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Secrets of a social-media headhunter

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Brands & Campaigns

This Q-and-A is with Jim Durbin, the owner of Durbin Media Group and a headhunter specializing in social media.  As a blogger and a business owner, Durbin is a valued speaker on the topics of online employment, recruiting blogs, and using social networks in the hiring process.

What level of experience is necessary to be a top pick for a social-media role?

I tend to look for eight to 10 years of industry experience, specifically, the industry you’re working in. That doesn’t mean 10 years of Facebook, it means 10 years of understanding how your company works, how it makes money and what it takes to effect change.  Certainly, a high comfort level with social-media tools is important, but I base the work on length of time one can do the same thing over “superstars” with big press credentials. Social media is often used as a stepping stone to another job, so it’s important to find someone who likes what they’re doing now.

What measures of past social-media success do recruiters seek (Community development? Monetization? Influencer reach)?

Did they get the results they were looking for? Social-media metrics are really just business metrics. They can range from reduced calls to a call center to increased sales leads to press mentions, but success has to be defined as more than activity. Certainly, most companies want to see something sexy on the resume — high traffic numbers or national recognition — but those are often poor measures for future roles. There are some cases with Internet celebrity is helpful, but that’s more a function of an immature job market.

The best measure is showing how you altered behaviors in your target community. Internal or external, were you trusted enough to be able to lead?

Is personal social capital a job requirement or key benefit for social-media job-seekers?

Most people write that on their blogs, but I don’t see that as a requirement.  It’s a sales gimmick. Social capital can actually be a great hindrance, as lots of people know how to promote themselves but don’t know how to promote their company. “Buy this brand of soda because Kelly has 20,000 Twitter followers” isn’t a good business case.  Social capital can be helpful — in the sense that if you’re closer to the PR space, you can leverage that fame to meet the right people and get in the right publications.  But again, it matters what you’re supposed to do. I personally look for people who were great at boosting others they worked with — that has longer lasting implications.

How do social-media positions vary from small companies to big companies?

In small companies, social-media positions tend to fit into other roles.  Salespeople, marketers, corporate communications, owners and recruiters pull double duty. It’s usually the best fit because social-media makes them knowledgeable and thoughtful about their jobs.  In larger corporations, the role is closer to change management and integrated marketing.  You’re working with departments or people trying to boost their production in some way.  That leaves less time for hands-on work, but done well, it makes you very effective.

How does the compensation for social-media roles vary by role and company size?

It’s all over the map. There seems to be a lot of entry-level, small-benefit roles taken by entry-level employees and interns. You get what you pay for in that instance. On the other hand, you have the high-salaried consultants and directors pulling in $120,000 and more ($300,000 on the outside). What you rarely see is the middle, which would be effective social-media consultants creating change but not experienced enough to go out on their own. I’m very hopeful to make a difference in that area in the next three years.

Salary roles by company size are based on relative importance. In large companies, your salary depends on how closely your influence mirrors that of other departments. In small companies, your compensation is tied to what you make for the company. I just finished a piece on the math of that.