What you Need To Be Thinking About Regarding Social Media and Layoffs

Job Decline Worst in 35 years
Many of my friends –and family– members have been laid off, or are having a hard time getting a job. In fact, Forbes reports that nearly 600,000 jobs were lost in Jan due to the recession, the worst since 1974 says the SF Chronicle.

Average Tech Company Layoffs? 21%
Being native to the tech industry, I’m watching Techcrunch’s layoff tracker, which has a roster of 288,153 layoffs since August 08. Let’s assume that Techcrunch’s data is right, and focus on one of the columns listed on the report shows the percentages of layoffs per company. Being the analyst I am, I did a quick average and found out that most common percentages of layoff is 21%.

21%, this means that if you work at a tech company, and look up and down your aisle, 1/5 people you know, could be packing their boxes.

Hate Your Job? Suck It Up
After speaking with others that were thinking of leaving their jobs before Oct, they are now thinking twice, why? The competition for specific jobs is fierce, and with less compensation, people that have crappy jobs are going to suck it up, despite the fact they have to do more with less.

Got Laid Off? You’ve A Stigma to Overcome
I speak to a lot of CEOs in my job as an Industry Analyst, and I’ve been asking them where they would hire top talent from, from the existing workforce (already have a job) or those that got laid off. Each one (over 5) told me that they would still try to poach top talent from existing companies, sadly those that were laid off on first round have a stigma attached to them. In fact, some of you may be over and under qualified, and you should know the dangers and solutions.

For those that were cut in first round, I’m sensitive to your situation, you know I’m doing what I can to help those that got laid off with my survey results of those that were hired since the recession was announced.

Filtering the True Social Media Experts
So what about those that got laid off? friend and former colleague Robert Scoble suggests several tips to those who joined the mobility pool, while many make sense, he suggests that:

“This means removing ANYTHING that says you are a “social media expert” from your Twitter account. There is no such thing and even if there were there’s no job in it for you. Chris Brogan already has that job and he’s not giving it up.”

I disagree and agree, here’s why: first of all, recognize there’s a few different types of social media experts, those have have done it, and those that say they can.

Within the corporate (client) environment, it’s easy to find folks that have done it, in fact, I’ve created a list of those within companies larger than 1000 employees that are social media strategists, or community managers. I’m a bit behind on updating the list, I’ll do it soon, please carefully read the requirements before submitting.

On the vendor or agency side, this is a bit more challenging, as an client, you should ask for at least 3 case studies of success, and gauge if they are walking the talk.

However, it gets more difficult on the consultant side, why? When people get laid off, the first instinct is brand themselves a consultant for hire. As a result, anyone who has been using social media tools for personal use could brand themselves as having social media skills and experiences for corporate –yet we know it’s often very different.

Now, if you truly are a social media expert, and a consultant, you’ve likely already a book of business and you’re working with clients. Therefore any employer who is seeking to hire you, and sees that you’re positioning yourself as a social media consultant without a book of business or client or vendor experience will quickly see through it. That’s where Scoble is right.

Key Takeaway: If you are the real deal, tout it. Of course you should highlight what you’ve done right, but because we’re in a community, others will reference you –so it may not matter as much.

Update: Dawn Foster has some good points on how to find out who’s a real social media consultant.

Talking About It Openly Can Help
Here’s a unique approach, my friend Cece Salomon Lee a PR/Marketing/Social Media professional on vendor side recently god laid off, (her husband was laid off the next business day) and she’s chronicling her journey on this blog Survival Mode. I worked with her on a client/vendor relationship and am happy to be her reference.

When Layoffs Are A good Thing
Before the recession was announced, I planned a trip to Maui, in fact I just got back last week. What did I notice? Now is a great time to go on a vacation. Flights were $250 round trip from SF to Oahu (ours was only 1/3rd full), and condos were renting at $100 a night. You can go to Costco and buy food on first day, avoid eating out, and rent a car for $25 a day and go to the world’s best beaches. So if your job is secure, or you got a nice severance check –take that trip you’ve always wanted to.

Of course, layoffs are good, actually great, but only if you’re the CEO of Seagate, who received a $5,000,000.00 severance paycheck, that’s a golden parachute inside of a parachute, with a backup parachute on a glider. I counted last night, that means they’d need to sell over 50,000 Seagate Free Agent Drives (less than $100 each) to make up for that compensation –not counting his $500 hourly consulting fee. I’ll be he’s going to Hawaii.

I have a Forrester report coming soon based on the survey results from top brands, whether or not they are going to increase or decrease their social media marketing spend during a recession –stay tuned.

  • http://she-conomy.com Stephanie Holland

    Hi Jeremiah,

    This not that big of a deal and I certainly am not meaning to be critical, but I noticed a typo. Certainly no need to post my comment, just wanted to point that out.

    In the paragraph:
    For those that were cut in first round, I’m sensitive to your situation, you know I’m doing what I can to help those that “god” laid off with my survey results of those that were hired since the recession was announced.

    god should be got.

    By the way, I read your blogs all of the time and enjoy them immensely.

    Stephanie Holland

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks, I guess I was getting religious on you, I’m sure many a swear were said in the last few months.

    Also, I added a section on bottom when Layoffs are “good thing”

  • http://she-conomy.com Stephanie Holland

    Thanks, just read it. My favorite part about the severance package was that he cannot go to work for his competitors, which is most humorous. If they paid that much to be rid of him and based on your findings mentioned above, who would want him?

    Looking VERY forward to the survey on how people will support social media during the recession!

  • http://www.docstoc.com Serena

    Great article. What are your thoughts on the chances for success of new college grads trying to break into the tech space?

  • http://www.cleanybeany.com Erika Berry a.k.a. CleanyBeany

    As an entrepreneur and a Michigan resident,(we Know unemployment), I repeatedly hear “great time to start a biz” Startup money is tight all over, BUT for you techies. If you are willing to come to Michigan and become the next Google here check this out.http://www.lakeshoreadvantage.com/eventaddtxt3.asp?EventID=173. Best of luck to everyone suffering a job loss.

  • http://blog.davewrites.com Dave Atkins

    Your advice to unhappy workers to “suck it up” is bad. OK, to a point, if you just itch for something a little better or have petty grievances, then yes, suck it up. But if you are unhappy in your job, you need to fix that because just burying your head in the sand means eventually you too will be laid off when the company goes under. While employed, you have a chance to search for something better or start your own business. When the layoff happens, you will have a harder time. Don’t be a victim.

    I disagree with the layoff stigma. These days top people are being laid off and good companies are dying because of factors entirely beyond their control. There is no shame in being laid off. I will accept that you know CEOs who have this perception, fine. I don’t want to work for them.

    As for social media experts, sure no one is an expert. But what matters is working with clients to serve their needs. Expertise is measured one client at a time and simply choosing someone because they have a long list of accomplishments is no guarantee they are the right fit.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Serena, read my post about college grads, sadly, some fall into the under qualified spot.

    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/02/04/the-dangers-of-being-under-and-over-qualified-during-a-recession/

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Dave

    Regarding “Suck it up” the threshold of pain is better defined now.

    The difference between “I hate my job” vs “I dislike my job but I don’t have better options” is a bit more clear.

    One thing is for sure, this is a great time to hire.

  • http://www.connectedworldmedia.com David Jacobs

    You can’t be a social media expert because Chris Brogan already is? That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I have been a podcaster for over four years and involved daily in the social media space for over three. I’ve just recently began a social media consultancy and I already have my first clients. Am I a “true” social media consultant? I really don’t care what people inside the bubble say. For my clients here I’m true enough and giving them real help with their social media needs. Either you know your stuff or you don’t. There is a ton of opportunity right now for those that do.

  • http://survivalmode.wordpress.com Csalomonlee

    Thanks for the mention Jeremiah.

    With regard to sucking up to a job, I think people have to remember that some folks have no choice but to stay in their jobs for economic reasons. And as everyone has pointed out, with more competition for a job, it becomes more difficult to interview and get that job. You have the added stress of trying to find a job without having your current employer find out.

    Hmmm – Hawaii, I better do some research… =)

  • http://www.marketingmystic.wordpress.com Mia D

    My $.02, CEO perception isn’t very relevant to the general layoff discussion, because the layoffs have mostly affected middle-management, lower level employees and C-level execs are rarely ever involved in hiring decisions for those positions.
    And I don’t know how anyone can be anointed an expert in a space that’s still evolving, especially when one can’t even predict with any accuracy as to which social networks will be left standing once the dust settles.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks Mia

    Are you saying anyone can predict which one of the web companies, enterprise software companies, newspapers or auto companies will be standing after the dust settles?

    There are social media experts out there, I talk to them frequently.

  • http://www.relationship-economy Jay Deragon

    Great post. As an additional perspective social media gives those with innovative minds to create products and services that most all buisness will eventually need. While I agree the term “social media expert” is lame and overused those that study, experiment and create new value propositions and discoveries will be the market leaders able to help others.

    As you say “layoffs are a good thing” when it produces innovation that benefits others, entire markets and creates new business paradigms.

  • http://www.marketingmystic.wordpress.com Mia D

    Thanks for the response, Jeremiah.
    The difference between the industries you’ve mentioned and social media is that the latter is quite broad, it’s not a mature industry, and not confined to a handful of companies.
    The challenge isn’t as simple as predicting which auto company is going under, but rather staying on top of the evolution, as the social space gets reshaped by new social tools or sites that are coming up every day.
    IMHO, being an ‘expert’ in some narrowly focused area like enterprise social media or blogging or Twitter is one thing, but ‘social media expert’ is like ‘marketing expert’, doesn’t mean a whole lot.
    Funnily enough, there are some whom I consider an ‘expert’ in this space but they don’t think of themselves as one.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/rotkapchen Rotkapchen

    Don’t forget, those are unemployment rates. People fall off the unemployment roles and it’s assumed they don’t WANT to work. And there are a lot of people who already work ‘off the grid’ and aren’t entitled to unemployment benefits, that don’t show up (seasonal, temporary, self-employed).

  • http://www.twitter.com/rotkapchen Rotkapchen

    Indeed, here are Gallop numbers trending down on hiring (the other side of the market) since January of 2008!

    http://twurl.nl/gczqxr

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  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Rotkapchen

    These Gallup numbers are key.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/110809/US-Job-Market.aspx

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  • http://www.fly4change.com Alex, aka SocialButterfly

    Great post. I think when it comes to the “social media expert” terminology…if you position yourself as a valuable industry asset, rather than an “expert” (in anything for that matter), you will find more success, relationship-building and opportunities because of it.

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