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8 Tips for Hiring a Social Media Expert

Because it is meant to look fun, putting together a social media campaign - or integrating one into a larger online initiative - can be surprisingly difficult. There are many challenges to capturing and engaging user interests online - starting with finding the right person to lead that effort, says Andrew Ballenthin, president of Sol Solutions.

That point was driven home last December when Ballenthin put together Blog-Off II, a 12-day, seven-judge contest to test participants' qualitative and quantitative effectiveness in social media marketing fundamentals.

From that marathon he concluded the following about what to look for when hiring a social media expert, which he shared with MarketingVOX in an exclusive interview.

According to Ballenthin, the person you should be looking for will have:

1. A significant business and communications background - preferably a minimum of 3 to 5 years in marketing, journalism or media. "This forms a foundation for understanding effective communication strategies and implementation."

2. A history of success in their communications background. "You wouldn’t let a mechanic work from a text book or just on their own car before they safety your car." Look for someone who has proven repeatedly he or she can deliver expectations for program results that have real business value.

3. A series of measureable accomplishments in social media that can be independently validated. "Having ten thousand followers on Twitter means you learned once how to create this achievement but an expert is someone who has achieve above average accomplishments several times."

4. A true understanding of your customer’s relationship with social media before proposing a program. Your customers may not want anything to do with Twitter of Facebook or never have used LinkedIn, Ballenthin says. "An expert should build a vibrant profile of your customer’s online behavior and model a program that’s good for them versus the latest gadget and trendy sites to go with."

5. Straight answers when you ask about measuring social media campaigns. 'Social media is too new to be effectively measured' is a common and erroneous claim, he says. "In marketing we understanding that we need a baseline on what we want to change in a business before implementing a new program. If you want to improve retention, cross selling, nurture marketing, prospect acquisition, brand loyalty and use social media marketing to try to achieve that, run the program and measure if there was a difference in these areas or not.

6. A focus on getting a return on investment. "This is where mainstream marketing backgrounds are important. An expert should be interested in validating a financial improvement not just giving you cost."

7. Clear methodologies. Social media is not new anymore. There’ve been hundreds of articles and cases studies on what does and does not work and effective processes. An expert should have a clear set of methodologies they work with to get consistently replicable results otherwise you may have a one hit wonder, if that.

8. An emphasis on an integrated marketing. Social media success rarely happens on its own. "Great social media campaigns require databases, emailing, advertising, publicity, industry influencers and more. It’s exceptional that social media marketing can just happen because it’s a good idea in the right place, other media needs to support effective results."

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