The Most Important Social Media Strategy

One of the most frequent questions I get regarding social media strategy when I present at industry events or conferences is “What one piece of social media advice you would give to brands?” And I always give the same answer.

Hire someone with good judgment.

Yes, the representative handling your social media presences needs to be a good storyteller. He or she needs to be able to develop and manage editorial calendars. He or she needs to effectively capture the organization’s voice in content and responses.

But the social environment is defined by its immediacy and expectations of near real-time dialogue. Your social representative must embody the brand’s values in every post, every response, every interaction. Achieving that level of quality and consistency when everything is calm is no small feat. When the heat is on, your key stakeholder groups are even more dialed in, gauging whether your first move is in accordance with their understanding and expectations for the brand. Whether your brand’s actions throughout the remainder of the process are authentic and appropriate. Whether your brand is operating from a strong, principled bedrock, or simply from a standpoint of undisciplined convenience.

Crisis management cycles no longer are measured in days or weeks. Brands must stand ready to act and react in minutes and hours. And the people overseeing your social media strategy and online channels must be able to quickly spot concerning content and rising trends that could negatively impact the brand’s reputation, and know how to buy precious time with online constituencies with swift actions that show concern over the situation, demonstrate an interest in fully understanding the nature of the issues, and promise response and/or action if required.

You can’t be watching over the shoulder of your social media representative. You have to be able to trust them to act and react in an appropriate manner throughout the day, every day, by applying your brand’s character, mission, and values without having to run everything by you first.

So the next question may be, “How do you determine whether a candidate has solid judgment?” It’s all in the questions you ask candidates. Ask them how they identify and take on the persona of the brand, or the brand voice. Ask them for examples of issues or crises that arose in an online community they managed and how they approached the strategy and execution of addressing the situation. Ask about how they determine when and how to respond to critics and how they determine when to keep conversations in that space versus trying to take things offline. Ask how they come up with new social media content and how they keep it fresh. Ask what brands they think exemplify a strong social media strategy, voice, and presence and why, what social media campaigns are their favorites, and those they think don’t cut it and why. Ask about a time when they had to make a decision about how to handle a significant issue in a particular social media space when their supervisor wasn’t available to give them immediate guidance or direction and how they arrived at that decision.

These are just a few possible explorations you can pursue with candidates. Do you have others you think would be helpful for others to consider when they interview potential hires?