Want to Hire a Social Media Manager? Don’t Hire An “Expert"

Do you know a good social media expert with 10+ years experience? Me neither, and that’s because social media as a legitimate business tool has only been around for about 3-5 years or so. Businesses that look to hire so-called “gurus” or “experts” in this space are mistaken on two fronts: 1. Social media shouldn’t be someone’s only job. 2. No one can be a “guru,” “master” or “ninja” of something that has been around less than a decade, and at the rate it’s being adopted, calling someone an expert in it is a terrible idea. If everyone is using it, everyone is an expert and you’ll soon find that person obsolete. Think about it. Hiring a social media manager is like trying to hire a mobile texting manager. It’s a channel of communication not a job.

Social media is a channel of communication not a job

But how do you hire a competent person to manage the social communication and presence of your business? Don’t you need someone for this? Of course you do, but hiring someone to manage social communication and nothing else not only sets that person up to fail, but hinders the potential of your social channels as an organization.

Don’t mistake a millennial for a social media expert

Too many companies assume that all early talent, millennials fresh out of college, are good at social media and therefore can handle the social communication on behalf of their organization. This isn’t fair to millennials and it isn’t a sound business decision. Sure, young people get social, but how much do they know about communicating about your business? Also, not just young people are familiar with social anymore. In fact, the largest growing demographic using Twitter are adults between the ages of 55-64 and on Facebook and Google + it’s 45-54.

If you’re going to bring an entry-level person to help with this, that’s great, but bring them in under the wing of a profession like PR, marketing or recruiting which are functions that require such skills because social media isn’t an industry or a career–it’s a communication skill.

Social media as a profession is dying

While social media as a communication skill is revolutionizing business, social media as a stand-alone profession is dying. For example, I head up recruiting at Glassdoor, but I use social media A LOT. Many of my friends confuse my career and assume I do social media for a living because I use it to brand my company, myself and as a way to make hiring people more human and efficient. I attract talent and hire talent…I’m in recruiting….not social media. Social media is a tool I use for recruiting. Other teams at Glassdoor also use social media, PR uses it to communicate with reporters, marketing uses it as a channel to get in front of customers, and so forth. If someone was only doing social media at Glassdoor, I’d ask that person…for what? What’s the other half of your job?

You’re looking for a chameleon

As much as you want many departments to understand social, I get it. You want one person to run the overall show. When hiring this person, look for someone with direct experience in community management or managing the social presence of a brand. If going for someone more intro level find someone who knows a little bit about everything. I like to hunt down folks with a background in PR, marketing, journalism or some facet of communications—and from there look for other complimentary skills like a knack for data or an obvious multitasker. It takes more wit than you might imagine to say something meaningful in 140 characters but if your candidate is doing that properly among his or her personal social channels, it says a lot about how that skill will translate to your business.

Ultimately if you’re hiring someone to manage the social channels of your business, you’re hiring a next-generation communicator. Don’t mistake that to mean just a recent grad with a BA, and don’t make social media that person’s only job. Instead, make sure multiple departments within your organization are using social media to their advantages and if you’re hiring someone to run the overall show, make sure that person knows a bit about each of those departments and is willing to spread their knowledge across the organization.

Disagree? Think social media is the new black? Leave it in the comments below.

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Will Staney

Will Staney is the founder and principal consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, LLC and the former head of global talent acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio and Glassdoor. Prior to that he held recruiting leadership roles at enterprise software leaders VMware, SuccessFactors and SAP.

Reader Interactions


  1. Chris Palmer says

    Great blog post Will! Agree with a lot of what you said – for instance I work in Marketing and Social Media is just part of what I do, it’s reassuring to get the perspective of a Recruiter as I’ve always thought it’s very important to not just focus on one specific discipline. Too many companies work in silos and put social media in a box over there with the intern or recent grad to tick a box whereas they need to connect social media into everything so recruiting, marketing, PR, comms etc like you said.

    Also agree that there are too many ‘experts’ out there – I feel that I know more than the average person but would be embarrassed to call myself an expert because like you say it hasn’t been around that long and new tips and tricks are appearing all the time.

  2. Christopher Watkins says

    Interesting and provocative, to say the least, particularly for someone whose “profession” is social media manager! Perhaps it’s a question of job description and/or title? For me, “managing” platforms and content streams is just one part of the gig; creating/authoring content, both short- and long-form, is a substantial and vital part as well. As are graphic design, copyediting/copywriting, audio & video editing, reporting/analytics/metrics, etc. Not to mention the people skills required to understand and translate the needs of all those different departments! Personally, I see “Social Media Manager” as a very diverse and complicated gig that requires a singularly wide array of skills. As to being an “expert,” however, I suppose that remains for someone else to decide. For myself, I am certainly aware of how much there is still to learn!

    Thanks for a provocative read!


    Christopher Watkins
    Social Media Manager
    fisher VISTA/HRmarketer

  3. Sandra says

    I felt very similarly when I was getting approached for social media work–it wasn’t where I was at anymore. I want to scale my business, which isn’t easy to do working with clients one on one.

    Hence, that’s why I’m developing social media automation tools that help SMBs cut residual costs that take large ass bites out of their overhead. It creates a win-win: they get social media done at a fraction of the cost with the ability to pick what they specifically need a la carte, and I don’t have to lift a finger hardly.


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