Audience Engagement Guest Columns
4 mins read

Want to hire the best social media editors? Ask candidates these questions

Don’t assume an entry-level candidate can manage one of your most important audience channels.

Despite a decline after the initial COVID bump, social media traffic still accounts for 15 percent of all the pageviews of media outlets. As news organizations accelerate digital transformation and social platforms constantly evolve, social media positions have become more challenging than ever before. Social media editors need to stay tuned to the latest platform updates, develop creative, platform-native storytelling strategies and use metrics to measure performance — while maintaining the highest journalistic standards.

If you are looking for an experienced social media editor, ask the following questions to sort out the best candidates.

Why are you interested in our social media position?

Evaluate how well your candidates can align their experience and skills with your job description. If you need someone with good familiarity with business and finance news, do the candidates show their knowledge? If you like people who are familiar with SocialFlow and Google Analytics, do they mention their experience with the tools? The best candidates don’t just study the job description and the organization. They understand how they can use social media platforms to sustain and elevate your mission.

Could you evaluate our current presence on Facebook, Twitter and other main social media platforms?

A solid knowledge of the content on your main social platforms is required. Strong candidates analyze written copies, social headlines and visual assets. They know both your strengths and weaknesses on various social media platforms. A very good sign: They use specific examples of your social content to address your success (e.g a high-quality, visually-appealing image) and room for improvement (e.g a lengthy headline that is too dry to draw eyeballs) on your social platforms.

What metrics do you think we should use to measure our performance on social media?

Dozens of metrics are available, but there are only a few you need to focus on. The right KPIs depend on what you aim to accomplish. If you want to improve on-platform engagements, pay attention to reactions, shares and comments. If, on the other hand, you want to drive your social traffic to your content page, prioritize link clicks and shares. The best candidates recognize that there is no one set of metrics that can fit the needs of every organization. They should also have a few key social metrics in mind and explain why they matter to your social strategy — if you have a clear and specific job description.

What do you do to keep up with constant changes in social media platforms?

Social media evolves fast. The smartest social media editors keep up with new product updates and the best storytelling techniques. Do they read newsletters from Social Media Today and Nieman Lab? Do they check the websites of Hootsuite and Sprout Social? Do they scroll through their social media feed a few times every month? This is a non-exhaustive list, and qualified candidates may have different ways to stay tuned to platform changes. Bottom line: Pay attention to the specific things they do to keep up with the changing social media landscape.

What news organizations inspire you with their social storytelling? Give some examples.

We never forget the best social media posts. They impress and thus are memorable, for example, by cultivating meaningful interactions on and off platforms, nailing social copy and headline and making the best of platform-native storytelling techniques. Look for specific descriptions from your candidates regarding social storytelling. Bonus if they can talk about how content from other news organizations may help inspire the social presence of your organization.

Tell me about a mistake you made when you managed social media platforms in your career.

This question is a touchstone for your candidates. Inaccurate information and false narrative go viral on social media within hours or minutes, and mistakes are usually unavoidable when we are experimenting with new social storytelling techniques. Look for fast learners who corrected their mistakes in time, remedied harm and refined their workflow to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Look also for optimists who are not afraid of sharing the valuable lessons they have learned and encouraging others to do so. 

Editors just asked you to promote a story that will NOT likely do well on social media. How would you respond to the request?

Smart social media editors have a great sense of whether a story will resonate well with social audiences. They prioritize stories that have a decent chance of driving high-quality social traffic and leave out those that don’t. Excellent candidates would decline the request without burning the bridge — by showing the editors that similar stories got very little traffic from social media. The best candidates would go a step further to show the editors the biggest traffic referrer(s) of the story so that the editors would know what channels to prioritize instead.

Jessie Shi
Social Media Editor, MarketWatch

About: Jessie Shi is a social media editor at MarketWatch, a Dow Jones news property that provides financial information, business news, analysis, and stock market data. She previously was the only social media editor for the premium/paywalled website of the San Antonio Express-News, the fourth-largest newspaper in Texas, where she led an 80 percent growth in social visits during her tenure.