Self-marketing on the internet or how we will find work in future

Florian Blaschke got his job as editor-in-chief at magazine via an unusual online application procedure that caused quite a stir on the internet.  We talked to him about the opportunities and risks associated with self-marketing on the web.

Florian Blaschke worked as a journalist for conventional newspapers and for online media and was in charge of press and Public Relations work at the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg. Born in 1979, he is not a digital native, but knows the internet like the back of his hand nonetheless.

The internet offers so many different possibilities for self-promotion. Which do you consider to be the most effective?

Florian Blaschke: To my mind, the most effective is Facebook, because it has the greatest potential for things to go viral. If you try to disseminate your application via your own contacts on Facebook for example, you'll find this the most likely way of getting it passed on. Close behind is Twitter – another medium where things go viral really fast – and then there are a couple of smaller networks like Xing for German-speaking areas.  Internationally and in Germany too LinkedIn, amongst others, is now becoming one of the key players.

Conventional email is also important for contacts that you can’t reach in social networks. For me, email is the really ‘most basic ’ form: If, for instance, I want to tell a former colleague something personal or I want to get him - or her - to distribute something via their network of contacts but this person is not on Facebook or Twitter, then email is a good way of self-marketing. Most networks have a wide outreach, so I’m also talking to people I don’t even know in person.

What do you think about the way that private and professional matters tend to get intertwined in social media?

Florian Blaschke: I don’t see that as a problem. Everything that goes on on the internet is not private as far as I’m concerned. And everyone who goes in for any kind of internet application relinquishes some of his or her private identity. I move in a public domain and as a consequence I accept that, to a certain extent, I am a semi-public person. So in that respect it does not jar for me.

The fact that everything we post on the internet is public domain has certain risks – do you have any recommendations about what people should look out for and what they should definitely avoid when marketing themselves on the internet?

Florian Blaschke: What happens of course is that you get feedback. You have to be ready for that. So it's a good idea to show the application to two or three people beforehand and ask: Is it logical? Does it come over positively? Does it suit the field I’m aiming for? What might also happen, as in my case as soon as I go public via Facebook, Twitter and other channels and say ‘I’ve got an application here, I’d be really pleased if you could pass it on,’ is that it backfires on me. It might be that only 10 people tweet back and ultimately the application comes to nothing, but it does so publicly.

That’s why it’s important to look at your network beforehand and ask yourself whether you can get it to split it up in a way that will ensure it reaches a certain level of distribution. And if you have any movers and shakers in your network, by that I mean people who have a wide influential outreach, you should forewarn them and get their feedback.

In my field especially – PR and social media management, where you are obviously interacting with the public – it would be a slap in the face if I realised I wasn't able to generate any kind of public response.

What response did your online application generate and how did this match your expectations?

Florian Blaschke: The number of responses alone was much higher than I expected. I guess I had an outreach of somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Qualitative feedback was generally positive and any negative feedback was generally constructive. There were people for example who told me, 'I think your application is great all right, but something about it bothers me; it’s too in your face, too loud.’ Then others made comments in the blog especially saying: ‘Yes, but it has to be that way; if I do something like this then I have to make myself heard.’  What really pleased me the most was that a lot of people said the application matched what they expected of me and fitted the way they see me or have got to know me. So in that respect, for me, the feedback was positive all round.

Does that mean you would only recommend that people market themselves like you on the internet if it is in keeping with their personality and if, in a real-life situation or cooperation, they could deliver what they claim in their online application?

Florian Blaschke: Definitely. I think that with self-marketing it’s really important everything fits together. First of all, the application, just like a standard paper one, has to stand up to any expectations in a later meeting or telephone call. And it has to come from the heart a bit too, you have to put your soul into it and show who you really are. This might sound like a lot of wishy-washy stuff but I believe that just like in a letter accompanying a standard application, people looking at your online application notice whether you are talking through your hat or whether what you are saying is true. And the other thing that you really have to have is a basis in the form of a network to back you up.

It is important to ask yourself some very simple questions beforehand: Who am I, what can I do, what is my professional character like, what do I stand for and in which areas do I wish to work?  You have to give some thought to your own brand or brand strategy.

Do you believe that self-marketing on the internet will replace the normal way we have looked for jobs up till now?

Florian Blaschke: Eventually, yes. I think, increasingly, fewer jobs will be advertised.  Companies will recruit their workforce in other ways – via their own or an extended network. I think there will be changes on the employer side. And on the other hand, there are more and more networks that are being used at least partly for professional purposes. The number of people using professional networks is growing so rapidly that these channels are becoming increasingly important. The classical sectors especially, you know the kind where you would be more likely to suspect they would prefer applications on paper, are increasingly taking note of the potential inherent in the internet. There will always be a few medium-sized companies that won’t jump on the band waggon but, in future, in the majority of cases, most applications will be like this.

September 2014

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Florian Blaschke
2 October 2014

Dear Ali Salha. Thanks a lot for your comment and your question, which is a good one—and a complicated one. On the one hand, in my opinion everbody, who's network is strong and viral enough, can get a job via Social Media, may it be Facebook or LinkedIn. But to build up a network, that is both strong and viral, isn't as easy as it sounds. There are industries, that are more accustomed to Social Media and those, who are less. To go this way while working—let's say—in the skilled crafts and trades, could be harder than while working in marketing or journalism. At the end it's simple: Can you reach potential employers via Facebook? Are they on LinkedIn? Do they twitter? Perhaps this answers your question? Otherwise I'd be happy to discuss it with you.

Ali Salha
1 October 2014

Thanks Florian for the informative feedback you have voiced up so far. Quite impressive how recruiting process will be done in the future!
Just a comment that could be a question at the same time: You mentioned that Facebook is the most effective media for self-marketing on the internet while LinkedIn is becoming one of the key players as well. My Question: Does this apply to all job categories?
In fact, I am not here to defend either FB or in, I just want to understand how an engineer (of any discipline) could promote him/her self on a "social" media filled with ads, apps, progms, friends, x-friends, relatives, pics, private and public stuff!
I can tell that if a person who writes, takes photos, makes movies, draws and paints, designs, and decorates, can do a self-marketing through facebook with his/her posts and updates. BUT can an Engineer (e.g. Civil engineer / management position) do the same and if so how it can be done?
Many thanks in advance.

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