Why Influencer Marketing is Important and How SMBs Can Get Started Today

I recently did an interview with one of our local news stations on influencer marketing and what consumers need to know. You can view that piece by clicking here.

It got me thinking. Influencer marketing is already a very popular tactic among large brands – and it’s continuing to grow.

According to Marketing Land, brands are projected to spend $101 billion on influencer marketing by 2020. But why are small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) slow to embrace this promotional activity?

Background

This isn’t a new tactic. In 2011, when I was a heavy Twitter user, I was contacted by a social agency representing Applebee’s. They offered to give me free food and drinks to live tweet the Dallas Cowboys game from my nearby restaurant. Are you kidding me? Yes!

Unfortunately, when I responded that I was interested, they didn’t follow through. I imagine they had reached out to many users and only had a set number of vouchers to hand out. I should have replied sooner!

The reason why we’re still here talking about influencer marketing in 2019 is because of its extreme value. It can be cost-effective, especially compared to social advertising.

It’s also a growing concept. It may be old news for large B2C companies, but for B2B and SMB brands, there’s still a lot of potential.

90-9-1

The same Marketing Land article also goes into detail around the famous 90-9-1 rule. This has been a model that’s been floating around since the early days of social media.

The model shows that the majority of users on social media (90%) sit back and take it all in. They are viewers (some might say creepers). They can be found in your impression and reach stats, but not in your engagement reports. For the most part, they are silent.

A small population (9%) helps to promote and re-share your material. These are the engagers. They are helpful in content distribution, getting the content into the feeds of the viewers.

The smallest population (1%) is made up of those who are thought leaders, trendsetters and content creators. They are creating the majority of the original material found on the web that is later engaged and viewed by the remaining 99%.

As marketers, tapping into these influencers and having them create content on behalf of your brand, naturally allows your material to be seen by large amounts of people within a given market. It’s a true top-down approach.

Relevancy is Key

The most important word in influencer market is relevancy.

For example, @Coco_pinkprincess is a “kid influencer” who focuses on kids’ clothing and fashion. The profile, which has nearly 700,000 followers, is geared toward young girls and their parents.

If I’m a brand that sells John Deere tractors, I could pay this influencer tens of thousands of dollars for an impressive volume of viewers. But those views are not going to turn into engagements and sales. It’s just not the right audience.

It seems logical, but it’s the first, foremost, and single most important thing in influencer marketing.

Not all likes are created equal.

Follower numbers, engagement rates and price tags may seem enticing (if the price is right), but finding influencers with the right audience is critical for a successful program.

That John Deere distributor is better off seeking an influencer with a more relevant audience of a few thousand, instead of hundreds of thousands, in order to get in front those who are more likely to be potential buyers. Most of the time, these smaller influencers come with a cheaper cost too.

Developing an Influencer Strategy

This is where things get exciting. If you think you’re ready, here’s how you’ll want to build your influencer program:

1) Determine your target audience.

Hopefully, if you are already conducting marketing and social efforts, you have an excellent understanding of who this persona is. Remember, think about the type of person that leads to the greatest level of revenue for you, or who is most apt to help spread the word about your brand’s products and services. Document the details about your audience.

2) Determine your objectives.

What are you trying to accomplish with influencer marketing? This is typically one of a few things:

a) impressions/reach if you are merely at an awareness/brand penetration stage,
b)engagement if you want to build brand buzz and get people talking about your company’s products or services, it’s great for inexpensive market research, or for action-based metrics like downloads or entries,
c) sales if you are focused on the bottom line and want true return on investment (ROI) for your influencer efforts.

3) Identify the cost structure and how much (if any) is worth investing.

To me, influencer marketing is very similar to social advertising. If done right, both can get you in front of your target audience at a fee. This means that you want to pursue the avenue that’s most cost-effective (or both to complement one another).

Remember, stats show that users trust peer reviews more than ads (Nielsen says that 33% trust ads whereas 90% trust peers). So if consumers deem the influencers they follow as peers, the ads and message can have a greater effect.

It’s best to run a social ad program first to create baseline metrics. That way, you know what’s fair market value for the metrics you’re trying to gain. This can include the cost to acquire new fans, garner likes and comments, get clicks to your site, obtain downloads, or achieve sales.

Once you know what the typical cost of all those KPIs are, you can begin nailing down the cost for influence marketing, and compare between influencers too.

Let’s say you normally spend $2/click on your social ads. If you invest $1,000 on an influencer promoted post and it brings in 600 clicks among a relevant audience, that’s $1.66 per click.

As long as the quality of those visitors is just as good, or better than advertising, it’s a worthwhile investment. In anything you do with social media, you’ll want to keep those costs top of mind.

So what will you expect to pay per post? It all depends on the type of influencers and their niche. Influence.co says that the average cost per post, across the board, is $271 per post. If you’re dealing with micro-influencers who have less than 10,000 followers, it is $83 per post, while celebrities or macro-influencers with more than 100,000 followers charge an average of $763. Modeling and photography are the most expensive industries while lifestyle and music are least expensive (among the categories researched).

4) Find your influencers.

If your planning is in place, and you’ve reserved your budget and labor resources, most of your time is going to be put towards identifying your influencers. That should take probably one to two months. The rest of your program will be devoted to managing the relationships and developing content suggestions and/or offers to supply to them, as well as testing and measurement.

Influencer research requires sifting through social search and identifying influencers who make sense for your brand. To find them, you’ll want to perform searches and look through the following:

  1. Keywords: what keywords are people using online and on social platforms.
  2. Check-Ins: who is posting from locations that make sense for your brand.
  3. Hashtags: what hashtags are they using?
  4. Similar followers of profiles you’ve identified from above.
  5. Consider the following platforms to find your content creators: Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, LinkedIn, online blogs, Tumblr and Twitter.

Like media relations, you need to build a spreadsheet of those who you identify are potentially good fits for your brand.

Indicate name, handle, platform, contact info, audience info, influencer type, topics they cover/industry, and follower count.

When logging, don’t forget to indicate “influencer type.” From SproutSocial, most fall into one of four categories: social media expert, YouTube creator, blogger or famous person. This helps tell you a bit more about their audience and engagement rates (celebrities will have a more diverse audience and lower expected engagement rates than social experts).

You’ll also want to calculate the average engagement rate and average impression level so when you are comparing and analyzing which influencers will drive the best results based on cost, you know who to turn to.

How to Calculate Engagement Rate (number of people who will engage upon a post, on average):

  • Look at all that person’s posts from the past 30 days.
  • Write down the number of likes and comments on those posts.
  • Add the numbers together within that window and divide by the number of posts. That’s your average engagements per post.
  • Now divide by the total number of followers for an estimated engagement rate. Log that in your spreadsheet.

How to Calculate Average Impression Level (number of people who will see the post, on average:

  • Users can typically see between a 40 and 60% impression rate. I determined 45% from a study I performed for a brand, but real influencers tend to have a bit higher. So let’s call it 50%.
  • Multiply the follower count by 50% and you should get the average impression level per post. Log that in your spreadsheet.

Finally, you’ll need to get info on cost. Contact influencers through DM, the email they direct you to in their bio, or their publicist/agency’s email. Ideally, you’ll want that number broken down at a per post basis, even if they give it to you as a package deal cost, so you can easily compare influencers.

After researching the cost, you can then do divisional math and calculate data for two additional columns – “cost per engagement” and “cost per impression.” These two are the cornerstone of your comparisons.

Remember, only use the impression number if the goal of your program is impressions/penetration. If it’s action (engagement or sales), you’ll need to use the cost per engagement metric.

Scrunch, a social influencer application that helps identify and manage influencer campaigns,lists the following engagement rates as being industry standard:

  • Less than 1% = low engagement rate
  • Between 1% and 3.5% = average/good engagement rate
  • Between 3.5% and 6% = high engagement rate
  • Above 6% = very high engagement rate

This is important to keep in mind when deciding whether an influencer is worthwhile or not.

5) Select and contact your influencers.

Coordinate with your chosen influencers to identify your offers and links, and run a test program. You’ll want to use a few so you can see the impact of each (and which audience is the best fit).

Make sure to run these test campaigns at separate times so you can keep your data segregated.

6) Analyze the results.

What results did you see? What was the cost? Which influencers worked the best? Decide which ones you want to continue to work with and decide what changes you might want to make to your content or offer moving forward.

Getting Help

Don’t want to do the manual research in identifying influencers? You can find a software or agency to do the work for you.

Some tools have influencer directories built in and might even manage the relationships and coordination of fees for you, while agencies can also remove the heavy lifting on your behalf. Most have working relationships with influencers in certain markets or niches.

Tools you’ll want to consider if you’re serious about pursuing influencer marketing:

  1. Scrunch
  2. Upfluence
  3. BuzzSumo
  4. SproutSocial
  5. Influence.co

And there you go. Happy influencer marketing!

Original article: https://www.site-seeker.com/why-influencer-marketing-is-important-and-how-smbs-can-get-started-today/

Choosing the Right Live Streaming Video Platform for Your Business

Live streaming is the bright shiny new object that all brands are chasing after. First, it was social media, then it was mobile, now it’s getting in front of audiences with real-time video content. Traditional TV viewership has declined 44% since 2012 as a result of the popularity of online video content, according to ZDNet. Instead of “rah-rah, look at us,” the best brands are leveraging live video to educate, entertain, and show something off that users find valuable.

There are essentially two areas that need to be thought-through before hitting “go live.” First, the strategy. Why are you choosing to do this? What value are you providing and what goal(s) do you hope to accomplish? What will you be saying? How often will you broadcast? Who will be the brand spokesperson? All of these of these questions (and more) should be identified and documented in a strategy/planning doc.

The second area is the technology/platform you’ll be using to manage the broadcast. There are pros and cons to each platform, and it will likely depend on your current audience (where your most/best fans are) and the type of equipment you have. Or, you could choose different platforms for different situations. Let’s consider your options.

Facebook

Pros: Most popular, desktop or mobile broadcasting, commenting and sharing enhances virility, notification to followers, archive videos, great for longer broadcasts (4 hours max)

Cons: Technical issues happen, if you manage multiple pages then cross-publishing can confuse some content creators

Recommendations: Use when you have a large (or devoted) fanbase. Create a Facebook event in advance for the live stream, tease it and promote it ahead of time, go live. After the broadcast, have the video exist in your feed/library and boost it to get more out of your efforts.

Twitter

Pros: Easy for users to view and play, can be found through hashtags and search, can be found within Periscope’s app in its location map for extra reach

Cons: Mobile-only posting, it gets lost in the shuffle like everything else on Twitter

Recommendation: Use when you have a devoted Twitter following, and you’re at an event where you want to give an “inside look.” Keep it short and sweet. Okay if the videos are rough and raw. Can publish here often. Reserve more exclusive content for Facebook or Instagram.

Instagram

Pros: Still a hot, new feature, appears within the “Stories” area and can get more views than a normal video post, unlike Stories, you can broadcast up to an hour

Cons: Limited to mobile-only, limited to access only by app users (typically just your followers seeing the content), only accessible for 24 hours

Recommendation: Because of the timeliness of live videos and Stories on Instagram, it’s best to tease when you are going live through posts and Stories ahead of time. Remember, these are your best followers paying attention. Reserve for highly anticipated content: exclusive interviews, new product reveals, major company announcements, etc

YouTube

Pros: Easy to set-up, archive video in your library, real-time comments, do not need to be a YouTube user to watch

Cons: Most businesses don’t have a ton of subscribers on YouTube, so you need a way to drive viewers

Recommendation: Use for longer video broadcasts if you aren’t active on Facebook, create a Live Event ahead of time so you can tease the broadcast link in ads, email campaigns, social media, etc. After running, leverage the archive version on your website and email campaigns. 

Livestream.com

Pros: Access to customer service, can embed video onto website, push to Facebook and YouTube simultaneously, ad-free

Cons: Costs money

Recommendation: Use if/when you are devoting a great deal of time, talent and money towards your live streaming program. If you are planning on broadcasting weekly and have thousands invested in equipment for a more professional quality look, go this route. It will allow you still to push your content to some of the above networks, but with added video production capabilities and support. 

Case Study: Live Streaming Lectures for CoreLife Eatery and Making the Change from YouTube to Facebook

The issue and set-up.

For years, CoreLife Eatery has hosted lectures inside of its restaurants. The team brings in credible authority figures from various fields (health, nutrition, fitness, medicine, etc) to speak to guests on educational topics. The events that take place inside of its Vestal, NY location have live guests and are also live streamed for online fans. Vestal was designed with live streaming in mind – it has a lecture hall, adjacent to the restaurant, and has professional video production equipment installed.

When we first started to live stream in 2016, Facebook hadn’t yet enabled the ability for brands to stream live via desktop. At the time, one could only broadcast from a mobile device. This just wasn’t feasible and would also produce a quality that wasn’t up to our standards. After research, we settled on YouTube.

Distribution became nightmarish.

The stream needed to go through YouTube but our audience resided on other social platforms – mainly Facebook (99% of it, in fact). Therefore, the links had to be shared on our Facebook location pages.

  • By the time the posts went out and started to gain traction, the hour-long live stream was over.
  • When we tried to boost the posts, by the time they were approved and received that extended reach, the live stream was over.
  • We also tried to send the live links out to our massive email distribution list. By the time emails were opened and clicked, the live stream was over.

Noticing a trend? The very nature of live video wasn’t allowing us enough time to promote.

View numbers were extremely low too – some videos were only watched live by about 20-40 people and watched later by another 70-100. The “CoreLife Lesson: Maximizing You Not” video, for example, has only 133 views to date. Attaining comments and responding to them on the YouTube chat board was also not very effective since we couldn’t pull comments into our third party social management tool (SproutSocial).

Not long after we started doing YouTube live streaming did Facebook open up its capabilities to live stream from desktop (meaning, you could now use full video equipment to broadcast). After giving ample time to YouTube, and testing various tactics, we realized it would be in our best interest to change our strategy.

We made the jump to Facebook Live.

We began with research in how Facebook Live works – particularly for brands. We then held a training session with the client who would be using the equipment on-site in Vestal to broadcast. They had a video encoding software called Wirecast that allowed the videos to be uploaded directly to Facebook. This software also allowed them to toggle between multiple camera angles and add lower thirds and other basic video production techniques.

We walked them through the process, granted them access to the Facebook brand page, established a sync with Wirecast, showed them how to create a title and description for the post, and tested.

Our sharing plan came into focus.

Since we had 25 Facebook location pages (and knowing that number continues to grow), we didn’t want to publish the video directly to all 25 locations. Though this is technically possible – it would require increased software costs (maybe even forcing them to purchase and learn a completely different video tool) and it required that we provide access to all Facebook pages to the client (which increased the risk of accidentally publishing and posting – which we always try to prevent).

Therefore, we decided to broadcast live only to the main brand page, and then we would be on standby to immediately share to all other 24+ location pages. Through that unique link, the live video would remain live on all pages where it was shared. In doing so, it allowed us to gather more views and more comments across all of our pages.

Commenting would exist as normal Facebook comments, meaning it would be aggregated inside of SproutSocial and our engagement team could more easily manage responses. Additionally, we have all of our Facebook pages connected and authorized to cross-post. This allows us to save the original video into the libraries of each of the location pages (something that is important to the client), so the videos can always be found later no matter what community a fan is from.

Here are some results.

In the first few live streams we broadcasted via Facebook, we saw more than a thousand views in real-time, and another several thousand after the live videos ended – since they continued to exist as videos in our Facebook feeds. The “CoreLife Eatery – Happiness Axis” video, for example, has gathered 6,718 views to date. That’s a 4950% increase from the example above that was broadcast via YouTube. We created an event for the live stream ahead of time, teased it on our Facebook pages, distributed an email to our fan base with the link, and managed comments from the video in real-time. If we boosted the live stream videos across our pages after the broadcast concluded, we would have seen even more impressive stats!

Overall, this adjusted strategy required some upfront work and training, but it has panned out much better from an upkeep standpoint and generated greater results. For us, it was a much more successful solution.

This post was originally published for Site-Seeker. Click here to view in its original form.

How I Lost 2,000 Twitter Followers and What I Learned In the Process

My story.

At my “Twitter peak,” I had around 11,000 followers. That was in late 2015. Today, I’m down to 8,980 and counting and I typically lose a few followers each day. Here’s what happened, and here’s why I don’t mind seeing them go…

I graduated from college in 2009. It was a tough time to be a college graduate due to the Great Recession that hit earlier that year. Thousands of companies were laying off so when positions did happen to open, those who were laid off with plenty more experience under their belts, were acting as competition.

On the flip side, this new thing called social media was beginning to gain traction. Though many platforms were a few years old, it was the period when businesses wanted to try to understand and exercise the benefits of these channels. I was instructed by several mentors to get involved, learn the tools, appreciate how businesses can take advantage, etc. So I did.

How I gained my following.

I set out on a – what would soon become a seven-year journey – to be a Twitter all-star. I treated it like a second job. I would get home from work each night and devote at least two hours to the cause.

I’m not Twitter famous by any means. I’m not even verified. But for someone who wasn’t/isn’t a full-time blogger, member of the media, or a celebrity, I think having several thousands of followers was a nice feat. It certainly helped give me credibility when I spoke to clients about social media marketing.

Throughout the time when I was highly active, I was often asked my peers and clients how I accumulated such a following. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a magic bullet, and it didn’t happen overnight. I don’t mind sharing some of my best practices for gaining a following:

I talked to everyone.

I would use the search tool and hashtags to find people in PR, marketing, and technology, etc. Then I would engage – the good ‘ol true definition of the word. I’d reply to people for hours on end, asking questions, commenting, getting involved in professional conversations with my opinion and limited expertise. This was before it was all too common to use the “fav” feature (now “like” feature) so it was all real commentary. Many users came and went. Some I continue to talk to today. (Shoutout to @jesslaw ‏@aubzim ‏@Courtz112 and @bitty_boop ‏ for holdin’ it down since day 1.)

I participated in a ton of Twitter Chats.

#PRChat, #JournChat, #ContentChat, #PPCChat, etc. These were/are weekly chats focused on a variety of topics in my industry – public relations, blogging, marketing, technology, etc. I’d answer every question and stay involved for the full hour. After each event, I would follow all users who I interacted with throughout the chat. Most would immediately follow back.

I hijacked live events.

There were many users who would list and/or follow users who were participating and tweeting about certain live events. This could be music festivals (#WarpedTour), TV shows (like the #Oscars), or trade shows (#NRAShow) and industry conferences (#INBOUND). By using the owned hashtags for the event, my tweets would be noticed among other participants (both live and online) and cause quite a few follow backs. I also participated in a few live Tweet-Ups, gatherings made up of active Twitter users in a certain area.

I followed relevant people.

I wanted to follow (and get follow backs from) people who were in my industry. As a shortcut, I knew that people who engaged with marketing/ad agencies would be related to my field. I used Twitter lists like mad to classify and organize my following. I followed tons of those who were connected to local/regional agencies. I also used Twitter directories to find relevant handles based on topics. Having a professional headshot, detailed bio related to my job, and a website with supporting material helped ensure that I was legitimate and wasn’t a bot. It helped me get noticed.

I created and shared a lot of content.

I’ve seen Twitter users who tweet a lot, but it’s nothing meaningful. Content creation is important because people look to you as a source of rich information, as a thought leader. I created/shared blog articles, short videos, photos, charts, infographics, etc. Some on behalf of my business, some that I did on my own time simply to support my Twitter initiative. I also used relevant hashtags when posting. These pieces got shared, caused reactions, and led to follower growth.

There’s been a ton of articles over the years on ways to develop a following. Do a quick Google search. Blogs from 2009 up until yesterday. Many of them have decent suggestions, beyond some that I mentioned above. Here’s one.

How I lost my following.

I’m not sure if it was the changing usage patterns of Twitter or maybe I had just grown tired of reading tweets from total strangers. Either way, for me, Twitter had lost some of its luster. I decided to make a change.

It took me about four hours (since they got rid of all the mass unfollow tools) but I cleansed myself of about 8,000 following. I only left remaining: 1) those who I personally knew, 2) those who I had developed Twitter relationships with over time, 3) trusted media outlets that I often read, 4) select businesses and brands that I pay close attention to. I left myself with about 200 following.

A lot of users on Twitter play the “I only follow people who follow me back” game. It’s not a bad form of etiquette. If you don’t care about what I have to say, why should I care about what you have to say? It’s not like Facebook or LinkedIn. If we don’t know each other, there are no real repercussions if one of us hits “unfollow.”

After I had cleansed my list, I watched as 2,000 followers slowly unfollowed me over the course of about three months. Since then, a few followers fade each day. I still have 8,000+ but, more importantly, I have true connections with many that have stayed and I continue to engage with them regularly.

I had preached it for years but I wasn’t living it – until now. Quality > quantity. The number doesn’t mean anything if those individuals weren’t paying attention, engaging, sharing a connection, communicating. I have no interest in spectators – on Twitter, in business, or in my personal life, so the following number means nothing to me. It’s all about the conversations.

How Twitter has changed.

Twitter is very different today than it was in 2009. From my experience, it’s become much more of an article exchange center rather than a source of original content. What I mean is there’s a few creators, namely big bloggers or media outlets, and the rest of users simply add to the commentary with a RT, like, or reply (remember the 90-9-1 rule?). The ability to reply with animated gifs and emojis has only fueled this behavior since you don’t need to leave Twitter to find these reactions. Of course, Twitter as a source for instant news is still a critical function, especially with the addition of live streaming – but again – most people sit back and watch the 1% do their thing.

Jay Baer at Convince & Convert predicted this as soon as Twitter updated its software to algorithmically show certain tweets ahead of others. He also alluded to the rise of Twitter ads to help businesses find their way to the top of user feeds.

Here’s what I feel Twitter still does really well and where I feel it struggles. This can help you and your business decide if/when to use Twitter and how much attention to give to it.

Pros:

  • Customer service. Those on Twitter expect instant responses. That’s the nature of the tool. It’s real-time. Business can/should use Twitter as a way for customers to ask questions. The only caveat – you should be ready to respond immediately, at least within the hour.
  • Skews younger. If you’re a brand whose target audience is tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings, this is a great outlet. It isn’t as shiny and new as SnapChat, but it does boast these users in great numbers. Plus, Twitter outweighs SnapChat with the ability to add call to actions, have versatile content, and remain top of mind longer.
  • Show off your brand voice/personality. I’m sure you’ve read about Wendy’s on Twitter. It’s amazing. They are sassy, sarcastic, even sometimes rude, but it fits the personality they want to convey. Their target audience is younger, more urban, with less income. It fits them. Other brands should follow suit, find a voice that makes sense, and embrace it wholly.

Cons:

  • The novelty is gone. Twitter still continues to claim that it has 320 million users. But it doesn’t take a Twitter expert to browse around and see all the dormant, dead accounts that exist. Not to mention the crazy amount of spam or fake accounts. I think the numbers are inflated. The newness of Twitter has faded and many social influencers have taken to Instagram or SnapChat as an alternative.
  • Short life span. Despite the “In case you missed it…” feature, the very nature of Twitter means that tweets have a short life span. Within hours, sometimes even minutes (depending on the user), the tweet is buried and gone. This requires users and brands tweet often to stay top of mind and more resources are needed to make that happen.
  • Challenging ad interface. It’s not challenging to use. It’s challenging to find success. Unless you’re a company with a very broad target audience, it’s tough to find your niche. The targeting features on Twitter aren’t nearly as good as Facebook and LinkedIn. You can use keywords, related followers using handle names, geography, and interests, but even just a few keywords or handles will put a lot of people on your list that aren’t relevant. When I used Twitter ads, it took some time and a lot of babysitting and adjusting to find my sweet spot. You can certainly find success, but you may waste money in the process.

This article was originally published for Site-Seeker. You can find it here.

7 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Social Media Marketer

Beyond my normal 9-5 at Site-Seeker, I also teach social media marketing at Utica College. I often tell students that social media, though 10+ years old now, is still seen as the new kid on the block. Because of this, some seasoned marketers still frown upon social and the abilities needed to actually do it well, do it right, and generate results.

They either:

  • Don’t see the value, or
  • Don’t respect the work

Either way, those professionals are setting their departments/businesses up for failure. When you aren’t recognizing the importance of social as a key component, or maybe even the single most critical component of your marketing plan, you end up shirking your responsibilities when it comes to resources. That goes for both tools and people.

Recruiting fitting talent to perform social media for business may not seem like it’s hard. But it is. And here’s why:

Everyone thinks they can do social media.

SPOILER ALERT: They can’t. Not by a long shot.

As a [somewhat] young marketing professional, I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides of the coin. I’ve applied, interviewed, and secured (and didn’t secure) social media jobs. And I’ve job posted, screened, interviewed, and hired for social media jobs. In both scenarios, I’ve picked up quite a few tips on the best ways to prove your social media knowhow and worth.

Here’s seven questions I always ask when interviewing a social media marketer:

1) What’s your education?

I’ve found that some of the most talented people in new media and digital marketing don’t have any formal education in these areas. However, I’ve often found people that do, have an advantage. They can look beyond the work itself and answer the “why.” Why is engagement important? It’s not the “like” that’s valuable; it’s the advocacy that’s slowly being created to draw in fans, cultivate them, and turn them into brand loyalists. Sure, someone without formal education can grasp these concepts with the right training. But academic education often creates that foundational understanding and the roots that tie social media to the rest of important business activities. You won’t need to worry about taking on that training yourself. Consider majors (or master’s) in marketing, public relations, or communications.

2) Do you have executing strengths?

At Site-Seeker, we use the Clifton StrengthsFinder test to determine both current and potential employees’ top strengths. This is important in hiring for the right position and placing people on projects where they will excel. If you use this test when hiring, ensure that social media marketing candidates have execution strengths (which is one of the four categories that strengths fall within). Social media is such a detail-oriented environment. There’s a lot of planning involved, but also so much to follow through on. If you have a strategic mind, are a creative dreamer, or are an individual who just can’t seem to put pen to paper – forget it. You need someone who has an innate talent in taking loose ideas and turning them into something real and tangible.

3) What channels have you managed on behalf of a business?

I brush my teeth every day, but that doesn’t make me a dental hygienist. Just because you post photos on your personal Instagram or live tweet during The Bachelor, it doesn’t even come close to describing your abilities in using social media for a brand. We’re talking about creating a unique and professional voice, posting with intention associated with a buyer persona and pre-created objectives, being meticulous over engagement and responses that can aid in brand storytelling. You don’t discount the work of a dentist or dental hygienist. Don’t discount the work of a social media marketer.

4) What are the top metrics you feel would measure success in a social program?

You need to determine if they can analyze web data. This is often the most under-appreciated side to social media marketing. I’d even go to the length of saying it’s the most important. The inexperienced professional will automatically defer to “likes” and “follows” as top metrics. But experienced inbound marketers know that social media is just another one of the many media used to reach business goals. Namely, social should drive conversions, and in most cases, this translates to web visitors, leads and online sales. See how candidates handle this question and allow them to elaborate on their experience and comfort level with handling data and turning it into usable information.

5) What are some social media tools or software that have worked for you in the past?

There are too many components of social media today to not rely on tools. Whether it’s SimplyMeasured, If This Then That, SproutSocial, BuzzSumo, Canva, etc – there are a ton of software options that not only allow marketers to be more efficient, but to get work done that would be nearly impossible if done manually. Quiz the candidate on the various tools that they know can potentially work to make for a more successful social program. If they don’t know of any, they probably need a bit more experience. On top of that, advertising is critical for social media in business today. I usually tell clients that if they don’t have a social media advertising budget, don’t even bother. The candidate should be well-versed in online advertising and know the best techniques in how to manage and carry out successful ad campaigns.

6) What type of proof can you provide to showcase your writing skills?

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 1200-word blog post, or a 12-word tweet. Keen writing skills are crucial to everything we do in marketing. Research, putting information into an easy-to-understand way, writing to entice a share, a click, a purchase. Make sure you look at the candidate’s portfolio. There should be proof of sound writing skills and creativity. Look for example pieces of copywriting, blogs, email campaigns, or even formal writing like research projects.

7) What is your experience with creative work?

The only way to break through the crap, err, I mean clutter, is creativity. Think about it. What do you actually click on these days? You scroll through probably 100 videos on Facebook each day. 500 tweets. 50 snaps. Which ones do you actually take the time to watch or read? Or better yet, which ones do you actually recall an hour, a day, or a week later? The only pieces of content that work are those that are the most creative. Text, graphic, photo, video – it doesn’t matter the medium – it matters if it stands out (while also being relevant to the brand, industry, and goals of the campaign). Get a feel for the candidate’s creative work and experience. If they aren’t creative, they’ll likely fail hard in a social media role.

Based on all that above, consider some of the key skills needed for the most important jobs that social media marketers do on a regular basis:

Once you’ve given my seven questions some thought – and any other interview questions that you deem as valuable to making sure the candidate(s) is a good fit for your company or organization – you’re ready to start recruiting.

  • Consider LinkedIn and Facebook as resources to locate talent. Since it’s a social media position, they should be using these tools already and have rich profiles.
  • Be careful about your job description, ensure that talent must be local (if that’s the case, or else you’ll get a lot of remote workers due to the nature of the job). They should provide a resume, cover letter, and portfolio (this will weed out bad apples, and provide proof of experience/skills). Be sure to deeply explore their social channels and website.
  • Take time to explore portfolio work and check into references.

Good luck and happy recruiting!

This article was originally published for Site-Seeker Inc. Find the original article by clicking here.