Whether it is responding to positions posted on Twitter, finding hiring managers through LinkedIn, or even purchasing Google AdWords, it is becoming increasingly popular for applicants to take advantage of social media. However, my personal experience highlights how social media is a tool but not always a solution.
Not too long ago, I heard Robert Stephens, founder of the Geek Squad, speak at an event about advertising's future. I became enamored by the brand narrative created for the Geek Squad and how he doesn't believe there should be a divide between marketing and operations. He mentioned how Best Buy is using Twitter and that their @Twelpforce has answered over 28,000 questions through tweets. That is just staggering.
From one of Robert Stephens' tweets, I learned about "The Google Job Experiment" by Alec Brownstein before it became news on CNN. Brownstein bought Google AdWords of the names of several creative directors in New York City. When they or anyone else googled their names, an ad linking to Brownstein's Web site and portfolio appeared. Because of his efforts, he obtained a few interviews and eventually an offer. Not bad.
Inspired by this experiment, I placed my sights on obtaining an interview with Stephens. I bought Google AdWords and a LinkedIn ad, mailed a letter, and tweeted Best Buy's Twelpforce with a link to my Web site, With a retweet by @Agent3012 from Twelpforce, I heard back from him within an hour and a half of going live. Success! Through social media, I connected with an executive who started with $200 and a bicycle and now manages 24,000 Geek Squad "agents" worldwide.
A lot of wisdom can be found in Mike Ogden's post, “Using Social Media to Get to First Base.” Twitter connected me with an executive that is transforming an industry. It got me to first base, but it didn’t get me a job. Connecting and even engaging in conversation is not enough. It is an important step, but it does not equal a sale.
Drew Neisser of Renegade calls Best Buy’s Twitter efforts a good example of “Marketing as Service.” Best Buy isn’t pushing a message onto customers through social media. They are not just connecting and engaging with consumers. Instead, Best Buy solves important customer problems in real time, saving themselves money spent on call centers, and even more importantly, becoming a trusted resource that differentiates it from the competition.
Common advice given to job seekers is to understand themselves as “salesmen” who need to know their product very well and be able to convey why employers should buy it. It’s not the best advice. What can Best Buy’s efforts teach those seeking employment in today’s environment? Provide a service.
Early in my conversation with Stephens, he said he was “tactical” and asked, “What’s broken (with the Geek Squad)?” In other words, he was asking what specific problems I could solve for him. That’s different from me sharing my specific accomplishments and expertise. Many job applicants, like myself, have tried to pitch or sell a product. How many are presenting specific problems that we can solve? I’d rather provide a service than be a salesman.
Before everyone rushes out to purchase Google AdWords and follow hiring managers on Twitter, realize that social media may get you an interview, but it won’t automatically get you a job. Using social media may make you look technologically up-to-date, but it doesn’t answer how you are going to specifically make or save an employer money. Do your homework, connect, engage, and then be the only applicant who can provide a much-needed service.
Ed Reilly is a graduate of VCU Brandcenter and has worked as a researcher and strategist for advertising agencies and most recently, a product design firm. His breadth of experience includes immersion into NASCAR fan culture and empathizing with the hopes and fears of patients fighting severe illnesses. As his career has progressed, he has learned to value consumer insights without neglecting the need to create compelling product experiences. Connect with him on LinkedIn.