I didn’t know Joanna Lord nearly as well as most of my previous interview subjects (though I did meet her at Pubcon and she’s an incredibly sweet person). However, when she shared via Twitter the launch of a job search site TheOnlineBeat that she co-founded, after viewing the site, I realized that she and I had a lot to talk about…and here are the results of that conversation…

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.

My background? Does bookworm count as an answer? I have a pretty heavy academic background. I studied traditional marketing & journalism back on the East Coast for my undergrad and then moved out to Los Angeles for my Masters where I focused on Persuasion and Online Media Studies. It was there that I really started to understand the power of the medium and the breadth of its reach.

After graduating I took a job with a startup—Fitfuel.com, which sells nutritional supplements and organic foods. This was a lucky find for me because the two guys in charge really pushed the limits of traditional marketing and branding. Luke Burgis is the CMO at FitFuel.com and he exploring PPC and social media marketing before they were mainstream. I was lucky enough to take that adventurous nature with me when I moved on to OneTime.com, a comparison site for travelers. There I took on my own PPC accounts and for the last two years I’ve experimented with new search marketing techniques. The GM of Onetime.com is Dena Yahya, a SEM pioneer. Under her I learned more about the business side of PPC, the many metrics involved, and how to lace PPC with other initiatives for an optimal bottom-line return.

My time at OneTime.com really opened my eyes to where the industry was going. It was a great time to be in the PPC space, more and more companies were jumping into it and our team was forced to find new ways to build out campaigns, gain a competitive edge and stay on top. TripAdvisor.com bought OneTime.com in July of this year and having that brand name behind us taught me how PPC can be leveraged with a stronger name brand for a whole different strategic approach. My time at OneTime.com was crucial in exposing me to the inner workings of a small company and the challenges they face.

Eventually my excitement for how PPC and social media platforms combine to drive traffic convinced me it was time to try something on my own. I connected with an industry colleague with more of a bus dev background and we started working on what has become TheOnlineBeat.com. It took us half a year to conceptualize and develop, finally launching a little over a month ago. I’m the CMO, so I spend my days (and nights and most weekends) really pushing the multiple media channels available to optimize our brand, evangelize the unprecedented job search functionality, and get our site into the hands of job seekers.

2) Tell me about TheOnlineBeat. What differentiates your site from other job sites?

TheOnlineBeat.com is a premier job resource for job seekers that want the most job results in one search. We all know there are a lot of sites out there; you have aggregators, niche sites, local job boards, etc. TheOnlineBeat.com aims to search them all at once. We are partnering with both big and small boards, and intend to build out our partnerships to include the fullest job board selection. The revolutionary concept is to only enter your requested profession and location once, and our backend technology deep links that information across multiple job boards at once.

My partner and I wanted to push a typical job site’s search functionality a step further. We all know that efficient search is a priority for most users, and we aim to answer that demand at TheOnlineBeat.com. We also supplement the job search with a variety of resources. We spotlight upcoming companies with innovative concepts, we interview entrepreneurs on their personal success stories as well ask them to elaborate on what characteristics they fine-tuned to get where they are today. We also provide a job resource tab with your more traditional job search questions. My favorite part to the site is the blog where I will be touching on more of the new age job search dilemmas. Many of which you brought up in this interview—how does a job searcher compete and gain an advantage in todays digitally advanced world? That is what TheOnlineBeat.com is all about, going beyond the traditional job search boundaries and helping the more web-savvy, Web 2.0 generation find the job of their dreams.

3) I have a couple blog posts that I’d like you to look at and comment about. The first one is something I wrote about a while back where I made the argument that I can make significant judgments on a SEM job candidate just by observing how they’ve participated in social media. What are your thoughts?

I absolutely agree with your post. How a search engine marketer participates in social media is going to show me how interested they are to the latest industry news and the willingness to take those new ideas and test them out. A person’s digital footprint is a huge indicator of two things—their network/exposure strength and their innovativeness. To be good in SEM you need to know basics just like any other industry but you also need to be experimental and somewhat un-phased by failure—because it’s going to happen at times. I’d elaborate on those failures but this interview would get long real quick

Each media platform tells you something different about the person involved in them. LinkedIn shows they are out there meeting the pioneers so they respect the fundamentals. Facebook participation demonstrates they value group interaction and this shows they respect what comes from professional dialog and even better—professional debates. Twitter to me is the ultimate indicator. You were dead on when you said; “you really should be on Twitter if you are in our industry.” Although it’s expanded to a more mainstream audience, it was founded by the digitally innovative and online media focused. An SEM candidate needs to understand what tools are out there not just for their personal gain but to understand what a competitor has available to them.

Lastly the stronger a candidate’s digital footprint is, the bigger their toolbox is. Our industry is all about results, and the key to results is efficiency. The larger your network is, the more brains available to you, the most perspectives, and the more devil advocates at your disposal. That sort of assistance and camaraderie is priceless to a search engine marketer, and in my opinion, it’s really invaluable no matter your profession.

4) My friend and fellow SEMpdx Board Member Scott Orth has been blogging about his experiences since being laid off from his job. Can you give me your thoughts about what’s he is saying and about blogging thusly as a job search technique?

I have actually been following Scott’s SMJH since the beginning. I was following him on Twitter when he decided to go forward with his public job search via blogging and social media marketing strategies. It’s been an interesting read, and I am actually anxiously awaiting another post with an update. (hint…hint…) It looks like he started to see some success in the end of November, so fingers crossed the experiment has worked.

With that said, I am skeptical as to whether blogging can be as used as a job search technique in other industries outside of PPC, SEO and SMM. Our community clearly gives more weight to the blogging medium, and our eyes are trained to defer value from a person’s network and digital footprint. I think some of the deductions Scott made about particular platforms were spot on. For example he basically found LinkedIn to be less useful than he anticipated and found Twitter to be more valuable than originally anticipated—I have heard similar criticisms from other job seekers. He also discussed a few times how he began to feel like a thorn in the side of his “supporters” and I think that is a risk we all run as we employ our online connections for personal gain—no matter how noble the goal.

Again I think in our industry blogging through the frustration and successes of your job search may have more benefit than in other industries mainly because his potential employers are active in the blogging world, whereas that may not be as likely in other industries. For those job seekers, I imagine blogging could be used in conjunction with more traditional job search strategies as a way to gain an advantage.

5) How acceptable is it now to use social media to attempt to connect to prospective employers and bypass the traditional employment process?

This is a tough one, I’ve seen this approach become more and more acceptable and to be honest I am still torn on my response to it. To say it’s “acceptable” isn’t quite right, at least not now. It’s still seen as a somewhat inappropriate and chancy way to land a job. The traditional process is what it is for a reason. It was our attempt at an objective, unbiased application process. When an applicant uses a social media platform as their way in a door it brings with it a user profile picture, age information, and personal information beyond just education and work experience. For the job applicant “underdog” it no longer makes the landscape a level one. With that said it does raise the bar for applicants, and I see value in that.

I think the real weight falls on the potential employer’s shoulders. The evolution toward social media as a tool for investigation has already taken place. That happened when Google became a verb. It’s now up to the applicant to manage and grow their brand. I personally think the employment process will become a hybrid of social media investigation and traditional processes. I also think how employers conjoin the two will determine whether this process is “acceptable” or not in the future.

6) How can a business find a qualified employee online for little or no money?

This has always been a problem. It can get very costly for companies to make sure their open jobs are listed in the right place at the right time. I could write pages on this question but to simplify things I think businesses need to be more proactive (via social networks) and they need to start researching the new sites available to them.

The more presence a company has on social networks the more attention it will gain from potential job candidates. The “qualified” aspect will always come down to how well a company screens the initial resume proposal whether from a recruiter or an online submission process. The key is to have a presence in the right place. Know where your best applicants search for jobs and gain visibility in that community.

The newer sites that are surfacing attempt to “match” employers with job seekers, rather than just expose each side to the other. Sites like https://www.zookel.com/ and https://www.realmatch.com aim to provide employers and job seekers a better way to connect, with the social network twist. Another approach is for businesses to become more active in their niche job sites. These sites have community forums and job boards just waiting for companies to post jobs. Some are free and some aren’t but if you are looking for a highly relevant audience with qualified candidates this is where you need to be active.

7) You wrote a very important post where you argue that you need to research a prospective employer every bit as closely as they research you. How far would you go with this? Would you question a prospective employer about dirt that you might uncover about them online?

If there is one thing people ask me all the time its “how can I find out more about a job before I take it?” That blog was in response to that. It seems more and more sites and tools are being created with that in mind, sites with company reviews, stats, and ex or current employers’ thoughts on the company from the inside. It’s UGC for the job search world. If used correctly these sites could potentially lead you to the “perfect” job.

I reiterate—if used correctly. Even though the power to research is equal between employers and applicants, the power of employment is still in their hands. I think there are boundaries as to how uncovered information should be used. If you are on Vault.com and come across information suggesting the company has seen a downfall in profit over the past few months, or if you come across news articles discussing layoffs, I think it’s crucial to inquire on the state of the company. But, if you come across a rant by an ex-employee on interpersonal issues with your new boss, I think its best to omit that from your interview and instead focus on asking appropriate questions like, “How would you describe your team’s morale in the office?” In my opinion, just because you have more information to help you make your decision doesn’t mean you should lay it out on the table. The bottom-line is really to have class people. Use common judgment, and act professionally. These rules will always apply no matter how the job search process evolves.

8) Please talk about Online Reputation Management and how that might affect somebody’s search for employment.

This past year was a big year for Online Reputation Management. Everyone is talking about it, blogging about it, and coming up with tools to help you manage your personal brand better and more efficiently. The concept of monitoring your personal brand isn’t a new one, but it does seem to become more and more important as we all become more visible online. In September of this year CareerBuilder conducted an online study and found that 22% of employers researched potential candidates online during the hiring process. That’s 1 in 5 employers, which is up 11% in just two years.

You have to ask yourself what are they going to find if they not only Google your name, but searched across multiple social networks? Would the search results help or hinder your chances of landing the job?

For job seekers I would say there are a few things to be particularly concerned with—consistency, conduct, and character. When I say consistency I mean are all of your social profiles matching up with the resume you handed in? Have you updated all information to reflect your current situation? This is especially important with LinkedIn, which really needs to reflect the most up to date information and recommendations you can get. Secondly when I say conduct I mean the pictures and the comments. What do your status lines say about you? What do the names of your public photo albums say about your day-to-day activity? What comments are you leaving on other people’s profiles? What are they leaving on yours? Make sure you delete any inappropriate material the second it is posted, don’t let that slip through the cracks. Lastly—character, the problem with an employer searching for your name online is they rarely go past the first or second pages of results. You need to be proactive and seek out activity that will positively influence your organic rankings. Employers want to see your name connected with not only the industry but extracurricular activities that reflect good character—whether it’s volunteering, guest writing for a publication/journal, being on a committee or board, etc.

The truth is employers now have the ability to be very picky, especially with the economical situation. Don’t give them a reason to dismiss your resume before they even get past your name. Online Reputation Management during the job process is a full-time job and involves both precautionary tactics (setting things to private, deleting material, flagging, etc.) and proactively improving your brand (spotlighting good reviews, joining relevant groups, properly optimizing personal sites, blogs, etc.) It’s a process, and its one I personally think you can’t afford to ignore.

9) If somebody told you that the purpose of Twitter is to screw around and avoid working, what would you tell them?

I sort of touched on this above, but I hear this argument all the time by non-twitter users. There are lots of arguments out there for why Twitter is a waste of time, “you can’t make real connections in 140 characters,” “the conversation gets cluttered with pointless tweets,” and so on. I personally have a rebuttal for any argument against Twitter that comes my way J as I am true Twitter believer.

The argument that it’s a “way to avoid working” is probably one of the more nonsensical ones out there. Mainly because the people that really use Twitter never stop working. Twitter is full of users that are always “connected” and always engaging with the online community. Also I think if you just read the bios and research the background of Twitter users you get a pretty strong case as to Twitter’s value. I find it hard to believe that a user base full of industry gurus, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, top-notch bloggers, and consultants is the type that likes to “screw around and avoid working.” Instead I believe the opposite to be true, through my Tweets I have been fortunate to connect with some of the most knowledgeable and dedicated people I have ever met.

Twitter for me is an opportunity to share my obsession with online media with a group of people that feel the same way. The current negative connotations are primarily from people that haven’t tried it, and in my book those are not legitimate arguments. Now if there is someone out there who has used Twitter for a period of time and still feels that way, shoot them my e-mail, I’ll buy them a coffee and we can have a nice little chat (insert evil grin here). J

10) You are somebody that has made themselves very well known very quickly in the search community. For a search newbie who wishes to follow in your footsteps, what would you tell them to do?

Oh this one is a fun one. You know the last few years have moved really fast, and I have been lucky to cross paths with some great industry minds. When I reflect on what advice I would offer a search newbie a few things come to mind. The first and most important advice I can give is to respect the “big fish.” There are a lot of people in the industry that have been doing it for years, they have put in the time and they should be respected for it.

I have heard people like Brent Csutoras and Michael Gray speak at conferences on the “dinner party” analogy in regards to successfully infiltrating a social media, it points out that you shouldn’t show up to a dinner party and start talking just to talk. I would say the same applies here. It’s important to listen for a while, and naturally enter the conversations in our industry. My favorite addition to this analogy was when I heard Dave Snyder say, “You should also bring a good bottle of wine.” It’s important to have something to add to the discussion, something unique and interesting. For newbies I would suggest looking at your strengths and asking yourself how you can spotlight and leverage them as you move forward in the industry.

Other than that I would tell them that you really can’t half-ass it. I’ve heard this over and over and for good reason. You can’t just skim a bunch of blogs and hope to get anywhere in this industry. You have to research what has been done, you have to practice old techniques, and push the limits with innovative strategies. It all goes back to being okay with failing. I’ve pretty much accepted that everyday people smarter than myself surround me, but that just pushes me to watch them and learn faster. Start a blog, start a site, help your friend’s with their sites, the more you do the faster you learn. You aren’t going to learn anything until you screw up a few times. The best thing about our industry is the learning curve is self-determined. So get moving…

One thought on “Jenuinely Joanna: My Interview With Joanna Lord

  1. Joanna is spot on! The advice she gives is just what newbies in the field need to understand. I’ve been in the web industry for 6 years now, but I’ve just started marketing myself socially on the web a few months ago. I came across Joanna first on twitter. It was her common sense approach to self marketing that got me following her. Reading this interview helped me to understand that. Keep it up Joanna. Something tells me you’ve just begun.

    Sue Nolffs last blog post..I am Now Publishing on AddsYou.com

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