I finished reading Erik Qualman’s excellent Socialnomics recently. I want to share some of the book’s insights about the ramifications of social media’s omnipresence that have direct relevance to job search.
First, a caveat: I feel some social media enthusiasts contextualize everything in its terms, losing sight of the fact that social media, while omnipresent, is not omnipotent. Conversely, it is clear some skeptics dismiss social media as not meaningful. As with so many cases where a broad spectrum of views exists, I am convinced the truth lies in the middle.
Mr. Qualman provides plenty of examples illustrating the scope and power of social media. There are several cases of organizations leveraging it successfully and less so, with clear bottom-line impact. But it isn’t just large, established businesses that can achieve impressive results with social media: it can be used by small groups, too, and was used to great effect in the last presidential election. The message is clear: social media is a powerful tool which can be transformative when engaged successfully.
So where is the return on investment (ROI) in social media for the job seeker? Anne Pepper gave an informative presentation recently about job search correspondence. During the presentation, she shared a surprising statistic: 5% of job seekers send a thank you letter after an interview. This shocks me: when we do write a thank you letter, we are employing another weapon in our arsenal that the vast majority of competing candidates are not. Similarly, I find that the majority of job seekers I meet at networking events are not leveraging social media.
At its heart, social media revolves around our personal networks. They are the original World Wide Web, whose strands are the effective relationships we have forged. Most of us already use LinkedIn as a tool to help track professional relationships, so in one small way, we are already using one form of social media. But there are certainly other forms of social media, such as Twitter. Since December, LinkedIn has practically eliminated the barrier for exploring Twitter via integration of status updates: now you can tweet without ever logging on to Twitter.
One of the points Mr. Qualman makes is that successfully engaging social media requires a distinct voice. There is so much being communicated through social media, so you must stand out. In marketing, the objective is to communicate the unique value and suitability of the product. Well, in our job search, we are the product, and the same rule applies. We constantly hear that as job seekers, our elevator speeches must distinguish us from others, unambiguously identifying our unique value, our brand. In adapting our résumés to a job posting, we are creating marketing that highlights our brand. In the LinkedIn Lab, a workshop I lead, the first thing discussed is the importance of establishing and controlling your professional brand. In short: it’s about standing out.
Social media can be a powerful tool—it helped elect a president!—that not many are engaging fully for their job search. At the end of the day, engaging social media by standing out helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing.