|Creating Social Content? Hire the Person With the Least Marketing Experience
“But… we’re in marketing.” I hear it every time I mention that I don’t hire marketers for Big Spaceship’s content team. The concept often seems alien to agency folk – clients are paying us for our marketing expertise, so why am I hiring a bunch of amateurs? The truth is, the content game has changed so thoroughly in the past few years that I find most marketers to be amateurs at it. Instead I focus on hiring comedians, journalists, filmmakers, influencers and writers, favoring culture over marketing experience. Here’s why.
The New Competitive Landscape
Your competitors are not your competitors anymore. Not on social. The idea of brand vs. brand completely falls apart if you peek at your audience’s social feeds. Brands no longer compete with other brands for attention; we compete with influencers, with friends and family, with celebrity spats, the meme du jour and whatever headlines and conversations are trending. We compete with culture. Approaching social content creation solely from a marketing angle completely misses the mark. Your content creators need to be fluent in culture, and the best way to do that is for them to live deep inside of it – not just observing culture but somehow participating in it. A socially-savvy influencer, comedian or filmmaker trumps a marketer when it comes to creating content that grabs attention and that fits in the daily cultural conversation. And that’s the content that resonates.
Ideas Come From Connecting Dots
The best brainstorms I’ve witnessed happen when people from completely different backgrounds and experiences build on each other’s ideas. One of our ex-journalists will describe a subculture they wrote about once, the comedian will sprinkle in an insight from her standup routine and the filmmaker will add a twist drawn from a small trend she’s noticed on YouTube. Rather than compare ideas to other brands’ campaigns and activations, the team is drawing on their deep experience with culture and how it’s being spelled out in trends and memes across media. Instead of getting ideas that are reflections or reactions to an existing ad, the team is coming up with concepts that mashup different aspects of culture in new ways. Everyone comes to the table with a different set of dots, but a roomful of marketers shares a lot of the same dots, while a team with diverse backgrounds have more unique sets.
Skin In The Game
No matter how passionate someone is about marketing, they will be far more passionate when it’s their words and works they’re fighting for out in the world. A longtime blogger has a far more intimate relationship with blog analytics and social amplification than someone who has run a blog for clients. At the end of the day, it just matters more to them. Artists, writers and comedians who are trying to make it in their field have more skin in the game when it comes to succeeding – and they also taste failure in more profound ways, meaning that they really learn from mistakes. Success and failure matters when they’re tied to your personal sense of success, when you’ve invested time and energy in creating something and are its single point of failure. As a bonus, artists and writers’ ideas and methods also tend to be scrappier – a product of needing to do more with less when it comes to using your personal resources to create and distribute.
Marketers With Strong Side Hustle
There are of course times that you’ll inevitably need to hire someone senior with marketing or management experience for your team. On those occasions I look for marketers who have longtime, serious side hustles. Not someone who dabbles in writing sketch comedy or taking photos with her iPhone, but someone who has an improvisation group on the side or is an active Instagram influencer. Folks who are making movies and writing books on nights and weekends, who are passionately creating and performing, live and breathe culture in the right way, and taste personal success and failure regularly. This kind of hire isn’t easy, because a balance has to be struck between his passion for his side hustle and agency career. Swing too far in the other direction and he’ll be phoning it in at work and taking long lunches to finish his scripts. But someone who spends her nights at comedy clubs or getting footage for her documentary brings their experience with them to tomorrow’s brainstorm, and it’s invaluable.
It’s Bigger Than Marketing
While this is clearly applicable to social-content marketers, there are a lot of departments and businesses that could benefit from a culture-first approach to hiring. I’ve seen a lot of success in hiring culture-first at startups, where scrappiness, initiative and emotional endurance are at a premium. Influencers often give small businesses the added benefit of both understanding the digital/social landscape intimately and of giving their employer an added PR boost by documenting their time there. And the similarities between someone running a medium-to-large blog and a project manager are uncanny. Ultimately, the value of an employee who understands and contributes to culture from the inside-out, tastes success and failure along the way, and has a firsthand knowledge of audience dynamics online is immeasurable. If you’re tentative about taking the plunge, start with an entry-level position and work your way up.
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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. You'll find a link to the original after the post.
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