Social media marketing is an essential part of many businesses and organizations today – regardless of size. The Internet has grown so much more community-focused, so much more social, that if one were to truly establish and enhance the online presence of a company or brand, there’d be no way of doing it without social media marketing. Sure, to some people, sites like Facebook and Twitter are just a complete waste of time, but without social media sites like these it would be next to impossible to keep up with everything that’s happening online.

This is why companies are beginning to recognize the importance of hiring social media managers, social media agencies, social media consultants and strategists. The titles vary, but one thing is clear: if – as a small business owner or an Internet marketer – you want to be able to engage the right way with an online audience and steer the conversation about your brand to the right direction, you have to find the right person to do the job.

Of course, you can do better than handing out a job to someone whose professional skills are limited to Twitter and Facebook. Social media management is not about merely being proficient at tweeting and tagging. It’s about leveraging the power of social media sites and tools to execute more effective marketing strategies, build more lasting customer relationships, and establish a better brand.

What else should you know before hiring a social media manager? Here’s a list of things that you might want to make a note of as you start your search for the person who’s the best fit for the job.

Social media managers work well with the team

You’re definitely not looking for someone who fills in the position only to do nothing but tweet all day. This is a job that requires plenty of coordination with people. The right social media manager candidate must thus work well with your social media agency (if you’ve got one) as well as with your employees. If the people who work for your company need training on how to respond to customer inquiries using Twitter, your social media manager should be the person who’ll rise to the occasion. Let’s put the emphasis here on “social”: the right guy or gal for the job has a knack and passion for interacting and engaging with human beings – online and in the real world – without alienating them. Your manager must also know how to start and participate in conversations, as well as listen to anyone who has, in one way or another, anything to do with your brand or company.

A background check is necessary

We don’t just mean investigating on whether or not the candidate has a criminal record. That’s necessary, too, but so is a background check on what your potential social media manager has done online. Is he applying best practices in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Or do his social media profiles look like that of a spammer, brand thief, or inactive user? How influential is he online? (One neat tool is Twitter Grader: it allows you to check the power of a person’s Twitter profile, complete with an instant grade and report.) Remember: your social media manager will be shouldering a huge responsibility in the management of your brand in the social media landscape. So do the investigative research needed to find out if he practices what he preaches, and if he’s actually capable of leading the way.

Managers don’t always automate

A social media manager should be the person who can teach you and your team how to use social media as a communication platform. It’s perfectly fine if a candidate can leverage his knowledge on automation and synchronization tools to support your online marketing efforts, but don’t forget that social media is about engagement. It’s about adding a human touch to the presence of your brand on social web.

Look for candidates who can strategize

What separates casual users of social networking sites from experts and professionals is the ability to craft a social media strategy. That should be number one on the agenda of the candidate you’re eyeing. How does he plan to increase and retain your Twitter followers? How can he get more Facebook fans to post on your Fan Page wall and improve your activity stream? What does he have in mind as a way of monitoring online conversations with your audience of followers, fans, subscribers, contacts, and potential customers? Get someone who knows how to do all these with the aim of bringing you – via social media resources – more business opportunities.

Curiosity is a good thing

Who knew Facebook and Twitter would grow to be so massively popular? Not many. But if your social media manager is someone who thinks ahead and is curious enough to keep himself abreast of what’s happening, then chances are he’s for keeps. Anyone can sign up for any number of social networking sites, but not everyone understands what works and what doesn’t, and what it takes to have winning social media profiles.