Social Media Jobs: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t, Now You Do

On October 1, an article by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes on Fortune’s website proclaimed “The social media manager is dead. Long live social media.

Just two days later, PR News’ blog was sharing an infographic about “The Rise of the Social Profession.”

Infographic: The Rise of the Social Profession

So which is it? Are social media jobs increasing or decreasing?

As with any set of numbers and statistics, it’s all in how you look at it.

With the infographic, data was collected from LinkedIn over several years. Based on that, social media positions have increased on the network by 1,357 percent since 2010.

Holmes’ piece referenced a Quartz story from September 12, which notes job postings that mention social media in their description on the site Indeed gained 89 percent since 2012. While that’s not as much growth and a shorter span of time, both the Indeed data and the LinkedIn data seem to agree that job postings mentioning social media are growing.

So why did Holmes’ proclaim the social media manager dead? Because while social media continues to grow as a desired skill in job postings, it’s not only for postings that have social media in their title. Shel Holtz noted on his Facebook page that several articles have been written over the last couple of months about the decline in social media manager job postings, but that organizations still need someone to coordinate things like tools and governance. This led to a lot of great discussion amongst several “heavy hitters” in the social arena.

I’ve been inclined myself to lean in the same direction as Shel. While I think integration of social media into many different jobs at different levels of an organization is ideal, I’ve also felt that there needed to be some strong leadership – especially in a very large and disperse organization. If everyone is in charge, then no one is in charge.

But, maybe I’m looking at this too hierarchically. Have my many years within the corporate world where, despite goals of meritocracy, titles still carry weight, led me to confuse leadership with organization? Are leaderless teams chaos or true democracy? Does a social media leader within an organization need the title of social media manager to lead?

Some of this line of thinking was spurred by an article in Harvard Business Review titled “When No One’s in Charge,” and the comments on it such as this:

“BUT, of course, leaderless does not mean there is no leadership… rather it means that leadership is distributed or devolved …decades ago i convinced my prime minister to run a leaderless cabinet office… it was a theoretical master-piece for a full 6 months..everyone love it…it worked a treat, well almost…it was fine internally but it was a disaster externally… all the departments around it, which depended on it for direction and control, were hierarchical bureaucracies and they could not work with a free-wheeling policy unit at the core of the government…it was disbanded before it celebrated its first birthday…as with many great ideas it is ‘the unintended consequences’ that accompany their implementation that restricts their success….leaderless entities will become more common in our digital global economy but they will have to be a good fit with their purpose and their environs if they are to survive….”

One line of thinking is that social media is a tool that everyone will use and it will become as ubiquitous as email. I said myself upon my last job change: “Social media won’t be my job title, but it will certainly remain a part of the way I do my job. And that’s exactly the way I think it should be.”

But… even if it is as basic a tool as email or the telephone, within an organization there still remain today departments with people who are responsible for making sure that email and telephones work. Sure every manager must play a role in hiring, managing and sometimes firing employees, but most do so with the guidance of a Human Resources professional.

So while the title of social media manager may be dwindling, and true leaders in social media don’t necessarily have to carry such a title to lead, someone still needs to be tasked with managing the infrastructure.

I wonder what their title will be?

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Exploring God Through Old Media, Social Media and Content Marketing

Questions about the impact of social media on religion are as old as social media — although certainly not as old as religion.

Many other bloggers and journalists have opined on the topic, books have been written about it, and a Google Scholar search turns up more than a million results.

There are the major players like the Pope who’s “Selfie Blows Up Twitter,” the grassroots themes of sunrises and sunsets inspiring digital adoration of God as artist, and even the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced that missionaries will do less door-to-door proselytizing, and instead, use the Internet to recruit new church members.a billboard in Austin, TX, with #ExploreGod on it

But much closer to my home, I’ve been watching with great interest as billboards began popping up all over Austin with simply “#ExploreGod” on them. I only wondered a short time what it was all about before I heard at my church that we were joining more than 300 other churches in Central Texas, from at least 12 different denominations, in a four-month campaign to invite people to investigate questions about God in a non-threatening way.

It was evident that social media was part of this campaign when billboards sporting hashtags popped up, but ExploreGod pulled off a truly integrated marketing campaign with their website, out of home advertising, online video, DVDs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, livestreaming broadcasts of Q&A forums, daily messages that could be delivered to your inbox or cell phone, and… of course, the powerful word of mouth from the pulpit with a sermon series on seven common questions about God and faith. Talk about your content creation!

My own weekly Bible study group made up of members from two different non-denominational Christian churches, and one mostly agnostic skeptic that likes to play devil’s advocate, has been using the DVDs and study guide.  Last week’s question of “Is Christianity Too Narrow?” was one of my favorites so far.

The well-produced videos have sparked good conversation, although our agnostic hasn’t really changed his stance. But, I don’t think the goal was really conversion, so much as encouraging conversation.

Too many people proclaiming their Christianity today are doing a lot of talking about what they think God wants people to do and believe, but they’re doing little listening and showing little grace, and this creates an environment where other Christians fear conversation about their beliefs will alienate or offend. So ExploreGod says, “If our work here can start a good conversation and give you something valuable to think about in your own life, then we’ve done what we’ve set out to do.”

For that I applaud them. And as a communicator, I admire them for their ability to create such expansive content, leveraging just about every modern marketing tool plus the old reliable ones, and to bring together hundreds of different congregations in support of it.

Surprisingly, the church with the Instagraming Pontiff was not one of them.

Write Hard. Share Soft.

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately, even though you haven’t seen much of it here this month.Lapel pin that reads "Write Hard. Die Free"

Two posts on writing crossed my radar this week that I wanted to share – the first of which is actually about how much you should share on the Internet.

Since this is a personal blog in the sense that I’m not trying to generate any business through it, my topics can sometimes be of a personal nature. Alongside a lot of posts about social media, I’ve blogged about vacation trips and parenting, issues facing women and girls, books I’ve read and talks I’ve attended.

But, there have been times when big things were going on in my personal life that I didn’t share here. Sometimes because I’m thinking about how they might reflect on me personally and professionally, but often because I’m thinking about the impact on other people involved and what their comfort level is with me sharing.

Sarah Kathleen Peck shared her personal rules for this on her blog this week when she asked “How much should you share with the internet, anyways?

Peck says she only shares about a quarter of the things she’s written, if not much less, but she still writes to process things that will remain private. “Share everything with yourself. Put your words down, write your heart out, and keep that journal flush with ideas,” she suggests. Perhaps it’s something I should consider doing in an old-fashioned paper journal.

If I get to the point where I’m typing it out long-form, I’m probably going to post it, so for me there’s a lot left unwritten. Unlike the many emails I’ve typed saying what I really wanted to say in response to someone, but deleted before hitting send. <wink> And, I have often censored myself on Twitter. Learned that lesson early.

The platform of Twitter was a big part of the next essay that caught my eye – “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing” where Thomas Beller ponders how great literary figures might view Twitter and how much we currently think in public.

He also hits on reason I might like Twitter so much: “…because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line.” He also notes that it brings a sense of performance to writing, because it’s being done live.

I’m not sure I’ve written much about it here, but a somewhat dormant passion of mine is dancing. When asked in a creative writing class once to write about my favorite place, the dance studio with its well-worn wooden floors and walls of mirrors was the place I selected. But, the stretching, the learning, the practicing done there is all about taking it to the stage. As much satisfaction as I get just from the act of dancing, there’s something to be said for the validation of hard work through the applause of an audience.

But writing and tweeting are different from dancing because they involve words rather than movement. Beller ponders if putting an idea into a tweet makes it public and whether that fact diminishes the chances it will grow into something “sturdy and lasting.”

I’ve often thrown out tweets with the hope I might get some nibbles of interest in the topic, so I could then use the resulting conversation in a blog post. But, more often than not, they simply drift along the twitterstream like one of many fall leaves in a creek. Lost in the multitude and not eliciting any response.

Are they unseen or is the topic just not intriguing to others? Beller asks in his piece, whether writing that is never seen by anyone other than its author even exists?  I think I know what Peck’s answer would be.

I started this blog as just a writing practice exercise and I try to remind myself that is all it is, rather than worrying about Google Analytics or how many comments, shares or likes each posts receives. But, I’d be lying to say I don’t get a little joy whenever someone does say they like what I put down here.

My thanks to both Peck and Beller for their thought-provoking pieces this week. May they start their weekend on a high note knowing that someone out there was listening.

Image via Creative Commons by Mel Green

Israel and Palestine Bring Evolution, not Revolution, to Propaganda with Social Media

As the roar of the shells has died down, so too has all the talk of social media’s role in the most recent Israel-Palestine conflict. A WIRED UK headline earlier this month exclaimed Israel “loses social media war to Hamas,” but that’s about all I’ve seen on the topic since the new year started.

I actually began writing this post back in November, and my original headline was “Everything Old is New Again.”  Not because the conflict between these two is ancient – it is – but, because the use of propaganda is also ancient. Leveraging the new tools of social media is simply keeping up with the times, rather than revolutionizing the process.

Just how old is propaganda? Well, you could say it’s as old as the existence of stone monuments that described kings and even a female Pharaoh.

According to the Oxford Reference, the word propaganda is derived from the Vatican’s establishment of the Sacre Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in 1622. “Before 1914, propaganda was usually associated with religion and the implanting of ideas to be cultivated in support of existing beliefs and ‘faith’. Its wartime applications, in the Napoleonic or the American independence wars, were confined largely to calls to arms, lampooning the enemy, glorifying victory, and sustaining morale,” it notes.

Cover of the book Comic Art Propaganda  - by Fredrik Strömberg Munitions of the Mind traces propaganda back to even earlier times of warfare. From those stone monuments I mentioned to paintings, print, radio, television and computers, the scholarly book points out that “throughout history, propaganda has had access to ever more complex and versatile media.”

And, that’s all that happened when the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and Hamas’ Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades took to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr and just about every other major social network to make their case to the world for why their side was right. Propaganda simply moved to the media of the current times.

Tweet of Hamas Comic ImageToday’s infographics are simply an electronic version of yesterday’s comics, rather than the “disconnect between that messaging and the bombing taking place in real life” that Alex Kantrowitz talked about in his Forbes piece that called the use of social media both “groundbreaking” and “bizarre.”

Spanish Civil Ware Propaganda FlyerAre hashtags really that much more radical than small leaflets in packets of cigarette paper sent by rocket over enemy lines during the Spanish Civil War in late 1938? Sure, the potential audience is larger, but then we get into the whole debate about broadcast messages versus targeted messages and which has the greater response rate or drives actual action and change.

What is new in this evolution of propaganda is the ability to know who the individual is behind it. It’s possible that the stone carvers, painters and comic artists creating monuments, murals and booklets were known by a small circle for their work, but it was much easier (and probably safer) to hide that involvement from most.

In today’s connected environment, the creator can become equally as known as what they create.

One Jewish publication, Tablet, highlighted “The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media” opening the curtain on what had to happen behind the scenes to convince military leadership that social media was indeed a powerful tool to be leveraged. It sounds very similar to the challenge anyone in a large corporation faces when seeking budget for new initiatives.

But, there is also the less-flattering side of being responsible for an organization’s presence in social media. Many have lost face, or even lost jobs, for their snafus. Military propagandists are not immune.

A photo posted by one member of the IDF new media team in September came back to haunt him months later as the military conflict and the social media propaganda heated up. An image of him at the Dead Sea’s mud baths with a controversial caption led to accusations of racism and led him to restrict public access to his Facebook profile.

It’s a good reminder to everyone, whether you work in social media communications or not, to not only check your privacy settings, but also always remember that anything you say or are photographed doing can and will be used against you.

“Its results may be beneficial or harmful. It can cause victory or death, and today it is a potent and highly influential instrument for the deliberate and purposeful leadership of peoples,“ a U.S. Navy publication said of the subject of its title: “Propaganda.”

The “today” they referred to was 1958, but it might as well be 2013.

 

LinkedIn Builds Its Portfolio with Endorsements and Influencer Blogs

LinkedIn has been very busy lately trying to make sure their own profile is more complete.

First, they rolled out something for company pages called Featured Updates – a new way for businesses to highlight their content by promoting it to the top of their company update stream. Unlike Facebook which seems to be dreaming up more and more ways to make companies pay to get their content out, this is a free feature that lets brands give prominent placement to news they want to highlight and spotlight it for up to 48 hours.

Next, in an effort to bring more individual users to the site, they rolled out a new blogging platform. Publishing is only available to 150 specially selected “influencers” currently, but LinkedIn says it will be adding more in the future. One of them could be you – or your boss. They’re accepting applications from LinkedIn members who can provide quality content on a consistent basis. If you’re a communicator supporting a high-level executive who is finally ready to start blogging, rather than start from scratch, it might be worth applying to get them on the LinkedIn platform with its built-in readership.LinkedIn Thought Leaders

Current business and leadership luminaries blogging on the site include our U.S. presidential candidates, Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, and social media maven Steve Rubel who announced his involvement with this tweet on October 2: “LinkedIn now allows you to follow experts. I was invited prior to the launch. Here are my posts. http://lnkd.in/j9kyfV  http://lnkd.in/HSE2iU

“Unlike Twitter, which emphasizes short-form content, and Facebook, which lacks curation, LinkedIn’s publishing service will place value on higher-quality content from a select number of influencers, according to Daniel Roth, executive editor at LinkedIn,” reports FastCompany.

LinkedIn, which had revenue of $522 million last year, makes money from selling ads and premium subscriptions, as well as from offering specialized services to recruiters, according to Reuters. The news service notes that this change could spur people to spend more time on LinkedIn, allowing the company to generate more advertising revenue.

But, it’s this next new feature that generated the most mixed response and caused some to cry that the network “went Klout on us.”

LinkedIn Connection Director Nicole Williams said “Getting an endorsement from a trusted contact enhances your skillset and shows that someone else has put their trust in you.”

But, I don’t predict these one-click endorsements can replace recommendations – at least not in value. It is as easy as giving +K on Klout, but at a certain point it becomes just so much noise. Sure that person has 50 people who say they’re skilled at marketing campaigns, but how many of them are just friends, or worse, casual acquaintances looking for reciprocal endorsements? Taking the time to describe someone’s experience by writing a recommendation shows that you really know what they’ve accomplished.

Endorsing someone is quick. Just click on an existing skill they’ve already proclaimed, or type several words to suggest a new one. A majority of “profile changes” I’ve seen since this launched are people rushing to add skills to their profile so they can select the ones available. In addition to endorsing individuals one by one, you can even do multiple connections at once. How meaningful is that?

Adam Broitman of Something Massive is asking that same question in poll form:

View poll on GoPollGo//

Endorsements are only available in English for the US, India, New Zealand and Australia currently; but, LinkedIn says they “look forward to expanding Endorsements in all languages to all members over the next few weeks.”

But, I wouldn’t discount the value of continuing to ask the people you’ve worked for to write a real recommendation. And, as they suggest at HR Virtual Cafe, it’s probably a good idea for you to go write a few yourself.

Small Business Must Be Selective About Social Media Hats They Wear

An auto body shop owner, a shoe designer and an electronics retailer walk into the hip Miami Design District.

No, it’s not the start of a joke. It’s a snapshot of just a few of the diverse small businesses that walked into Dell’s Create. Work. Inspire. event on September 14th. I was priviledged to spend time discussing social media and its business uses with them.

There was a wide range of current social media usage among them, but all were aware of it and there seemed very little need to convince anyone that it was something in which they should particiapte. This aligns with a recent report from the SMB Group that found small and medium-sized businesses have been increasing their adoption of social media.

In fact, some of the most common advice I had after hearing many discuss their current social activities was actually to step back and reassess where their audience could best be reached.Small business owners often have to wear many hats and social media adds to them

It’s well-known that small business owners and their employees often have to wear many hats, and many might avoid interacting with their customers in social media because that becomes just one more hat to wear. Even worse, to do it well means not only putting on one “social media” hat, but many platform-based hats – one for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for G+, one for Pinterest, one for Instagram, one for Yelp, one for LinkedIn… The list goes on and on and just gets longer every day.

So, what I hope many of those I spoke with last week take away is that they should be very strategic with their social media plans. While you don’t want to overlook something new, a small business can’t realistically chase every new shiny object of a social network that pops up.

It’s similar to advice Ilana Bercovitz shared recently in a great Small Business Trends post “Social Media Tips for Small Business.”

Broadcasting the same thing across multiple platforms is a common way to try to be everywhere at once. But that can bug those who follow you in the different platforms because they’re seeing the same thing over and over, and it fails to take advantage of the unique offerings of each. For example, when posting a photo in Twitter, you’ve got limited space to describe it or provide a call to action; where that same photo can be posted in Facebook with a much longer description and a link to your website with a call to action that lets you track results.

So, you’ve really got to spend some time listening to find where the people you most need to reach are spending their time online. A formal listening audit can help. It can also be as simple as asking them – whether in face-to-face interactions at a storefront or on the social media platforms themselves.

This allows a small business to focus most of their efforts on building the community they already have, creating relationships with customers that lead to return visits and sales.

It doesn’t mean, they should abandon all other platforms – potential customers could be searching for them there and you simply can’t overlook the SEO potential of a G+ business page. But, those efforts can serve more as “store fronts” that then direct people to the place you want them – which should probably be an owned property, rather than someone else’s site. But, that’s a topic for another post sometime…

Image via Creative Commons by Rachel Pasch aka justmakeit

Shades of Gray in Auto-Publishing to Social Media

Recently a study released from HubSpot excited a lot of people when it said that companies that used a social media publishing tool to schedule their social media posts had 3 times as many leads as those that didn’t.HubSpot scheduling bar graph
There are at least 11 free services for scheduling social media updates. And probably just as many for-pay services. Although, just a couple of months ago Facebook took a shot at the business of those services that made scheduling there possible by integrating the ability to schedule posts on pages native to its administration tools. Some think this may become common on all social sites.

But many will argue that auto-scheduling goes against the authentic and transparent nature of what social media should be. There’s the chance that you could be lulled into paying less attention and missing out on important conversation. There have also been several high-profile goofs that happen with auto-scheduling. With the NRA’s errant tweet this week the morning after the Colorado shooting, many of us first assumed it was another example to use to preach against scheduling. It actually turned out to be less of a scheduling problem and more of a listening problem.

I’m not sure which is worse, but I can certainly see how either could happen to any of us who feed content into social media platforms.

So, where do I stand on auto-scheduling? Somewhere right in the middle. I use tools to schedule updates and definitely see the benefits. For example, the ability to keep content flowing while actually taking a vacation, or planning ahead for a product launch or other campaign.

However, when I have scheduled posts during a vacation, I also designated a back-up person who would be watching and listening to the account to ensure that no questions, comments or replies that came up would go unanswered while I was away.

I also think that at any time a good mix of scheduled and unscheduled posts is the best way to go – especially in Twitter where speed and real-time news are so important. No one person can post and monitor 24 hours a day, and I don’t think a majority of fans, friends and followers out there really expect it.

So, go ahead and schedule, I say. But, do so with awareness that it doesn’t mean everything can go on auto-pilot. You still need to be aware of what’s going on – be ready to pull a schedule post down before it goes out if current affairs change the environment it’s going into. Have someone else help watch things if you’re away. And mix in real-time posts that show your audience you really are there.

A Lamentation for Civil Discourse – The Dangerous Mix of Politics and Social Media

On this Fourth of July – Independence Day for us in the United States – I pause to contemplate how social media and has impacted Americans’ political discourse.

Unless you do not have a Facebook account, you have doubtless seen a side you hadn’t seen before of some your friends.  As many as 51 percent of social media users have posted political messages on their Facebook wall.

Why? If they’re hoping to persuade others to their opinion, it isn’t working. Only about one-third (36 percent) of social media users have changed their mind on an issue based on the political content a friend posted.

I enjoy a good debate, so I haven’t always stuck tho the old adage that we should avoid politics, or religion, in polite conversation. But it seems the “polite” part of the conversation has been lost. A debate, by definition, follows parliamentary procedure which is “based on the consideration [my emphasis] of the rights: of the majority, of the minority (especially a large minority greater than one-third), of individual members, of absentee members, of all of these groups taken together.”

I come at this topic today from a very personal point of view. Almost exactly a year ago, someone very close to me had the expression of political viewpoints come between them and a close friend. Because of the inability to respect differing opinions, and the inability to keep opinions out of conversation or within the some sort of rules of order, nearly 50 years of friendship was torn apart. A recent attempt at reconciliation clearly showed one of the two had no room for differing opinions in their life. Being caught up in it feels very much like being in this opening scene from the new series “Newsroom.”

How can we as a nation celebrating our independence today ever hope to change the statistics he quotes in that clip when we spend so much energy fighting each other? We must work together at some point. Someone must compromise.

Without staunch environmentalists, our planet could fall to ruin; but, without the equally fervent pro-development people, we might fall behind in business. Those of us in the large middle desperately do need those on the edges to shake us out of doldrums. But, we also need them to come together at some point in order to ever more forward.

Social media has made it all that much easier to broadcast our beliefs, but I don’t think it’s brought us much in the way of civil discourse.

Back across the pond from whence our founding fathers came, someone is trying to put some order to online debates. Politician Louise Mensch has created what she hopes is a rival to Twitter that aims to “cut out the irrelevant chatter that she says blights the microblogging site.

“We want to encourage people to have conversations rather than broadcast their thoughts,” said her co-founder Luke Bozier.

Interestingly enough, they first launched it only in the U.S., later opening it for users in the UK. Menshn may turn out to be, as Danny Brown says, a non-starter.  I signed up and noticed how quickly the spammers showed up, as well.  But, I do applaud someone for at least trying.

My plea today is for my fellow social media users, and Americans online or offline, to step beyond simply broadcasting vitriolic  messages, alienating anyone who doesn’t share your opinions and reading or listening to only those who say the things you like.

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Klout Matchups Add Human Element to Scores

As a life-long multitask-er, it’s not unusual that this morning I was web surfing while listening to the latest episode of the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast.

As Shel and Neville discussed the latest round of Klout media coverage initiated by a recent Wired article mentioning a digital marketing executive being passed over for a job due to his low Klout score, I popped over to the Klout website to check my own.

As a consultant and speaker, Shel felt “you can’t ignore it” because people thinking to hire him might be looking at it; while Neville took the stance that “if it means I’ll miss out on something, well then, so be it.”

I’m probably somewhere between. If I were looking to hire someone to work in or speak about social media, I admit that I would likely check their score. A low score might elicit much the same reaction I had when someone recently came across my radar with a Twitter bio that said they’d been “at the forefront of social media” for the past decade, but apparently just joined Twitter one month earlier. Scoff.

But I would probably dig deeper – not so deep to cross a line that, as Ryan “SoMeDellLawyer” Garcia, says “isn’t very smart” – but, I wouldn’t make a unilateral hiring decision based on it. In the case of the 10-year newbie I scoffed at, perhaps this was simply a new account and they had others previously. And, I probably wouldn’t want to work for someone who did pass me over for a peer simply because they had a higher score than me.

That all said, tools like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred, Appinions and others can serve as a starting point for identifying influencers or new hires. And it looks like they are continuing to try to improve themselves.
Klout Matchup
The latest move I see toward that is what I discovered surfing during FIR this morning – Klout Matchups. While the ability to give “+K” to people who influence you has been available on Klout for a while now adding some human element to the equation, these new “matchups” take it a step further.

The gamification element and boxing match feel brings a bit more fun to it, which is perhaps why it caught my eye more than a previous incarnation of this that some users were seeing back in January.

I think “Geek, blogger, thinker & Engagement Consultant” Lee Stacey said it well on a recent @barryfurby post when he commented on the concept of social scoring:

“I think it’s impossible to do without human intervention and human intervention by way of giving +K or Kred is heavily biased towards the platforms on which it is best propagated and therefore doesn’t really work either.”

No, it’s not a total solution. The game can still be gamed, certainly, but at least it shows an attempt to move beyond the almighty algorithm for score determination.

Do you think it’s enough to gain some goodwill for Klout?

Pinterest as Portfolio

Portfolio - side view

Pinterest. It’s been called “Napster for Housewives” in Forbes, and Laura McKenna notes that its “lethal combination of social media competition and escapism” hooks the “Aspirational Housewife” in us all.

To hearken back to a 1980s IABC study I read while a university student, is it the “Velvet Ghetto” of social networks? Or, is there more to it? Are there business uses for Pinterest beyond fashion and food? Nikki Pilkington points out the user makeup is a different story in the UK, where men visit the site more frequently.

While I’m still working out the answers to that for brands such as my own employer Dell (I’m part of the team that’s trying things out with some of the company’s first boards in Pinterest), I stumbled across one idea that I think has merit for personal business use – a visual professional portfolio.

I wish I could say I thought of this myself, but I actually saw it somewhere else first. Kelly Barrett created a “Kelly Barrett, the Professional” board and, if memory serves me correct, Rachael King tweeting that is how it first crossed my radar. Then, I also ran across the “my CV” board from Nadav Raviv – not part of that male UK contingent mentioned before, but rather a Pinterest user in Israel.

So, I took the idea from others before me and started my own professional portfolio board. Originally, I dubbed it my “Visual CV,” after memories of the VisualCV networking site I’d joined in 2008, but never used. It sounded cool back then when it was in “early Public Beta phase,” but it always seemed like something that would require too much of my time to set up. So, when I got an email toward the end of 2011 saying it was shutting down, it was no surprise and I congratulated myself on not having invested much time on it. But, it turns out the rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated, or more accurately, that someone else decided to revive it through an acquisition.

And, I still think VisualCV sounds like a good idea. But pinning, is just so easy! If you’re a creative professional (but maybe not this creative) in this day & age, most likely you can find lots of pinnable material online to illustrate your work. It’s as easy to start as doing an ego searchon Google.  (and if the tips in that link from Lifehacker don’t help you with it, then you might have a “Google Credibility” issue you need to address)

Once you’ve searched around and found some items you’re particularly proud of, you can pin away! Adding the “pin it” button to your browser makes it that much easier. Here is the result of one afternoon I spent pinning: Portfolio – Laura P Thomas.

Just keep a few quick tips in mind:

  • Pinterest automatically arranges items in your board in order you pin them. If you want chronological order to the board, you’ll need to be a bit more methodical in your pinning.
  • If you have a career that spans more than the past decade, it’s likely to be tough to find the old stuff online. There are ways you can get creative to fix this. Upload an image you’d like to use for illustration to some place like Flickr, Facebook or your G+ account (somewhere you don’t mind pointing people toward).
  • Even when it is online, not everything you want to showcase will have a pretty image. This can be addressed in the creative way listed above and supplemented with a link in the description to point to more detail about the actual project or the resulting media story.

Since this was not an original idea of mine, it’s likely that many of you may have already created professional boards on Pinterest. If so, please share links and tips in the comments!

Photo via Creative Commons courtesy Bill Ohl