Is this how to recruit real social media experts?

In this guest posting, Matthew Cox reckons he’s seen the future of social media recruitment.

What qualifies you to be a social media strategist? Unfortunately, for many people, the answer simply boils down to “Simply saying that I am”. The youngest person in the office, usually an intern, desperate to add value launches themselves at the role (or is launched by someone else) and within an hour, the agency is now ‘full service with social’.

But perhaps all of that is on the verge of changing.

Wieden + Kennedy, the agency behind Nike and Coca-Cola, are searching for a new social media strategist. One with a very specific job.

Old Spice to be exact.

The American-based men’s toiletry company has developed a huge reputation for it’s inventive social media campaigns. The 2010 Old Spice campaign “the man your man could smell like” is still universally regarded as the benchmark for social media marketing – and let’s all admit, we’re a bit jealous of how awesome it is.

Understandably, Old Spice wants the best. And Wieden + Kennedy has devised a cunning, if unorthodox means of delivering just that: a series of social media based challenges.

The Challenges:

Challenge 1 – Create the best original Pinterest board dedicated to the sport of inline speed skating (NOT roller-hockey).
Challenge 2 – Create and post an original piece of content to Reddit that then receives the most upvotes in a single week.
Challenge 3 – Create and upload to SlideShare an original, in-depth competitive analysis of the Ed Hardy social media ecosystem.
Challenge 4 – Get the most people to friend your mother or your father (or a parent-like figure in your life) on Facebook in a single week.
Challenge 5 – Create an original (new) Twitter account and then use it to get the most followers in a week using any verbs you like, but only the following nouns: “BLUEFUDGE,” “HAMMERPANTS” and “GREEK YOGURT.”
Challenge 6 – Create an original YouTube video that then receives the most plays in a single week using this script verbatim:
#1: “Wait. What are you doing?”
#2: “Trust me. This will be fine.”
#1: “Ok. Go ahead.”
Challenge 7 – Get recommendations on LinkedIn from at least three other people trying to get this job.
Challenge 8 – Create the most reviewed recipe on in a single week using cottage cheese as an ingredient. The reviews don’t have to be good.

Challenge 9 – Upload the most pictures of your armpit(s) to Instagram during the course of this challenge. The pictures must have your face in them to verify your identity and include the hashtag #mypits.

Challenge 10 – Using Quora, give thought-out, meaningful answers to as many dream catcher-related questions as possible in a single week.

The full application details can be found here:

While the method is somewhat peculiar, it does present an intriguing way of sorting the wheat from the chaff as far as social media ‘specialists’ are concerned. After all there is no official qualification behind social media. Very few organisations actually endeavour to gauge whether the person running their Facebook actually has what it takes.

While certainly the quirkiest, Wieden + Kennedy are by no means the first organisation to embark down this road. The publishing company Penguin Books launched the ‘Impress a Penguin” campaign earlier this year in an effort to find an online community manager.

Is this the direction is which recruitment is moving? It’s certainly possible.

As social media continues to grow, the more success stories we see, the more organisations are taking it seriously. How do you differentiate yourself from the other agencies and brands out there looking for high-quality talent? Competitions and games are one way of certainly recruiting for quality rather than quantity.

Matthew Cox is a strategic consultant at Dialogue Consulting, a social media communications consultancy based in Melbourne.


  1. JB
    15 Nov 12
    1:46 pm

  2. Agree. Any 19 year old who can use Facebook is fast calling themselves a “social media expert.” I was just working with a digital company and it would take these hapless kids off the phones in customer support, teach them how to send out marketing emails and two days later they were calling themselves “senior digital marketing executives!” Equal parts laughable and pathetic.

  3. nell_schofield
    15 Nov 12
    1:55 pm

  4. From my experience the successful applicant will also have to master the confident delivery of the non-sequitur and also the sprouting of impressive-sounding but ultimately meaningless facebook stats, while demonstrating a breathtaking ignorance of every other communications discipline

  5. The Internetz
    15 Nov 12
    2:10 pm

  6. ….and applications have now closed. Great timing there! 😉

    I hope W+K showcase some of the best applicants for this role. I’d be really interested to see what sort of candidates and results this sort of recruitment campaign would attract.

    Forget SEEK. Loving this new way to job-hunt.

  7. XS
    15 Nov 12
    2:23 pm

  8. As someone who has worked as an social strategist for the last 4 years these challenges are pointless. Whilst they ensure that the user can create engaging content they have no strategic value apart from polluting social networking sites with more Old Spice crap. How about developing a year long strategy for content dissemination across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and on one emerging social network that supports the marketing goals of the company? Challenge 3 is the only one remotely relevant.

  9. Ian Lyons
    15 Nov 12
    2:28 pm

  10. This all seems like great fun but how about challenging applicants to get a customer to actually buy a product? Maybe that comes later – or not at all …

  11. Bob
    15 Nov 12
    2:38 pm

  12. Challenge #6 sounds like a sex act about to go wrong…

  13. Toby Hemming
    15 Nov 12
    2:43 pm

  14. This is appalling, no wonder these so called experts get such short thrift from clients. What about data and business strategy ? Life’s not just shiny ‘things’ you know…

  15. Aussie Moore
    15 Nov 12
    2:53 pm

  16. Using job applicants as the advertisers to get the ‘best job in the world’. Nice.

  17. Robelen Bajar
    15 Nov 12
    2:53 pm

  18. Interesting. They should add a challenge that ties it all in to a wider, more strategic marketing objective- which every marketer should be accountable for: topline and bottomline results. See how the candidates fare…

  19. Ms PR
    15 Nov 12
    3:50 pm

  20. what nell said

  21. Anna Spargo-Ryan
    15 Nov 12
    4:18 pm

  22. Of course, in doing this, all that really happens is they promote an approach to social media that is unsustainable and hard to measure – just like the ‘office interns’ have done before them.

    As other commenters have said, the point is that those of us who ARE social media strategists – which is to say, we’re creating social media strategies that meet organisational objectives and form part of the overall business plan, just as any other kind of marketing strategist would – are trying to move the “point” of social media way from just “heaps of likes”, and lists like these do nothing to help that cause.

    What is the objective of the YouTube video, the reddit content, the recipe? Who do we want to target? What should the demo of the viewers, upvoters, likers, etc. be? What is the call to action? How do we convert them to customers? How does this impact on our bottom line?

    How does this demonstrate anything but the ability to create cool content that may or may not have a positive impact on the brand, engage the best audiences, push product messaging, encourage conversation, yada yada. If I post a picture of a turd in a wedding dress and get 4 million YouTube views, have I taken the brand in the right direction?

    Besides which, even a great social media strategist in an agency environment would be supported in these kinds of activities by some combination of content creators, community managers, content curators, PR execs, account management, and so on.

  23. Nicky
    15 Nov 12
    5:15 pm

  24. Totally agree with all the comments above. The only thing I’d like to add is that I disagree with the idea that young people are anointing themselves “social strategists”. In my experience it’s the people in charge throwing responsibility for social at the intern believing that their age somehow makes them qualified to handle it.

    This job description sounds like it was written by someone who has little to no understanding of how social actually works.

  25. KP
    15 Nov 12
    6:47 pm

  26. I’m interested to know what W+K would pay me to assemble such a detailed application, searching for content ideas themselves perhaps?

    Read no other comments here other than XS and Anna Spargo-Ryan (to date).

  27. New Road
    15 Nov 12
    9:02 pm

  28. As a mum who has been out of the workforce for a few years, I am looking to up-skill and obtain Digital Marketing skills. I would be interested to know from XS and Anna (or any of the above commenters) any Social Media Strategy courses that you could recommend?

  29. Feed Spam
    15 Nov 12
    9:18 pm

  30. Agree with XS. Less spam tactics, more substance, please. The latter will always facilitate more meaningful engagement and promote real ROI for any brand.

    The “please like me at any cost” strategy is dead (I hope).

  31. Dale
    16 Nov 12
    4:12 pm

  32. Take pictures of your armpits? Seriously? This is a little try hard. Surely a better skill set is to be able to create content and a strategy that will get people to buy their product? Just because someone can be awesome on a personal social media level does not mean they can carry that into a business or organisation. Social media is still comms/pr.

  33. Matthew Cox
    16 Nov 12
    4:22 pm

  34. Thanks for reading everyone!

    It’s great to see that there are people out there who look at Social Media as a tool that requires a level of consideration, rather than shooting from the hip, which is all too often what happens.

    Social Media works most effectively when it is governed and directed by a well considered strategy and policy. Numerous elements need to be considered, such as target audience groups, relevant goals, objectives and key messages, just to name a few.

    But it’s this last component that i find myself taking most issue with. Whilst most organisations will have a firm understanding of what they want to say, very few actually manage to package those messages in an engaging way. Too often the content becomes “Like us if you like X”. You can throw money to advertise anything and it will get likes, and so all too often poor content is accepted.

    You can teach someone how to operate within the framework of a strong strategy and you can train someone to adhere to a policy. Far more difficult though, is to train someone to be engaging, to build content with charisma and know what is effective towards engaging different groups of people and why. It can be done, but it is much more difficult.

    In this regard, i think that W+K has done something quite solid.

    Thanks for everyones thoughts!

  35. Nicky Moore
    16 Nov 12
    10:27 pm

  36. @newroad I did post a link to Laurel Papworth’s website but they didn’t publish it. Google her name and/or twitter name @silkcharm. She runs social media seminars and training courses throughout the year. Best of luck!

  37. Janine
    17 Nov 12
    12:40 am

  38. Can they help the client sell?

  39. Nick Sawyer
    17 Nov 12
    8:23 am

  40. I was very interested in this opinion piece, as I’ve also pondered the qualifications of some social network media experts and how they find their way into such roles. While I generally agree with much of the professionally responsible comments above, as a creative and strategic thinker I would like to add my weight or perhaps ‘like’ behind Matthew’s closing paragraph. Throughout the reading of this piece and all the comments I couldn’t help thinking ‘but this is all to strategically find an individual to fit culturally onto a specific piece of business in an agency with a high profile reputation for unique creative approach. Thank you Matthew.

  41. mumbrella
    17 Nov 12
    8:52 am

  42. Hi Nicky,

    I can’t spot your previous link. It may have looked like spam to our filter – apologies if so.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  43. Nicky
    17 Nov 12
    9:14 am

  44. No worries, thanks Tim! :)

  45. New Road
    22 Nov 12
    5:19 pm

  46. Thanks Nicky!

  47. Téa
    26 Nov 12
    1:01 pm

  48. So they are applying for a role as a Content Strategist, then? Not a Social Media Strategist?

    This is actually a key example of how people are so focused on content and the whole Agency/Campaign focus that leads to poor engagement… they ignore the organisational supports and Project Management skills that make a good strategist. Policy, Management, Project Management, Training, Legal/Risk, Project Planning, change management…

    I’d much rather brands use accurate job titles. This is content strategy and is focused on tactics. This is not strategic.