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The social media manager is becoming the go-to person for businesses who require assistance with their online marketing efforts. Its no secret the impact hiring a social media manager can have on a business and the advantages its brings. And its also no secret that most business owners cannot handle their social media marketing all on their own.

A social media manager does a whole lot more than just posting status updates on profiles (Check out my article on A Day In The Life Of A Social Media Manager). Social media management encompasses figuring out the who, the what, the when and why.

Who does your business want to reach? What is needed to reach them? Where are they most active? Why should we use social media as part of our marketing efforts?

Many businesses are finding that outsourcing or hiring a social media manager to manage their campaigns is becoming an important part of marketing. An outside individual can usually see the bigger picture more clearly.

Social media management is a position that has attracted a huge amount of attention and membership in recent years. I see the main reasons for its popularity as:

  • Low entry barriers
  • A high demand for the services
  • Big rewards

But is it really for everyone? (Good article here) Honestly, there are now a lot of social media managers. Some very, very good. Some really, really bad. So how do you filter out the bad ones and find the good ones?

Well, the good social media managers will know their stuff and they understand what it takes to be successful in social media. Check out my article “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Great Social Media Manager” for a good round-up on social media management.

Here are 21 questions you can ask before hiring a social media manager and what the better answers should look like…

1. How do you define success?

The amount of followers isn’t the only sign of success in social media. A social media manager should be able to help you define success on a strategic and tactical level, in order to support your larger marketing goals.

If a social media manager has a limited view of success, or is unable to explain performance measurement beyond the volume of audiences, they won’t be able to provide you with higher level strategic solutions.

2. What sort of results can we expect?

A good social media manager will manage your expectations and let you know what results you could achieve. Remember that social media managers are not psychics. They should act on your behalf using the best practices of the industry, but there is a lot that is out of their control.

They should be able to give you a rough idea of what they bring to the table based on their previous results and experiences. If a social media manager cannot communicate this effectively to you, then they probably don’t have the level of experience you need.

3. How is ROI defined in social media?

Contrary to popular thinking, ROI can always be measured in social media. But it can be perceptual. What are your goals? Were they achieved? If so, then you had a positive ROI. Did your campaigns help your business in any way or have any positive effects? If they did, then you were successful.

Social media ROI is not always tied to tangible business benefits. Ask the social media manager which factors can be measured and how they will be reported to demonstrate the value they bring to your business.

4. What social platforms do you specialise in? Why would these particular platforms be right for our business?

Different social networks have different audiences and practices. Not every network is right for every business or industry. For example, how could a pharmaceutical company possibly engage in drug marketing on Twitter? The reality is that most businesses can take advantage of the networks out there in some way, but if there are limitations, you want your social media manager to be aware of them.

5. Should we be on every social platform?

A social media manager who has done their research on your business should know your target audience. How this is answered is the key because it provides you with an instant understanding of their perceptions of your business. If a social media manager extends your business visibility to many networks, then your marketing efforts may spread too thin and mean some of the campaigns might suffer. They should pick where your target audience is already situated and focus on maximising performance on those platforms.

6. Would Google+ be worth using for our business?

This should highlight the extent of your potential social media managers Google+ knowledge. Google indexes Google+ content faster than content posted anywhere else (more reading here). It’s a platform that has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011 (see just how fast here) and is now one of the main social platforms. A social media manager should know this and should understand whether your target audience is present there, thus viable for your business, and how Google+ can be leveraged to fulfill your wider marketing objectives.

7. Could you give us an example of a limitation on a social platform that you have experienced? How did you overcome this?

A social media manager should know that social networks come with limitations; API calls, bandwidth limitations, character limits etc… If a social media manager has never run into limitations and hasn’t experienced how to overcome them, then this likely means that they are not very experienced. In fact, they will probably be completely new to the social media landscape. Asking how they overcome any hurdles with their past or current clients will give you a good indication of how they respond to adversity.

8. Can we run a “Like and Share to Win” style contest on our Facebook page?

If a social media manager does not know the answer to this, then move on. Its imperative you find someone who knows the rules and guidelines of each and every social platform and who will not have your business in violation of any Terms of Service.

As a heads up, on Facebook you have to use a third-party app to host the contest and cannot use the ‘Share’ button, ‘Like’ button or require a comment in order to be entered to win. Ensure you meet Facebook’s guidelines while running Facebook contests in order to avoid getting your page shutdown.

9. Have you ever had to handle a Social Media crisis? If so, could you provide an example?

Asking a social media manager to define what that ‘crisis’ means to them can highlight their level of experience. If their biggest crisis consists of miss-typing a URL on a Pinterest pin and not noticing until their client asks why there’s so many messages about broken links, then chances are they are vastly inexperienced. It’s also insightful to ask what steps they took to resolve the crisis and how the situation was handled.

10. Could you show us some of the clients or projects you are currently working with?

Any reputable social media manager will show you their client accounts. And be proud to do so. Some profiles will probably be doing better than others depending on each campaigns goals and strategies. If they dodge the question or cannot show you anything, then it should rightfully lead you to think they are hiding something.

Social media managers who take pride in doing quality work should want to show you their portfolio. Imagine turning up to a sales pitch without a product sample. Clients would never even think about placing an order unless they can see what they are buying.

11. How would you allocate our Social Media advertising budget?

A social media manager should be able to describe a plan for how best to allocate your advertising budget and how they would know if it’s successful. Specific metrics and KPIs should be given, analysed and reported. The choice of advertising platform will also allow you to gauge their perception of where they think your business should be promoted, in what format and to what audiences.

12. What will our responsibilities be as a client?

A social media manager doesn’t operate in a vacuum. They will need to be in the loop with your other marketing activities. You’ll also need to provide any necessary resources and wider marketing information or materials. A social media manager should have clear guidelines for their role, and yours as a client. This should typically be communicated to you prior to establishing a working relationship.

13. What are our competitors doing in Social Media?

Any social media manager who values your work opportunity will do initial research before sitting down with you. If they doesn’t know what your competitors are doing, it should raise alarm bells. A social media manager should be able to give you insight into the way your competitors are using the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube right from the offset. This can always be researched fully later, but will give you an idea into their proactiveness and organisation.

14. How do you evaluate new social platforms? How do you stay on top of the latest updates and innovations in Social Media?

The social landscape is always changing. Even the most experienced social media managers need to refine their skills, update their strategies and practice new techniques. A social media manager should have experience with building engagement and showing results across multiple platforms and with several different tools.

There are some platforms considered to be the juggernauts right now, but remember the days of AOL, MySpace and eBay? Would you consider hiring a social media manager who pitched at engaging your I.T customers on MySpace? I doubt it. The point is that the social landscape is dynamic and a social media manager should be constantly evaluating new platforms and making recommendations to you on whether they are suitable for you to explore.

15. Do you offer community management in your Social Media services?

Social engagement doesn’t end when you publish your Facebook page. In fact, creating profiles is often the ‘easiest’ part of the process. The execution of the community management strategies that follows is the more difficult (and more expensive) element.

It is important to know how your social media manager approaches community management and what strategies and tactics they will use to interact with your audiences. If you don’t know this, then you will have no clue on how they will manage your brand online. You should have guidance and offer feedback into how your business is positioned and wants to be perceived online.

16. Do you have your own blog? Do you currently write content for various Social Media platforms?

Social media managers should practice what they preach. You can ask to see their blog in action and see if they are posting regularly. Being a social media manager is about so much more than updating Facebook and Twitter (definition here). Content should be balanced, otherwise your social streams will either be giant advertisements or lists of interesting articles that they came across.

A good social media manager will be able to write effectively, allowing you to have a constant stream of interesting and engaging articles. They will also be SEO savvy and content will be optimised to have the right keywords in the right place, ultimately linking back to your business. You can ask to see what articles the social media manager has already written so you can determine whether or not their style of writing would fit your business.

17. What blogs or Social Media sites do you regularly read?

Social media is always evolving and effectively marketing on social platforms can be a bit like trying to hit a moving target. Google+, for example, had become a commonly used tool for 40% of marketers within only a year of launch (Report here). That is a huge gain in such a small space of time. This is just how social media works.

New blogs and social sites come and go within the blink of an eye. A good social media manager should stay on top of these changes, which means a lot of reading. They should be able to list multiple reputable social sites and explain why it is they follow them.

18. What is your understanding of EdgeRank?

Social media managers that know their trade will be able to explain about EdgeRank to you. EdgeRank is basically what runs Facebook posts. Without knowledge of this, they will have little insights into how to properly optimise Facebook campaigns. EdgeRank determines who sees what, when they see it and how often it’s seen. It also provides a good picture into their technical knowledge and understanding of social media.

19. What do you think is the most important thing a Social Media Manager should be doing?

A solid answer you should look for would be something along the lines of ‘monitoring’ and/or ‘listening’ to your audiences within your social domains. It’s quite an ambiguous question, but the answers will provide insight into their general thinking about managing your social campaigns. The key word many fail to incorporate is social. If answers are not somewhat geared towards a social dynamic, then they have missed the point completely.

20. Could you tell us a story?

These type of answers are commonly used in interview processes to see how someone reacts to a random question. In this instance, it’s actually a well-thought out question for two reasons. Firstly, if a social media manager has the ability to tell a compelling story, that will give you a huge advantage in all levels of your social media activities. Secondly, it puts them under pressure and you are able to gauge how they handle something unexpected.

21. Why should we be hiring you?

I honestly don’t like this question but I think it is fair to ask a social media manager this directly before hiring in order to see how they can sell themselves. This could have strong implications if your campaigns are tuned towards sales and lead generation. A social media manager should demonstrate how valuable they can be to you and what makes them different or valuable in your situation.

There are definitely more questions that could be asked when hiring a social media manager. Some will no doubt be specific to your business or industry. Hopefully, asking questions like these will help you determine the right social media manager for your business.

Hiring a Social Media Manager: What questions would you add to this list?

One final thought though… I don’t think this is a position that should be taken lightly, or seen as an entry-level position. A social media manager will speak the lifeblood of your business to an indefinite amount of customers.

The skills needed to fulfill the diverse tasks of varying social media campaigns means both expertise and experience is crucial. Would you trust an unproven CEO to run your business in a new direction? Would you trust an unskilled social media manager to guide your brand online?

It would be great to get your thoughts!