Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.

Q: So many young people have a thorough understanding of social media. When hiring someone to build and manage your online presence, what specific skills should business owners look for?


Heidi Allstop, CEO and founder of Spill in San Francisco, Calif.:

Since this person is going to be the digital voice of your company, their ‘voice’ needs to match your product’s culture. With Spill, we are primarily dealing with young adults, so we want to mirror the online voice of a young adult. Hence, we looked for a young adult who ‘gets’ what resonates with that tribe of people, and can push out compelling content accordingly. Similarly, if it’s a company that services stay-at-home moms or mobile developers, they’ll likely be looking for a voice that resonates with those type of people.

If you’re a young person looking for a social media position, you’re probably going to have better luck in being an evangelist for companies targeting younger crowds, as those companies will value your authentic voice. Once you find a handful of companies that you want to work for, write up an assessment of their current social media tone and give suggestions for how you might tweak it to resonate with their target population. Put in the leg work up front to show them the thought that you’d put into every tweet, post, or like.

Saul Garlick, CEO of ThinkImpact in Washington, D.C.:

I find that it is a certain type of mind that understands social media at the viral level. You don’t want to hire someone just because they have a Facebook page and post pictures daily.

Instead, you really want this person to have a deep understanding of how different social media platforms speak to each other -- how they integrate and also how they differ. Audiences, anonymity, limitations, all of these things differ from platform to platform, even though sometimes it feels like everyone is on every social media site. In actual fact, people use each platform for very different functions. It is critical to bring someone on the team that understands how people use the tool and why.

Finally, think about the strategy. Any social media engagement that is done on an ad hoc basis is going to underperform.

Allie Siarto, partner and director of analytics of Loudpixel in East Lansing, Mich.:

We ask every potential new hire about their reading lists -- what does he or she read on a regular basis to stay up on the industry? The world of social media is changing every single day, so it’s just as important to know that a new hire is enthusiastic about keeping up with changes in the industry as it is that they know how to use today's hottest tools.

That said, if you’re hiring someone to manage online outreach and social media, they should be able to prove to you that they understand the culture of the web (and no, having a Facebook account doesn’t count. My 90-year-old grandfather regularly interacts on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to manage strategic communications for my company). Has he or she worked with brands or companies in the past? Does he or she have an understanding of what has worked for those brands and what hasn’t, and how brand communications differ from personal social networking?

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