Hiring a social media director – maybe you shouldn’t

There are approximately 14,000 open social media jobs, most being the social media director, who's initial task would be helping the company to define a social media strategy. While this is a great development, I'd like to ask the question: "Is this really the best way?"

No question – executives need somebody taking the business into this new social media world. But the age old question "Shall we take somebody from inside or hire somebody externally" is too often and too quickly answered with: "we don't have anybody with the skills so let's hire somebody externally".

OK – lets start with the skills. The list of required social media skills in most of the job descriptions is quite long and the number of people who have those skills actually very small. See the list of skills here "Selecting a strategist".

There is another aspect to the social media director:  The person is not only supposed to help craft a social media strategy but  also implement it in an organization, help the team adopt it, merge it with the corporate culture, align it with the overall company directions, align it with the needs from customers, partners and prospects and embrace it into this complex interwoven network of individuals: How long would it take for an external social media director to understand the company's culture, the team, the processes, the existing customer relationships and more to be *really* successful? My experience has shown: Longer than educating an internal manager to take over the job.

On top of all, the Social Media Academy and other education institutes may "produce" about 1,000 strategists a year who may be available for that position – but that is not nearly as many as open positions today. And most are actually hired away even before they graduated.


Obviously there are situations where you just need additional resources or for political reasons hire somebody from the outside or several other situations that may make an external hire better than training an internal person and promote him or her to the new position.

At least think about it

In any case – it would be a good idea to at least think about it and consider promoting somebody internal, train the person and maybe later on let that person hire additional social media people from outside.

Related content: "Building Your Social Media Leadership"



One Reply to “Hiring a social media director – maybe you shouldn’t”

  1. Definitely worth thinking about, Axel. One of the problems I see with managing social media engagement by creating such a position *as a first step* and hiring someone in from outside is that this could not too subtly create or entrench the idea of social media itself as exotic (in the sense of "foreign, from outside" and also in the sense of (Merriam-Webster) "strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual". I favor more the idea of appointing someone – or having them "arise" organically, as it were – as in-house champion, with the backing of the chief executive and C-suite execs collectively and using some temporary outside help to support the strategizing, testing, learning and progressive skill acquisition.
    You can start appointing *directors* once there is a clear strategy in place and being fully implemented and the engagement process has become part of the daily business process, not something mysteriously different or unusual.

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