What Happens When You Assume and Hire: Common Misconceptions In Social Media Job Descriptions

March 8, 2016, by , in Blog, no comments

A wise man once said, “You know what happens when you ASSUME…?” And we certainly agree with the premise of that mantra. Everyday we see preconceptions and assumptions in marketing and communications, but never so many held onto with such rigor as in social media. The usual suspects are perhaps easy to think of, but what stuns us is how often even the most enlightened rest on some of the most tired – and disproven – assumptions. This gets all the more complicated when they cloud the creation of job descriptions in social. You can easily end up with an underperforming set of candidates or an underappreciated hire whose skillsets are completely misaligned to your needs.

What follows are the most egregious and common assumptions in Social Media-related job descriptions that we see (and prove wrong) every day in our research. Maybe someday we can finally get past them?

“List All The Things” or, “I Read An Article…”
As researchers that point out localized social use quite often, we have been trumpeting a warning about the, “USA Today-ification” of social media expertise for some years now; simply put, it’s the substitution of audience data for whatever has been published most recently in the most general news media on a given channel. The problem is, this is the most common in the manager-level person who hires social media specialists – and even Directors. Not knowing what your specific audience actually uses or needs results in a “put everything in the pot” cooking style of job description creation. Everything gets listed whether you know you need it or not – and you might attract exactly the master-of-none you advertised for. Assumption Buster: Begin with the channels you have but try and describe the actual work you need done on them rather than just listing giant buckets about Facebook; bother to describe the actual audiences you want to attract, retain, and engage first rather than relying on the generic concept of a social channel to describe what you’re doing.

Young People and Social Mastery
So how are we defining “young people” here? I would say it’s however this assumption seems to get defined, which is to say: anyone under 30. Is that unfair? Of course, any generalization is. But what’s worse is that it’s completely misguided. We’re big fans of reminding that Content Creation and Content Distribution are two very different skillsets – but the “young people know social” thinking does a disservice and introduces a dangerous whitewashing in understanding the skillsets. The problem is, we let this ageism naturally to discriminate even when we don’t mean it to – and what’s most dangerous about this? It is actually just as dangerous in allowing us to think a candidate is far more qualified than they might actually be – just because they’ve maintained a Facebook Page. Assumption Buster: The analogy we like to make is, “You don’t pick your head of PR based on who reads the paper the most…” so why choose your social media head based on who does it most personally? Ask more of your candidates from a strategy and ROI perspective – make sure they can talk the talk of why they have made decisions in the past, not just rely on the fact that they’ve done anything at all. This isn’t a nebulous set of tactical skills you can’t parse easily like Photoshop; this is about communications strategy.

The Task Versus The Tech
Which is more important: that a candidate understands word processing and is a quick learner with new applications, or that they know the specific version of Microsoft Word your office uses? Too often in policies and job descriptions we see a litany of tech references that not only hem you into channels that may not be appropriate, it also doesn’t telegraph to potential applicants that you need someone that can think critically about these networks. Assumption Buster: Focus on describing the tasks, not just the tech, in your job descriptions. “Maintaining our Facebook Page” is literally the most vague you could be; “Utilize Facebook to communicate the latest product updates and news to new and existing users while constantly improving customer service…” helps tell the story of what you need far better – and protects you from assumptions in understanding.


by: Dean Browell, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder