While it's not clear that social media is going to take over as the best public relations tool of the century, the uses of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks for marketing and promotions are certainly changing how consumers and workers use and react to products and services.
A recent blog post on ZDNet looks a little closer at trends of social media that could actually be affecting employment. From Tom Foremski's IMHO blog at ZDNet:
"There is a strong trend among corporations to use social media to turn nearly every one of their employees into customer service reps and evangelists.Best Buy is an excellent example. It is using Twitter to answer technical queries and it even specifies a minimum of 250 Twitter followers for job applicants.This is not good news for shy staff because their enthusiastic participation on Twitter or Facebook can be easily tracked and measured. Such metrics will surely be used in evaluating promotions and pay raises.How far will it reach within an organization? That will be interesting to see.Also, because of the blurring of personal and business lives, this means employees will be spamming their friends and family as they prove their worthiness to their bosses. This won't make for happy staff but customers will certainly feel pampered."
The requirements for having a minimum of Twitter followers is a development to be watched. While Foremski is talking about jobs at a retail outlet such as Best Buy and not what's happening at your technology job, it's still a trend worth recognizing. Is this a requirement for hiring to be expanded at many companies?
You have to wonder if forcing social participation in these networks to get a job is even legal. What about older job applicants who want to work at Best Buy but are limited in their knowledge of social networks? Seems like Best Buy could be stirring up a generational divide in job hiring practices.
Foremski also details another possible trend in how social media could actually help companies weed out employees on, say, a help desk staff. He cites a Business Week article that looked specifically at Intuit and numbers around volunteer community help advice, and how Intuit made cuts to its help desk staff.
By limiting its QuickBook community participation to hardcore users, the company is allowing the community to answer questions and seeing results it can live with. From the BusinessWeek article:
"Intuit chose this "narrowcast" approach after Chief Executive Brad Smith heard what was going on at the Web site of Intuit's popular TurboTax product. Customers were not only asking technical questions, they were often outshining Intuit's own tech support staff by answering 40% of the queries themselves."
He then cut 4 percent of the Intuit staff, though they deny any connection to the program. Intuit does say that they have seen a cost savings in the help desk calls. While it's a stretch to say there is a direct connection to the cuts, Foremski wonders, will customers want to participate in a community that may end hurting people's jobs?
It's probably too early to answer that question.