public relations

Public relations: Skills to look for when hiring help with social media

What to look for when you decide to hire help

Contributing columnistSeptember 24, 2012 

Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional and principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations.

Social media isn't a fad. It's been incorporated into both everyday life and business life.

With that comes the need to make sure your business has the right employees to grow your presence on social media. After all, that's where your customers seek you out. They look to social media to get information about your business and have their questions answered and issues resolved.

It's proof that social media can provide your business with valuable customer insights if you are listening.

But since social media is a 24/7 activity, managing this communication channel can be overwhelming. Unlike more traditional means of communication in which you broadcast and wait, the expectation in social media is immediate interaction.

When you've decided as a business owner that you need help with social media, you have two options. You can hire someone or retain a consultant. Both are good options, but you need to decide which one fits the needs of your business.

The person's responsibilities will include creating and posting content, participating in conversations and monitoring the chosen social media platforms.

The person must understand that each social media channel will have a different tone because it's targeting a different audience. While the overall message should be the same, each communication has to be made a bit differently.

Remember that social media is more fluid and relaxed. It is conversational. What works with a media release, Web site or brochure won't necessarily work on Twitter or Facebook.

The person also needs to understand the difference between personal and business social media. While your business can be conversational on social media, it should be done in a professional manner.

Digital marketing, which is what this really is, involves more than creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account. The following skills are important when you're hiring someone to handle your social media efforts:

Strong writing and editing skills: The person must be able to write and represent your brand well with their words.

Customer-relations skills: Social media is a conversation between your business and its customers. The person must be customer-focused and have an understanding of sales, marketing and customer service.

Problem-solving skills: Social media often outpaces time itself, so the person should have sharp problem-solving skills and be able to think on his or her feet.

Listening skills: Since social media is a two-way conversation, the person needs to be able to listen, then react appropriately.

Metrics/analytics skills: The person should be able to read, digest and then distill analytics data in meaningful terms to show the impact that social media activities have on your business.

Business skills: The person should be able to understand your business-related goals and how social media fits into them.

So where can you find a social manager or consultant? There are a few avenues. You can go directly to social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter has searchable hashtags #jobs or #smjobs. There are sites that focus on social media jobs such as Socialmediajobsite.com or Mashable.com. Word of mouth is also often a solid way of finding a good candidate.

Once you've identified a candidate, you need to ask questions specific to your business and project needs. The questions should include what strategies and platforms the candidate has used in the past and what his or her philosophy is on solving customer problems.

It's well worth the effort required to find someone. Bringing a person onboard will free up your time, grow your social media presence and manage your marketing to help you grow your business.

Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional specializing in small businesses and is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home but now lives in North Carolina. She's interested in feedback on what you would like to learn about public relations, marketing and social media. Email your ideas to her at ann@ mindthegappr.com, or follow her on Twitter at @amvandenhurk.

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