If there were two trends that marked 2008, they would be the explosion in usage and acceptance of new communications tools and the concern that a recession in 2009 would impact jobs - although some would argue that we should have listed the second trend first. And, perhaps, what we will find is that these trends come together in coming months. Specifically, we’ve been amazed at how quickly the social media tools – everything from Facebook to LinkedIn and Twitter – are reshaping the communications landscape. In terms of size and scope, Wikipedia reports:
- Facebook has more than 120 million active users worldwide. (It was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg while he was a student at Harvard and, initially, limited to Harvard students, but was expanded to other Ivy League colleges, then to any university student, then to high school students, and, now, to anyone aged 13 and over.)
- LinkedIn has more than 30 million registered users. (It’s a business-oriented, social networking site launched in 2003 mainly for professional networking. As of Oct. 2008, its registered users spanned 150 industries.)
- Twitter had more than five million visitors in Sept. 2008. (It’s a free social networking and micro-blogging service, that allows users to send and read other users' updates - otherwise known as tweets - which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.)
And, even well-established organizations such as The Salvation Army are utilizing these social networking sites. Fleishman-Hillard’s DC office passed along the following item from CNN: The Salvation Army is expanding its fundraising campaigns from direct mail and traditional bell-ringing in shopping centers to texting and tweeting with donors on their mobile phones and online networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The charity—struggling to boost donations in an uncertain economy—hopes that “reaching out to a younger generation and figuring out what makes them tick” will help increase contributions this holiday season, said Major James Seiler, a Salvation Army official in Atlanta. The group launched a Twitter feed, entitled TSARedKettle, featuring updates on its fundraising activities, as well as one-on-one “tweets” between Salvation Army officials and Twitter followers. The organization’s four-year-old Online Red Kettle program now includes a Facebook component, enabling Facebook members to add a widget to their profile that tracks the progress of their kettle and enables Facebook friends to easily donate. The group is also testing a new cell phone donation system in Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, that allows users to contribute $5 by texting a code to a special number.
So how do these social networking trends impact jobs in 2009: We believe that more and more employers will be looking for communications professionals who have an understanding of these new tools and those without them, may find yourself in jeopardy. For a long time we’ve been preaching “change or die” and we may be approaching the day when that proves true.
If you want further proof of the interest in these new tools, note that approximately 1,200 people attended Twin Tech II (we have photos in Around Town), hundreds more attended InterAct2008, and the major professional organizations are offering a number of seminars on social networking campaigns.
Speaking of jobs, the picture is not all bleak. Arnold DC reports that while 2009 may seem grim to most advertisers – industry experts predict up to a 9 percent drop in corporate ad spending – its office is bucking the trend with a growing staff. In fact, when last checked, they had 18 openings. Karen Riordan, who heads the Arnold DC office and also is DC Ad Club’s president-elect, sees demonstrating ROI as one of the keys to survival in 2009 - and something we have heard from other agency presidents.. Specifically, Riordan noted, the job of communicators is to tailor and deliver messages cost-efficiently, quantify return on investment and show results. These people, she said, will dodge the ax – or at least minimize budget cuts. Also, as we've noted before, the incoming Obama adminstration may bring an abundance of opportunities for many communicators as they try to get their clients' positions in front of newly arrived administration policy makers.
Finally, check out the career section of the Capitol Communicator web site. We've found many of our readers find it of real interest and value.