Megan McArdle writes on the lack of economics bloggers available, and wonders if professional blogging ultimately will be as difficult to break into as writing for the media.
I'm not sure what this means for the blogging world. It's still largely an amateur medium, but it's hard to see how many new bloggers can compete with someone who gets paid to do it, unless they are independently wealthy or have a job, like journalism or academia, that routinely throws them a lot of bloggable material. Will it become as hard to break into blogging as it is to break into print?
The answer to that depends on how you define blogging. If you mean column writing by someone not affiliated with a mainstream publication, then yes, blogging for dollars will be very difficult to get into. The reasons listed by Megan all make sense. Blogging as just writing takes time, and if you aren't payed for that time, it's difficult to create large audiences based your work.
But blogging is more than writing. It's safe to say that blogging is a subset of the wider world of social media, and while political and media bloggers are attempting to replicate or improve upon the publishing world, the vast majority of bloggers, both professional and amateur, are focused on other niches, and it's very easy to break through.
Momblogs, local blogs, sports and hobbies blog, video gaming and music, state and local political blogs, environmental, marketing, and small business blogging are all much bigger (and more lucrative) than blogging about libertarian economics. Heck - blogging about American Idol is more lucrative than blogging about the '08 campaign because there's less competition, a bigger audience, and more ad money.
So never fear about amateur blogging taking off - corporations are putting real time and money into social media, and it's relatively easy to get noticed.
But even in the niche of economics blogging, it's possible to step in and assume a dominant position. Using a host of SEO tricks, social media news submissions, demographic marketing, and clever writing, an economics write could grow traffic and quickly become an A-List blogger. I train people to do this, and all you really need is passion, curiousity, and above-average writing skills. Oh, and a recognition that successful bloggers interact. They leave comments, send e-mails saying thank you, participate in local and national meetings, network profusely, and above all have a focus for their blogging.
Can amateurs do this? Amateurs tend to do it a lot better than professionals, if only because they don't have ulterior motives that shine through (that's the problems with corporate blogging - they want the ROI without the work). The question is why the amateur would do it.
Megan's piece starts out pointing out the lack of a bloggers she could recommend for economics. It's understandable, but it's selection bias. We are all blind, and assume that if we don't know someone in our niche, that they don't exist. The truth is there are lots of qualified people out there who could write on the topic of libertarian economics, but most of the hiring authorities are looking for a cheap way to absorb the traffic of someone already successful.
Basically, they want you to build the audience to get noticed, and they'll pay you a reduced rate to get in front of that audience. If that's what we define as a pool of talent, then of course it will be shallow. The best bargains will be snapped up early, and those that are left will either be profitable on their own or benefit from previous connections. At that point, paying a person to be a professional blogger is the only option. Why should they give their work and reputation away for a reduced rate to a corporation?
The Point (You knew we would get to it some time)
If you are a company or client that wants to hire a blogger, let me make this suggestion. Don't start with the bloggers. Start with what you want to accomplish, and list out what you would define as success
Once you know what you want, begin reaching out to people (or ahem, headhunters), and ask them who they know who could accomplish those goals. Hiring a blogger should not be the point of your writing exercise. Hiring someone who accomplishes your goals is the point.
If they know what to do, they can create the traffic you are looking for. Yes, you have to pay them, but that's not a bad thing for the blogosphere. It's treating blogging as a separate skill, and not a amateurish subset of mainstream publishing.
I know for a fact I could find someone who fits the bill of what Megan's clients need. It may not be what they asked for or what they thought they should hire, but I can find someone to achieve their goals. They may be well-known, or amateur, but they'll be effective. The question is whether they want a blogger, or a columnist who isn't yet paid for what they're worth.
My friend and fellow recruiter, Harry Joiner, is a great marketer. And he recruits. Harry's specialty is placing high level marketing and e-commerce executives nationally with great companies.
He knows how to get his name out where it matters. He knows how to recruit people. And he knows what his value to a company represents.
So, it's my job to source and submit the best and brightest candidates and then prepare them for anything in the interview process. Which is why I will bury my candidates in market research, company briefs, industry forecasts, and the latest ebooks on SEO, SEM, email marketing, affiliate marketing, online merchandising, usability, web development, database marketing, CRM, web analytics, TV 2.0, and more.
And it's not uncommon for me to set up phone calls between my candidates and executives or consultants who have either worked for the hiring company or have an inside knowledge about the company and its competitors. The exchange of market intelligence can get pretty spooky -- and it almost always amazes the hiring manager.
This is what I'm working to do with social media. A candidate working with me is not just going to get a recruiter who asks what they want to make and calls three references. I'm going to prepare you, and I'm going to challenge you, and when you sit in front of that hiring manager, the two of you are going to have the best interview of your lives.
Otherwise, what are they paying me for? But seriously - about Harry - he's top notch. I'd use him.
A list of requirements I'm looking for in candidates for social media jobs.
1) You need to be prominent in the search engines for your name. If you have a common name, or a famous one, you should be prominent for your name + your industry.
2) You should be able to explain how social media affects SEO. This is how you will measure your worth initially to the corporation.
3) You should be expert on at least one application/software. Expert doesn't mean lots of friends. It means ins, outs, and loopholes. It means knowing more than you can read just by surfing the first page of Google. Someone who dabbles may be popular, but if they don't know the ins and outs of the software they are using to drive value, how exactly are they expert?
4) References. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them. I may not need to call every one, but anyone in social media should have dozens of people at their fingertips they can contact instantly.
5) An example of how you used social media to bring value to a client. This is actually the Number One requirement. It's what clients are looking for.
6) A list of your skills besides social media. Believe it or not, you aren't actually being paid for what you've done in social media. You're being paid for the sales/marketing/PR/product/management/customer service/e-commerce skills you have from your other jobs. Social media pays between $10 a post and $200,000 a year - sometimes for very similar work. The difference isn't the blogging and twittering -it's what you bring to the table.
If you are a business or a corporation looking to hire community managers, social media executives, Web Analytics and Traffic managers, SEO experts, PPC experts, or someone who knows how to craft and execute a strategy for using social media to drive value to your company, contact the Social Media Headhunter. I recruit social media candidates across the country who bring real value to your organization.
You can search online for my bona fides. "Jim Durbin Recruiter" You have to go nine pages deep in Google before you get anyone not referring to my work.
I've been a bit surprised at the response, but it seems that a lot of very talented people in the social media space are indeed looking for work.
I appreciate the resumes and the e-mails, but thought I should put some basic guidelines out that I'll turn into a FAQ.
1) Social Media is new. Much of the time, clients are ready to hire social media people, but they don't know how to hire what to ask. While that is changing daily, you need to be prepared to sell yourself, both to me, and to clients, on what value you bring to the table.
2) I'm not an agent. The clients pay the bills, so my efforts are focused on finding people for open job orders. To help with me that, I'm creating an Applicant Tracking System that allows you to upload your resume into my database, which means as jobs become available, I can help you in your location and area of expertise.
3) E-mails do get caught in spam filters. This upload will be the best way to get ahold of me, as I get a notification for each resume.
4) If you know of people hiring in the social media space, client referrals are welcome too. Hiring for social media is a very immature process. The more of us they hire, the better all of our chances will be.
Thank you for the responses. I'll try to respond to all of you in a timely manner. I also have a new e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Can you believe it was available?
Salespeople are an interesting breed. Executives usually come from the ranks of sales. So do top earners. In some companies, salespeople make more than the CEO (In some companies). What makes them so valuable? Their little black books (of business). Sales skills include prospecting, negotiation, and client management, so when you look to hire one, your main thrust is often cold-calling, lead generation, and closing.
Or at least it used to be.
This whole social media phenomenon is starting to change the rules for salespeople. The primary value in a salesperson is their connections. The book of business is a pool of clients and contacts that drive business, lead to referrals, and are the lifeblood of every man and woman paid in commission.
It takes time to build trust and reputation, but it takes more time to build up the definitive list of whose who in business. Who buys? Who wastes your time? Who is profitable? Who pinches pennies? Salespeople know this, but as the market changes, with decision makers moving back and forth from companies and positions, keeping track of your top clients isn't always so easy. So what happens when the best and brightest in a job market start making their own connections? What happens when Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and blogs start sharing information for free that used to be the sole province of salespeople? What happens when cold-calling no longer works, as decision makers find themselves overburdened with prospect calls, and start turning to their social networks on Twitter and Plaxo to find information on vendors, products and services?
One of my clients is looking for a VP of Marketing to generate business leads. This is a contingent search, and I'm recruiter.
This is a start-up company located in St Louis, involved in the GPS Tracking business. The company has been around for over a year, is funded, and basically needs someone who is prepared to run a full-scale marketing program. The product is sold over the phone and online nationally. The sales process is short, and the primary markets are small businesses with employees who drive company vehicles.
What I'm Looking For:
Expertise in running PPC, SEO, direct mail, telesales and online marketing. Experience in social media would be nice, but only to the extent that it improves your online profile.
Self-Managed: This is a position for someone who doesn't need a lot of hand-holding. You should be able to create, design, and execute a marketing plan that helps this company add new customers.
Proven Track Record: You must have a proven track record of success in generating new leads. That is the primary purpose of this assignment.
Sales experience: The best candidate would also know how to close over the phone when needed. Your ability to do so will greatly increase your salary.
I have three levels of salary I'm willing to present, based on the kind of person I found.
Level 1: $50K: Skilled online marketer. Good at generating new business leads
Level 2: $70K: Marketing and Sales, plus a bit of management experience to put into place in the future
Level 3: $???? Marketing, Sales, and part of the Executive Team. You're just waiting for the right opportunity to seek your teeth into. You've done this before, but you can also speak to board members, the press, and build a team as the company grows.
There is also an equity stake available that vests over time for the right candidates.
Your Marketing Budget:
You're starting mainly from scratch - there's marketing collateral and
a decent PPC campaign, but you really need to come in and plan out the
next 6 months to a year. You'll start out with a $15-20,000 a month
budget, but that can expand if you start to show results.
Your Boss: Direct report to the President. He's a software consulting expert from a couple of degrees, business savvy, and previous management experience under his belt. He's smart, aggressive, and wants someone who sees this opportunity and wants to be a part of it.
If this is you, or someone you know, have them contact me at email@example.com with the Subject VP Marketing, or have them call me by searching this site and finding the number.
I took this from one of my proposal intros. It's a pretty straight forward take on how I view my business and our industry.
The purpose of any social media campaign is to drive awareness of the product through the use of links, traffic, and reader awareness. To accomplish this, corporate bloggers must first understand the landscape of online communities. Internet users cluster into groups online, just as people cluster together in the real world. We join associations, churches, businesses, and political parties and adopt those labels as a way of identifying with groups whose characteristics define us. It’s human nature to cluster, and to take on the identity of the groups of which we wish to be a part. When you take this dynamic and apply it to the online world, you gain the additional benefit of participating in an environment that can be easily tracked, organized, and explained.
The act of joining communities online is a form of self-labeling that is tremendously helpful to marketers and analysts. There are several categories of self-labels online. In addition to taking part in communities like Facebook, MySpace, the “blogosphere” and sites like Yahoo and AOL (their online groups and forums), internet users can decorate their online profiles with blogrolls, badges, and other forms of link-sharing to indicate their interests. And then we track them.
Techdirt Insight Community's Timothy Lee takes issue with the idea that crowdsourcing has jumped the shark. It's important for social media types, because we're constantly asked to duplicate the efforts of other people, but only after they've been successful and experienced wild viral success (because nothing inspires a customer like duplication).
Yes, there are formulas, but social media isn't about tricking customers, it's about listening to them. It isn't crowdsourcing that's jumped the shark, it's lazy executives and lazy ad agencies who think only of how to extract value from the internet with as little effort as possible, and then wonder why they can't make this whole "social media" thing work.
We talk about metrics, but the truth is many companies don't want to measure their online reputation. They don't want to hear from their customers, because if they did, they'd spend all day handling complaints that wouldn't be fixed.
Social media isn't for everyone. It's not that it couldn't be, it's that social media is simply people trading information. If you don't want people sharing information, giving it a label that takes up 30% of the columns at AdAge isn't going to solve your problem.
Over to Timothy:
I think the problem here is the way the question is being framed. If a company views crowdsourcing as just a one-off opportunity to get some free labor out of its customers, then obviously customers are going to get tired of it. But that's the wrong way to look at it. What crowdsourcing is about, ultimately, is improving communications with your customers, and among the customers themselves. Asking your customers to become more involved in various aspects of your business -- offering product advice to one another, providing feedback on new products, or offering ideas about advertising strategies -- increases customer loyalty by demonstrating that your company is actually engaged with its customers and responsive to their concerns.
"your company is actually engaged with its customers and responsive to their concerns." If that's your company, or your client, then you have to have a platform online to help people pitch your product. Good companies and good brands sell themselves is a catchphrase. What happens when companies learn to get out of the way of their customer evangelists, and spend their time and money on improving their product and response?
I've been in the recruiting industry for nine years, and in that time, my job was to find jobs that companies wanted to fill, and couldn't.
My expertise is finding jobs. I can honestly say that if you want to get a job - a great job - a job that is a career, a passion, pays you well, and gets you inspired - one of the best ways to do so is to sit down with me and buy me a cup of coffee.
But I don't do that anymore. And neither do other recruiters who get paid. The reason is sometimes money - the truth is that clients pay us to find people for jobs, and not the other way around. Recruiters find themselves in the same position that doctors and lawyers do in social gatherings. Everybody wants you to find them or their friend or their child a job.
Most recruiters when they start out are willing to help. Yes, we get paid to search, but we're human beings, and we don't mind helping out nice people. That lasts about a year. After about a year, you start adding up the number of people who have come to you for advice, and never followed through. You add up the hours you've spent counseling, fixing resumes, and sometimes going so far as to make calls on the behalf of other people without asking for a fee, and you realize that you're wasting your time.
You get burned enough times, and you'll stop offering to help. That's because people aren't really looking for advice. They don't want help. They want you to get them a job without any effort on their part.