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What job does Social Media do for you?

My husband has already nicknamed me “Ladybird Johnson”
because I like to tweet. Now I’ve signed up for Google+,
which means I now have yet another social media platform
to manage. I clearly love this “cocktail-party-from-the-
comfort-of-my-computer,” but do I show up because I am a
party girl? If you know me in real life (IRL), this is
laughably implausible. So, to paraphrase demand innovation
expert Bob Moesta, what job have I hired social media to
do by putting it on my payroll?

According to the jobs-to-be-done framework, whenever we
buy something, we are hiring the product or service to do
a “job,” the job being a problem we want to solve or a way
to advance toward a better self. With few exceptions,
every job that people want done has emotional, social and
functional elements.

Let’s start with what I presently hire social media to do:

1. Help me find my personal voice and get published. In
2006, I started my personal blog, Dare to Dream, and in
2009, I began blogging for Harvard Business Review, both
of which accomplished the task of getting published and
“finding my voice.” Prior to 2006, as a stock analyst, I’d
been able to “hire” the Merrill Lynch platform, but it
couldn’t do the emotional job of honing my personal voice.

2. Help me be found professionally. Without even looking
for professional opportunities, I can hire LinkedIn to
help me be found; my network of acquaintances keeps me
informed about opportunities and known to key players in
my field. Previously, striking out professionally meant
I’d hire a headhunter.

3. Help me stay in touch with people I like, even though
our lives don’t currently intersect. Facebook is head-and-
shoulders above the other candidates. And because
Facebook’s on my payroll, I’ve fired handwritten notes and
birthday cards. Facebook is also a forum for expressing
glee about life’s simple pleasures — saying things
like “I love watching Burn Notice” and being heard. There
is a functional problem Facebook solves for me, but this
is largely a social and emotional hire.

4. Help me expand my network. JP Rangaswami, Chief
Scientist for Salesforce, described tweets as the
“knowledge worker’s pheromones,” a means of sending up
signals to find others like us. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve
fired going to networking events; twitter is a more a
cost-effective means of identifying people at the edge of
my network. I also hire Twitter to prototype my ideas in
real time and to learn to think in sound bites. (And, to
be honest, I also hire it to help me procrastinate.)

If you hire social media, especially to promote your
business, you will likely have your own reasons, but ask
yourself the question, “What problem am I trying to
solve?” This will likely get you to the functional
element. To peer into your emotional and social why, also
ask “what progress am I trying to make?”

Moesta, the “milkshake guy” referred to by Clayton
Christensen, examines the forces that drive people to
purchase new products and services. After decades of
applied research, he’s concluded that jobs are primarily
about identifying the natural “pull” (or demand) rather
than reacting to the traditional “push” of sales and
marketing information. Key to understanding the jobs that
your products do for you is real behavior: not what you
say, but what you do. By examining the basic push and pull
forces in people’s lives, he parses out why people do or
don’t hire a product, and what’s hindering or furthering
their progress. Here’s how that looks, visually:

F1 = Push of the situation (Frustration) What you’re doing
now isn’t working and you are ready to change.

F2 = Pull of new solution (Light bulb of innovation) This
is something to change to, a magnetic pull to something
new. Progress is unlikely to happen without a Pull to
accompany a Push.

F3 = Allegiance to the past (Comfort of the known and
history) A counterforce to push + pull is allegiance to
the past – sticking with how you’ve always done it.

F4 = Anxiety around the new solution Where there’s
resistance to progress typically there’s anxiety focused
on know-how and/or cost.

Moesta then posits a fundamental equation of progress:

When we hire a product or service, it’s because the push
(F1) + pull (F2) > allegiance to past (F3) + (anxiety) F4.

No matter how frustrated we are with our current situation
or how enticing a new product is, if the forces of
progress don’t outweigh the hindering forces, we won’t
even try.

For example, in deciding to blog, I first had to create
the platform, which I didn’t know how to do; I was also
afraid of putting my personal thoughts out there. But the
pull of talking out loud was greater than the undertow of
fear. “New consumption is more often about personal
betterment than problem solving,” Moesta notes. But once
I’d started with social media, LinkedIn and Facebook
quickly became valuable employees. Twitter, with its
specific protocols, was a more difficult hire — but
fellow blogger Matt Langdon liked it, so I gave it a
whirl.

So where does Google+ fit into all of this? Unclear. I’m
not sure there’s a problem I want solved (F1). But if all
the cool kids are there, that’s a pretty strong draw (F2).
I am, however, fairly loyal to Twitter — I like my
tweeps, the 140-character requirement that requires I
think crisply, even the clever nomenclature. I’d also need
to invest in learning how to utilize this platform, not to
mention the work involved in moving my online party from
one venue to another. And I’m just one person. If the
decision to hire Google+ is this complicated for me,
imagine the upheaval for a corporation.

The jobs-to-be-done framework is a helpful diagnostic in
determining what you actually want done (not what you
think you want), and in evaluating potential resources to
do those jobs. If you haven’t pulled the trigger on social
media or another prospective hire, consider Moesta’s
Equation of Progress.

You and I may initially hire social media to help us sell
a product or service, to solve what we consider a
functional problem. But remember, as Moesta says, “there’s
a greater emotional aspect to jobs than we want to give
credit for.” The real power of social media lies in the
social and emotional progress we can make. While
technology can hinder progress by making us hyper-
connected, distracting us from those we love, and helping
us avoid our to-do list, as blogger Robin Cangie has
pointed out, the important job of technology in general,
and social media in particular, is to facilitate human
connection, to expand our social circles and strengthen
our in real life relationships. That’s true progress
— a job we all want done.

Whitney
Johnson is a founding partner of Rose Park Advisors,
Clayton M. Christensen’s investment firm, and is the
author of the forthcoming Dare-Dream-Do: Remarkable Things
Happen When You Dare to Dream.