Sourcing Internally for Social Media Talent

by Ryon Harms on April 9, 2014

Recruiting for social media positions gave me a great sense of job security. Especially as I sifted through hundreds of resumes on a mission to fill the six positions I ultimately used to build my internal social media team at a major heritage brand in Los Angeles. When I set out to create my team, I wanted individuals that could challenge my understanding of social media and keep pushing the edge we had created over our competition.  

As it turned out, those individuals didn’t exists – at least not in Los Angeles. But as with all things, there was a silver lining. It turned out that I had something in common with the talent I was searching for – we all shared the same email domain name. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had been working with my future social media team all along.

A good percentage of my time at the company was spent spreading social media competency across the enterprise. Given social media’s timeliness, some of the high profile work we were doing, and a widespread hunger for understanding, I was asked to speak to several departments outside of marketing. These internal seminars eventually turned into new projects, as we worked to integrate social into the fabric of the company.

From these integration projects came first time exposure to social media for many of my colleagues. And from that exposure and understanding came a sense of excitement and greater interest on the subject. So when new positions were posted for my social media team, I would often get interest from some of the most talented and forward thinking folks in the company.

A learning curve would exists whether I hired somebody internally or externally. At the time, I was working in the insurance industry. So I knew that if I hired somebody externally with social media experience, I would more than likely be teaching them about insurance and the structure of the company. If I hired somebody internally, I could skip the insurance lecture and get right to teaching what I love and feel most passionate about – social media. To me, it was a no brainer.

On the flip side, by hiring internally I had to continue being the main engine of innovation for my department. At least in the short term. And then there was the sticky business of poaching talent from your colleagues – which usually resulted in pricey after work happy hours. But despite those costs, what I did manage to achieve is to take a group of folks with raw talent, that I knew I would enjoy working with, and do the much more pleasant job of teaching them from my own experience.

Hiring internal talent for your social media team can be very rewarding: their wealth of contacts from around the enterprise can be great for integration; they are already intimate with your brand and your industry; and the company gets to keep emerging talent engaged in an exciting and dynamic new field. But to make it work, you must have a strong social media leader in place – somebody that’s been in the trenches with serious real world experience. These leaders are nearly impossible to find in house, but as social media departments mature, they will eventually be sourced internally too.

It didn’t take long for these internal folks to catch on to the “social by design” philosophy. It was just a basic mind switch that needed to be flipped. Eventually, we were a fully functioning team working at a very high level. Few things in business have been more satisfying than having one of these internal recruits eventually start to disagree with me and express their own differing opinions on social media. I finally got the challenge I was searching for.

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