Monday, April 23, 2012

Where Are the Social Business and Sharing Economy Jobs?

If you follow me on Twitter*, you may know that I am seeking a new job.**  Given where we are in the maturity of social business and social media, I expected I might find opportunities focused on the social business transformation that is underway, but instead those jobs are few and far between.

The world is changing, and social media is already altering consumers' relationships with the products and services they purchase and use. What is evolving is not just the way social changes marketing and communications but how social revolutionizes the products and services themselves. I have written about the profound social business transformation that is underway (such as in "The Past of eBusiness and the Future of Social Business" and "Eight Ways Social Business and Mobile Tech Are Changing Your Business"), but you do not need to take my word for it. You can check out great articles about the evolving world of social business and collective consumption in The Week, FastCompany, Mashable and Forbes.

Many companies need to retool the way they do business, because yesterday's business models will not work for tomorrow's consumers who are adopting and growing up with new sharing behaviors. In the same way the new "digital natives" of the past decade changed how we buy, consume and use news, music, photos and books, tomorrow's "social natives" will bring substantive changes to the way we use and buy (or don't) cars, financial services, durable goods, hospitality services and more. Given this, you would think that it might not be too difficult to find a job focused on social business and not merely on social media marketing and communications. I am finding quite the opposite.

If the sharing economy is about to throw a wrench into many industries, where are the jobs that will help to facilitate this transformation? Today's enterprises are full of positions that manage the processes, channels and systems brought by the last major wave of digital change, but there are few opportunities for those who will manage the next wave of social media change.

Search for "e-business" and you will find almost 800 jobs posted in the last 30 days. Search for "Social Business" and you will find only 150 jobs, and these jobs are considerably more junior than the e-business openings--most of the e-business jobs are in Fortune 500 firms and require more than 10 years' experience, while few of the social business jobs are in Fortune 500 firms and the vast majority require less than five years' experience. Leadership jobs that require social media skills do not measure up to Web counterparts, either. A search for Vice President jobs with digital, interactive or internet requirements yields over 800 openings; there are less than half as many Vice President openings that require social media or social business skills.

With rapidly changing demographics, social behaviors, social technologies and sharing habits, the growth of the sharing economy is nothing to take lightly. One need not look far to recognize the dangers of failing to keep our business processes and products in line with changing customer tastes, expectations and habits. Research in Motion stock is down 73% in five years; Kodak is down 96%; Borders Group is down 97%; Sears down 72%; Nokia down 85%; and in the five years before its acquisition by HP, Palm stock lost 61% of its value. Blockbuster, Tower Records, AOL, Polaroid, Virgin Megastores, Myspace, Gateway, Yahoo, Sega, Circuit City, Hummer, Oldsmobile--it simply is not hard to see how quickly profitable and well-established companies can fail if they hesitate to keep up with changing consumer habits, tastes and expectations.

So, where are the jobs to lead this next wave of change? Are existing leaders bringing this change to their organizations, eliminating the need for professionals with deep expertise in social business? Are today's social media managers evolving from a focus on social communications to a focus on social business models? Are companies simply not investing in the sharing economy as of yet? Or will this change only be led by vendors who offer social media tools and services (such as social media management and commerce suppliers) and startups who strive to compete against the established players (a la Amazon vs. Borders circa 1995?)

What are your thoughts? I would appreciate your input and dialog.
* If you are not  following me on Twitter, why not?

** I love USAA, its mission and my team, but my wife and I are struggling to adjust to San Antonio and are seeking to return to large city with livable urban options and big-city amenities and activity.


Rachel Happe said...

It's an interesting observation. From my perspective I think many senior business leaders are so distracted with trying to fix what is not working that they are not yet ready to take the leap to something very new and not well understood.

In our work at The Community Roundtable we also see a lot of what are now the senior social business/community leaders frustrated by the combination of intense pressure to prove these emerging methods but without the benefit of much investment or mindshare. This is creating a lot of volatility in the job market in this area. Organizations want the best talent but then frustrate that talent.

Anonymous said...

From my observations, existing roles are absorbing social media/social business into their responsibilities. I think this is to do with deep knowledge of the particular company not domain knowledge - to make this transition stick, people need to know how to work the current systems and processes within a business and can hire in the social media expertise.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks for the comment, L-E-C-G-in-S-V and Gavin.

Gavin, my experience is a little different. Today's leaders in existing roles are focused on solving today's problems. I see e-business folks more focused on multivariate testing to increase conversion by fractions of a percent rather than how collective consumption may change online business, for example. I'm curious in what sorts of industries you've seen existing leaders adapting their products and services for new social business models. Can you share, please?

Anonymous said...

Three questions, Augie:
1. Does USAA have a branch with big-city living other than in SF? How far down the population list do you have to go to find a USAA office?
2. How far south of SF (into Silicon Valley) would you be willing to go?
3. I realize USAA may not support telecommuting yet... could you be the first, or is it time to go freelance?

OK, maybe a couple more Qs. Paul Graham has suggested that the best problem to tackle is the one that you wish someone would solve for you. What's the most annoying thing you have to do in your daily social-media routine that you wish some company or entrepreneur would fix? Could you turn that solution into a paying career?

Perhaps you'd prefer to use your social-media skills in a social-media job, but your skill set overlaps that of development coordinator (fundraising) for non-profits. Unfortunately you'd have to educate them on that.

One last thought. About 25% of your co-workers had to make a seemingly impossible transition between the military and their USAA careers. Perhaps their experiences can suggest a way to make the transition between USAA and your next career.

Augie Ray said...

Great questions, Doug. (I'd expect nothing less from you, of course.)

I'm not sure I won't yet fight to remain with USAA and work remotely. This is a strong culture that requires presence, and it would be different for a people leader to work remotely (although not completely groundbreaking.) I love USAA, and I'm happy to report that USAA loves me, so perhaps we can find the right plan. But, at this time, I'm looking for other jobs and USAA is considering other candidates.

USAA has offices in Phoenix, Colorado Springs and Tampa--I'm afraid none of them have quite the big-city lifestyle we're seeking (a al San Francisco, New York or Chicago.)

As for where in the Bay Area would I work and live, I'm open to that topic. I've applied for some things in San Jose and Mountain View.

I appreciate the encouragement and thoughts Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the story as it unfolds.
Wherever you land, it'll be on your feet. And running!

Augie Ray said...

Thanks, Doug. Your confidence means a lot!