This post was originally posted on our SocialFishing blog; please do subscribe for lots more useful association social media information if you haven't already.
Our SocialFish consulting work is all about building capacity internally for organizations to manage the work of social media management. This year, we're seeing a huge upward trend in associations hiring headcount for social media-related roles, which is a great sign. We've helped the National Association of Childrens' Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), the National Society of Accountants, the Association for Corporate Counsel, and the American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, hire positions from interns to Social Media Directors. And yes, everyone we've helped hire is awesome - you can meet them in the Think Tank.
(We're also able to outsource social media managers; contact us for more information on that, if you need some help but can't get headcount approval yet.)
Hire at the right level
One of the things we've discovered over the last two years of doing a lot of this hiring help is that we can officially call BS on the idea that you shouldn't hire an intern to do your social media management work.
Because here's the truth... A lot of this work is very administrative. Monitoring can be very tedious. It's time-consuming, especially at the beginning. It takes a lot of organization. It takes a lot of time and effort to set up internal processes that make workflow, well, flow. We hear of plenty of executive -level people who just aren't prepared to do the admin stuff - which is 95% of it. But smart interns will know to use those organizing skills to absorb and learn as much as they can about the inner workings of the business.
Whoever is your social media coordinator (or whatever you choose to call the role) has to be able to make it clear that they are there to help other departments - not add work to everyone's busy plate. The position should ideally sit in between all of your other departments, in order to effectively create what we call a "service center". One goal of that service center will be to centralize the flow of good association content from any department and connect in to good content from other departments, according to a smart editorial calendar that will keep the association's value top of mind to your members without swamping them with spam. (And let's be real, your members consider at least some of your messages to be spam.) We've seen enough office politics and silos to know that generally speaking, it's easier for a lower-level person to make this service center idea clear to everyone than it is for an exec.
And yes, of course there needs to be strategic oversight too; an exec level champion for the position, or a direct communication line to the ED or whoever at the top can make sure things are working as they should. The social media activity around the organization will need to be distilled into internal reporting that makes sense, that people will actually read, and that will allow every department to find the best and most strategic uses for their own social communications - based on overall goals. That can only happen in the right way if the social media intern is in regular communication with whoever at the top can help direct his or her activities.
Skills to look for
What we've found, though, is that almost every organization just needs "a body." A smart, organized, friendly person who is a good communicator. Look for the following skills (for interns, specifically):
In terms of educational background, the best candidates we've seen are Communications, Marketing, Journalism, or PR majors or graduates.
They must have great writing skills, especially for the web (ask for blog posts and other samples) - meaning the ability to write short, clear, and in a personable way.
They must have a professional and friendly demeanor - immediately or eventually, they will be handling a lot of your messaging with members.
They must be trustworthy, curious and open - they will be building relationships with your community. They have to be interested and willing to do that.
And most importantly, they must have a deep enthusiasm for social media. This includes a willingness to be continuously learning and trying things on their own. Always on the lookout for better ways of managing social media work - even if those suggestions might not be possible at the moment.
The job description
Here's our standard, tweakable job description for a summer intern position. Feel free to use this! It doesn't have to be long and complicated - the simpler it is, the more scope you have for hearing the candidate hone in on what he or she is most interested in and capable of.
Love to tweet? Are you a Facebook Fan? Are you LinkedIn? If that’s you and you’re looking for a paid [$15/hour] [summer] internship [40 hours a week, June - August], keep reading. The [org] is looking for a college junior or senior or a grad student majoring in communications, journalism, PR, new media or marketing (interest in association/nonprofit management is helpful, but not required). Assist our marketing and web staff in inventorying and tracking our social media outposts and content. Develop procedures to support our social media policies. Set up training for [org] staff on social media policies and procedures. Develop monitoring/listening procedures and responsibilities. Work with various departments to identify opportunities for us to employ social media and outposts to promote our organization, products and services. Help launch and nurture our private communities. Must have exceptional organizational skills, great writing skills, and, of course, solid social media experience, knowledge, and skills.
For an intern, use your local universities with the relevant graduate degree programs. A word of caution - don't post the job on Craigslist unless you're happy to wade through hundreds of resumes, 85% of which will be irrelevant.
Hiring Community Managers and Social Media Directors
We'll do another post on hiring executive level social media positions shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few good posts about hiring at higher levels. Don't forget to make sure you know the difference between a community manager and a social media manager, though - these roles are NOT the same thing.