My main gripe with social media is the hashtag foreign policy fanatic: the one who uses a Twitter hashtag to solve a problem. Still, at the margin, social media platforms are a great asset for humanity. They allow for the free exchange (subject to Twitter autocracy…) of ideas. They facilitate the publication of noteworthy events. They mobilize public attention to mutual interests. But social media can also assist in the fight against unemployment and poverty.
Consider the fact that at present, those who are unemployed tend to find work by signing up with an agency, sending an application, going door-to-door or applying for jobs online. And while there are many government and nongovernment-sponsored mentoring programs to help the unemployed find work, social media represents an untapped opportunity. Here’s how we could turn on that tap.
First, employers, professionals and skilled laborers could group together to establish social media mentoring programs. At a basic level, by posting tweets, Facebook statuses and Instagram photos, these various workers could advertise their fields of work to a limitless audience. And they could do so on their own schedules and in their own individual ways.
The first opportunity here would be the fostering of basic connections in an un-intimidating way. Consider, for example, how much easier it is to engage with a prospective career opportunity from the privacy of one’s own home, rather than in a public setting. While the public setting ultimately becomes necessary once an individual makes an application, social media could take some fear out of the early search for a new job.
And crucially, with workers advertising what they do and why they believe others should do it, the unemployed would find a passionate, personal connection. Especially relevant for those on stretched budgets, this early connection mitigates a job seeker’s costs in otherwise travelling to a job fair. Put simply, those who are interested in a job could engage more deeply with that opportunity, and those who are not interested could — without cost — simply divert their attention elsewhere.
In the fight against poverty, social media represents an untapped opportunity
This leads to the next level of social media opportunity: those with a deeper interest. After all, these individuals could then take then next step and engage directly with the social media manager. This could take place though Facebook or Twitter direct messaging. It would again preserve a degree of comfortable separation — avoiding a phone call — without sacrificing the opportunities of individual interaction. The interested individual could then send private questions whenever he or she wanted advice and the respondent could message back at their discretion.
Building personal rapport, the next step could be personal interaction, perhaps via Skype, in an informal job interview or a video “meet and greet.” Again, it’s important to recognize that at this point, the job seeker would have amassed knowledge about the opportunities and costs of their prospective job, but would also have minimized or avoided costs in attaining that information. Depending on the Skype meeting, the individual might then ask for advice about next steps. But in doing so, they would have the ongoing mentoring of someone already in the field.
Of course, some people would need training to make them eligible for a job, and social media could also help here. Directing jobseekers to either physical (classroom/apprenticeships) or virtual (web-courses) training programs, the personal contact would help the applicant find the program that suits him best.
Sustaining this interaction would be two incentives for employers. First, by using the cost-effective medium of social media to support interest and then narrow down those who are truly interested/capable of employment, employers could cut their human resources costs. Second, as an unemployed party moved through deeper into the job-seeking process, there would be obvious opportunities to monetize that arrangement, perhaps through small monthly subscription fees.
Obviously, this social media process would require a degree of cross-platform formality — linking various accounts together and ensuring a reliable base of individuals in the field were available to share information. But this would not be a great challenge: many individuals would join-up simply out of passion or kindness.
Regardless, my point here is that LinkedIn is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media entrepreneurship and unemployment. It takes 10 minutes to set up a Facebook page or group, 30 seconds to post a tweet, and 10 seconds to upload an Instagram photo. And each option is free. As such, just as Uber and Lyft have shaken up the car-service industry, social media has great potential to address a key social concern.
Tom Rogan is a contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.