20130626-223027.jpg From Christopher Bucholtz (@bucholtz), a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships:

There’s a big difference between running the Facebook page for your dorm’s broom hockey team and coordinating the use of multiple social media channels to communicate with customers, potential customers and peers in a way that furthers the goals of a business.

Bucholtz’ piece on why your social media manager needs to know your business raises six key points for law firms in hiring social media professionals. 1) Youth, alone doesn’t signal success.

Those who understand social networking best tend to be young. They grew up with it like a native language — they didn’t have to strain to get a grip on unfamiliar tools. However, expertise at social networking doesn’t translate into expertise at social CRM. That role requires a deep understanding of a business’ processes and goals. It requires skills that go far beyond social networking savvy

2) People hiring for the position need to have an understanding of how social media will be used to build relationships and communicate as a business.

Choosing [social media managers] isn’t easy, if only because businesses have never had to hire them before. That puts managers who are in the dark about social media into the position of trying to choose the right people to manage something they themselves know little about. In many cases, it results in a default behavior: They hire young people, assuming that having grown up with social media, they’re the ones who know how to use it.

Truthfully, they do, sort of. They know how to use social media to enhance and connect in their own lives. Do they know how to use it to build customer relationships and communicate effectively as a business? Usually, the answer is no.

3) You don’t hand social media over to a junior level person.

Why would you turn over control of the channel that reaches the largest number of potential customers to the lowest-paid person in your organization?

The answer is obvious. It’s because some businesses still don’t appreciate the power of social media as a catalyst for success — or failure. Those that do choose their people more carefully and fashion their roles to be collaborative with other key roles in sales, marketing and support.

What this means is that you shouldn’t simply be on the hunt for a digital native to manage your social media initiatives. If you’re serious about making social media and social CRM pay, the person you choose to manage it must have some savvy about the business, its goals, and the way it operates. That person must possess an understanding of who your customer audience is and know the right messages to reach that audience.

That person must have the knowledge to track the success of social media efforts by monitoring the right metrics. On top of that, the social media manager needs to have the skills to work with leaders in other parts of the business to make sure they understand the value of social media and how to use the data it provides to help their efforts.

4. When in doubt, hire knowledge of the legal profession and your business first, social media knowledge second.

An experienced manager brings some abilities that young employees may not: an understanding of how to phrase things in social media that sets the right tone; an instinctive feel for data that should go into customer records or into lead-scoring measurements; an assertiveness that makes it possible to come back at managers disdainful of social CRM with business arguments that keep progress moving.

5. Look within your law firm.

They may already be inside your organization. Don’t assume that a valued employee can’t be spared from a traditional marketing or sales support position if that person could be the ideal candidate for the critical social CRM role.

6. If going outside your law firm, the right person or firm needs to know social media, the law, and your business. The person will also need the leadership skills to be an evangelist to make sure that not only marketing, but all areas of the firm understand how critical social is to everyone’s success.

Two or three years ago the idea of a social media manager in a law firm was unheard of. Today law firms are hiring social media professionals. But I’d question whether firms are hiring professionals who meet the criteria Bucholtz suggests.

Social media managers in law firms tend to be young, they tend to be in junior positions, they tend not to be directly influencing the firm’s leadership, and they lack a clear understanding of the firm’s business objectives. I am not sure they have been provided the firm’s strategic business plan that is guiding the firm’s leadership.

There are of course exceptions, I am just sharing what I see in general. The landscape in hiring for social media in the law will change as firm leaders come to understand how critical social media is to their firm’s success. It’ll just take time. In the interim, I’d keep Bucholtz’ six points in mind. They’ll serve you well.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Dita Margarita.