure I could keep, they honed in on the fact that I was used to working until AT LEAST 9 at night.
I was hired on the spot, and started the next day, with a promise of almost a 25 percent increase in salary if I could deliver on promises of audience development and engagement by the end of the month.
I spent the next three weeks at the offices until 6, did a brief yoga stint, and then worked until 10. EVERY NIGHT. I researched everything I possibly could on how Facebook algorithms worked, how the best companies were structuring their social, what our fans were actually interested in. I tested tons of content, modifying and remodifying strategy over and over again. I promised the company a certain level of work by the end of the month, and I was going to deliver. Period.
At the end of my first three weeks, it was time for quarterly bonuses for the company. I was called into the CEO’s office, nervous that my approach to social media might not be as profound as I sold it to be. Much to my surprise, he gave me a speech about how new-hires didn’t qualify for bonuses until they had worked a full quarter, but due to my astounding work, I was not only getting a bonus, but a top-tier bonus.
He was right –> I had exceeded all one month goals set for me within three weeks. I couldn’t quite believe it myself. Why had I been so successful? Probably because of my passion that developed for social media, probably because I was an excellent researcher, but most likely because I had a strong, STRONG work ethic.
A year later, it was my turn to hire my first social media team. I hired a feisty, energetic girl who was excellent at writing but had zero experience in social media. I also added a boy still in school who also had little social media experience but awesome writing skills. Within a month, we were on the road to having a stellar social team. Why? Both had incredible work ethic AND passion.
Between my own first experience in social media, and hiring in my own team, I’ve realized that social media skills are FAR from what a hiring manager should be looking at when it comes to social media. Yes, they’re nice to have, but they mean absolutely NOTHING when you can’t get a hold of that skilled specialist when a crisis occurs after hours. So here’s my breakdown of what’s super important:
- Work Ethic
- Let’s face it –> social media is not rocket science. You can teach skills, but you cannot teach work ethic. With the 24/7 nature of social media, you need someone on your team that is going to be willingly available to help at all hours.
- Also due to the 24/7 nature, you need someone that LOVES social media. They don’t have to be a skilled expert, but they DO have to be completely obsessed with how and why it works. If they’re going to be living, eating, breathing it, then they need to be in love with it.
- Answering a million Tweets while on the phone discussing a new strategy is a common situation for social media specialists. They need to be able to be in multiple places at once, while still paying attention to detail and sending out the right messages.
- HUGE one here. There are some nasty people out there, and someone touching social media everyday needs to be able to handle them with grace. You don’t need a social media crisis on your hands because someone went off on a consumer.
- You can fill in any empathetic word here. Basically, you need someone on your team that understands humans. They need to CONNECT with your consumers on a level beyond marketing, so they can send out the authentic, genuine responses your consumers want without you micromanaging them.
There are tons of other qualities important to those serving on a social media team, but these are some of my top ones. Anyone can, and usually do, have social media skills. The skills can be taught –> the qualities that make social media professionals pros cannot.
As I learned at the beginning of my own career –> work ethic supersedes skills. You can teach yourself what you need to know.
– Marji J. Sherman