This post isn't for traditional businesses looking for an Internet marketing team. Those companies should usually seek the help of a qualified, experienced Internet marketing firm with a track record of results; because more than just people, you need systems, and those aren't easy for a solo marketer to build.
Instead, this post is for the marketing firms themselves.
The answers may surprise you.
Where NOT to Look
Before we get into where you should look, I feel it's important to draw attention to where it's probably best not to look. There are exceptions to every rule, but these sites are rarely the place to find a qualified, long term internet marketing professional.
- Mechanical Turk
Ouch, did I just attack some of the biggest names in the industry? Why would I do that?
All of the platforms above have their uses, and there's nothing inherently wrong with the platforms themselves. And, undoubtedly, there are talented people on these sites.
But here's the problem. Most of the "marketers" and businesses that come to these sites don't think like you do. They're not looking for ways to invest in their future, nor are they very concerned about their brand reputation. Many of them have been sucked into the "make money online" dogma and are just looking for a way to get rich quick.
All of this has bred a culture where the freelancers who come to these sites don't care very much about the quality of their work. They are often unappreciated and undervalued, so why would they? Instead, they have learned to produce a lot of volume and to do it fast.
A Better Way
The best quality work comes from people who are intrinsically motivated. Yes, you need financial incentives, but if your heart's not in it, no amount of money is going to make you value your work. To find internet marketing talent, you need to find people that are motivated despite a lack of financial incentives.
This is where you can find those people.
Casual Blogs - Blogs have gone mainstream and are now a part of most business's marketing strategy, so many companies might not even be aware of the fact that there are people who blog for fun. In fact, this was how the entire industry was created.
If you want to hire somebody who knows how to produce great content, build an audience, and interact, start by looking for people that already do it for free. Alternatively, you can look for would-be professional bloggers who have a lot of the skills but are struggling with monetization.
In addition to a Google Search, you can try browsing Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger for this kind of talent.
Forums - This is where you can find some of the most die-hard internet enthusiasts, the people who have been involved from the very beginning. Many of them dedicate tremendous amounts of energy to answering people's questions and solving their problems for free, often without even taking credit under their real name.
Every forum has a group of respected members who visit the site almost daily to answer questions and interact. Many forums rate users by how others have rated them or by how many comments they have left. Look for users who are heavily involved and constantly offer interesting comments and good advice that has earned them the respect of their community. These people are perfect for social media campaigns, link building outreach, and similar internet marketing efforts.
In Google, you can find these kinds of discussions by clicking on "more" in the left column, then "discussions," or simply by searching for the word "forum" plus your keyword. You can also search Reddit for these types of users, since Reddit is in many ways an internet forum.
Do not, under any circumstances, search the "internet marketing" forums, or anything remotely similar, for this kind of talent. It defeats the purpose. These people are not intrinsically motivated.
Social Networks - Is there really a better place to find social networking experts than social networks? Again, you will likely achieve the best results if you look for people who don't appear to be financially motivated. Searching Twitter or Facebook for your keyword is a great way to find people who care about the topic and discuss it without any real effort to monetize what they are doing.
In addition to the obvious ones, it's a good idea to check out YouTube, Blogger, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, Imgur, LiveJournal, Vimeo, Reddit, and DeviantArt. The people who use these sites prominently, and get noticed for doing so, often understand the web in ways that you don't. I would recommend avoiding LinkedIn because, once again, it eliminates the intrinsic motivation factor.
By no means is this the only way to find internet marketing talent. Clearly, people who have had experience with online marketing with a more business-centric mindset are necessary and important, especially when it comes to monetization. However, these kinds of professionals are "easily" found through more obvious methods, such as Monster.com, and the goal of this article is to help you find the kind of talent you wouldn't normally go looking for.
Where else have you found talented web personalities? What is the best way to leverage this kind of talent?