I need to hire a Sr. Social Media Strategist for my team at Hill Holliday. The full job description is here. If you bother and take some time to read it, you’ll see that it says the expected things. Like how you need to be a self-starter, and good communicator and all that boilerplate stuff. It’s all true of course, but it just doesn’t do a very good job of articulating what it’s like to work on the team, doing the job every day. So I thought I’d write this bit up to add some more color to what this role is all about.
First, what I’m looking for.
I want someone smart. Clever smart. Someone that doesn’t just regurgitate headlines from Mashable, and speak in talking points and stats. You need to be quick thinking, and able to answer curveball questions from clients and co-workers with confidence and accuracy. You also need to be comfortable saying things like “I don't know, but I think xyz, and here’s why”.
The point is, you should have opinions. We’re ultimately in the opinions business, so you should definitely have some. Just make sure they’re well informed opinions, and flexible opinions when it turns out that you’re actually wrong. Which will happen. You’ll be wrong a lot, so be cool with that too. It’s really ok.
Be a devour-er of information and a really good writer. These things usually go hand in hand. Meaning that someone who consumes a lot of information on a regular basis is also generally pretty good at articulating his or her thoughts when the time comes. You’d be amazed how much writing you’ll need to do, and how important it is that you’re able to express ideas clearly. You won’t always be there to present the slide or document that you created, so your ideas frequently need to speak for themselves.
Know a little bit about a lot of things. Be curious. When I made that Mashable remark earlier, it wasn’t because I think Mashable is shit. It’s because I see too many “social media strategists” consuming the same information, in the same echo-chamber, all day long. That sort of thing simply doesn’t make you better. Social media is easy. Thinking and applying thought towards a useful or meaningful end, is hard. In my opinion, the more broad your set of interests, the more you learn to think, and the stronger you get as a strategist. Social media or otherwise.
To riff a bit more on the above bit, I also look for someone with a really varied set of skills. I love utility players, and I consider myself to be one. Someone that’s dabbled in lots of different digital/marketing/strategy disciplines is really attractive to me. The world isn’t carved up into neat little siloes of expertise anymore, so anyone that can speak a little tech, a little creative, a little media, and a little analytics is going to go places in this industry. The more social-media-adjacent skills you have, the better.
The last three things I am looking for, are most important of all. Be passionate, hard working, and just a good person to be around.
Passionate – You’d think this goes without saying. It doesn’t. If you come work with us, you should love what you do, and it should show. We love what we do, and it shows. We want more people like that.
Hard-working – This isn’t a 9-5 gig. I’d love to avoid the “work hard and play hard LOL!” cliché here, but I can’t. It’s what we do. We pour ourselves into our work, but we also know when to let loose and have a good time. Often times those things really overlap. But the internet doesn’t close on nights and weekends, so know coming in, that this is an always-on sort of role.
A good person to be around – While we’re tossing clichés about with total abandon, let me just say that our team…hell, our whole agency, is a family. We’re going to spend A LOT of time together, so we need to get on well with one another. We don’t want any jerks. So if you’re a jerk (and it’s ok if you are, the world needs jerks), this gig isn’t for you.
Now, a bit about the team you’d work with.
I couldn’t have picked a better crew to work with (or maybe they picked me, I can’t remember). You’ve got Mike, Brad, Noah, Folu, Kelsey, Ryan, Mazy, Chris and Jess. I’d describe them all in more detail, but trust me, they’re great. Just look at their Twitter feeds to get a sense of what they’re all about.
One of the reasons that I know they’re great, is despite the fact that we all spend ~60 hours each week together at work, you’ll often find us hanging out together after work, and on weekends. By choice.
And by the way, that’s just the immediate team. There’s like 500 other people in the building too, and they’re all terrific.
And the client you’d work on.
You’d have a great client. They’re smart, tough, and ambitious. They have great resources to get things done, and they truly value us as strategic partners. I can get into more specifics in person.
Lastly, the work itself. Here’s what that’s like.
I sometimes joke with others that my job is to make slide decks, because…well…we make a lot of slide decks. Clever, eh? But while that’s true, the slide decks we make are generally just the tangible output of our thinking, which is what we get to spend most of our time doing (thinking about stuff). And I say “get to”, because I think that’s actually the best part of being a strategist. Our job is to think about things, form opinions on what we’ve thought about, and then turn those thoughts into some output that you can see, touch, and feel. An actionable strategy, a campaign, a piece of content, a tool, or some other creative thing.
Sometimes this thinking is a solitary exercise (researching, reading, etc), sometimes it’s a group discussion or casual chat with your co-workers, and other times it’s more of the on-the-spot variety in the context of a client meeting.
Speaking of meetings, there are plenty of those. It’s just a reality of any big organization with lots of moving parts – meetings are sometimes required to get things moving forward. But I promise, I personally do what I can to minimize the need for meetings, unless they are absolutely necessary.
As far as your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, this is where the job description actually delivers fairly well in terms of its accuracy. Broadly speaking, you’ll work closely with me (and the rest of the team) to create and execute strategies and campaigns that meet our client’s goals in the digital/social space. You’ll be responsible for briefing creative, tech and other teams within the agency, continually working to keep programs on strategy, and ensuring that the what we put forth, is aligned with the brand’s goals and KPIs. In short, it’s our job to create the inputs, and guide the outputs, so the results are strong.
You’ll also help to guide, manage and mentor the junior members of the team, and keep the rest of the agency departments smart, and thinking about how and where social media can be used to our advantage.
So now what? Well, if you’re interested in working with me, get in touch. Email is best, and even without me posting my work email address here, you should be able to figure it out. Hell, three dozen vendors seem to crack the code each day.
Don’t just send me a resume though. Tell me a bit about who you are, and what makes you the right person for the role.
Talk to you soon.
For years, I worked on the vendor side of the vendor/agency equation, and I was continually frustrated with my inability to crack the code and get business going with the big league ad agencies
I had great pitches, I had great products, and often times I even had great direct contacts. But I never got anywhere. Ever.
And it wasn’t until I switched teams and became “an agency guy”, that I truly understood why I had failed so hard, for so long, at getting one of those elusive ad agency deals.
As it turns out, the reasons for my failure (and likely the reasons for yours) were really fucking simple. So what I’m about to say here is pretty obvious. But having had experiences on both sides of the fence, I can confidently tell you that this is where 99% of vendors go wrong when approaching ad agencies for business.
- You’re trying to sell me what you have, not what I need.
This is, without qualification, the single biggest failure of vendors that try to pitch ad agencies. I, like many of my colleagues, literally get 10-15 cold-calls, and nearly twice as many emails per day, pitching me software, services, conferences, apps, and other wares that are ostensibly designed to help my clients and I.
And almost all of these pitches are in the form of a mass email or generic overview deck. Rarely (if ever) does a vendor reach out with any specificity or attempt to solve for a potential need that we may have.
Our client listing is right on our website. Our work for these clients is out in the open on the web, tv, Facebook and Twitter. On my LinkedIn profile, I even list the clients that I personally work on. You can find out a lot about my clients, my potential needs, and me before you even pick up the phone.
But you usually don’t. You just dump a generic Powerpoint on me, followed by a request for a meeting. We’ll get to that second part in a moment.
If you want to break through the clutter (and man, is there a lot of clutter), the best way to get someone’s attention, is to be specific and offer to solve a problem.
I know that you don't know precisely what my needs are. But take an educated guess. Because even if you’re wrong, this little attempt at understanding my needs, does two things. First, it sets you apart from your copy/paste brethren, and second, it tells me that you’d likely be a good partner. One that takes the time to understand the issues, and works to solve them.
- You’re not clearly articulating what makes you the best/different.
“Best in class”, “revolutionary”, “ROI”, “multi-channel”, “measurable”, etc etc etc.
Skip the buzzwords and sales speak, and tell me why you’re different. Again, most of us get bombarded with pitches every day. I guarantee that not only are you the fifth social media ads vendor of the day, but you’re also the fifth one to use what appears the be the exact same argument (down to the word) for why we should use you.
Give me something specific that sets you apart. Tell me what you have (specifically) that your competitors don’t. Give me a feature, an access point, a relationship or a data set that no one has but you. Know your advantage over the unwashed masses, and focus in on that.
- You’re not mindful of timing.
Back in my startup days, someone once said to me, that when you call on someone at an agency, they are only interested in your pitch if you are solving a specific need that they have in that very moment.
I now understand what he meant. Which is that a call placed to a mid-level media planner, pitching a media platform for instance, is only going to be fruitful if you happen to time it to perfectly coincide with that media planner’s schedule of planning for a buy.
The way to get around this (obviously), is to better understand the timing of your target. In this example, the media planner.
You need to get in the know, and figure out when budgets are being set, when they are final, when planning happens, and when buys happen. If you understand the cadence of the process you’re trying to insert yourself into, you’ll be far more likely to land that call at the perfect time.
As it happens, the best way to figure out this schedule, is simply to ask. If and when you do get someone on the phone, ask them when these critical times are. Then make note of them, and call back (again, with a solve for a need) when the time is right.
- You’re carpet-bombing my entire team.
HUGE pet peeve of almost everyone in the world, not just ad agencies. DO NOT go on LinkedIn, find everyone at an organization, figure out the email structure, and send us all the same sales email in a short burst.
Chances are that we all sit close to one another, and we’re all getting your email at the same time. We’re also all asking one another if we got your email, and when we realize we did, we are all deleting it in unison.
Pick one person that you think makes the decisions, focus on them, and do the above. Don’t be a spammer. And yes, sending the same email, to 20 people at once, is spam. Even if you are sending it from Outlook.
- You’re asking me to meet in person.
Don’t cold-email me asking to set up an in person meeting as a first step.
I’m not trying to be a precious prima Donna here, but my most protected resource is my time. Trying to schedule an in-person meeting is a giant pain in the ass. I need to coordinate schedules (usually with multiple people), find a meeting room, ensure we have the proper A/V setup, clear you with building security, and then try to rustle up co-workers to join the conversation. Usually, all so you can come read aloud to us, the generic pitch deck you probably just sent me.
This is especially obnoxious to anyone in the creative or strategy space, as we HATE having our workflows interrupted by 30-minute blocks of unproductive time. Read Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, and you’ll get why.
Start with an email (and again, make that email count), and I promise you, if we like what you’ve got, and have a need, we’ll ask you for the meeting. Trust me.
If there are other agency (or in-house brand for that matter) friends that have other tips to add, I’d love to hear them. Follow the above though, and I promise you, you’ll have better luck breaking through.