Turning social media attention into income

By Srininvas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

A few months ago I was let go from my job heading up the social media efforts for Flightster.  I immediately entered panic mode and frantically searched for a job only to realize that living in Costa Rica was going to severely limit my chances of finding anything. So I decided to table my job search and return to the United States.

Over the last two years I’d seen several people use their social media presence to help them find a job. Given that I’d built a decent footprint online, I thought I wouldn’t face any of the typical challenges of a job search.  I tried leveraging my blog and my connections to launch a job search campaign.

I thought there was no way I could fail with this considering I’d seen people who were not nearly as connected as I am wind up with multiple job offers. I emailed everybody I could in my network and asked for their support in getting the word out and my blog post about my job search was tweeted 153 times. The campaign fell flat on its face and I didn’t receive a single inquiry about my job search.

Despite my tireless work in the “attention economy,” I could not convert this to cash.

Why the Social Media Job Campaign Failed

I’m not sure if I could come up with an exact reason that my job search campaign failed, but I thought it might be worth taking a closer look at some elements that might have limited me:

  • Too Much Transparency: I have a reputation for being extremely transparent on my blog. I don’t sugarcoat anything, tend to be opinionated and let people know a good deal about my life. It’s no secret to any of you who know me well that surfing is a HUGE part of my life. It’s possible the fact that I’ve been so open about this may have caused a potential employer to see this as a red flag. On the flip side of that I think that transparency is exactly what keeps people from ending up in a job they’re going to eventually hate.
  • Lack of Specifics: Looking back at this campaign I think I could have been far more specific about exactly what I was looking for. I’ve been involved in a wide variety of projects over the last two years and I made it a point to showcase the work I’d done on those. It’s possible I didn’t articulate the value I could bring to an organization as well as I could have.
  • Not Pushing the Klout Score: Truth be told I’m not a big fan of Klout and can’t stand the idea that somebody would hire me because of my score. But it’s something that probably would have been worth discussing in my job search campaign, given that it is a measure of influence that does have significance to people who are hiring specifically for social media positions.

After sulking for about a week I went back to the drawing board, demoralized and wondering how I would ever stand out in this job market.  Sending out resumes led nowhere, and the more I thought about it, the more I started to think that maybe finding a traditional job was no longer in the cards for me.  My friend Josh Waldman told me:  “Well I think you’re in an odd position because of all the entrepreneurial stuff you’ve done. The right company will see you as a tremendous asset, but many will look at this and see you as a liability.”

When I thought about this, my job search took a new turn as I decided to focus my efforts on  personal projects and keeping an eye out only for opportunities that I considered a perfect fit.

Taking a Dive in the Deep End of the Entrepreneurial Pool

A few weeks ago Stanford Smith wrote a great article on {grow} about the social media mistake that far too many people make and I mentioned in a comment that in many ways, I had become the poster child for being “social media popular” and unprofitable.

I have a blog with close to 3,000 subscribers, a podcast gets 25,000 downloads and multiple speaking gigs and I still can’t live off of what I’ve created.  I have hit a wall.  How was it that people who’d started after I did had become more successful?  I questioned whether I had what it really takes. Why was I not making the kind of money that I thought I was worth?  Questions like this plagued my mind and finally after weeks of soul searching I realized that I’ve reached a point of no return.  I absolutely have to see the social media properties I have built become a success or die trying.  But I had to do something different if things were going to change.

Every single day that I came across a compelling blog post, I decided to act on it. I launched an e-book for a $1.99.  I started writing a guest post at least twice a week for a blog bigger than mine. But I knew there was no way this was going to give me the income I needed in the long term.  I got my hands on books like The Wealthy Freelancer and realized that it might be time to bring in some outside help and hire a business coach.

The Harsh Reality of Making it On Your Own

I am finding that is not easy making it on your own in the social media space.  You have to have a high tolerance for risk and uncertainty.  You don’t know where your next paycheck is going to come from. People around you continually seem to doubt whether you’re going to make it and seem intent on advising you that you’re out of your mind.  The low barrier to entry created by social media has flooded the market with aspiring entrepreneurs, freelancers, and people trying to make it on their own.  Standing out in it is only half the battle. You have to figure out how to turn social media attention into social media income.  Have you successfully evolved from blogger to entrepreneur?  What steps should I take next?

Srinivas Rao is the founder of Blogcast FM and writes about the things you should have learned in school, but never did.  

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