My social media marketing experiment and what it means for education.
CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis
A few months, ago I was trolling Twitter like I used to do only occasionally. You see, there was talk in February in my district that we were short on funding and due to that shortfall there would be cutbacks at our central office in order to ensure the money needed would still make it out to the schools. With this in mind, I decided to look at possibilities for employment on Twitter just in case I needed a new position. While trolling through Twitter, I came across a Tweet from Vala Afshar, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of Enterasys. Vala and I go way back to my freshman year in my undergrad days of college when we were good friends while I was majoring in engineering. The next school year, I switched majors and we went our separate ways as engineering just was not my thing. That is a story for another time and place. Well, as time passed, Vala moved on to a very successful career at Enterasys and I have tried to follow it off and on, online. For those who do not know Enterasys, it does quite a bit of business in both higher education and K-12 helping to establish wired and wireless network and infrastructure solutions. You may have seen their name if you went to a Patriots game recently; they were awarded the contract to set up the Wi-Fi for the New England Patriots.
Well, while reading Tweets one day in late February, I came across an interesting one from Vala. At the time, Vala stated that he was looking for a social media specialist that would be paid a six-figure salary and that the position would help drive the social media direction for the company. The unique thing about this position was that he would only accept interest in the position through a post on Twitter, and that he would look solely at a candidate’s digital footprints and not at any paper resume. To me, this idea sounded intriguing and a possible new direction in the future for companies as they approach the recruiting process. While possibly looking for a new position, I thought as a Supervisor of Instructional Technology and an edtech leader online, it might be good for me to at least attempt to be part of this process so as to share with you my experiences as we, as educators and professionals, attempt to prepare our students for a future not so obvious anymore.
As technology quickly evolves, we in education are given the task daily to prepare our students for jobs today that do not even exist yet and to prepare them to work on devices not even created or thought of. The world has begun to change rapidly and we have the task to prepare our students for that world. What a better way than for me to take part in this process and to report back to you how it went so we can start to prepare our students for this world. The only problem with this philosophy was that I have little to no business experience. You see, I have been an educator for nearly twenty years now and my only experience with social media is what I have done with you people in my professional learning network the past five years. I had no experience leading the social media platform for any company — let alone in a position that commanded a six-figure salary.
Vala was looking for candidates to have a minimum Klout score above 60, a minimum Kred influence score of 725, a Kred outreach of at least eight, and more than 1,000 active Twitter followers in order to be considered. Many of these requirements I had through my website Technology Integration in Education but not through myself personally. If you were to look up my personal profile, at the time, you would have found that I was nowhere near there. At the time of the posting, I had not personally been active on Twitter and had no idea what a Kred or Klout score was, but was able to quickly Google it and found out that my site fit the criteria. As I read Vala’s post soon after he posted it online, I reached out to him telling him that it sounded interesting but without seeing what he was willing to pay a person for this position I felt that it might not be worth my time seeing what I was currently making. Vala informed me that I would be surprised that he was going to be offering a six-figure salary and, after a little bit of back and forth, he informed me that he would consider my website’s social presence in his search for a candidate as a reflection on me. In one of his posts, he also stated that he would reserve a spot in the interview process guaranteeing an interview for that person who had the most social endorsements.
Here is where the power of social came in. After spending five years building a social network online on LinkedIn and my own website, I reached out to my nearly 25,000 members of my various networks seeking their endorsement of what I do socially online. I was not looking for any endorsement of my character nor my work ethic but instead merely an endorsement of my ability to establish a social outreach. Many of them complied and tweeted out the necessary tweet to Vala in order to help get me an interview with the company even though I lacked any formal business experience outside of education.
During the time of vetting candidates by Enterasys, I made it my mission to raise my personal profile up to also meet the requirements for interview and not to rely on my website standings or on endorsements alone. I began to tweet more under my name and recommended to my followers on LinkedIn and in my group to now follow me on Twitter as well. By the time of the interviews I had raised my personal following to over 1,000 active followers and my Kred and Klout score to nearly or at where they needed to be. Thanks to all of the personal endorsements, I was also the candidate who secured the most endorsements, guaranteeing me an interview with the company, anyway. At the time, little did I know that I was one of 150 candidates and was whittled down to one of 15 finalists!
No resume was ever sent in and tweets were exchanged amongst candidates and Enterasys touting our digital accolades — from awards won, blog posts, websites created, groups formed, professional networks established, social outreach, work accolades and accomplishment — all found by Vala scouring candidates’ digital footprints. To me, this seemed like an ideal way to weed out unqualified candidates. It was also an excellent way for a candidate like me to know who my competition was because we either had to publicly acknowledge our candidacy online or Direct Message the company. I could see their digital footprint and they could see mine. I knew who the candidates were who were willing to publicly announce their intentions but not the ones who direct messaged Enterasys. I was able to see what my competition had done and compare it to what I had done. I also was able to see what I needed to do if I was going to compare to them.
For a month, it was a time to establish new connections, even with some of the other candidates themselves, as we waited for opportunities to interview with the company. We began to grow and learn from each other. The process was amazing. I was able to see their passion and they could see mine. By looking at what these candidates did for a current job and to see times of the day and days of the week that they were devoting to posting and sharing online digitally, I started to get a sense of who everyone was and what their passions were and what their work ethic was like. I got a chance to know candidates well before I even knew who they really were.
By the time April came around, I had established a few connections with other candidates for the position and we were wishing each other luck on our prospective interviews with the company. From Zachary Jeans to Ari Herzog, I had developed connections and friendships with my competition — all of this being something that would never have happened through the usual paper resume.
The process was exciting. I was invited in to interview with Enterasys and I spent a good three hours or so talking with various members of the company. I was given a tour of the facility and I was able to meet up with my old friend Vala. In the end though, I was not given the position. They hired Bilal Jaffrey who came to them with much more business experience than I ever could have had working in education for so long. And that was okay; he deserved the position. Although the process was fun and exciting, it was great to be on the leading edge of what I am sure one day will be the norm for hiring everywhere.
My eyes have been opened on how important it is that we help our students establish good digital footprints. We as educators have to prepare our students for a digitally social world, one that can no longer be ignored or we will simply be doing them a disservice. My digital footprint mattered. It helped me to become a finalist for a position that, in the past, I would never have even been considered for.
I have since talked with Vala and he agrees that this process is the way to go and that he will probably, from now on, only hire this way. The digital footprint tells you so much more about a candidate than two sheets of paper ever could. Nothing, of course, will ever replace meeting and talking with a candidate face to face, but, hey — I never said the interview process had changed, just how they decided to determine whom they would interview. I was a candidate thanks to my social profile, more than my “two pages of paper”. Our students will be, too. Decisions will be made about them as people Google their name. Are we preparing them for a world like this, or are we ignoring it and hoping that how they perform on standardized tests is all that matters?
Someday soon, I know I will be a part of the process where I am deciding on and selecting candidates for positions based on a body of work spelled out for me via the Internet instead of by two sheets of paper. The world is digital now, so let’s embrace it.
Thanks Enterasys, for the opportunity. I hope we connect again in the future really soon as we work together to bring about global social change.
Greg Limperis is Supervisor of Instructional Technology for his district in Lawrence, Mass. He is the founder of the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. Greg has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.