Measuring Social Media Fluency
In case you hadn't noticed, social media for business isn't going anywhere but up. The latest data from Nielson Wire is staggering: as of late August 2012, 46% of people with an Internet connection globally are using social media to make purchase decisions. Your company's product promotion, content and monitoring have a real impact on the buying of nearly 50% of people with WiFi. Whether you're looking to get started on Twitter in 20 minutes a day or less or hire a full-time social geek, you've found yourself in a really interesting position of having to blaze a trail. Social media isn't optional, but it's still pretty much brand new.
Stop the Social Media Age Wars
I'm not going to hold back: I'm sick of the social media age wars. There's been too much viral content in the last couple weeks about the optimal age of a social media manager. I don't think it's especially productive to argue whether the right age for your social media manager is 23 or 43. All of us, even the authors of this viral content, know the real answer is "it depends on the skill set of the job candidate." What we really need is to shift the conversation towards the question of why people are clicking, reading and sharing these flame wars about age in the first place.
Give Us a Standard
If social media for business were a person, it would still be in grade school. I don't think that there's necessarily a talent gap, but we're in serious need of a standardized way to measure fluency. I'm talking tests and certifications. If I wanted to become a German translator, I'd take a test. Same if I was training to become a Medical Doctor, accountant or real estate agent. If I wanted to wash your hair at the corner beauty shop I'd need to pass a standard test. The problem is that there just aren't any 4-year degree programs in social media management and there aren't any standard proficiency tests. Fluency in Twitter lists and generating Facebook shares is one thing, but having the skillset to quickly adapt to new changes like the Facebook timeline and driving referral traffic through Pinterest is entirely another.
Show Me the Money
The need for social media management for business is on the rise. People want to make spending money social: as of February, 45% of social media users were comfortable with the idea of entering their credit card number through a secure platform on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Social means community, but it also means ROI and a bigger bottom line and we need people who can position your company optimally for the current social media giants as well as the next ones. If you've made it through my rant, we're about to start talking solutions. There's a smart new tech start-up on the block, and they represent a huge step towards ending the social media age wars.
Smarterer is a Boston-based tech start-up targeted towards helping your next social media manager prove their chops. Skills in areas related to social media, finance, blogging, Hubspot and even basic math are measured through tests. Test questions are crowdsourced through the community, and subject to a rigorous ranking process by current users before they go live. It's sort of a collision of all the best attributes of Quora and LinkedIn. If you needed any more evidence that Smarterer is filling a serious niche, they experienced 1250% growth in a single week back in January 2012. Plus, the platform is really fun. Job searching isn't even close to my radar, and I still spent a few hours getting Smarterer this morning.
Whether or not job searching or hiring are on your radar, here are a few ways you can use Smarterer:
1. Map Your Skills
For professional development purposes, it's really not about what you know. Smarterer isn't like a Klout score or Facebook quizzes. It's a really great barometer of exactly where your skills are. Maybe you're actually pretty uninitiated when it comes to Hubspot best practices or Twitter keyboard shortcuts. It's easy to sort and search through the tests by your area of specialty or keywords and see exactly where your skill set falls. If you're a professional Twitter user who falls into the "proficient" range, you'll know exactly what you need.
2. Test Candidates
Smarterer is free for job recruiters, and you can hand-pick the tests you want your applicants to take by creating skill sets for social media managers, administrative assistants and finance candidates.
Providing a link to your custom Smarterer skill set in the job post is a great way to ensure you're only getting resumes from qualified applicants. Keep in mind that you can't sort current Smarterer users by test score, making the platform a tool for vetting current candidates rather than replacing the role of Monster or Indeed in your job search. One caveat to this process is the fact that Smarterer is based around a timed test-taking questions. Not everyone reads fast enough to answer questions well, and Smarter isn't necessarily the best gauge of overall intelligence.
Smarterer's not inherently social, but you can use it for networking with peers. After answering each question in a quiz, the link to the public profile of the user who wrote the question is displayed to the right:
Even though I've blurred the username for the purpose of illustration, it's a live link and you can click over to the author's public profile. A clip from my profile is displayed to the right for illustration. You can connect with the author on Twitter or Facebook, subscribe to their blog, read a bio and see the scores of the Smarterer tests they've chosen to make public. Using Smarterer for networking isn't an easy or apparent feature, but it's possible.
Smarter is no silver bullet but it's a huge step in the right direction. Whether you're looking to vet your candidate's skills, connect with other Facebook Masters or make a few blogging friends, the network has a lot of potential for filling a real need. The company's explosive growth shows just how desperate we are for having the ability to test these crucial skillsets. But please, for the love of Facebook, just don't pronounce it "Schmarterer."
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/podpad