People and Social Networks | Foundation 4 – Lesson 4

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

While Google and RSS are far and away the most useful tools for job search research, social networks and other forms of social media are rapidly growing in importance. Not only do the websites that house these social networks hold large quantities of information that might be relevant to your job search, but they also provide an easy way to connect with people whom you can mine (read: interact with) for information.

Right now, we’re still talking about mediums for research. Over the rest of this Foundation we’ll get to what kind of information you should actually be looking for. I know that it’s kind of hard to separate what you should be looking for from where and how you should be looking, but once we get the initial concepts out of the way, it’ll be a lot easier to discuss Finding the Jobs, Digging Dirt on the Jobs, and Informed Communications.

The Big 3 Social Networks

Right now, we consider 3 mainstream social networks to be the most useful for job search research – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They each have distinct uses and distinct communications norms. Everyone uses them differently, but we can make some generalizations from a research standpoint about each.


  • Audience: People looking to connect mostly with real-life friends
  • Openness: Most people protect all but the most basic information from everyone except friends
  • Type of Data: Generally people’s profiles include information about their social lives with very little about their work lives
  • Search Engine Openness: Only a small snippet of data about Facebook users is available to search engines


  • Audience: Business people who are looking to manage relationships with colleagues/co-workers
  • Openness: Generally users have a “public profile” that looks like an outline of a resume, while more detailed information is reserved for connections
  • Type of Data: Information on LinkedIn generally covers where you’ve worked and possibly what you’ve done there along with whom you’re connected to
  • Search Engine Openness: Search engines pull a decent amount of information from LinkedIn profiles, but there is still a lot left out.


  • Audience: Individuals and organizations that want to connect with others who have similar interests, regardless of whether or not they already know each other
  • Openness: All information is public unless the user chooses to protect updates (which is typically frowned upon by other users)
  • Type of Data: Twitter accounts can be solely personal or solely for business use, but most users tend to mix work and play
  • Search Engine Openness: Everything on Twitter is indexed by search engines unless it is protected by the user.

There’s one big aspect of social media that doesn’t fall into the social networking category, but it’s just as important as any of the social networks.


Blogs are amazing repositories of information, and their attributes are nearly identical to Twitter’s (see above). Many people forget that blogs are social tools, but the essence of blogging is interaction. Bloggers as a group are generally a group of people who are extremely open to networking. They’re also major content producers, so you can pull in a nearly endless amount of information without their knowing that you’ve been doing in-depth research.

As you can see, all three of these networks can offer extremely valuable information for your job search. Not only are you able to easily connect with people who can provide information on or even help you through the hiring process, but there’s also an amazing amount of information that you can pick up without interacting. Right now we’re not going to worry about what we’re looking for, so as long as you understand the basics of these networks, you’re ready to start using them for research purposes.

How to Search Social Networks

All of these social networks are great platforms, but they’re not very useful if you can’t find what you’re looking for. Since job search research is usually targeted at uncovering specific details about a given industry, company, or person, we need to be able to parse these networks quickly to get the information that we want. Here are the three easiest ways to do that:


The whole point of these networks is to connect you with people. If you’re looking for information, sometimes the easiest way to find it is to ask. This is totally cool on Twitter and Blogs, might be acceptable on LinkedIn, and is least likely to succeed on Facebook. If you’re going to do this, make sure that you’re comfortable with the medium and try to understand how the person that you’re asking typically uses the given network. This is probably the method of social network research that has the highest variability in terms of success rate. You may spark a conversation that lands you a job, but you may also get completely ignored.

On-site Search Functions

All of the networks mentioned have their own search functionality. On Facebook and LinkedIn, the search capabilities are focused on connecting you with the person that you’re looking for. They generally return results that are connected to you through other people, since those are the people that you’re most likely to be trying to connect with. Facebook and LinkedIn aren’t great when it comes to finding people by the information in their profile Twitter is the complete opposite. Their search engine is excellent at finding the most up-to-date information from people’s profile, but Twitter doesn’t provide a great way to find specific people on their service. Blogs often have on-site search boxes that rely on solely on keyword relevancy and that don’t use very advanced algorithms.


Although Facebook almost completely shuts out Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Blogs have a much better relationship with Google. In fact, if you are trying to find something on any of LinkedIn, Twitter, or a Blog, you’re often better off using Google than using the site’s own search function. This is especially true for searching LinkedIn profiles and finding specific Twitter users. If you use the tips that you learned in the previous lesson, you can find some pretty interesting stuff on each of these sites.

Social + Search

Although we’re going to get into what type of information you should mine social networks for a little later in this Foundation, we’re going to use one example to illustrate how powerful the combination of search and social networks can be.

Creating an Online Presence

Although this doesn’t technically fall under the realm of research, I think now is an important time to emphasize that you use social networks to build your search engine ranking. Since profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs typically rank well in Google, it makes a lot of sense to build pages for yourself on these networks. That way when a recruiter (or your mom) searches for your name, you’ll control the first page of results (and beyond). If you control the pages that rank for your name, then you can uses these pages to show off your talents, skills, and interests. It’s pretty simple on the surface, although we can get a lot more in-depth with Online Reputation Management if any of you are interested.


Use LinkedIn to find 3 job titles that you’d like to have at some point in your career. Then replicate what I just did in the video above to determine how you can get there. Once you find a person who has the job title that you’d like, move over to Google and the other social networks to dig up more information. Yes, it’s a little bit creepy to be “stalking” this person, but you need to be comfortable doing this type of research if you want to give yourself every possible advantage in your job search.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to make you contact the people that you find… in this lesson.

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4 responses to “People and Social Networks | Foundation 4 – Lesson 4”

  1. jmwatts says:

    Interesting I came to this lesson today. I actually contacted a marketing manager at Smith Optics through LinkedIn just before I started it. Smith is a company I’ve had my eye on for a while but no matter how I try to search on the internet, have yet to figure out how to even get close, so being a marketing type myself, I sent him a message, interestingly enough, we’re connected through some people I interned with in the past, so I actually asked a former fellow intern to “make the introduction.”

  2. Willy Franzen says:

    Awesome. I’m glad to see that you’re one step ahead of us… or maybe two or three steps considering you went ahead and made contact too. I’m also happy to see that you’re blatantly ignoring the “Sorry, there are currently no positions available.” on Smith’s Careers page. That’s the kind of initiative that we like to see.

    On another note that relates to the previous lesson, I just ran a search for “job openings” and got nothing. It seems that Smith’s Careers page isn’t indexed by Google for some reason. It also doesn’t contain much information, so you’re definitely taking the right approach.

  3. mdabhi says:

    A quick question? What if your dream job requires a PHD/Masters and you can’t see any other option to get into that Industry unless you have that requirement. Is it worthwhile to get in touch with someone from that industry via linkedin/email and ask him questions about his career-path.

  4. Willy Franzen says:

    It’s not only worthwhile, it’s something that you NEED to do. Look at Jason. His career path is pretty unique and it included a stop at business school; however, if you ask him if business school is worth the time and money, he’ll say NO!

    Some jobs really do require a PhD or Masters, but you shouldn’t blindly follow because that’s what you think you need. Investigate and get the real story so that you can make the right decision.

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