One of the hardest parts of owning a small business is giving control of tasks to new employees as you grow. However, there comes a time when you just can't do everything yourself, so hiring experts in specific fields makes a lot of sense. If your business has a large online presence, hiring an online reputation manager make be a good move for your company.
This is a relatively new field, so finding an online reputation manager with experience in this specific role can prove difficult. How can you hire the best candidate for the job?
Experience to Consider
Not every good candidate has held the exact position of "online reputation manager." Instead, look for candidates who have experience in the following roles:
- Community Management
- Customer Service
- Social Media Marketing
- Brand Management
- Public Relations
Even roles in project management and digital marketing can help someone develop the skills they need to be a great online reputation manager. The strongest candidates for this role will have experience doing at least some of the following tasks:
- Crafting customer-facing messaging
- Responding to customer service complaints via phone and email
- Using social media to speak with customers and potential customers
- Creating or following branding guidelines
- Responding to both positive and negative reviews
- Monitoring social media and blogs for brand mentions
- Serving as a liaison between customer service and marketing teams
- Compiling data to understand brand sentiment
Great candidates often also have experience with blogging, writing press releases, working with product development teams to improve quality based on customer feedback, providing tech support, and analyzing data.
At its heart, online reputation managers need to provide great customer service, and these are skills we often learn during retail jobs in high school and college. So, don't overlook these roles on a resume! That doesn't mean someone who has never worked at the mall during Black Friday is a bad candidate. The point it to look for a history of providing great customer service.
How Much You'll Pay
What most people want to know is how much they can expect to shell out for someone to handle their online reputation. The final amount depends on countless factors, including:
- Hours - do you need someone full-time or part-time?
- Company Size - are you a company with a single product or retail location or do you have thousands of products and locations around the world?
- Online Activity - do you exist in an industry where there's a lot of activity (reviews, social chatter, etc.) online or is your industry less represented online?
- B2B versus B2C - who is your target market?
- Existing Online Reputation - is there a mess to clean up or do people generally like you?
You also need to think about whether you want to work with someone virtually or whether they need to work on-site from your office, as well as whether or not you're willing to train and grow with someone. Benefits also play a factor here - a lot of virtual workers especially will take a pay cut if you're hiring them outright and providing benefits rather than hiring them on a contractor basis.
One thing I want to caution against: do not hire an unpaid intern for this position! It is fine to want to hire someone who is new and who will grow with your company, but a lot of people think they can hire an unpaid intern to get someone to handle their online reputation for free. Not only do you run the risk of your intern making a bone-headed mistake because they really don't care that much about the job (after all, they aren't getting paid), but you could also be breaking several laws in your state. Unpaid internships need to meet strict qualifications to be legal (in most areas - consult a lawyer, which I am not).
These a very broad strokes, but for a full-time entry-level online reputation manager, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per year, based on the above questions and other factors. Experienced online reputation managers for major brands make closer six figures in many cases.
Do You Need Someone In-House?
Depending on your online reputation management needs, you may or may not need someone in-house for this role. Instead of hiring an individual to take on these tasks, you might be better served by working with an online reputation management company.
The advantages? It will be less expensive, in most cases, especially if you don't have a heavy need for reputation management yet. You'll also be working with people who have years of experience in this field, and they often have premium tools at their disposal to help you track your brand activity online.
There are disadvantages too. Namely, you'll be one of many clients (in most cases), so their full attention will not be on your brand. You also often hire a company without meeting the specific people who will be assigned to your account, so it's harder to ensure that they will be a good fit for you.
A third option is to instead hire an online reputation consultant. This person can teach online reputation management skills to someone currently working for you, in customer service, marketing, or even sales. You can also pay a retainer to have this consultant on call whenever you have a reputation-related question or need extra help. Working with a consultant is a great option if you're on a budget and don't have a strong need for reputation management yet.
Remember, no matter whom you hire, you should have documents in place so that every employee knows how to respond to customers online. This post is a great place to get started with creating a reputation management plan for your business, but think also about creating customer service manuals and branding plans as well, so you can have consistency as your team grows.
About the Author: Allison Boyer is a content marketer who blogs regularly about blogging, email, social media, and more at AllisonBoyer.com.