Social12 Questions to Separate Social Media Experts From Pretenders

12 Questions to Separate Social Media Experts From Pretenders

Hiring? Finding a competent social media team member is a real challenge. No matter how impressive someone's credentials may seem, you need to drill down past the buzzwords. Here are 12 questions to ask people who claim social media expertise.

Social Media

Social media takes time. Lots of time. But it has the potential to really build your business and brand.

If your waking hours are needed elsewhere and you don’t have a team member to take over, you should consider using a freelance resource. That may sound like an easy decision, but finding a competent resource is a real challenge.

Many people talk the talk, but very few walk the walk. Alas, the world is full of fast-talking people who know enough buzzwords to convince you to hire them as “social media experts.”

Here are 12 questions I now ask of anyone – whether it’s a potential full-time employee or consultant – who claims social media expertise and proposes to help with social media.

Take this list seriously, because paying someone who does nothing for you is worse than doing nothing in the first place.

1. What was your college major?

Social media management requires professional-level English language and writing skills. First and foremost, it’s a writing job.

While there are always exceptions to the rules, those who didn’t major in English, journalism, marketing, or PR, or haven’t worked extensively in those fields, may not be able to communicate and engage at the level needed to represent your company.

2. What type of unedited writing samples can you share with me?

Everyone has a portfolio; but by the time things get published, editors and copy supervisors have often spent as much time rewriting as the writer invested in the first place (if you want an earful, just ask any editor).

You never want to look at published samples; you want to see the raw copy that was submitted to the publisher. While there may not be writing samples of social media posts, anyone applying for the job should have articles or relevant memoranda to share.

3. What’s your client service experience?

Managing social media requires a good sense of how to do client service and customer service correctly. If you haven’t worked for a company as an account executive, client service manager, customer service manager, etc., you can’t service potential customers in social media.

4. What are some examples of how you have worked to sell your ideas in collaborative environments?

Social media is a collaborative marketing and communications function. How has this candidate led a team, or been a major contributor to one?

Critical here are superior listening skills (as opposed to fast-talking skills). How well does this candidate understand, and work with, the various threads of conversation?

5. What is your experience with public relations?

Look for any involvement in setting up or managing events. Ask to see press releases (unedited examples, of course).

Gauge experience in working with the media and an understanding of how the world of journalism operates. This is critical to developing relationships with the media and getting them to cover you.

6. What is your experience with graphic design?

Ask the candidate to name the graphics programs he/she is proficient in, and to rate his skill level as competent, advanced, or able to teach the course.

Then ask this question: What is the best way to create and add graphics to the top four social networks.

7. Can you answer these questions?

  • What is CPM?
  • What is CPC?
  • What is excess inventory?
  • How do you manage content?
  • Can you show me an example of a marketing calendar you have done?
  • What is a social ecosystem?
  • What is a flight?
  • How many social networks are there?

These are basic knowledge for anyone laying claim to a social media skill set. If you, the hiring manager, need the answers, contact me. If you’re a job candidate and can’t answer them: You’re not ready to take a paid job in social media.

8. How would you deal with this situation?

This is your opportunity to see how the candidate thinks. Provide one or more social media challenges that need to be dealt with (or have been previously dealt with).

These challenges should relate to your social media goals. Evaluate the level of sophistication of the response.

9. How would you assess our current plan?

Share your social media plan and get live feedback. Evaluate the level of the questions the candidate asks. Don’t provide the plan in advance – you want to see how candidates think on their feet, without outside help.

10. Do you have experience in advertising?

It’s a bonus credential if the candidate has ever bought, sold, or managed media, especially online media. As always, ask for examples.

11. What types of references can you provide, who can address what you have achieved for them?

Perhaps this should be the first question, since if there is no one who can endorse the candidate’s skills and accomplishments, why spend time on the other questions?

12. How many hours do you think this requires?

This is a key question when the social media job is part-time or outsourced. Someone who “practices” social media daily will be able to answer the question of how many hours need to be allocated daily/weekly to everything you need done. Then, it’s up to you to budget for it or review your expectations.


This might seem like a lot to ask in an initial round of interviews, but it’s better to lose some time up front than lose your sanity later due to a social media pretender.

Any questions you’d add to the list? Leave or comment, or connect with me directly.

Image Credit: Jason Howie/Flickr


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