Why a viral Tweet might not be what you really want

For a change, this post is not about jobs, the economy, recruitment or work. It's about social media and specifically, Twitter.

I discovered something this week which initially caused me a jolt. With over 19,000 followers on Twitter, apparently I am in the top 1% most followed people on that social media platform.

I am not trying to brag about this. It’s nothing to brag about anyway when I also mention that since Twitter has 302 million active accounts, this means the top 1% comprise over 3 million people!

So that fact immediately stopped me getting an over-inflated sense of my own importance. If I needed any more reminder of my insignificance on the internet, I will just mention that just about everyone who has any sort of fame or mainstream media profile has at least a million or so Twitter followers and Katy Perry has over 66 million. Yikes - that must take some managing everyday...

Nonetheless if you follow me on Twitter, I would like to express my unreserved appreciation, especially since there are millions of more exciting people you could be following instead of me. You wonderful people enrich and educate me, inspire and intrigue me and motivate and moderate me - all in your own unique way.

Anyway, since we are on the topic of Twitter, I wanted to share my thoughts on following and follow backs. There seems to be an unwritten rule on Twitter that if we follow someone and they don't follow us back, then after a while we should unfollow them or withdraw our offer of online friendship.

I feel that this idea misses the point. I follow plenty of people on Twitter who I am pretty sure will never follow me back. But I keep on following them because I want to hear what they have to say.

Yet I often find that if I chime in with my thoughts on something they have posted, THEN they will follow me back. When you think about it in this way, theirs is a shrewd attitude. Having zillions of followers isn't (or shouldn't be) the goal of being on Twitter. Having real connections and a real and active network of like minded people with whom we have all sorts of relationships seems like a healthier and much more valuable goal to me.

Which leads me to try and explain why I don’t follow back everyone that follows me.

You can easily find plenty of viewpoints on this question. First there is the camp which argues that if someone follows you on Twitter and since this is SOCIAL media, it's anti-social not to reciprocate. That viewpoint makes sense ONLY if everyone that follows you shares your interests and values. And plenty of people with a few hundred connections on Twitter do exactly this.

But the Twitter experience changes if our account grows to many thousands. Everyday I get new followers where I can see absolutely no reason why they would follow me or be in anyway interested in what I do. Some new followers see I am a man and seem to work on the rather disrespectful assumption that therefore I must be interested in following pornographic accounts. Sorry but I will block you.

Then there are millions of promotional twitter accounts offering free followers and a ton of other spammy stuff. You guys will never be followed back!

But if you are just a normal Twitter user who kindly follows me I also may not follow you back. I do actually feel rather bad about this, but there's a simple reason for this decision. Once we are following more than a couple of thousand people on Twitter, our Twitter streams get very, VERY busy. I just watched mine for one minute. In that time, 50 new tweets landed in my Twitter feed.

That’s one every second give or take – and even if I spent every waking minute looking at them, I could never keep up.

So I have to apply some rules about who I follow back. The essence of these rules is I follow back people who have even the slightest overlapping interest with the things I am interested in. And that's quite broad. It includes business, economics, government, HR, jobs, education, leadership, media, tech, recruitment, coaching, and rock music (for a bit of variety and flavour).

It doesn't matter to me if someone has 10 followers or 10,000. If our interests co-incide and they are engaged members of the Twittersphere, I follow back.

If you are mostly sharing your favourite photos and music on Twitter and chatting about entertainment, that’s fine and it's none of my business, but generally speaking, I won’t follow you back. In order to do what I do, I need to see tweets about jobs, careers, the economy etc. If these are drowned in a sea of other things, I can’t see what I need to see.

In essence, my approach is not to follow more and more people endlessly chasing some vanity number of followers like a mirage, but fewer people so I can actually hear more of what I want to hear above the noise.

And this is why I hope I never have a tweet which goes viral. Like old newspapers, today's fad is tomorrow's trash. Going viral might be great for some people. But for me it's a distracting illusion. Personally, I'd rather be more like the moon than a shooting star.

All that said, if you send me a personal tweet on Twitter I will always try and get back to you. Better still communicate with me via LinkedIn in and you will always get my attention.

You may have an entirely different set of principles you apply. But for whatever it's worth, these are mine and I hope that my thoughts are at least helpful when you think about what yours should be.

10 tiny things that can ruin your chances of getting hired

After many months of job hunting, my good friend David Hunt succeeded this week in getting hired into a part-time, seasonal job. Congratulations David; let’s hope for more good news soon!

During his search, he encountered and overcame many of the pitfalls waiting to catch out the unwary. So I was delighted when he sent me his list of traps he’d come across. Most are so small, you’d think they were unimportant, but in today’s jobs market, even the tiniest slip up can cost you the job!

All job seekers desire a quick conclusion to their job search. But the sad reality is that for many, this is not what happens. Today, job searches can easily last from several months to several years. Which means that as well as aiming for a fast outcome, we must also prepare for what may be a lengthy search.

Such awareness means adopting a long term strategy as well as short term focused action. This isn’t admitting we are defeated before we start, it’s simply a wise acceptance of the reality that luck plays a part. But we can still increase our chances of winning if we take sensible precautions and play the long game as well as the short one.

So here are David’s 10 things that shouldn't make a difference but often do. Don’t get caught out!

By David Hunt PE

1. Have a digital file of all your key documents to hand

If you are applying through an online ATS (Application Tracking System), open your resume file immediately after you upload it (so you can see it, and cut-n-paste, in case you have to fill in duplicate information – which is usually the case).

Have cover letter(s) already written: you may have the opportunity to upload one – they make a difference. Have your list of references file open too as some ATS programs require them to complete your application… and then immediately contact them to forewarn them you just gave their information out, to whom, and attach/include the job description, the resume you attached to your application, and any specific things you want them to stress.

If you don’t, you can have the ATS time out before you get everything open, or you frantically write a cover letter.

2. Don’t advertise your medical condition

If you have a medical condition of any type that requires you wear a warning – an allergy, a pre-existing condition, etc. – don’t wear a wrist band medical alert. Invest in a necklace. A wrist band will be visible, and will make people wonder what’s so wrong with you that you need it. And though it’s not legal, it can be held against you. This goes doubly if you have an infuser pump for anything and it’s visible. Again, it’s not legal to discriminate based on a medical condition, but it happens, and it’s undocumented, so it’s not legally actionable. (And an interviewer who was so biased would, doubtless, not even mention it; all they need to do is comment about your not being “a fit” even in internal discussions!)

3. Invest in your network relationships - with snail mail

Go the library once a month and peruse the magazine section. Try and look at trade-related magazines, but also hobby magazines, cultural magazines… basically, at least flip through every one. Why? Two reasons… you are looking for articles to send to networking contacts (actual and ones you’d like to make), and you are looking specifically in trade-related magazines for people at companies to write.

If you know of a person in your network that could use the information in an article, copy it and snail-mail it to them. This does not necessarily just mean work-related. (For example, a person I know is Portuguese and is there part of the time for work. I sent him an article about cork farms in Portugal… as it turns out, he owns a cork farm and really enjoyed the article. This makes an emotional impression, and keeps you in their mind favorably. Same thing for hobbies and interests that you know of, etc.)

Is there an article by someone at one of your target companies? Write them about it. Make it short, sweet, and ask a few questions to try and open a dialog. Do not mention you are out of work; this is a longer-term investment in cultivating contacts at target companies.

4. Polish your public speaking skills

Join a local Toastmasters group to start practicing public speaking. This is especially critical if you are more towards the introverted side of the scale. For networking and for your life and career, you need to be able to talk with people in a public setting, and give presentations. (I always loved the “Table Talk” events: you are given a topic for which you’ve not prepared or rehearsed, and then you need to talk for 60-90 seconds about it!)

5. Look for other people you can help

If someone approaches you because they’re also looking for a job, don’t blow them off. Try – as best you can – to help them. It’s good karma, and they’ll remember you for it. Over time, you will develop a reputation as someone who helps others.

6. The cleanliness of your car says more about you than the marque

Clean your car’s interior. Hiring managers have been known to go out to “scope out” your car while you are busy with other interviewers. If you’re political, get bumper stickers off (if you can). And if you have time, go through the car wash too.

7. Remember you are interviewing them as well

If a company can’t give you a list of the people with whom you’ll be meeting ahead of time, that’s a red flag about their organizational ability, as well as how they view you as a candidate.

8. Show appreciation to everyone involved

As you write your “Thank you” emails and/or notes, be sure to include the person who set up your interview. Odds are they were not on the interview schedule but, as someone whose involvement in the process was critical, reach out to them as well. It can’t hurt, and may help in making a better impression as they will likely forward it to the decision makers.

9. Protect your interviewers’ noses

Yes, you need to be subtle with any scents like cologne or perfume if not forgoing them altogether. But also… lay off the garlic, onions, carbonated beverages, beans and broccoli. And while it’s perfectly fine to need a bathroom break, try to eat a lower-residue diet for 24 hours. (Remember that smell is the only sense hard-wired into the brain unfiltered; if it registers in their nose, they will be consciously aware of it and its visceral and emotion-based response.)

10. Eating Etiquette

If invited out for a meal:

· Don’t go for expensive; they’re watching.

· Don’t be picky when ordering. I.e., “I’d like the ‘X’ but can you leave ABC out, substitute ‘this’ for ‘that’…”. If there’s a dish you really want but it has something you can’t eat, after ordering – explain. (E.g., eggplant will put me in the hospital for 2-3 days… but occasionally I’ll order a dish with eggplant, minus the eggplant, and then explain I have an allergy.)

· Don’t season the food until you’ve tasted it (I read this is one screening technique an executive uses and it’s a deal-breaker for them).

· When presented with multiple utensils, start outside and work your way in.

· Elbows off the table – and other etiquette.

· At most one glass of alcohol, but best to abstain. This is not the time to try and match someone drink for drink!

Hope these are useful thoughts for you in your job search.

© 2015, David Hunt PE

David Hunt is a Mechanical Design Engineer in southern New Hampshire. Currently employed part-time, he is looking for a full-time professional that allows him to design new products and shepherd them to stable production. His LinkedIn profile is: www.linkedin.com/in/davidhuntmecheng/; he blogs at davidhuntpe.wordpress.com and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

10 reasons a blog is more valuable than money

By Neil Patrick

Plenty of people are completely mystified about why I write this blog. I don’t carry advertising and I’m not selling anything to anyone – so it earns me absolutely no money at all. It takes time I could be using to do other things. And yet I think it’s one of the most useful and valuable things I do in my working week.

If you want to know why, here are my thoughts about this question.

I think it was Publillius Sirus who said, “A good reputation is more valuable than money”. Whilst a blog cannot determine our reputation completely, it does present our thoughts and ideas to the world for the world to judge. And such openness requires more courage than I thought I really had. For me, as someone who had lived their whole life fairly successfully without social media ever being part of it, writing a blog was a personal challenge. It was the first time in my life I had ever put my thoughts up for the world to see. And that was a scary prospect.

Especially since at first, I had no real idea what I was doing. So I’m the first to admit that for many months this blog was erm, let's say... finding its way...

I’m not about to proclaim that it’s improved; that’s for you to judge, not me. But I can say it has taught me a lot and become immensely more valuable than I ever thought possible. And with over 300,000 hits so far, plenty of people must be at least looking at it occasionally.

When I started, I was obsessed with traffic. I would examine the visitor numbers every day – if it was rising, I felt good. If it was falling, I would give myself a hard time and knuckle down to putting up another post in the hope I could rid myself of my self-imposed fail badge.

I would dig deep into the stats to see which posts were getting most attention and comments and resolve to do more along those lines. A lifetime of marketing management had deeply ingrained these habits in my daily practices.

But none of this really matters a damn. And here’s why I think this.

First, I have learned that blogs should not attempt to be any of the following things:

A fact repository – Wikipedia does that far better than any blog can. If you want facts, you can get them there in an instant on just about any topic you can think of. Just don’t expect anything other than dull as ditch water fact after fact after fact…

A source for the latest news – whilst we can all grumble about this or that bias within the mass media, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the news industry worldwide posting news about everything, every second of every day. You’d be a complete fool to try and compete with that as a blogger.

A discussion forum – if you are a blogger who has many thousands of readers posting their comments regularly – I sincerely congratulate you. But my experience is that comments are becoming increasingly hard to come by for a mixture of reasons – folk don’t wish to publicly share their views or identity; they are super busy; they feel they have nothing to add. I also know that some people struggle with the comment facility on the Blogger platform and if you are one, I apologise, there’s little I can do about that, I‘m afraid. Of course they may also think I still suck at writing blog posts! I respect all these reasons but if you wish to comment, on any of my posts, I will be genuinely appreciative whether you agree or disagree with my opinions.

A way to trick search engines - I’m bemused by the whole SEO industry. It seems to rest on the premise that getting to the top of a Google search for a particular search query is the most important online goal anyone can have. I don’t waste my time with any SEO nonsense. Google will place me where it does and that’s fine. It’s got hundreds of people much smarter than me working everyday to deliver the best search results they can. I'm not going to distract myself and  adjust what I write to try and second guess Google's search algorithms. Social media brings me more traffic every day than I could buy from search engines anyway.

So why is a blog valuable? 

  1. A blog is personal and as unique as you are. If you don’t care about something you write about, it shows. So don’t write about it. Choosing topics because they are popular might get you more traffic. So what? Do you want to be running with the pack or carving out your own distinctive voice and position? Personally I choose the latter. 
  2. A blog serves as a notebook and therapy. It’s a place to record your ideas and thoughts at a moment in time. I sometimes look back at my old blog posts with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement at my own naiveté. But these retrospectives help me measure how much I have improved my knowledge, thinking and writing. It’s also a cathartic exercise. Sometimes I have an idea or nagging feeling about something rattling around my head for days on end. Somehow researching the topic and writing a post about it releases that pressure and allows me to lay it to rest…for a while at least. 
  3. It forces us to challenge and refine our opinions. If you are going to stick up a blog post and not care if your facts are correct, your arguments logical and your presentation clear and engaging, then you are a braver writer than me. The process of posting our opinions on a topic for all the world to see imposes a requirement for critical self-assessment that would normally be absent. If we are expressing our opinions to family, friends or colleagues, that’s one thing. Posting them for the world to see is quite another. 
  4. A blog gets you friends all over the world who care about the same things you do. This is the most precious value of my blog. It brings me into contact with great people whom I would never encounter otherwise. Many of them become friends, collaborators and yes even clients. 
  5. A blog will make you much better informed. I’m not a career coach, recruiter, journalist or HR person – in other words the type of people who usually write about jobs and careers. I have no direct vested interest in gaining traffic for this blog. On the upside, this makes me neutral and unbiased. On the downside, because I don’t have a professional background in the areas I am writing about I can justifiably be classed as an amateur. And that’s fine with me – this blog forces me to learn and dig into things that I’d never otherwise bother to find out about. 
  6. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to have a passion for your topic. I am seriously interested in how things work and what the future holds for the world of work. And this blog has made me even more interested in the subject as I have uncovered more and more intriguing ideas and analyses of what’s really going on. Writing a blog is the best way I know to increase my knowledge of that topic. It requires me to do my homework, to read as much or more than I write and to ask questions. 
  7. It expands our knowledge and encourages us to consider other viewpoints. Not all writers do this, but I will typically research what other writers have said about a topic, before I write about it. Sometimes they provide useful quotes. Other times they introduce me to an aspect I’d not considered. Whatever their contribution, I learn. 
  8. Doing it consistently and regularly is like going to the gym. It builds cognitive and communication muscle! I am not and never will be an Olympic gold medal writer. But I’m not trying to be. If I can be a workmanlike writer, that’s enough for me. 
  9. It’s an opportunity to expose the guilty and praise the good. I have no sponsors that I must serve and please. I write what I believe and if something or someone deserves criticism in my opinion they get it! Others who I feel deserve recognition, I try to support and encourage. In that sense, blogs can be a democratic force for good in the world. 
  10. If you’re not a digital native, a blog rockets you to the front with the cool kids. I’m well past 40 years old, and getting older and hopefully wiser. That makes me a dinosaur in the eyes of people who’ve never known a world without digital and social media. And yes I admit I like the kudos of not conforming to the stegosaurean stereotype. 

Blogs are everywhere these days. They are exploding as organisations recognise that having a lot of content on their website pushes their search rank higher. And their content reflects this. It’s copious, pedestrian, unoriginal and tame.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather read a heartfelt piece of writing by a passionate writer that challenges my assumptions than yet another sanitised click bait ‘news’ story any day…