Yesterday I was having a chat with a friend of mine who is a professional recruiter. We were talking about the job market for social media/community managers here in Sydney and what my prospects were for getting a job. One of the things that he said struck me, as it was something I had seen back in Israel for the last few years. He mentioned that many of those who apply to be community managers really have no idea what they’re doing. What this means is that companies are suffering because they’re hiring people who believe that just because they spend all day on Facebook with their friends they are qualified to be the voice of a brand.

Several months ago Cathryn Sloane, an English major at the University of Iowa (specialising in non-fiction stories), wrote an article entitled ‘Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25‘. In it Ms Sloane argued that because she and her generation had grown up with social media (not truly correct as she would already have been quite old by the time Facebook and Twitter had been released) they were perfectly positioned to become social media managers and to be entrusted with a brand. Predictably this article ignited a firestorm of anger against the young woman with many people stating that she had no professional experience in brand management, social media, marketing or any of the core disciplines that would allow someone to reputably speak on the subject of community management. Ms Sloane simply personified the Herculean task that many professional community managers are having with amateurs taking over their field.

Simply because one has used Facebook or Twitter for a few years does not give one license to call themselves a Community Manager. Whilst they may be able to write a post or create a Facebook page Community Management goes so much deeper than that. Community Management is all about engagement. How can someone who has only used Facebook in a personal capacity (with their friends already being engaged with their posts and little need for encouragement) understand how to persuade strangers to like, share or comment on a post? What knowledge do they have of social media crises? How would they respond to a plethora of unflattering Facebook or Twitter posts against their company? Only 20% of Community Management is the creation of original content. The rest of it is curation, support, understanding and engagement among other things. These are topics that a mere personal user of Facebook would have little or no knowledge of.

The greatest danger of this is that brands who do hire these inexperienced Community Managers will eventually see their new employees for what they are: frauds. They will have wasted a significant amount of time, effort and money heading down the wrong path and have a failed social media push to show for it.

Many brands are now realising that social media is an integral part of modern day marketing and are hiring community managers left and right. This is a good thing as social media is going to be our primary method of communication over the next decade. As smartphone penetration increases and more and more people sign up for Facebook (or whatever social media service comes along next) then that is where we will be spending the majority of our time. The fact that brands are recognising that they can easily target their demographic means that they tacitly understand that whilst traditional media will always be popular it must be supported by a social media component. It is necessary to maintain a social media presence in order to respond to customers and easily promote your product. Facebook ads give brands a significant amount of power in regards to who they can target. With Facebook ads you can drill down to level of education, likes, location, relationship status, whether or not they’ve recently moved or had a baby etc etc etc. This means that you can target your audience locally or internationally and get the best return on investment for adverts.

Social Media marketing isn’t free. It will cost you money. But if you manage to hire a good Community Manager then they’ll know how to create truly engaging and original content in order to keep ads and other costs to a minimum. This is why it is in the best interests of brands to hire someone who actually knows what they’re doing.