Email wasn’t first social phenomenon the internet brought to the world, but it was the first to break through to the masses. It is behind the curtains; you have to be invited into a conversation. Maybe the person on the other end is a parent, maybe it’s a coworker, maybe it’s a friend. Email is a less urgent telephone call.
Then, Facebook arrived. It’s a safe way for long-lost lovers, could-have-beens, and just-missed-the-moments to reconnect and say all the things they wish they said years ago, when they were in their prime. It’s a time machine.
Facebook is also a way for college kids to get to know each other without really getting to know each other. Facebook is an avenue for you to spit out tiny bits of trivia about yourself: you like this movie, these are your favorite quotes. Here are a few pictures you’ve hand-selected that define you. It is you, but always the best side of you.
Before you know it, a few pokes back and forth with that girl you may or may not have met on Facebook turns into a wall conversation, which turns into going out together, and so on. Facebook is the most socially acceptable form of online dating we have. It is your past, present and future all rolled-up into one package.
Status updates brought Twitter to the party, where someone (or anyone) can get a quick snapshot of what you are thinking or feeling right now. It’s a way to share what you find interesting. It is a reassurance that you can shout out to the vast emptiness of the internet and know that someone, somewhere, is probably listening.
Twitter is an avenue for serendipitous social connections. It is far better than Facebook at cultivating a spontaneous, sometimes meaningful relationship with another person, regardless of where that person is physically located. It is the movie “Crash,” translated into ones and zeros and available to anyone with an internet connection.
Then came Foursquare. If people care what you had for lunch and what you’re thinking right now, then they’ll probably care about where you are right now, right? Foursquare rewards movement, going new places, and traveling in large crowds. Through Foursquare, the internet turns your world into the Oregon Trail.
And then there’s Instagram, one of the newer portals we have. If everyone cares what you’re doing right now and where you’re doing it, then surely they’ll want to see it through your eyes. Instagram is as close as an outsider can presently get to feeling what you feel . Instagram lets you easily and wordlessly show the world things you have created that you judge to be interesting and beautiful.
The one pattern I can pull from this timeline is how much more personal everything is getting. If you started out with email, you were having one-on-one conversations with a previously established connection. Facebook allowed you to share tiny, trivial bits of yourself with others and has since turned into a five, ten, or fifty year reunion. Twitter and Foursquare convinced you that the world cares about where you are right now and what you’re thinking. Instagram invites others to see the uniqueness and beauty of the world like you do.
The social web is getting more personal, more intimate. Piece by piece, you are shedding your protection. You are standing naked in front of millions of people, so to speak. I think that’s interesting, and it makes me intrigued by what the future brings.
Things are changing in my little neighborhood of blog-town. This is as much an explanation for what to expect out of me in the future as it is a reminder to Future Tom about the person I was. Bear with me, all 14 of you.
I’ve spent the last six or so months entrenched in a tiny bubble of the internet known as “ad-land.” I have learned a ton about advertising, social media, and marketing during this period because it’s my current passion. I like that in advertising you’re (theoretically) judged based on the quality of your ideas and your ability to make stuff. I like that good advertising can help shape pop culture. I want to be a part of that, so the last six months have been spent looking for a way to get my foot in the door of the advertising industry. It’s not an easy door to get into unless you have agency experience or a connection opens it for you.
Instead of zigging along on that path and waiting for the right ad job to pop up, I’m zagging. In a few days, I’m headed back to Madison, Wisconsin to be a Project Manager for a healthcare software company called Epic (cool name, right?).
It’s a huge change from what I’m used to. Since graduating, I’ve telecommuted to a PR firm in Houston. Working remotely is a strange experience, and it’s much different than working at an office (I wrote about it for The Next Great Generation. Check it out). I’ve never worked in a “real office” for a “real job” before, so it’ll be an interesting world to jump into.
Starting the new job creates a whirlwind of contradictory feelings. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s an overwhelming relief that I was finally able to get a great full-time job. It’s unexpected. It’s an amazing chance to learn new things, gain some new skills, and grow as a person. It’s also a little sad, because I’m going to have to give up a certain amount of writing, reading blogs, and tweeting.
But that doesn’t mean I have to (or am willing to) quit cold turkey. I’m still going to be that person who will be all-too eager to tell you which agency created that ad campaign and what I think of it. I’m still going to write whenever I get the chance, and a lot of it will still be about advertising and social media. Hell, maybe even some of my posts will be about non-advertising topics, like working with teams and all the new things I’m learning. I’m still going to read as many ad blogs as I can, and I’m still going to tweet about stupid things, interesting things, fun things, and funny things.
Basically, you’re still stuck with me. You just have to put up with less of me. Who knows, someday I’ll zag again and end up having a part in creating the ads I can’t stop rambling about. Only time will tell.
Wish me luck, folks. I might need it.
[10/13 Update: Oh, they added Facebook into your Klout score now too. So, theoretically Facebook can affect your job search (beyond the random drunk pictures, etc)]
Alright, so you’ve done everything possible to look like an ideal job candidate. You created a top-notch resume filled with more volunteer work than Mother Teresa and more internship experience than Kenneth the Page. Never mind that it hasn’t been released yet, you’re ALREADY proficient in Microsoft Office 2015. There are no pictures of you doing kegstands on Facebook, and you have even taken some of my advice and learned how to use social media to get hired. You’re ready to enter the professional world. You’re pretty much a lock to land a job, right?
Well, let me ask you one more question: What’s your Klout score?
Whoa there cowboy, what’s a Klout score?
Klout bills itself as “The Standard for Influence” online. Basically, it’s a service that measures how “influential” you are online. You simply plug in your Twitter handle and it will generate a score between 0-100 for you. The more influential you are and the wider your reach is online, the higher your Klout score is. It is based on a number of different variables, like the size of your audience, if your content is being acted upon (retweeted, etc), and the influence your audience has. If you want a more detailed explanation, go here. This is all fine and dandy if you’re a little vain like me and just want to know what your score is (a few years from now, everyone might be “Klouting” themselves instead of using that old-timey Google).
It doesn’t mean anything, right?
Well, it might mean something. I had been aware of Klout for a few months now, but I wasn’t aware of its clout (see what I did there?) in the recruiting world until today. To me, it was shocking to see that some employers consider your Klout score as part of the application process. Said in a more alarmist way, you may be denied some job opportunities just because you aren’t popular enough on Twitter.
That’s right. 20 years ago, you could do anything you wanted in your personal time, and as long as your background check turned up clean, you could probably land a nice job. Fast forward to 2007, and you had to make sure that your MySpace and Facebook pages were “clean” to get a job. Our generation is now faced with another employment roadblock: “influence.” Now we have to worry about whether or not we’re being retweeted and if we have enough influential followers. It adds a whole new layer to the already-complicated job search.
But don’t quit and join the circus yet…
It’s not quite time to panic and give up. If you’re looking to be an accountant or electrical engineer, you’re probably never going to have to worry about how influential you are online. Influence is only an issue for in industries like social media marketing, advertising, and media. Even if you are in one of those industries, don’t jump ship yet. If any company uses only Klout scores to weed out the “bad” candidates, you probably don’t want to work for them anyways, because they don’t get it. As Edward Boches, a very influential person in the ad game on and offline (he has a Klout score of 52, OMG), notes:
[Klout] appears to emphasize the impact of one’s “push” content on Twitter and Facebook – reach, influence, re-tweeting. But it can’t identify the rest of the qualities – conversation strategy, flexibility, timeliness, and authenticity – that a smart agency or brand should look for in a social strategist.
Essentially, it’s not measuring the quality of your content, nor is it measuring other important qualities like how quickly you respond and how authentic you are. Just like a résumé can’t tell you everything about a candidate, Klout can’t measure your personality or your fit with the company’s culture. It’s not a complete picture.
I fear that social media illiterate employers are going to use Klout score as a shortcut, much like looking at the number of followers one has. Instead of actually READING someone’s tweets, they’re just going to check out Klout and get an incomplete view of that person. They’d use it like a pre-résumé to weed out the “unworthy ones.” That would not be good, and a lot of stellar employees would get passed over because of it.
Building influence and followers on Twitter is a time-intensive process. I hope that I’m not instantly disregarded because I only have a Klout score in the teens, because I’d like to think that my opinions are valuable and the content I spread is worthwhile. Because of technology and the economy, it’s harder than ever to find a job. I just hope that recruiters don’t put too much trust in “influencer” metrics, and if they do happen to use something like Klout, I hope they take the time to actually read my Twitter feed first.
One final question: Can you guess who has a score of 100 on Klout?
What do you think of Klout? Do you think it’s fair that some companies use it during the screening process?
Sometimes, the internet reinforces my belief in humanity because of the vast amount of creative energy and raw intelligence that I see while surfing. Everywhere I look, there’s an idea being hashed out, a hilariously unexpected joke created, and something new being created. There are people with great ideas all over the internet, but the only place they are able to express these ideas is in the comments section of blogs or on their own blogs and social media accounts.
Advertisers and creative think-tanks are providing a new arena in which people can let their creative juices flow: crowdsourcing.
Regardless of what you call it (apparently it’s now called “creative collaboration”), crowdsourcing aims to take the creative energy of the masses and focus it on brainstorming, innovation, and other projects. Think of it as mass freelancing with even less commitment. Basically, crowdsourcing is outsourcing a project to a large amount of people through an open invitation to collaborate (often on the internet). Crowdsourcing is a major trend in advertising and marketing, and I think it can be beneficial for both parties. Here’s how.
Crowdsourcing can be a valuable and worthwhile practice for agencies. Don’t believe me? Here’s a snippet from the website of a crowdsourcing ad agency in Boulder, Victors and Spoils:
“Current factors such as radical transparency, the consumer’s demand to be more involved and a growing cost consciousness regarding clients’ budgets have all made crowdsourcing especially timely for today’s marketers”
Let’s touch on each one of those points:
-Radical transparency, as I’ve talked about before, is really popular with my generation. We as consumers want to know what is going on with the brands we buy. What’s more transparent than consumers actually having a part in creating the ad? Brands can gain consumer’s trust by using crowdsourcing principles.
-Because we want greater transparency, we want to be involved. Consumers just like to have a say in things. Just look at how many people vote for the next American Idol every year. People want to participate. Again, this allows the ad agency and brand to gain the trust of the public.
-There’s a famous quote: “Half of all advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” These days, it’s even harder to determine the return on investment of your advertising (though there’s a surplus of “experts” out there who can do it for you). This makes clients even more wary of spending their money on advertising.
Crowdsourcing can also be beneficial for people wishing to get their ideas out there. As I said before, people just want to participate and help out. Crowdsourcing allows individuals to let their voices be heard. Here are some other reasons why I think the masses want to join in:
-Foot-in-the-door: It’s a tough job market out there. Anything an individual can do to stand above the clutter is great; your chances of being noticed in the ad community would definitely increase if you showed off some of your work in a crowdsourcing contest.
-Practice: Participating in crowdsourcing also allows you to hone your creative skills. If you join in, you can work on many different projects; use this to your advantage. Play around with different writing/design skills; you know you can’t get fired, so you can really go big or go home. Practice working on real brands and products with real briefs is important, so you should take any opportunity you can to hone your craft.
-Rewards: Sometimes, brands will crowdsource ideas through a contest. Netflix did this about a year ago when they wanted a new recommendation algorithm. The prize was $1,000,000! Crowdsourcing can be quite lucrative for the winners of these contests. Even if you don’t win, you still get some practice in your field and some notoriety in your industry for trying.
Of course, there are going to be some horror stories. Vegemite tried to crowdsource a new name, and the crowd picked “iSnack 2.0” as the new name (seriously). Agencies can’t let the crowd do everything; copywriters and art directors are hired for a reason, and many in the crowd simply aren’t as good as agency staff. Crowdsourcing is great for brainstorming new concepts, ideas, and rough drafts, but agencies probably shouldn’t crowdsource an entire project. Brands still want an agency’s expertise.
Crowdsourcing obviously isn’t the solution to every brand’s problem, but it is an interesting new way to think about innovation and brainstorming. Once we learn how to effectively tap into the internet for ideas and we learn how to incentivize those participating in crowdsourcing, I see it becoming an even bigger trend. Ideas are all around us; it’s just up to us to find out how to use them.
What do you think? Is crowdsourcing worth it? I’d love to hear your responses.