Michelle Magoffin is the Director of Social Media Programming for Edmunds.com. Her unique background and high profile fit closely to the types of candidates I like to profile on socialmediaheadhunter.com. With experience deeply rooted in an organization, Michelle can offer insight into how to turn your job into a social media position. The following is an interview on what it took her to win the job.
Update: This is what an awesome graphic resume looks like. 1. You’re coming up on your first year as a social media employee at Edmunds. What was the process to get hired? Was there a job description you applied for, did you simply change the title, or did someone just know you and suggest the role? At Edmunds, the early stages of planning for the coming year starts in the Summer. In the Spring of 2010, I spoke to the Executive Director of Community Operations and Social Media to let her know that I was interested in moving to her department, which consisted entirely of community personnel — she was handling social media alone. At the time, I was a Director of Product Management in the Media department. I’d worked with her on many projects in the past and she was happy to hear I wanted to join her team. I also spoke with the VP of Product (whom we both reported into) to let him know that, as planning commenced, I would like to be kept in mind for any social media roles that might develop.
Later in the Summer, I spoke again with the Executive Director of Community Operations and Social Media, this time in more detail about what she was planning for the make-up of her team, and what I was interested in doing with social media. Everyone was deep into a site redesign, so it was clear that we were still making plans for the coming year. No teams were changing around in the middle of that company-wide project. In the early Fall, there was an unexpected development when the Executive Director of Community Operations and Social Media left the company.
Because I had made my interest in social media known to the right people, there was no question that a social media position would be mine. The VP of Product had me slated for Director of Product Management, Social Media. What I didn’t know was that half of the social media function was staying in the Product group and half was moving to the inbound marketing team, which had previously only covered SEO. I wanted to be on the marketing side of things, but they already had another person slated for that role. I spoke to the new Executive Director of SEO and Social Media to let him know that I wanted to be on his team instead of the Product team.
I spoke again to my VP and outlined why I wanted the marketing role instead of the product role, what my background and experience could bring to it, and how much I wanted it. In the end, I was made the Director of Social Media Programming on the Marketing team but, if I hadn’t started lobbying for a social media position six months in advance, I might have never had the opportunity. 2. Did Edmunds have a clear idea what they were looking for, or did that role evolve over the course of the hiring process? It was a little of both. Social Media is one of the company’s major initiatives for 2011. The company had a clear idea of how they were dividing the social media functions across the Product and Marketing teams, but the exact nature of the positions evolved as they were filled, based on the backgrounds of the people moving into the roles.
Four social media positions were created at the end of 2010 and all of them were filled with internal transfers. I report to the Executive Director of SEO and Social Media. He has an SEO background. I have a product background. On the Product side of the house, there is a Director of Product Management, Social Media who was previously a project manager. Reporting to him is a Sr. Product Manager, Social Media who was already in the Product group. My role was originally meant to be more of a Social Media Manager but, because I was already a Director, my role became more focused on strategy, less hands-on, than was originally intended. We are a small team, though, so every role is hands-on to some degree full report. 3. I tell candidates they are hired for their background, not their social media chops. Your profile says this is true, but is that the case?
Did they give you the role because of your background in product management, your time at Edmunds, or was there significant social media campaign experience? I had zero social media campaign experience when I started as the Director of Social Media Programming. What I did have was a six-year history with Edmunds and an even longer history of using social media. I had a Friendster account when MySpace was just a twinkle in Tom’s eye. I’d been blogging since 2002. I was already on every major social media platform and was closely following emerging technologies. As a product manager, I had been on the team that built the first blogs on Edmunds.com. I introduced article commenting, rating, and sharing to the site. I’d worked closely with the SEO team on two major site redesigns. My personal experience with social media, combined with my product experience at Edmunds.com, put me in the unique position of having intimate knowledge of all of our products, from the back-end to the front-end, as well as the knowledge of how to engage and market with socia media.
In what division do you reside? Marketing/IT/Corporate Communications/Other? My team is in the Editorial group, but I expect that will change for next year. The way that the social media functions were divided up, and how we work with the Paid Marketing and PR teams, are converging. I feel like we would function more cohesively if our teams were unified under a single executive. 5. Did they have a salary in mind when they approached you, or did you negotiate it as the position became clear? Neither one, actually. Because I transferred internally, in the middle of the review cycle, I retained the same salary I made as Director of Product Management. I was satisfied with that arrangement. 6. Did you find a need to revisit any corporate policies when you got the position regarding social media guidelines, and what was your role in the widely-shared Edmunds Social Media policy? I revisited every social media policy and strategy we had, but it was all operational. Edmunds did not have a set of corporate social media guidelines in place.
I researched so many corporate social media policies one week that I began to think in legalese. Most of them read like government contracts. They were all about what employees can’t do and what will happen to them if they do it. I worked with HR to come up with a direction for Edmunds. We didn’t want to create a strict set of rules that was going to end up discouraging employees from ever posting a single thing about Edmunds. The company explored several options for creating our guidelines but, in the end, the Sr. Product Manager of Social Media really wanted to tackle this project herself. I consulted with her on early drafts and I could not be more pleased with the final product. It is encouraging and useful and looks great. It is the only graphic set of guidelines I have seen. 7. If you were hiring, would you want to do it through traditional channels or through your social media contacts (Twitter/LinkedIn)? – (readers, this is not an excuse to send her a resume) That’s a great question. Right now, we are in the early stages of planning for next year and are discussing how we would like to grow our team. I am already thinking about which skillsets we need to add to the mix. I would almost exclusively rely on my social media contacts to fill open positions.
Any open position would be listed on our web site and the recruiters would review all resumes that came in through that route. We would, of course, consider anyone who was highly qualified for the position, but you can’t deny the power of a personal referral. And, to be honest, how much could someone really want to work in social media at Edmunds.com if they are not already engaged with Edmunds.com through social media? 8) Did you have metrics of your success in place prior to your hiring, or did you write them after you got there? We weren’t starting from scratch exactly, but we were cleaning the slate. With my boss, I developed our success metrics and KPIs after I moved into the role. They are still evolving. We’re lucky in that we don’t have executives breathing down our necks about measuring ROI in a traditional sense.
The senior execs at Edmunds are committed to social media and understand it in a way that is uncommon. They have given us the freedom to develop our own performance metrics, and to explain why they are important to the company and how we plan to grow them. 9) Does experience in SEO/PR/Marketing make for a better social media candidate? No, I think a true social media lover makes for the best social media candidate. That person might have zero corporate marketing experience. I live for the internet. I have been in this business since 1999 and there is nothing else I would rather do. I was on the cutting edge of emerging internet technologies, not because my job demanded it, but because I wanted to be.
Since I have been in this role, I have seen how my entire history in the internet industry in general, and in product management in particular, has contributed to my success as a social media strategist and marketer. If I had come up through a more traditional marketing path, I might have a better understanding of certain marketing aspects, but I would be lacking the breadth of knowledge about web business that is what made me uniquely qualified for this position.