Last year, a young man interviewed at my agency for an account service position. After speaking for an hour, I could see he was bright, original, ambitious, and creative. I wanted to hire him, but the only jobs we had were in social media, and he had no related work experience. I asked if he could come back in a week and meet with my business partner, John.
To help the young man, I gave him a tip: “Just remember, right now John is only interested in hiring for our social media team."
“No problem,” said the young man. “I’ll be there. Just one question, though: What’s social media?”
I laughed and replied, “I suggest you get online and figure that out by next week.”
I told John I interviewed a young MBA whom he should consider. That was it. I didn’t mention he was social media impaired.
Seven days later, John pulled me aside by the coffee machine and said, “Look Sean, I’ve got the MBA you sent in my office right now. I think we should hire the guy. He’s all over social media.”
He hired him on the spot even after I revealed that a week ago he didn’t even know what the word meant. Granted, the fact that this applicant was in his 20s meant that he already knew more about social media than he realized. However, in just seven days he did become fluent enough on the topic to get the job, and today he is one of the strongest members of our team.
I tell this story because after my previous Talent Zoo posts I received dozens of e-mails from traditional media marketers asking if it was possible to reinvent themselves to compete in the social media scene. Of course it is! As I’ve said before, it’s more likely that a good marketer can catch up on two or three years of social media developments than a social media expert can compensate for 20 or 30 years of missing marketing experience.
Where to start? Right here. I’ve outlined six easy steps that even the biggest social media skeptic can take to get up to speed before his or her next job interview. All you need is an Internet connection and a decent digital photo of yourself.
1. Engage on Twitter. I don’t care if you think it is pointless, and neither will the Twitterer who most likely will be interviewing you. Fill out the profile and use your picture, not the default bird. Once you are signed up, search for marketing people you know and follow them. You can start with me (@brandranter). Look at the people they follow and follow them as well. Do the same with any companies or people with whom you plan to interview. Forward (RT) anything they say that you like. This puts you on their good side before you even meet.
2. Experience Facebook. Contrary to popular belief, Facebook is not for kids anymore. You may never use it for marketing, but with 465 million people collectively spending 8.3 billion hours a month on the site, it is a powerful communication platform that you will need to at least be conversant in. The best way to do that is sign up and poke around. Anyone under the age of 35 can give you a crash course.
3. Have an opinion about Foursquare. Hopefully, you have a smart phone. If so, download both Foursquare and Gowalla. These are the two most popular location-based social apps, and their rivalry has become a hot topic in social circles. They allow you to share your whereabouts with complete strangers. Your social-savvy interviewer will know about them. Use both apps for a few days. You will soon form an opinion about which one you like better. If the opportunity avails itself, express your opinion in the interview. Chances are your interviewer is aware of the debate over the two rival apps but has not yet formed an opinion.
4. Start a blog. Before you say, “I don’t have time,” remember that none of the Internet’s 200 million bloggers have time to blog. However, many have learned to make the time and so can you. If you want to really go for it, get on WordPress. Otherwise, there is an easier way. It’s called Posterous, and it is, by far, the most painless way to blog. In 30 seconds you will be blogging. This platform caters to brevity. It's the perfect place for casual bloggers or social media skeptics. Try it out. Write a few lines about whatever crosses your mind. There, you are now officially a blogger. Who woulda thunk?
5. Read Mashable. If it’s happening in social media, you’ll find it here. Check out their site a couple times a week. Follow them on Twitter for live updates. Do this only after you have finished the four steps above. Otherwise, it’s probably not going to make much sense.
6. Update your LinkedIn profile. Go back to your profile and add all the nifty new social platforms you now inhabit. Make sure you use the same picture on all your Web assets. While there, why not join a few social media groups like Social Media Marketing or Inbound Marketers?
That’s it. You’re now a social media novice. This isn’t about bluffing your way through an interview. If you do these things, you actually will have taken a major step towards catching up with the social media crowd. Of course, you may still despise social media. But at least now you will have a more educated opinion. Either way, you are bound to fare better in interviews with companies or ad agencies who are looking to ramp-up their social skills.
Good luck, and please share any other thoughts on getting up to speed with social media.
Sean Duffy is a founder of Duffy Agency, the digital marketing agency for aspiring international brands. Sean has over 25 years of experience working with strategic marketing in Boston, San Francisco, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. In addition to his involvement with Duffy Agency, Sean is a frequent speaker on strategic international marketing and online brand management. He serves also as Lecturer and Practitioner in Residence at the Lund University School of Economics & Management and as Mentor in their Masters Program in Entrepreneurship. Sean is an active member of TAAN Worldwide where he has served two terms as the European Governor. He is also a speaker, blogger, Twitterer, and is on LinkedIn. With offices in Malmö and Boston, Sean splits his time between Sweden and the States.