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Corporate Social Media jobs are Surprisingly Frustrating
If you’re a corporate social strategist today, or aspiring to be on in the future, chances are you’ve read our report on the Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist. While many are infatuated in this seemingly glorified and fun role, outsiders rarely know the internal challenges these Open Leaders struggle with on a daily basis. Recently, I was coaching another hopeful for a corporate social strategist position and gave her some key question that she must answer before she accepts the position.

Candidates Must Interview Their Future Employer –and Set Expectations Both Ways
In fact, having interviewed and interacted with many in the Corporate Social Strategistrole, I see a pattern of internal issues that stump growth, innovation and cause frustration. There’s nothing worse than starting a job, then realizing just months later that you’re frustrated and you have very little bandwidth to fulfill your vision. As a result, I’d like to provide 5 simple questions to ask in your interview of your future employer to gauge if this is a challenge that you’re willing to get into –and if they really know what they are buying by hiring you.

Interview Your Employer In a Savvy and Tactful Way
As a candidate, you should always be interviewing your future employer to ensure that you’ll be successful there –not just try to woo them with your greatness. In fact, a future employer may be impressed with your prowess to ask these mature questions, and that you’ve through through the ramifications of the program. In all cases, approach this with class and tact, and explain by having this sometimes tough conversations up front will help everyone to set expectations and increase chances of success.

I recommend you have this conversation with the hiring manager, and often their boss, as it’s unlikely the recruiter will know, or give you the straight answer as they are often on a closing commission. Timing wise, it’s appropriate to have this conversation mid discussions –not on the first date, but after they’ve gotten a chance to know you, don’t come in blazing with these abrasive conversations on first contact.

How to Interview your Future Employer for the Corporate Social Strategist Position:

1) What level of executive support do we have?
Often, I hear of proposals that are stonewalled as it hits barriers in the C-suite. Ensure you know how far up the chain you’re getting a support, CMO, CEO, COO, and executives in Legal, HR, are key. In our research, we’ve found that most strategists report to Marketing or Corp Comm, it’s key that you have their buyin. If you’re not reporting to Corp Comm, but don’t have their support, there’s a great chance your projects will be squashed. Often, Corp Comm’s that don’t embrace this program, don’t realize the opportunities, and will either try to squash the program or acquire it.

  • Score 1 point if the company’s executives are on board
  • Score 1 point if the company’s corp comm team is on board

2) Is the company ready to span social beyond one department?
Often companies may be on product launch cycles, and push communications pre-product launch. You need to carefully understand the business model to understand if you’re expected to quickly shuffle together some Facebook sites and Twitter accounts before each launch for pre-buzz-marketing, or this is a mature ‘social business’ programs that spans multiple departments. Remember, like the internet, these are just tools, that should span the entire customer lifecycle beyond point of sale to: implementation, support, loyalty, and advocacy. Probe to find out.

  • Score 1 point of the company is ready to take on social beyond one department

3) Is the company ready to engage in negative conversations in public?
This is a critical question to pose, and you must gauge the culture’s willingness to listen, respond, and then finally (most importantly) do something with the feedback that you’ll be receiving from customers. If the culture is not ready, you will quickly find that you’re wanting to make promises to prove the customer experience, but have no backing to actually make the changes –making you look gumpish to the market. Of course, here’s where you will savvilly point out how one of your first tasks is to establish a triage process to manage the ‘good bad and ugly’ with appropriate and clear responses and expectations set up in advance. While your job is ‘risk mitigation’ you need to first check and ensure the company is willing to take a risk.

  • Score 1 point of the company is ready to take on negative conversations in public

4) What is your future vision of success look like?
This is a trick question really. The goal is to find out if there is a vision or if they are only playing catchup or are seeking a feather in the cap for ‘technology du jour’. Your goal is to find out what a 3 year vision is, and what expectations are of this program. The best way to phrase this is to ask “In your vision, in three years when we look back, you will say we were successful because we did X”. Can you help me define what X means? You want to listen for answers about how far the program will extend in the company (through how many business units) and if it’s a cultural chance –or just about generating leads (which is fine, but you need to understand expectations). Secondly, you want to carefully listen if the program is successful you may work yourself out of a job. In our research, we found that state of ‘working yourself out a job’ can be a sign of success. If they ask you, you should of course share your vision. I recommend you start with customers, discuss how the relationship with them has changed, and avoid talking about specific technologies.

  • Score 1 point of the company has a clear 3 year vision on what success looks like.

5) What resources will I be provided?
This question deliberately follows the fourth question above. After they’ve defined what they see success is, you must conduct an on-the-spot Gap analysis to figure out the orginization is going to put their money where their mouth is. Ask them about headcount: be specific in dedicated resources to dotted line, as well as agency resources. Ask about budget for software, and future agency services. Ask about resources for training, program management, and executive championing. If you haven’t done so already, you must read our report on How to Budget for Social Business where we list out how the top corporations are spending (Altimeter clients can request data cuts for specific verticals or company sizes).

  • Score 1 point of the company is promising appropriate headcount
  • Score 1 point of the company is promising a dedicated budget for agency, vendors, and software
  • Score 1 point of the company is promising internal education resources and change management support

Next: Tally up your responses here ___. There’s a total of 8 possible points.

Scorecard Results: What to Expect
Score your future employer here to set expectations for yourself and the employer

  • 8: What are you waiting for? Get in that desk!
  • 6-7: You are well situated for a program of success, and less chance of frustration. Yet be sure to request a promise to get the items that are deficient solved, based on your proposals for action
  • 4-5: While you likely have a solid foundations to stand on -expect significant challenges, which is why the organization needs you. Get a promise from executives that your proposals to solve each issue will be taken seriously, and you’ll receive your direct management support to solve them. Also set expectations that you cannot solve all these issues quickly, and without the culture moving forward.
  • 2-3: You are setup for a long road of challenges and incredible frustrations. Many of these challenges will take months to quarters to solve, expect an incredible amount of evangelism, only approach if you have nerves of steel, patiences, and have a great way of wooing others in power based on sound business proposals.
  • 1: You are set up for potential failure, I’d advise walking away from this opportunity unless you love immense challenges.

To learn most about this role the Corporate Social Strategist, be sure to read the report (also mentioned above) and see this list of these professionals, and read the On The Move of who was hired in this space. Update: I just learned Alan Belniak has previously published a similar post, nicely done.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 1st, 2011 at 7:51 am and is filed under Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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