Over the last few years communicators have had a ringside seat to the biggest shift in their profession since, well, the creation of broadcast television. Consider for a moment that Facebook has now crossed 900 million users , Pinterest reached 10 million unique visitors faster than any standalone site ever, and Twitter has 140 million active users and what communicators are faced with now is a burgeoning community of creators not consumers. Sure, the largest online population is still those who consume content but the numbers of people who contribute and share is growing substantially. This has several implications for communicators, not the least of which is factoring in new channels into the mix.

The other, and this is less something we can control is the number of people looking to break into this business for companies or agencies. Unfortunately, the social media space is moving at a pace that far outstrips the availability of quality talent. I don’t mean to be unfair about this, but the number of people who have executed social media campaigns for the Fortune 500 is small. It isn’t a matter of setting up a Facebook page or managing a Twitter account. The best social media professionals are part marketer, part behavioral psychologist, part businessman/woman and part number cruncher. Ah numbers. You knew I was getting there eventually, right?

If the talent gap in social media is huge, the analytics talent gap in those spaces is equally as big. Whenever you tweet, like, comment or click you are creating a data point for someone to analyze. It is not that simple, though. Analyzing those top-level metrics is only one part of the equation. Can you take those metrics and turn them into a communications or business insight? Many people know how to collect data and put it into a presentation. Fewer people know how to collect the data, put it into a presentation that highlights insights that improve the business or a communications program.

This is not going to be a trend that slows down, by the way. I am seeing a greater number of agencies and companies looking to hire directors and vice presidents in the hopes of raising their respective games in this space. Will it work? I suppose only time will tell, but hiring a leader of analytics DEFINITELY makes sense. Unfortunately, as someone who has been looking to fill these roles at three agencies I can tell you that they do not grow on trees. Most of us have various backgrounds that do not necessarily scream “analytics.”

How do we make sure that we have a greater talent pool to pick from? Well, colleges and universities are starting to do that for us by creating analytics programs, but there is still more the existing community can do to combat the problem. Some of those things include:

  • Understanding what goes into a proper analytics job description. Knowledge of social monitoring tools is important, but not nearly the only thing we should be looking at to evaluate candidates. The ability to navigate Microsoft Excel, using web-based tools like Google Insights and optimizing presentations are also important.
  • Have an open mind. There are not a lot of people who have extensive experience in social analytics. Sometimes you have to step outside of your hiring comfort zone to hire the right person.
  • Some skills DO NOT show up on a resume or LinkedIn profile. Are you naturally inquisitive? If the answer is yes, and I can snuff that out in an interview (you would be surprised) you have a big leg up in the process. When was the last time you saw “naturally inquisitive” on a resume? I know I haven’t. This speaks a little bit to bullet #2, but the skills of an analyst don’t easily translate to the traditional resume or LinkedIn profile.
  • Evangelizing on behalf of the space. If you feel comfortable blogging or speaking on the topic of analytics and are currently employed by a company or agency, do it! Potential employees need to hear from people already in the space more often than they do. Those of us already doing the work are extremely passionate about it. That passion translates. Trust me.

The talent gap in social analytics isn’t going to close overnight. Neither will the talent gap that my friend Jim Storer talked about within the community/social strategist ranks. There are some tangible things we can start to do, though, to close that gap. Some of those things I have highlighted above. Others will come over time as the existing talent pool gains more experience. The situation isn’t dire yet, but it will be if we don’t start addressing the problem now. What do you think? For those of you in a hiring position, are Jim and I crazy?