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Links with Your Coffee: News and Notes from Matthew Hurst

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At IDEO’s Humanizing Social Media event in February 2010, we explored the implications of social media on interpersonal communication. Rather than perpetuating the discussion of case studies and e-commerce during Social Media Week, this social experiment left us questioning how the communications shifts have impacted the way we develop new friendships online. Our cellphones were left at the front door and we exchanged our clothes for a plain white t-shirt affixed with buttons which carried tags that describe ourselves, like “blogger” and “geek” in my own case.

It was an thought provoking exercise, and now I can  finally share the results from this experiment with you.  We had a great night at this event, so much that I was awarded the honor of “Person with whom you’d most like to stranded on a desert island with”!  Look for yours truly to take a staring turn during the panel discussions, as captured in this video.

A little further news and notes not quite long enough to warrant a blog post of their own: (more…)

How to become a social media marketing professional (or at least how I got a job)

Matthew Hurst at a Future of Local Media event in October 2009

What can you do with a BA in Film Studies (or a minor in Philosophy for the matter)? Graduating into an otherwise uncertain job market can be scary; many of my classmates still weren’t sure how they could use their well-developed new media skills, much less where they might be employed.  For me the answer seemed obvious: I went right back into school to study strategic communication.

Yet this time last year I graduated once again, with an internship lined up but without a clear direction for my own career.  I could only dream of working as a social media pro, but my inexperience and overeducation seemed like insurmountable hurdles to post-graduate employment. Only recently was I finally able to find employment with a like-minded group of professionals who shared my passion for creating innovative websites and reinvigorating established brands through strategic online marketing.

Recently I heard from an old friend who wanted to break into online marketing and new media as well. Although I knew first hand of their knowledgeable understanding of online communication and social networks, their challenge was to demonstrate that knowledge to an potential employer. It’s the same reason why I went back into school to study communication, but in this business environment experience is valued more than education.

While I can’t speak for everyone, here’s what I think might help from my own experience:

  1. Create a resume website: ideally using your own name (like me), or else build your personal brand around a site you can make.
  2. Connect it with your social media profiles. Secure your name across platforms (even if your not sure how to use them yet).
  3. (more…)

I’m LinkedIn, but why?

It has been said that 8 out of 10 job opportunities come from sources outside of those advertised. So it might be assumed that social networks, especially those centered around professional relationships like LinkedIn, would be ideal tools to find jobs and recruit new talent. Yet in the experiences of many job hunters, including myself, social networks like LinkedIn have yet to live up to this promise.

Social networks are a great tool for HR professionals and other job recruiters, making it easier than ever to search for employees with the right experience and skills.  Besides Facebook and Twitter, social networks such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, Brazen Careerist, and Xing have become popular places to post resumes and connect with like minded professionals.  Sometimes these professional networks have been known to generate new business opportunities, but for many job seekers these sites offer no greater a resource to find employment than Monster.com.

Part of the problem lies in how LinkedIn is used differently than other social networks.  Once you’ve finished setting up your profile with your resume and begin to connect with other professionals, there is little else to do on the site. While LinkedIn has 50 million registered accounts, less than half are active at least monthly (according to Quantcast).

Besides expanding your network of connections, LinkedIn confines interaction between its users to those who are already connected. Even with the integration of Twitter into the LinkedIn platform, interactions between members of a network are largely limited to interpersonal discussion.  By comparison to the open/public conversations that make Facebook and Twitter so popular, the end effect is to make discussion seem closed-off or private, further discouraging discovery and interaction between its members.

To be sure these social networks are becoming more popular as professionals look for meaningful ways to network online, or at least in a different (less personal) way than Facebook or Myspace promotes.  According to a Pew report the median age of a LinkedIn user is 39, significantly older than Twitter (31) or Facebook (33).  Perhaps this better explains why these communities interact differently; LinkedIn users might feel they are finished using the network once they’ve set up a profile, rather than integrating social media as part their everyday lives.

In my own job search, LinkedIn could be playing a pivotal role, although so far its just a supporting piece of the puzzle.  To be sure I’ve written recommendations for colleagues, networked in groups like #PRStudChat, and reached out through mutual connections, all of which have expanded my network.  So far LinkedIn has yet to land me any meaningful job opportunities, at least compared to board-based services like Mediabistro and Craigslist.  Until LinkedIn can leverage of their social network to create opportunities, especially for individual users, its potential will continue to yield diminishing returns on investment for organizations.