Friendship Farming

On July 15, 2011, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, More2Know, by John Sumser

Friendship Farming on HRExaminer
As I learned about the ethnography used to build the Marriott employment branding game, I was touched by one of David Kippen‘s stories. Kippen explored a small trend with big ramifications. As is increasingly the case, smart motivated people, far beyond American shores, are teaching the world about social media.

I’m going to summarize the story and hope that you’ll understand that any embellishment or error is mine alone.

It seems that there is a cadre of young (20 somethings) people in India who are traveling from small rural villages to find a better future in the cities. When they get to the big city, they find work (long hours and crummy jobs). They save up their money (often skimping on the most basic necessities like food and shelter) in order to play social media games in internet cafes after work hours.

Mind you, the work hours are long and skimping on food and shelter is a hard way to live. The payoff, however, is pretty amazing.

Forty or Fifty hours a week playing Farmville means that:

  • You get pretty good at the game
  • You get to help people who are less adept
  • You get to make friends and connect as a result.

It’s being able to connect and offer value that’s the kicker in this story. The folks playing Farmville in the internet cafes are doing job networking in a whole new way. Social media makes it possible to have access to all sorts of people you can’t get to otherwise. Those folks in the internet cafes are demonstrating a new way of looking for work.

The point isn’t that they are getting good at social media games. What they are doing is building strong relationships based on shared experience. This is what friendships are made of. The Farmville job hunters are using social media in a powerful way. They are making connections, not playing games.

They convert those connections into new opportunities. This is what’s possible in social media in HR. But it requires the investment of time in relationships, not just advertising and the broadcast of a message.

A friendship involves reciprocal exchanges of real value. You build networks by being the initiator coif the relationship by giving real value first. Real value is not the name of a chum or the redistribution of a job ad. Real value is the kind of help you get from and give to a friend. Our Indian social entrepreneurs are creating their own supply of social capital in order to get a better job.

This is not the kind of service that is being built in the Western world. Most of the HR / Recruiting social media offerings I see are focused on the generation and dissemination of data. Networks are not about relationships in much of the HR Social Media I see. Rather, Networks are sources of data that can be used to selectively target people (as if they were turkeys in a turkey shoot). Meanwhile, the rest of the world is using social media to be social and do social things.

After hearing that story (and some of the details of ethnography), I realized that I needed to do a little more investigation of my own. I haven’t had to look for work or use the internet to do so for quite some time now, I wondered if I was really missing something. Over the coming months, I’ll tell you about the results of some of my experiments.

I’m learning a lot.

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You Have to Know Where You Are to Get There

Paul Hebert is a founding member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. As the Managing Director and lead consultant for...