I recently received a job description from a recruiter at a large retail brand, asking if I knew anyone that would be qualified for the role. This position was described as a “social media rock star” for the brand, and called for a mere 3-5 years of online marketing experience, with 2 years of social experience.
However, it was clear from the lengthy and detailed list of requirements that said brand really needed someone with about 7-10 years of experience in strategic marketing with about half of that time focused strictly on social media marketing. Some of the brand’s “must-haves”:
- Experience in high-volume consumer web sites with meaningful annual revenue
- Proven ability to analyze, organize and integrate large amounts information into clear concise presentations and plans
- Demonstrated ability to maintain and increase professional knowledge of the latest trends, practices, programs, and applications evolving in social media/networking
- Manage best-in-class agency partners and external vendors
- Deliver programs on time and on budget. Manage calendar of events and costs to pre-determined budget
- Conduct forecasting and analysis to determine social media campaign strategy that will enable BRAND to meet financial goals through this channel
- Build and recommend channel budget, inclusive of campaign strategies to meet ecommerce financial goals and online marketing goals
I don’t know any fairly recent college grad that has sufficient experience in the above areas (which only represent about 1/5 of the lengthy list of requirements). But this illustrates that brands are operating under a critically incorrect assumption: that they must hire someone young and right out of college to manage the firm’s social media efforts because this generation grew up immersed in the tools.
What this younger generation lacks is the strategy and business experience to make the connections between what they know about social media and how to make that work to meet business objectives.
I recently led a discussion table at a student public relations society event, and it was blatantly clear that, while these kids were wildly familiar with every social networking tool under the sun and avidly used them in their personal lives, they had no clue how to leverage all of that knowledge and “do social” for businesses (I kid you not, one of the questions I was asked was, “I don’t get how businesses would use Facebook… what’s the point?”).
What brands need to realize is that it is far easier to teach someone how to use social media channels than it is to teach them budgeting, metrics, strategy, agency relationships, brand guidelines, advertising and media policies, company culture, etc. Look for a candidate that has a solid marketing strategy background (5-7 years at a minimum), a propensity for initiative and a healthy passion for social media in their personal lives.
Still feel tempted to hire a recent college grad to manage your social efforts? Consider these points:
- There is a BIG difference between knowing the tools, and knowing how to put the tools to work to drive results.
- What you save in salary by hiring someone much younger, you’re more than making up for in training, mediocre (or outright unsuccessful) campaigns with lackluster results and a slew of rookie mistakes (think about it – you are paying these kids to learn your business and wasting your marketing budget while doing it).
- Younger generations often harbor feelings of self-entitlement and tend to think of themselves as “experts” by virtue of the fact that they grew up using social networking and mobile technologies. To this point, I have two thoughts:
- It takes YEARS to build up the work experience and knowledge to truly be considered an expert in a field. Social media have not been around long enough (nor have they been static enough) for anyone to really be an expert. Sure, some are more savvy than others, but in my honest opinion, we should all beware the self-proclaimed experts.
- Younger generations fail to consider the potential strategic impact of social media. Savvy marketers consistently push to identify strategic learning opportunities that will guide the firm’s social media efforts and sync with overarching marketing goals. As my friend @walterg2 puts it:
For kicks and giggles, I did a quick search on Quora to see what others thought about what defines a social media “expert” and found this nugget of enlightenment:
(Dear Jim Tobin, I heart you for that.)
I’ll close by clarifying that this post is not meant to say that younger generations should NOT be hired to perform social media for brands… I just don’t think it’s wise to put the reins in their inexperienced hands. Place them in a junior role managed by a marketing strategy professional that has some knowledge of and enthusiasm for social media, and you’ve got a winning combination of “rock stars.”