BY RAYZA GOLDSMITH
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 22, 2011
In the search for an entry-level job or summer internship, it's hard to ignore the amount of positions in managing social media. Just a few years ago, these jobs didn't exist, but with the launch of Facebook in 2004, social networks not only redefined the way people interact, but profoundly influence one of the most important aspects of an individual's life: their job.
Social media has created a new set of career possibilities for college graduates and has changed the character of existing fields like marketing and advertising. It has even changed the way people who would otherwise prefer to have nothing to do with social media network and apply for jobs.
Tweeting for a job
Social media is the defining characteristic of “Web 2.0.” While the Internet began as a way to deliver content to users, the growth of social media networks has built the Internet into a platform for users to interact with one another.
Scott Campbell, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University, sees social media networks as portals for connections among people.
“Social media is a movement toward being sensitive to the fact that what people really want are opportunities to connect with other people, access content on their own, create content on their own (and) exchange content, as opposed to having stuff fed to them,” Campbell said.
The evolution of the Internet has brought about an evolution in the job market as well. Today, job seekers use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to network with other professionals and find job postings.
But job hunters aren’t the only people using social media for career purposes. Employers today have the ability to go online and analyze job applicants’ social media presence before conducting interviews or before making a job offer.
Scott Tsuchiyama, community manager for the Univerisity's Career Center, says social media is influential in the job hiring process.
“It’s definitely a double-edged sword,” Tsuchiyama said.
According to a Nov. 9 posting on the Career Center’s blog, 91 percent of the group of 300 hiring managers surveyed visit social media sites to view candidates’ online profile. Of those surveyed, 69 percent said the information they found caused them to reject a job applicant, and 68 percent said the information influenced them to hire the candidate.
An individual’s social media presence can make or break his or her job prospects.
Social media is a force to be reckoned with in the job market, but Tsuchiyama notes the benefits of a social media presence can outweigh the potential harm.
He advises students to build a strong LinkedIn account and put together a professional Twitter, which will likely be the first sites employers will see when conducting a quick Google search.
Selling the product
In addition to the impact social media has had on the job application process, it has provided a whole new world of job opportunities for those particularly enamored with social networking.
Lindsay Blackwell graduated from the University in 2010 with a degree in English and linguistics. But for her, social media marketing was always her main focus.
Blackwell gained notoriety in October when she launched a campaign to become the University's social media director, a new position offered by Lisa Rudgers, the University’s vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives.
Blackwell’s campaign, titled “Dear Lisa Rudgers,” is embodied by the website she created, www.dearlisarudgers.com, which features a video résumé and tabs with information about why she wants the job and why the University should hire her.
The site has had more than 14,000 individual visitors in 62 different countries since it launched on Oct. 10, and Blackwell has been consistently updating the site since then.
Blackwell sees the position at the University social media director as her ideal job because if she received the position, it would allow her to get paid to do what she loves.
“I can’t stop being excited about social media because it’s always changing and that, to me, makes it such an enticing career path,” Blackwell said.
Though social media is always evolving, Blackwell insists it will continue to be relevant.
“We’re going to start seeing social media as less of a fun thing that is fun to mess around with or waste time with,” Blackwell said. “It’s going to be more of an extension of ourselves and really a primary resource for how people are getting their news and finding out things about people.”
This is why Blackwell feels making social media use into a job is crucial to any institution, like the University, that wants to effectively promote itself.
“I think it’s important for any company or institution who’s considering focusing on social media to recognize that it is a full-time job, first of all, that’s the first distinction to make,” Blackwell said. “It’s not something you can pass off on an intern to do on their lunch break.”
Yet it is impossible to measure the impact of an institution’s social media presence without the technology for data tracking and programs used to track how many people actually make a purchase or attend an event after visiting a social media page. This information provides valuable insight into the scope of a group’s social media influence, and represents another way to participate in the social media job trend.
Blackwell’s dream job represents one fork in the social media career path: marketing. The University social media director will be responsible for promoting the University through existing social media platforms and an existing Public Affairs department, which resembles many other social media jobs available today.
The future of social media
Network developers represent another side to the social media job phenomenon that doesn’t include marketing or branding experience. LSA senior Jake Steinerman recently accepted a job with the international corporation Dow Chemical.
At Dow, Steinerman will be working to implement a social network for approximately 50,000 employees at the company.
Internal social networks are the new fad for Fortune 500 companies. These networks, which are operated on existing platforms created by companies like IBM and Yammer, are the future of communication among employees — particularly within big corporations — where there is a greater degree of separation between employees.
Internal networks are attractive to big companies because they are only accessible to employees can be integrated with other work tools. For example, employees who are collaborating on a document can track the progress of their co-workers and send an instant message within the platform of the document.
The University uses an internal social network operated by Yammer, a social networking site made for enterprises.
Even Steinerman, who said he considers himself proficient in social media, only discovered these internal networks through his internship with Nationwide Insurance last summer.
Networks created exclusively for business purposes within a given institution are only just emerging and represent the future of social media applications.
The University has also placed an emphasis on this type of social media. In fall 2008, it introduced informatics, a new academic major offered through LSA, the School of Information and the College of Engineering.
Through this program, students like Steinerman — who will graduate with a degree in informatics — “learn to critically analyze various approaches to processing information and develop skills to design, implement, and evaluate the next generation of information technology tools,” according to the program’s website.
One of the four subsections of the concentration is “social computing,” which prepares students to analyze existing social media platforms, know what consumers want and learn how to create new social media networks.
In terms of getting involved in the social media surge, Steinerman thinks it’s now or never.
“We’re at this point where we’re going to define how people communicate in the future,” Steinerman said. “This is the time to get involved in it because what you do now is going to be what our kids use in 20 years … it’s at this evolutionary point in communication.”