Over recent years I’ve noticed a massive shift in marketing recruitment. Traditional marcomms roles, requiring knowledge of print processes and databases, have been overtaken by demand for digital and online skills. This is most noticeable in companies that have historically spent the majority of their marketing budgets and strategies on offline channels with their digital presence largely limited to an online version of a corporate brochure or other printed material – fulfilling a need to be found online but little more.

But now social media is seen as the ‘must have’ in any marketing toolkit so where senior management may previously have been reluctant to take a leap into the digital unknown, they now see they are being left behind and are looking to up-skill with bought-in talent to transform marketing strategies and boost their online presence.

Facebook and Twitter have only been around for a relatively short time, launching in 2004 and 2006 respectively, but are now a means of communicating with friends, family and customers throughout the world. Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ are also key players in a fast-evolving digital landscape which businesses need to consider and decide which to embrace and which to pass by in their search for new customers.

The rise of social media has been great for marketing agencies, staffed by young tech savvy creatives and writers who, as early adopters of social media, were quickly able to establish a skilled team available to handle outsourced social media and community management activity from their existing client base. But many businesses are now seeing the value of bringing those skills in-house and are looking to up-skill their own marketing teams with new talent; and this surge in demand has led to a shortage of suitably qualified candidates. PPC and Google Adwords are the most common aspects to be outsourced – as these are seen as specialist SEO activities – but companies want more control and the agility to respond to the changing needs of their business and the market.

Earlier this year the City & Guilds Group hosted a skills debate which highlighted the lack of credible careers advice in our schools, with their research results showing girls were most often advised to go into nursing, teaching and medicine with boys encouraged towards IT, finance and engineering, which is doing little to encourage the employees of tomorrow into the areas where we at Armstrong Lloyd are seeing a major skills shortage.

Social media and digital selling is still in its infancy with many practitioners still in their early 20s, having learnt on the job within an agency environment but lacking the strategic campaign-driven skills. Senior marketeers are likely to have been out of ‘hands on’ roles for longer than Twitter has been around so are less likely to have practical experience in managing online communities. This scenario is still workable for large companies with budgets for marketing teams, but for smaller companies looking for one all rounder, the skills shortage is having a significant impact. My advice is to consider those candidates who have invested in up-skilling and keeping ahead of the trend; it’s important for all levels to have an understanding of emerging media, no matter how senior, so anyone showing a keen interest and a desire to learn and up-skill deserves a second look.

If as a business you’re struggling to find candidates who fulfil all aspects of your digital marketing role, you could try one of these tactics:

1 Empower your team: people are often afraid of digital and feel out of their comfort zone but there is so much help and information available – give staff a dedicated time to research and self-learn while at work.

2 Make use of a wider talent pool and skills base: encourage staff to learn from others – perhaps a subsidiary or group within your business, or a business partner who is more advanced. Offer buddies and mentoring programmes to share best practice.

3 Offer external training: you might not find a 100% skills match as the industry is moving so fast. Train for the skills you need – a candidate or staff member with the right attitude and culture fit for your team is much more important.

Updated July 1, 2015