Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Using social media as job search and career development business analysis resources 3: tapping into a wider range of insider sources 2

This is my third installment to a series on the points of intersection between business intelligence and its gathering, and social media and related interactive online channels as sources of actionable information and insight, as they can be applied to job search and career development (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I focused in Part 2 as an initial step in that, on gathering information from more traditional central publishing-sourced resources. And I ended that posting by stating that I would turn here to discuss traditional approaches to business social networking, adding that after addressing them I would add new and still emerging social media options to this mix, there primarily focusing on its use in business intelligence gathering. And as a final organizing thought for that posting, and perhaps even for this series as a whole, I added these discussion-organizing thoughts:

• The job candidate and career planner who takes an ongoing, long-term-perspective approach
• And who cultivates the widest-reaching information gathering practices in their job search and career development endeavors,
• Is long-term going to be more successfully competitive in finding and securing the right jobs for themselves and in advancing in their chosen career paths.

I begin this third series installment with those final thoughts, as a grounding point for this overall discussion. The more you know, the better the questions you will ask, the better you will be able to respond to the questions of others, and the more informed the decisions you can make. And with that in mind, I turn from that higher level consideration to focus on adding social media into your information gathering mix, and in both its newer and in its already more established and mainstream-standard forms.

I have to clarify what I mean by social media here, as I take a somewhat more open-ended view on that than most people do. Technologies come and sometimes in a flood of buzz, they age and with time they go, or at least lose any claim on being cutting edge. In this posting and in series and in fact in general, I think of social media more in terms of how software and communications channels are used, than in terms of specific software tools or online sites. Knowing the current cutting edge and “cool” to use a no-longer cool term is helpful and can be important, but I am not time-stamping this in that way here.

• Software and online connectivity resources become social media resources when people figure out how to use them as such and they become more explicitly so when more and more people begin to actively use them in that way and in large actively networked and interactively engaged numbers.

So old-style online chat rooms and bulletin boards were social media resources – because they were used in that way. And so are more recent but still long-standing resources such as Facebook and Twitter that everyone sees as social media in nature. And new interactive communications and sharing resources go online all of the time, just as new features are added to more established ones. But I start here with a resource that is so old, and to many so stogy that few would ever consider it to be a social media channel at all: email.

Email, and this goes back to well before it was called that, was the still embryonic internet’s first killer app. When the internet was still a very limited, government controlled research project called ARPANET, it was quickly realized that the engineers and scientists who worked on it and were building it, needed to be able to quickly communicate through it to exchange data and findings and to share ideas. This then still new messaging tool was in fact used for that purpose, but it very quickly came to be used for social messaging too. And that social media side to its use quickly came to dominate this early email system’s traffic flow. As an aside, I have to add that this was when spam was born too, with the open distribution of a first spam advertisement that was sent out to everyone on that system, but that is probably more a topic for a different series. My point here is that email was not built with anything like social media in mind, but it very quickly came to be seen and used as such. And this was true on a more micro-scale for its flows of individual social messages and on a more macro-scale for its community building through connections building within and between groups of likeminded individuals – individuals who were geographically distributed across the entire country who would otherwise never have socially communicated together at all.

• If a communications channel can be made to be interactive, it will be.
• And if an interactive communications channel can be turned in its use to the sharing of social media messages it will be.
• And as we all network at least within our own local groups, and as those groups overlap with that overlap encompassing larger communities than any of us individually directly know,
• The impact of this flow of social messaging can and with time will serve to build wider-ranging connections and it will build and reinforce larger and larger interactively interconnected communities. This is not about specific communications protocols or tools used, or sharable file formats supported and it is not about rich-format communications sharing that have become the hallmark of more modern social media; this is about what these communications attempts seek to do and it is about what they can and do accomplish, and even when bandwidth and range of sharable content types and the tools for connecting and sharing them are more limited.

And with that in place, I come to the central conundrum, and I add the central challenge that we all face when using interactive online resources, and certainly when we seek to do so in a professional context, and in the context of jobs and careers development:

• The media, to challenge Marshall McLuhan’s dictum, is not always the message. Sometimes the message itself is.

I am going to flip this discussion around in at least one future installment to this series, to discuss the sometimes mixed messages that we ourselves convey and that that others can and do convey about us online and through social media. But my focus here is on the implications of this when using these resources, when gathering in business intelligence in our own job search and career development efforts. And the important points to raise here in that context are that:

• The flow of messages that can be tapped into online about a business of interest can be and usually are varied and diverse, and certainly as social media has created opportunity for essentially everyone in a business to publically communicate through open, globally reaching forums.
• And both recurringly repeated, and more one-off, differing-view messages can offer real value and real insight to us.

More modern social media tools support reaching out more openly to a wider community without having to resort to endless CC-all, and without having to retrace the steps of that primordial spammer that I made note of above and blast-email to some entire unsuspecting email directory listing. Even older, explicitly social media resources did that much. Here the challenge becomes one of finding and filtering out carefully selected sources of value, and assembling an informative puzzle from the pieces so selected.

I am going to begin that with a communications channel that I myself have made significant use of over the years, and both on my own initiative and for my own purposes and when working with businesses and organizations in helping to advance their goals: blogs. And I will begin there with one of the largest and most influential information technology and consulting services companies on earth: IBM and with one of its publically facing employee blog portals: IBM developerWorks.

IBM is one of the more active businesses in this type of online marketing and communications arena, but an increasing number of businesses, large and smaller, have in effect opened their doors to a wider-sourced sharing of information of this type too. In this case, you can find out about many and even most of this company’s business lines, in detail and from the specific people who work in them. This type of channel can offer so much information, that it can be difficult to even know where to begin in perusing and using it.

• Obviously, if you are interested in pursuing job and career opportunities at a company like IBM that supports this type of communications, explore the lines of the business that you yourself would see as jobs and careers targets and find out what others already there are doing and with what priorities and with what overall expressed goals.
• If you see patterns that would help you to identify the markets they service, take a look at them to see if they are expanding, holding steady or contracting and less likely to continue to need this type of externally sourced support.
• And see if you can identify likely at least categorical level in-house stakeholder clients for the units that you are interested in as well, study and seek to understand them too and with the same goal of understanding where this business you would work for is going.
• Now turning back to reconsider the bloggers you find yourself reading postings from, identify people of interest who you find from reading their posted material, and look them up on business social networking sites such as LinkedIn. If they offer insightful information there too, indicating that they actually use that site, reach out to them and certainly reach out in response to specific blog postings they have shared and certainly if they show a work email address on their blog pages – which many of these blog portals do.
• Use this type of resource both to gather more detailed information and as a tool for helping you to network into the companies that interest you.

I began with those blogs because they offer real insight into what real individual people do at a business, and then moved on to networking out to connect with them. And so far I have stuck to very, very well established channels. Use them, and add on newer channels as appropriate, and particularly when you seek to target newer, younger leadership demographic businesses.

I am going to finish this posting by noting a brief set of points that should be obvious:

• Corporate-sponsored and supported blogs always strongly seek to hew to a more official corporate marketing line, and both in what they do and do not publically say and in how they say it.
• But real individual people share their information and their perspectives and opinions through their online postings and through posted replies to comments submitted, and that means they share something of their own views and both as to what they are doing, and as to what they see as needing to be done. And that brings me back to a point that I made earlier in this posting where I stated that “both recurringly repeated, and more one-off, differing-view messages can offer real value and real insight to us.” Look for both, and look for businesses that allow for a certainly diversity of opinion and even in officially supported communications channels. At least in my experience, that type of business is more likely to support and I add reward creativity and innovation and it can be a place that supports professional growth and development – and in ways that a more tightly standardized, regimented business is less likely to match.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider Facebook and other more socially oriented social networking sites, Twitter and file sharing sites, and other, newer and more spontaneous social media resources. And in anticipation of that, I note that when employees use these resources they can and do share a much wider and a much more varied and even conflicting message than when their employing business does through its formal marketing and communications efforts. And they can and often do share a more complex and varied message through these more explicitly social, social media channels than they themselves would through more formal channels such as blogs too. Then after that, I will turn this discussion around to consider what we say about ourselves and about who we are, and about what we offer as a potential employee in our own jobs and careers initiatives. And yes, I will continue working on the to-address list of points first raised in Part 1 of this series too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. And you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page too.

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