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Confessions of an Aspiring Social Media Superhero

This post originally appeared on A New Marketing Commentator by Bob Cargill in two parts – March 22 and 23, 2012. 

Joe Kyle Social Media Marketer

Joe Kyle, Aspiring Social Media Superstar

I met Joe Kyle for the first time in September of last year. After talking about social media over lunch, we agreed to stay in touch and provide assistance to one another when the opportunity arose. I asked Joe a few questions recently about social media, marketing and his ambitions at this juncture in his career. Here’s the second part of our Q & A…

Bob: What do you think are some of the biggest benefits of using social media?
Joe: Well, it’s the fastest form of media we have. If anything happens in the world, it shows up on the social media channels in seconds. The other benefits I like most are the ability of social media to break down global boundaries, which really does turn the world into one large community. (I have new friends in India, Ireland, and England — all from my travels in social media.)

But from a business perspective, social media gives me, one guy from Boston, the same power as the world’s largest business entities. I mean, the playing field is suddenly leveled in a way it never was before. If I sell squirt guns online, I now have the same odds of success as any of the large squirt gun players. I also love the concept of test/fail within social media marketing. You can now track everything and see right away what’s working and what’s not. Then you make adjustments accordingly. Failing is actually part of this — as in, if you’re not failing on some level, you’re not succeeding overall.

If you’re in business today and you’re not part of an online community, I truly believe your days are numbered. I say this because the first place people go for any products or services is online. And guess who’s online? That’s right, your competitors. We’ve all seen the question on Facebook, “Does anyone know where I can find a good [product or service]?” If you’re not online and “top of mind” with the community, you lose business opportunities.  But let me be clear here; online means an active blog, Twitter account, Facebook business page, Google+ business page, LinkedIn business page, etc. All of these channels need to be active! At least one blog post per week, multiple tweets per day, posts to Facebook and Google+… you need to continuously engage your community online.

The biggest benefit of social media marketing is the ease with which your customers can find you and the ease with which you can find your customers — provided you’re doing the work to establish your business presence within the community.

Bob: What don’t you like about social media? Is there a downside to using it?
Joe: Social media is an extraordinarily powerful force and there is an addictive component to it. I’ve yet to strike a healthy balance for myself. Sometimes there’s little glory in being a digital citizen. That said, I’ve started to show up at Tweetups in the Boston area. (Check out Boston Tweet Ups and Venture Café.) These events are great and you get to actually meet, live in person, many of the folks you interact with online.

Seriously though, we all need to be careful not to neglect our families and our physical/mental health.  Beyond that I think there are some real time-sink/quicksand neighborhoods online which yield little if no benefits. I won’t name names.

As a human society, we need to be careful to keep our priorities straight. Remember to hug your wife, look your kids in the eyes, walk the dog, brush, floss, etc. In many ways, we as human beings are ill-prepared for the power of social media. Perhaps it arrived a generation too early.

Bob: What are your future plans and aspirations?
Joe: Oh, I thought you’d never ask.  Hire Joe Kyle. I now see job titles like Inbound Marketing Consultant and Social Media Manager. I’m after those jobs.

In all of my years as a marketer, I have never been so off my rocker for anything the way I am for this inbound and social media marketing stuff. I absolutely love it. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than helping companies connect with and build their online communities. After all, that’s where the customers are now. I can’t wait for that moment, a year into a great social media marketing gig, where I can point to the analytical data and say, “This is where we were when I started here, and look where we are now.”  I just want to be someone’s Social Media Superhero.

Bob: You’re using social media in your job search, aren’t you? Tell us more…
Joe: Absolutely. Some people find it hard to believe that you can actually find a job through channels like Twitter. In fact, many companies have Twitter accounts dedicated to hiring. HubSpot, for instance, has @hubspotjobs. I follow them, they follow me. I also follow a number of recruiting firms and others like SalesForceJobsLinkedIn, etc.  As a job seeker, it’s foolish not to connect in this way. I also run a social media blog (www.josephkyle.com) which really acts as the entry point for my social media presence and job search efforts. I use all my social media channels to drive traffic to my blog posts and thus to my online resume. At the end of each post, I always add a small, non-toxic, non-offensive, blurb about my aspirations as a marketer.

And, of course, I use avenues like my LinkedIn profile as part of my job search. There are fantastic resources there, including a “Job Seeker” status icon which marks me as a job seeker. The LinkedIn groups also play a major part in my job search. I’ve made some killer connections just by being an active part of the LinkedIn groups community.

The trick here (like anything else on social media) is to make your intentions/status known without being annoying. I will on occasion send out a tweet saying, “Still seeking a great marketing gig in Boston. Keep me in mind, folks.” Most of my online community knows I’m looking, and I feel they are keeping me in mind. I really can’t ask for more than that.

Bob: What about your video resume? Where did you come up with that idea?
Joe: Ha! My video resume. Stroke of genius or desperate cry for help? Well, after a year of looking for work I began to hear some rumblings about video resumes. So, I watched about 20 or so on YouTube and they made me feel very ill at ease. I thought they were terrible, in fact. Very canned, too flashy, silly music and animation, too robotic and just darn unnatural. This really turned me off to the whole video resume idea.

But a few weeks went by and I reconsidered. In the meantime, I had realized that when I watched other video resumes I was not listening to the person’s credentials or past experience or even what they had to say. I was actually judging the person based on how they looked, how they sounded, how they moved and whether their eyes looked into the camera, all while listening to my own internal critical dialogue. I couldn’t help it — I was sizing them up on a human level, not a job candidate level. And then I realized that’s the dirty little secret about video; people are not going to hire someone who is canned, or robotic, or who rambles on for four minutes about why they should be hired. Hiring managers are human, and in a primal way, they just want to see what you look like, hear your voice, and know that you are genuine.

So, that was the basis for my video resume. I made it in my kitchen (the lighting was best there) and I hope people appreciate my support team in the background. As of this writing, 60 people have viewed my video resume and the phone is actually starting to ring. The bottom line is that if people watch my video and decide on a human level that I’m not who they want, that’s great because we’ve both saved some time. On the other hand if someone watches and says, “Ha, this guy’s a riot; get him in here for an interview,” that’s even better.

Bob: How is your job search going so far? What does the marketplace look like for someone with your background and skills?
Joe: My search for a decent social media marketing gig in the Boston area is an ongoing occupation. Part of the trouble is that the business world is just now starting to realize the need for not just marketing people, but for social media marketing people.

I have had some great phone interviews and a few in-person interviews, but those eventually degenerate down into me teaching my interviewers what this social media marketing thing is all about; honestly, most of them don’t know. I like to say that the business community is stuck in one of three modes right now:

  1. What’s social media?
  2. Yeah, we’ve heard of it, but we don’t need it.
  3. OMG! Our competitors are killing us with this social media stuff; we need to hire  someone fast!

I’ve had a number of interviews with key decision makers who still don’t know how to even consider implementation of a social media strategy. They also don’t know how to calculate ROI on social media, or even set a salary for a social media marketer. They also seem to want people with two to four years experience in social media marketing. The danger here is that very few people have that experience. In fact, I argue that what was happening is social media two years ago is no longer valid. Rather, it’s better to ask, is the candidate currently active on social media channels? What is the candidate doing today? Will the candidate work with us to build roads that currently don’t exist in our organization? Remember, what was hot a year ago is most likely not so hot right now. This stuff is fluid and you need someone who is, dare I say it, agile.

So, I’m still kissing frogs these days; I’m very tenacious like that. In the meantime I’m working toward my Google Analytics and Google AdWords certifications. Marketing relies heavily on web analytics and understanding that piece is crucial to success as a social media marketer. HubSpot, are you listening?

Bob: Do you have any advice for those who might be just getting started in social media?
Joe: Follow the masters and learn how to do things correctly. Read An Insider’s Guide to Social Media Etiquette by Chris Brogan.

Here are a few favorites from my reading list:

And then realize that we need you. The community is shaped by the people in it and we still need good people. Also, you need to be careful (do not give away too much info — but you already know that) yet you must be fearless. Join Twitter. Yes, I said join Twitter, and just observe for a while. Open your Google+ page, complete that LinkedIn profile and for goodness sake, join some LinkedIn groups! And you’ll need a blog – sorry, no way around that. Folks can also send me an email; I’ll help where I can.

Part II

Rare is the day that I’m not approached by friends, colleagues or even complete strangers with questions about social media. Joe Kyle was the latter.

Introduced to me last September by a mutual friend, Joe was between jobs and determined to learn everything he could about Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the like. I was more than happy to oblige his request to pick my brain. I enjoy meeting new people and being asked to provide assistance. I’m always glad to help.

Over lunch at Panera Bread in Waltham, MA, Joe and I hit it off from the get-go, going on and on about his career goals, the business world and our shared passion for the latest online communications and marketing tools, technologies and tactics.

Among other things, what impressed me about Joe is his strong background as a traditional marketer coupled with his unbridled determination to be, in his words, a “social media superhero.” Yes, the headline for this post was his idea. And that’s just the thing. Joe’s as clever as he is smart, as hip as he is experienced, as easygoing as he is ambitious. And he’s a really nice guy, too.

All that said, I asked Joe recently if he’d be willing to answer a few questions for me, which I would turn into a story about him on my blog. He said yes. And yes, this is that story…

Bob: What is your background and what are you doing now?
Joe: 
I have a background in classic, or maybe we should call it “old school” marketing. I’ve put in my share of late nights and weekends working on things like one-page marketing slick sheets, graphics for tradeshow booths, and all kinds of things that used to be state-of-the-art marketing collateral. I’ve also done corporate communications, business development, and graphic design for architectural firms, database marketing companies, medical device giants, and a few start-ups. And I happen to have an ancient and once-prized document known as an MBA in marketing.

These days I’m getting used to my new marketing skin. I’ve spent the last two years reinventing myself as an inbound or social media marketer. Simply put, I’ve given myself over to the Social (Media) Revolution.

Bob: How did you get started in social media?
Joe:
 In a word, HubSpot. I lost my job in 2010 as part of the great economic meltdown. I met the HubSpot folks at a Boston Business Journal event in May of 2011 (BBJ’s Boston’s Top 100 Places to Work.) I walked up to Brian Halligan (HubSpot CEO), and said, “I don’t know what you folks do, but I think we should work together.” Ha! I still have his business card next to my computer at home. I was clueless about inbound and social media marketing at that point. But I was hooked, and since then I’ve continued on this incredible journey where I’ve discovered people like Chris BroganAvinash KaushikDanny SullivanLaura “Pistachio” Fitton and a score of other great teachers.

Bob: What is your favorite social media channel? Where are you most active online?
Joe:
 I love Twitter. (I know people who would be shocked to hear me say that.) Honestly, the marketing and social media community on Twitter is an absolute marvel; it’s where I get the latest news on what’s happening in social media. But to be clear, it’s not so much the platform as it is the community I’m lucky enough to be part of. Brilliant folks who continuously point me in the right direction social media-wise.

I’m also on LinkedIn quite a bit. The community there is different from Twitter, more reserved and I find they need to be poked a bit if I want a response. However, the LinkedIn groups are fantastic! If you’re not participating in LinkedIn groups, you are listening to the concert from the parking lot.

I joined Pinterest in March and am still sorting that one out. So far I’m using it to post my rejection letters. We’ll see what kind of trouble this gets me into.

Bob: Who do you follow in social media and what have you learned from them?
Joe: 
Oh my, do you have a minute? OK, first, I love web analytics so there’s my hero Avinash Kaushik (follow him, buy his books!). Dusty Trice is a Democratic political consultant who, politics aside, really, really gets this social media thing right. David Meerman ScottSteve FarnsworthAnn HandleyRamon RayKipp Bodnar and Magdalena Georgieva (of HubSpot) are great, too. I also follow all the biggies — Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, etc. But in the last year I’ve also found people like Hana Phan who works for SlideRocket; she’s been a big help to me and I wish more folks knew about her, and SlideRocket. Oh, and Bob Cargill, of course.

I always invite people to swing by my Twitter account and harvest some of the folks I follow. This community has taught me most of what I know about social media.

Bob: Who do you think is using social media particularly well these days?
Joe: Well, I won’t get too political here, but I do think the business community is a step or two behind the world at large. Business needs to stop trying to “figure it out” or put a fence around it, or hire the “right” person to do social media for their “organization.” That’s a waste of time. (Watch ROI of Social Media, very funny!)

Social media is a huge and uncontrollable river washing away the way we used to do business. Now you have two options; stay on the banks and let the river pass you by, or just jump in. And once you’re in, you can expect a certain amount of unpredictability, sudden change, and well, you can’t be afraid of getting wet. In fact, the real question is what’s worse, committing to social media or going out of business? Now is not the time to wait and see if this whole online thing is just a fad.

I won’t say that the best users are of a certain generation, either, because that’s simply not true. Rather, the best users are of a certain mindset. And that mindset has this fearlessness that does not allow it to get caught up in “What are people going to think?” or “I should really run this past someone first” or “What if it doesn’t work?”. This is a revolution — and with any revolution comes mess and mistakes and confusion and chaos. You just gotta get in, pick up the flag and run up the hill with it. You will fall, but that’s part of it; just get back up and keep going. We’re all learning together here.

That said, we all know who’s getting it right in the business world — Amazon, Zappos, etc. So I’ll put in a plug for a little known favorite, Upton Tea, a great small tea distributor in Holliston, MA, who really makes a point of interacting with the online community. Good people there.

By the way, thanks for not asking who I think is getting it wrong. I’m continually amazed by who is not on board yet. Wow.

You’ve just read “Confessions of an Aspiring Social Media Superhero, Part One and Part Two.”

This post originally appeared on A New Marketing Commentator by Bob Cargill in two parts – March 22 and 23, 2012. 

Hire Joe Kyle

I am currently seeking a full-time opportunity in the Boston area within the discipline of social media marketing, business development, or corporate communications. Please visit www.josephkyle.com for more information. Thank you.

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