Social media consultant Andrew Hutchinson's popular post originally appeared on our Firebrand blog in Australia.
Here’s the thing: One day your social media persona may become the critical element in your job search efforts. Even those of you with no presence, no interest in social media or allowing companies to track your data – one day companies may be judging prospective employees not only on what they post, but also what they don’t post. That they don’t have any social media presence at all.
How, you ask? A growing number of organisations are learning how to utilise the masses of data that are being tracked and logged and registered through various data points, primarily through social media platforms. As they analyse this, they’re working out how to locate their target consumers, how to reach them at the perfect time in their purchase process, and how to build brand loyalty and establish trust.
But companies are also working out how to use that data internally.
Let’s say you have an employee who’s perfect, the model staff member, does everything exactly as you need whenever required. You’d want to replicate that, right? Now, based on that person’s data profile, you can build an employee persona, you can establish baseline requirements and data matching that may be able to locate your next perfect hire before you’ve even looked at a cover letter. Sounds far-fetched? Trust me, it is not.
A ‘Like’ly outcome
In a recent study, researchers from Stanford and Cambridge found that by mapping a person’s Facebook likes, they were able to build an accurate persona of that individual’s preferences and personality traits. This was done by first establishing each participant’s psychological leanings based on the five OCEAN personality traits – this input was based on questions posed to the participants themselves. With this as the baseline, the researchers were then able to track how Facebook likes correlated with those different traits – someone who liked fishing might be more introverted, no real surprise there.
But people ‘Like’ more than one thing on Facebook – on average, people ‘Like’ more than 220 things, and once you start mapping all of those data points, those actions start to form a clear image of who a person is. In fact, the predictions based on likes were more in-tune with the participants personality profile than what was predicted by colleagues, friends, even partners.
Individual actions on social media may seem like nothing – you click the ‘thumbs up’ on a video of a guy getting his legs trapped round a lamp post or a dog fretting when his owner leaves the house. These are nothing, right? These are minor everyday occurrences that most of us do without even thinking. But every single one of those actions is logged, each individual click is attached to your profile, and each one goes further towards aligning you to a very specific personality model.
You’d like to think you’re totally individual, that there’s no-one like you in the world, that your interests are unique and ‘all over the shop’. But you’d be wrong – with enough Likes, Facebook data can accurately lay bare who you are – and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in realising the full capabilities of what big data can do.
What about when you add in data from other networks? Data from wearables? Like it or not, who you are is being put on show, and as more of that information is correlated and tracked, so too are potential employers able to graph your suitability and fit for their purposes.
Still not convinced?
Right now, on LinkedIn, you can log into the LinkedIn University Finder app and find out which university you should attend in order to get a job at the company you’d like to work for. Now, that’s relatively small scale, all it’s doing is taking the data entered by LinkedIn’s 332 million members and matching the universities attended by employees at each company in order to suggest the higher education path that’s best aligned to what you want to do. This is basic big data, no major insights there. Right? This capability in itself highlights the capacity LinkedIn already has to predict what job a person’s going to end up doing. Match that with Facebook likes and you might even be able to map a person’s whole career, including job changes, promotions, and points of likely stress and anxiety.
Data tracking gets smarter every day, every time a person logs on and undertakes any action on a social network.
Another example – a company in the US recently raised $2.1 million in capital to develop a dating app that’s been labelled ‘Tinder for Elitists’. That app, called ‘The League’, scans the social media profiles of prospective members – primarily their LinkedIn and Facebook data – in order to determine a candidate’s suitability for their network of high-achieving professionals and career-minded go-getters. In the words of the app’s founder, ‘That doesn’t mean they have to be Ivy graduates or work for a big-name firm. But they should have accomplished something in their 20s.’
That might sound outrageous, that people are being judged on their achievements, as logged via social media, but it makes sense – the likelihood of the elite finding a suitable match with people of similar educational or career-oriented backgrounds is probably pretty good, and obviously others agree — they got $2.1 million. And again, it’s social media data that’s determining that suitability – is it that much of a stretch to think that employers won’t soon be doing the same thing?
The future of employment strategy
In the fictional future of TV’s ‘Futurama’, set in the year 2999, one of the characters is initially employed as a career placement officer, a job that sees her running a scanner over each person and embedding them with a chip that determines the career they’re most suited to.
It’s a somewhat depressing suggestion, that you can be tagged and labelled and left with little choice about your career, but as big data expands, the ethos of that idea seems less and less restrained to the world of fiction. Tagging people with a data chip, maybe not, but using big data and predictive analytics could be the future of employment strategy – not so much in small scale in identifying a theoretical ‘perfect’ employee, but what if you had a great team, or a series of high-performing departments in your company, and you could correlate the personality types and attributes within those groups that consistently synergised to produce great results?
What’s more, as employee advocacy becomes more critical due to the amplification of word-of-mouth through social networks, finding the people most suited, who’ll be most happy working for your company, may form a key pillar in your overall strategic plan.
Like it or not, this type of data mapping is going to happen, and with the percentage of people in the world active on social media clearly rising into the majority, you may find that simply showing up could have increased value.
Now, that’s not to say you need to get over your opposition to social and jump on it right away, but it is likely that there’s more to gain from being present than there is to lose. If, one day, those actions might lead you to your ideal career, that’s a pretty big incentive to participate, but even more important, being active and sharing your opinion on topics that you’re passionate about might actually help you break from the pack and play an active part in building future opportunities. And there’s possibly no bigger motivation than that.