How to hire a social media and community specialist

by Quiip Team March 16, 2016

What NOT to do when you hire a social media or community management specialist

Scenario 1: Hire the millennial, social is their life [FALSE]

An agency hired a young millennial with no proven commercial social media experience. Mr Millennial did, however, have his own blog, Tumblr, Vine, and SnapChat, and he was popular online.

There was no training provided. There was no governance documentation in place nor any social media strategy. They paid him a good wage as he was convincing in the interview and they hadn’t had to fill a social media management role before.

He was charged with managing the Facebook and Instagram accounts of a couple of well-known Australian brands with loyal customer-bases. He made a few spelling and grammatical errors in posts; that was forgivable and he improved. Then a crisis broke out one Friday evening and by Monday the brand was all over the media, and not in a good way. He was fired for having refused to monitor social channels outside of business hours.

Scenario 2: Online community is easy; build it and they will come [FALSE]

A non-profit organisation knew an online community would help them achieve their long-term goals and though the cost was as much as a creative campaign, they knew they were building a long-term asset.

They decided to build a bespoke community, which is considerably more costly and time-consuming than going with one of the many off-the-shelf or SAS community products. They sought advice from their IT and web provider and their media agency who both concurred an online community would work for the brand.

The non-profit felt they’d done their research but had not received advice from anyone who’d executed an online community strategy previously. The community failed to thrive resulting in a massive financial loss for the non-profit that impacted the entire organisation and damaged brand reputation.

Scenario 3: One sort-of experienced social media manager to do it all [FALSE]
An agency hired a community manager with some previous marketing experience and paid her a graduate wage to manage eight brands with a total of 20 accounts across various social networks.

She was required to help with social media strategy and account management. She needed to plan content weekly for each brand and social site, participate in creative content ideation extending on the brand campaign, create ongoing conversations, and manage the online communities.  She was given just five hours a week per brand (based on a 40 hour working week) and with no current strategic approach to social media as part of brand executions.

The community manager worked 70-hour weeks to ensure the job was done well for her clients, to prove herself, and get the experience she needed. Once she accidentally tweeted from a personal account to a brand one on her phone while she was out. Although it wasn’t a disaster, it put the pressure on her, the brand, and the agency to get everything spot on from that point.

One day she created some content on the fly that didn’t go down so well. It was featured in an online trade magazine and shared widely. The brand and agency sacked her as she was too much of a risk, but was it her fault?

True stories, all of them, with some changes to protect the innocent.

Enough with the horror stories – here are our top tips on what you should you look out for when you’re getting ready to hire an agency for your social media and/or community management.


Nobody is going to tell you that they’re lacking in experience so you’re going to have to do your homework, whether it’s an agency, specialist provider, freelancer, or you’re hiring in-house.

The first thing to consider is that many agencies do a multitude of things – web design, mobile development, advertising, video production, community management, social media management – because it all falls under the big umbrella of digital. Few agencies can do all of these things expertly. It’s often the case that social media and community management are the most recent additions to their services and something clients have requested help with.

Hire the best in class for all your needs. It’s unlikely one provider will fit all your needs well or have the experience to represent your brand effectively online. Make sure your choice has a healthy respect for social media and online community management. It’s not an afterthought or something anyone who’s Facebook can do.

Here are some questions to consider asking yourself:

  • Does the person communicate well in writing and in person?
  • Would I hire this person or provider as a media spokesperson? Hint: you are hiring them as a media spokesperson.
  • Does the provider have an understanding of commercial reality?
  • Does the provider have specific experience in social media and/or online community?
  • What other clients and brands has the provider worked for and what are the specifics of the type of work they’ve done?

Here are some questions you can consider asking your candidate:

  • When did you start doing this work and why?
  • Do you have experience in our industry?
  • What other companies have you worked with? What did you do? What were the results?
  • Who would be on my team? What experience do they have?
  • What tools do you use?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Share examples of your recent work for an organisation
  • Share some examples of other great work you’ve seen
  • How would you respond to a specific risk situation?
  • Make some simple recommendations for us

Always define some practical tests which can help to assess written communications, design nous or creativity, ability to meet a deadline, ability to seek clarity and answer a brief, ability to exercise proactivity, and work from a minimal brief.

Everyone starts out somewhere and it’s normal to have some junior people in the mix, but they shouldn’t be left to do it alone or in a group of other inexperienced people. Find out exactly who will be looking after your community and what their experience is.

If you were to hire Quiip to help manage your mental health community, for example, it’s likely that my colleague Sarah Stokely would lead the team because she is degree-qualified in Psychology, specialises in online mental health and support communities, and leads projects such as ReachOut. And if you did a little homework on her, you’d discover that she has extensive experience in the digital space, is a former journalist and contributes to a mental health blog in her spare time. She is someone with solid experience managing social media, is a professional communicator and has proven working knowledge of managing a specialist mental health online community.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references and ask your network for recommendations or feedback. Whether you’re hiring an agency or a staff-member you need to know what others say about their work in the particular area you need support on. Talk to people they’ve worked with and for and others in the industry.


Depending on they type of work you’ve asked to be conducted you should be asked for and/or receive documentation around the activity.

They should request:

  • Research: market, competitive, industry and audience research, web analytics, social media analytics
  • Consumer information such as commonly asked questions and personas
  • Examples of previous social media strategies or campaign planning
  • Marketing, advertising and communications plans – social media needs to work closely with all other communication activity, not as its own silo
  • Customer service approach and strategy
  • Critical business information: positioning, branding, business objectives

Is the provider creating content? They should request your branding, style, and tone of voice guidelines. They should recommend how these would differ for the social media or online community space if this is not already defined.

Is the provider moderating your social media account(s) and creating content? They will need to request or create editorial, style and tone of voice guidelines. They should also provide you with draft responses for common questions and a risk management plan. Nobody wants a social media disaster on their hands, so be risk-aware and risk-prepared.

What about security? Have they asked you to add their personal Facebook account as a page admin? Do they have tools in place to manage your account or other procedures or methods to manage the security of the many accounts they’re likely to be managing in addition to yours?

If the provider you’re evaluating doesn’t suggest reasonable and achievable marketing and customer service goals and measures that help to meet your business objectives, they’re not the right one for the job. At the very least, the agency should ask what role it plays in your broader objectives. What will success look like? How will it be measured?

Social media is evolving at a rapid rate and brand involvement is increasing exponentially. Online communities have always been part of the world wide web and will continue to be with more and more brands realising the value of them as a long-term owned asset.

Whilst it is an evolving industry, best practices are emerging, and industry bodies continue to share guidelines. This is not child’s play. Finding the right person or agency for your organisation’s online community and social media needs deserves the consideration you give to filling other roles and needs in your business.

Why Quiip is not an agency

There are good reasons to hire an agency to assist with your social media and community management. As we work with creative agencies, along with companies, brands, non-profit and government organisations, we consider ourselves a specialist partner not an agency. Organisations approach us for a variety of work, including:

  • building community from the ground up
  • manage growing communities
  • develop social media and community strategy
  • risk assessments and help with governance documentation
  • coverage up to 24/7 including outside business hours, during campaigns, public holidays, or during your staff’s leave
  • content ideation, planning and creation
  • monitoring, analytics, and reporting

Brands choose to partner with us because they know that Quiip hires only experienced community managers with extensive hands-on experience.

Interested in seeing how Quiip could help you? Organise a free chat with us here.