Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to hire a Social Media Manager

Today I had a laugh on twitter when my friend posted:

@MrsMcDowall: I love job ads asking for a social media manager with 5 years experience.

Why was I laughing? Well, because in the realm of social media and online fundraising we are literally exploring a new frontier. No one has been here before.

The very first post EVER on twitter was only five years ago in March 21, 2006 when founder Jack Dorsey made twitter history with: @jack: just setting up my twttr

Since that tweet there are now 175 million registered twitter users, 95M tweets are written per day and twitter employees 300 people. That growth has happened primarily in the past two years.

Facebook is a little older. With over 500 million active users today Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004. Their users spend over 700 billion minutes per month on ‘The Facebook’ – that is 18,000 lifetimes – per month. But even a short four years ago most of us didn’t use Facebook at all. The growth chart is out of this world.

We all know that at the moment it is very rare for a charity to actually drive significant revenue from online activities. It is just a fact. For most organizations the majority of revenue will come from offline channels. But that won't last forever. So, it is the progressive and forward thinking charity that has made a commitment to hiring a ‘professional’ to manage their social media.

With 18,000 lifetimes spent exclusively on Facebook every month if people are a part of your business you have to go where the people are. A dedicated social media person is an important and valuable addition to any progressive team. Further, if you have convinced a legitimately skeptical CEO to add this position: the pressure is on – you need to make a good hire and prove their worth quickly.

So how do we find someone who actually understands and can navigate this new frontier? This is what I would look for:

1.The ability to use and understand the languages of twitter, facebook and instant messaging. For example can they say ‘Tweet and ReTweet’ without choking? Do they know the difference between a fan page, cause page and event page on facebook? Can they pass an emoticon test?

2. Do they currently use any of these forums professionally or personally? If so how often? How many quality followers do they have? How many lists are they on?

3. Can they demonstrate how they have successfully transitioned online relationships to offline relationships?

4. How many other charities are they following online?

5. Have they ever donated online? What motivated their gift? How might they apply that to your charity?

6. Can they tell me about four different tools to measure the impact social media?

7. How would they integrate social media with our website? Do they understand the difference?

8. What is the most recent social media benchmarking they have?

9. Does their twitter stream contain a nice balance of RT’s, replies and self promotion? (google them before you call them for an interview)

10. Have they ever tweeted from the bathroom? (ok we can’t ask that but admit – you’ve all done it.)

I guess mostly though, if I was going to hire a social media manager to run my show and prove to my organization that social media is a game we want to be a part of – I wouldn’t be looking for a ‘social media guru’. I’d be looking for a relationship expert. In fact, I’d probably just hire @MrsMcDowall.

In the past couple of months I have observed Clare successfully meet, engage, promote and establish offline relationships with countless charities and fundraisers during her transition moving from Scotland to Canada. Clare is genuine, motivated and as charming offline as she is online. In fact, she and her husband @MrMcDowall have somehow ended up with an invitation to join my family for Easter dinner, and I invited her to observe a very important private workshop at my work. It all started with a simple ‘Follow Friday’.

But if you can’t hire Clare because by the time you read this she has found another job and if you don’t know enough about social media to understand my bullets above just know this:

If a candidate says they have 5 years social media experience chances are they are lying. NO one was using social media 5 years ago.

Thank you for spending time here.


  1. Great post Kimberley. I love the way you think.

  2. Thanks Leah. You are a bit of a Social Media Goddess yourself. What kinds of questions would you ask when hiring for SM or what qualifications would you look for?

  3. Great post. I like to think that I am teaching myself how to be a social media manager. :) Posts such as these, and people like you and Mrs. McDowall, are a great source of information and practical advice.
    If you don't mind,
    "8. What is the most recent social media benchmarking they have?"

    Could you elaborate on that for me?

    Thanks a lot.

  4. Very useful tips here, Leah.

    I second your opinion that the ability to engage and connect with people is critical to success in the social media world. It's not terribly difficult to learn the technical side of several popular social media platforms, but it's much harder to teach someone how to be valuable, helpful and generous to others on social media.

    Thanks for your post! @kansashealthorg

  5. Hi Rabab, Thanks for your note. I actually received some benchmarking reports from Leah who commented above. Here is a link:
    Not sure if the link transitions well to comments but you can to find the info - or cut and paste the url into a browser.

    Thanks again for your comment. It would be fabulous if all of us reading this blog could write a better job posting for orgs. looking to hire a SM manager. Anything to add folks?

  6. So true! In particular I think it's hilarious to see unrealistic job postings looking for folks who have been fundraising (!) with social media for five years or more. Sure, totally reasonable.

    You also hit on a major irritant for me when you mentioned that orgs should look for a SM manager who already interacts with charities.

    I sometimes see digital/new media/etc consultants who work with charities but never bother to follow, mention, tweet at or about charities.

    I would like to see more young agency consultants who are paid to give advice to charitable organizations participating in the community online.

  7. Kimberly, Amazing post!

    Especially loved your list of things you would look for in a SM manager!

    Fundraisers have to be about three things: Relationship Building, Asking and Marketing. Whether or not social media is going to be that person's specialization, it is becoming a pretty important tool in terms of those fundraising functions.

    How well-developed a person's own social media habits are may become a good barometer for what sort of fundraiser they are. Does that person build online networks, use those networks to strengthen relationships/partnerships, make "asks' - for advice, for introductions to others, for tips and info and finally use that media to advertise what they have to offer to the community?

    I think of my LinkedIn as my "Raser's Edge" - the real relationships are in person, but the database supports the important info and news about those contacts.

    Thank you again for inviting me into your own network and looking forward to meeting in Life 1.0 in the near future!

  8. Taking aside the lovely personal comments Kimberley made about me (blush), I totally agree with her comments and I am glad to see that I am not the only person shouting from the rooftops that social media manager for non-profits do not need to be PR people, or journalists.

    In my (totally biased) opinion, this job is a Relationship Manager job, in much the same way that a Major Donor role is. Sure, the tools we may use are different, but the sentiment is the same.

    Know your audience, be relevant, be helpful, be available, be there, and ask in the right way, at the right time.

    Social media is not yet a valid fundraising tool, NPO's are reporting raising less than $1000 per year via Facebook... but Dorothy Donor is dying, and smart NPO's are engaging people now with a long tern view of where relationships will go.

    Those NPO's who show up on Facebook, or whatever the new Facebook is in 5 years will have no 'fans' no loyalty, and will, in my opinion, be treated with suspicion by the very people they now, all of a sudden, have decided to talk to.

    Thank you Kimberley for sharing your thoughts as a non-profit leader.

  9. Hi Kimberley - while I largely agree with you, I would point out that social media has been around for a lot longer than Facebook or Twitter. We didn't call it social media. Many of us called it "new media". Digg, PHbb forums, and other platforms and technologies provide many opportunities for online communities and social engagement on the net.

    I would agree that having a good relationship manager is a must. I'd go further and state that a good sales/marketing/fundraising relationship manager is a must. Too many charities have put this medium into their communications silo's. Most charities struggle to integrate their traditional communications with fundraising - that becomes an even greater challenge for charities with social media.

    Having said all that - the technology matters. Charities don't need a tech geek, but they do need someone who has the capacity to understand the technology well enough to manage it and make important investment decisions - and to translate those decisions into easily understood concepts for the board, management and other staff.

    But - for the most part... relationships first, the rest falls afterwards.

  10. As always, Kimberley, you're spot on.

    #2 really resonates because it's one of the first things I check when I'm looking at a workshop/webinar. There are so many people who don't use social media that it makes it easy for others to sell them a bill of goods. Funny I could answer everything myself with the exception of #10!

    Christina made a great point too: Fundraisers have to be about three things: Relationship Building, Asking and Marketing. Too many tilt towards the Asking, when the Relationship Building and Marketing are equally important - ya need that balance.

    Thanks for sharing. I always learn so much from your posts.

  11. Great point Laurie - 'someone who has the capacity to understand technology and make decisions'.

    Christina and Pamela - what do you mean by 'marketing'? That might be another whole discussion. I'm not sure we need to 'market' our charities at all really. Maybe that is the next blog post - who wants to write it?

    Thanks again everyone for comments. I love it when a blog generates a conversation. Great Stuff.

  12. Thanks to everyone for contributing to such a fantastic discussion!

    From my perspective, what I mean about "marketing" is anything that one does to share the story of what the non-profit is doing. Spreading the good news and connecting an audience to the need for that charity's work and creating passion for that audience that drives interest in building the relationship and supporting.

    So, it can encompass a lot of different types of media and strategies and most fundraisers need to bring on team members who can put the mechanics of that together, but the marketing exercise in whatever form it takes can be a big help in recruiting new relationships to build on.

  13. OOps! Comment above should be from "Christina" not my dear hubby, "Jim"!

  14. Ooooooh, that would be a great next post Kimberley. I'm wondering if you're thinking of "marketing" differently than I am. Did you read one of Ahern's most recent newsletters on that very topic?

    He said: "You, Mr. and Ms. Fundraiser ... you are what we call a marketer, professionally speaking. And that's when you're thinking strategically. When you're behaving tactically (making the phone call, sending the appeal), you're what we call a salesperson."

    I've noted in the past that I was a very successful fundraiser for two years - fresh out of the gate - thanks to a sales/marketing background - before I ever took a single professional development workshop.

    The sales/marketing aspect provides the donor-centricity that is so often lacking in typical nonprofit communication speak.

    Thanks, as always, for the stimulating convo!

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. "1.The ability to use and understand the languages of twitter, facebook and instant messaging. For example can they say ‘Tweet and ReTweet’ without choking? Do they know the difference between a fan page, cause page and event page on facebook? Can they pass an emoticon test?" My favorite so far, I mean common sense is really important in handling social media. ^_^ Keep it coming Kimberly! (oh and by the way you've got really wonderful eyes)

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