Important condition to being a social media manager: 1000 followers on Twitter

Social Media Manager qualification: minimum 1000 followers on Twitter

A few weeks ago I tweeted:

New rule: if you want to be a social media manager, get 1000 Twitter followers first. The experience is rewarding, esp if you do it well.

If your organisation is looking to hire someone to run your social media presence, I recommend, among your requirements and qualifications, that you require candidates to have at least 1000 followers on twitter. Because it’s the easiest and clearest way to ensure your candidates know the minimum required about social media.

I’ve read many Social Media Manager job descriptions (sometimes misleadingly just called “Community manager”) that specify a mix of qualifications that have less to do with social media prowess than they do with traditional experience of punching on a keyboard and answering emails beyond setting up accounts on the popular social media networks. A social media manager, to have the right qualifications and experience, needs to not only be able to do the work on day 1, but also the resilience to deal with the problems and challenges past day 2. This can be hard for an organisation who are new to social media, or losing their only expertise. There are other qualifications and requirements necessary beyond this 1000 twitter follower one, but at the very least, I suggest you require this one.

Traditional job descriptions will usually specify archaic elements like “2 years experience with social media” and the like. “2 years” is a very inconsistent metric to measure experience (as it is with most cutting-edge jobs), because 2 years experience can mean nothing if they were just babysitting a social media account with lacklustre results. If you’re looking for a social media manager, to start your organisation’s twitter account or take the helm on an existing one, they need to demonstrate (beyond chronological requirements) that they have gone around the block and know the tools. And to do that, they need to demonstrate they’ve done it, in part or in full. Having at least 1000 followers on twitter is one way to find out. And 1000 is a nice round number for a cut-off mark, where higher is better and lower is lacking. A good point for a qualification.

Now, let’s understand that twitter is a powerhouse in the social media sphere. Twitter’s growth, influence and pervasiveness is immense. Not everyone is on twitter (far less than Facebook) and far fewer understand it, but beyond Facebook and blogs, Twitter has become the publicist microphone straight from all celebrities and politicians, the pontificators inkwell on any topic, the unofficial backchannel at events, the emergency siren for disasters worldwide, and even the reliable watercooler for all emerging gossip. And although anyone (with or without an account) can lurk around the pool, but it takes getting your head underwater before you swim with the rest of them. The number of followers reflect your influence; who feels your waves and reacts. And someone who swims alone or with very few has not demonstrated they can manage your social media, as a social media manager. At least not for themselves first.

Therefore, I suggest, if you are hiring a social media manager for your organisation, require candidates have a minimum 1000 followers to apply. This may be 1000 on their personal account, 1000 on their professional account. 1000 growth on the account they managed previously, or 1000 total from several accounts. Have them state which twitter account or accounts they submit to substantiating their 1000 twitter follower minimum.

Now, of course by no means hire the first candidate who applies with 1000 followers- an interview is necessary, of course. With their cited 1000+ twitter accounts, there’s a list of followers, a history of interaction, and more. More than can be said for a candidate with fewer followers.

You may also have candidates with way more than 1000 followers, bonus! 1000 is the cut-off mark, not a minimum. 1000 followers is not hard.  Anyone with less than a thousand either hasn’t been on twitter long enough, or hasn’t engaged enough. In either case, they’re not the skilled social media manager with the experience you’re seeking. Not to say there aren’t any exceptions either, yes you can review candidates with less than a thousand just as you would bend the rules for candidates in other positions with less than 2 years experience doing x. Then, delve deeper: are these 1000 meaningful followers? What kind of interaction does this experienced twitter user have on this cited account? These are all questions you can find insights too in the public sphere of twitter discussions. And among many candidates you have vying for the position, you can meaningfully compare among them the quality of their social media presence above the quantity of their followers, just as you would if several candidates each claimed to have “2 years experience”.

In summary

  • Among other qualifications and skills, require the candidate have at least 1000 twitter followers. May be 1 account, or across several accounts;
    • Request the name(s) of such twitter account(s);
    • Bonus for those who apply with more, way more than 1000 followers; even if they only use it for personal means, they’ve been around the block with it with enough foresight applicable to your organisation’s social media strategy;
  • No need to hire the first one who applies with minimum 1000 followers. Also no need to interview everyone who meets this minimum;
  • Check their twitter accounts:
    • Among all qualified candidates, compare who has more engaged followers, and how they engage their followers. It’s quality and quantity;
    • If you lack the twitter familiarity, ask them to demonstrate how they engage their followers, and how twitter helps them in their work.
  • Consider borrowing an experienced social media manager from a sister organisation to be involved in the hiring process;

Bonus! FAQ!

Since posting that tweet, I received some replies that were difficult to reply to with twitter’s 140 character limit. I will expand further below.

1000 followers does not reflect the quality of those followers. A twitter account with less followers who are more engaged is worth more than 1000 who aren’t.

Agreed. 1000 is the cut-off mark, a candidate could apply with much higher. The next stage, the interview, should look into this. A candidate with 1000 engaged twitter followers is certainly a better candidate than one with 1000 fake accounts (bots).

1000 followers is not hard to get if someone is willing to pay for one of those “pay for followers” services. It’s not hard to trick.

Agreed. It’s also easy to lie on your resumé and say you have 2 years experience when you really only have 2 months. If someone has 1000 twitter followers, whether they bought them or not, should be considered for an interview because they meet the qualifications. As to whether they get the interview is another matter. But the one who paid for 1000 followers for a specific job should still be considered for an interview, above the one with close to 1000 who didn’t try. Also, someone who is applying for a Social Media Manager position with the minimum 1000 followers is someone applying for a job with the minimum qualification required (among other qualifications you would state).

I don’t have 1000 followers, and I’m a social media manager. Am I not qualified for my job?

The social media manager position is still a very new one. You can tell by comparing the job descriptions, they’re still very different from each other (some are heavy for marketing/PR/customer service background, others for community development and collaboration). You have skills (or contacts) in other areas that transfer well and you learn fast as you go. You very likely leveraged your contacts for insight to learning the right skills and catch up fast while you hit the ground running. A lot can be said for that. But it’s also how many jobs get filled: by who the hiring manager knows above what the prospective candidate knows already.

Doug, if this gains traction and all social media manager positions require 1000 followers and I don’t have that, do I have any hope to becoming a social media manager?

Yes, of course. Look at twitter followers not as endorsements of your presence, but as acknowledgements of your interaction. Swim with the waves as you make them yourself by taking part. 1000 followers gets easier as Twitter gets more and more popular. Focus on your influence, engagement and interaction, don’t expect followers to come just because you have an account and post tweets that don’t speak to your persona or brand to be part of a coherent view. Tweet, post to blogs. Ask questions, give answers, share. Start a project, and use twitter as your ground of engagement. If you can do all this and get to 1000 followers, you know you can be a social media manager who does the same for someone else.

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