THE BLOG
10/08/2014 02:11 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2014

5 Musts Before Hiring a Social Media Specialist

Managing your social media presence is imperative but it's not always easy identifying the skills needed to complete the job. Too often small-to-medium business owners get excited and ready to go full-throttle with their social media efforts only to realize that it's a lot more work on their end than expected. For anyone looking to hire a social media specialist in-house or externally, here's what you need to do before getting started:

1) Educate Yourself
In the same way you spend hours researching marketing strategies or sizing up your competition, you need invest some quality time into learning social media basics. This doesn't mean that you spend countless hours becoming an expert, but you do need to learn your options.

Learn, then guide
To be on par with your social media specialist, you need to know what the heck it is! The specialist's job is to provide you with expertise. They advise you on social media strategy, development, and execution but they aren't there to provide you with consulting for your overall business plan. You know your brand or business best and it's you who needs to be able to give guidance and direction on your social media needs.

Do your homework
Do your research and master what's within the scope of social media. You may learn the definitions are a little blurry, it's these gained discoveries that will allow you to better communicate expectations and objectives with your specialist. Make sure you study the lingo as well: fans, likes, shares, RT, mentions, comments, pins, boards, flipogram, hyperlab, hashtags, twitter chat.

Research and learn checklist:
  • Scope of Social Media
  • Social Media Lingo, Channels, and Tools
  • Difference between writing for Twitter (140 characters) and other channels
  • Different features of major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc)
  • Why Pinterest and Instagram Are Difficult

2) Define Your Goals and Strategy
Before beginning your social media journey, stop and define what your goals are and how you plan to get there. What are you using social media for? Is it awareness, sales, engagement, visits?

Once you define your goals, set your objectives and tactics. And remember, with the ever-changing social scene, meeting your goals isn't as important as having them.

However, posting last-minute or posting just anything is not okay. Lack of planning and doing random acts of marketing (RAMs) and social media (RASMs) will get you nothing. Don't post just anything in effort to avoid "going silent". It's better to have radio silence than dilute the quality of your brand.

"It's alarming how many clients underestimate the strategic and planning process of their social media strategy" shares Thania Guardino, Social Media Manager at Swell Marketing.

Be sure to create a communications plan and calendar. Social should mimic your larger communications plan. Traditional marketing items like promotions, press releases, events, and publicity should be shared across your social channels. You might also want to consider optimizing your social media properties for search engine visibility.

Defined goals, objectives and strategies are essential elements you need to achieve before hiring a social media specialist.

3) Consider The Content
Aside from defined goals, content is the second most important process. Content is the heart of your social media strategy. Consider your tone, audience and the type of content you want to post.

Messaging
Take into account your customer and the role that social plays in their lives. No one goes onto Facebook or Twitter to be sold to. Don't just ask your customers to do,do,do: Like my page! Sign-up! Buy! Subscribe!

Too often, clients come in asking us to post call-to-action messaging without providing their customers value in return. Successful social media provides fans and followers with value--the same way your services or products should.

This means you share valuable content with them: relevant articles, photos, videos, memes, jokes, news, information, giveaways, and discounts. If you want them to buy your XYZ, write for the type of person who would use your product or service. This way, they fall in love with your brand, not just your product. They come back to your page because you're the industry expert, the funniest or most creative.

Original vs Curated Content
Decide the tone of messaging (funny, serious, witty, sarcastic, fun, etc) and if you are going to post original content, curated content or a mixture of both. For original content, who will create it? If it's curated content, what sources will you pull from and what kind of topics will you share?

If you have a blog, this is the best place to produce original content easily. If you don't have one, get one--fast. While you're at it, find out if your social person writes and decide if this is something you'd like to hire them for too.

Timing
Scheduling and timing is another consideration. How frequently do you want to post to your channels and at what time? The answer to this varies based on your goals, audience and resources (budget and time).

Images
Last but not least, what kind of images are you going to include in your content? Determine if you will source imagery, customize imagery or require your social media specialist to assist.

Companies that do the best dedicate time to producing quality content. Sharing third-party articles and images is good, but writing and creating your own content is better. Nonetheless, resolving these questions before hiring anyone places you in an advantageous position.

4) Understand The Role of Social in Marketing
The most important thing to do before hiring a social media specialist is to understand how social media plays into marketing.

It's a tool
Social media is a communication tool in marketing. It makes you accessible to people: those interested in your product and those that don't know your product. It allows you to create personality behind your brand and foster relationships that may otherwise not cultivated. When used as a proper tool, it generates not only repeat-buyers but customer loyalty.

It's crucial to understand that you can't just depend on social media. You have to integrate it with other components of marketing.

It's like a salesperson
For example, think of the best salesperson you know. They know how to build rapport and trust, but are not always trying to "close the deal". You know that annoying telephone salesman that always calls at the wrong time. Don't be that person. The best sales people understand that business partnerships, clients, and customers are created through branding and relationship building, and on social you have to build relationships by adding value. What are you doing to control the conversation? What value are you contributing to the user's experience on social media?

Do more than share or post
It's the same story with social media. Social media is the salesperson--it's the buzz, it's the hook. Your social media can be fantastic but if your website, product or service isn't up to par, there's only so much your social media expert can do.

Running a contest? Do more than sharing it across your social networks. Integrate it across all your marketing efforts. Place a custom image on your website homepage. Print a flyer and include it in your packaging. Write a blog post about it. Create a custom landing page to support your inbound sales funnel.

For best results, you have a responsibility to ensure you have a proper integrated marketing strategy, which works cohesively among all channels (traditional, digital and social).

5) Come Prepared, or Be Prepared to Listen
Before first meeting with your social media specialist, determine if you're interested in hiring them because you need someone to implement a plan or if you are going to them for a plan.

The best clients are ones who come with a vision and a method for execution, or ones who are meek and completely open to suggestions.

When you meet with your specialist, show up prepared with a game plan or attend with open ears and an open mind. Either way, your specialist will thank you and you'll be starting a solid foundation for not only successful social media and marketing, but a successful business.