There is one question that is being asked in interviews more and more often these days. It takes various forms but the gist of it is: who do you follow? Who do you read? Who do you listen to? Who do you look to as thought leaders in your industry? It is important to hiring managers, and to recruiters as well, that candidates have a finger on the pulse of their industry. You should know what issues are being talked about, whose ideas are being listened to and how you feel about them.
What to Look For
With over a billion Facebook users, 284 million on Twitter and 100 million blogs on Tumblr, what sets apart content worth consuming from the general noise of the web? Overwhelmed by the saturation, some choose not to participate at all while others consume as much as they possibly can, scrolling through the endless static of the thousands they follow. Instead, it may be helpful to think of yourself as a curator; choosing which artists deserve valuable wall space in your museum. You can only read so many blogs a day. Professionally, you want to follow those that are relevant (to your function, your industry, or potential client space), those that produce content regularly and those that consistently put forth innovative perspectives. You are looking for informed and respected voices and you should be aware of who those individuals are, whether or not you agree with them.
Where to Find It
If you’re looking to expand your palate, you’ll want to pay attention to “Suggested Users” tabs and advanced features that allow you to search by keywords related to your industry. There are also third party sites, like WeFollow.com that sort Twitter users into popular categories which make it easier to find people who are talking about the stuff that you want to hear. And then you’ll want to pay attention to how people respond to the thought leaders you identify. How sophisticated are the comments on their blog? Are they being retweeted and by who? Once you find someone who fits the bill, look at whom they follow. One leader will lead you to another.
How to Get Involved
Don’t just consume content, engage with it. Participate in the discussions on their blog and don’t be afraid to link to or tweet at those individuals. Show others what you like to talk about and you’ll find yourself being invited to those conversations. Add useful information or ask a good question. Introduce people through Twitter or LinkedIn. There are many stories of important connections and opportunities gained from digital networking. The more you participate, the more ready you will be to respond to any question about what’s trending in your industry and who said so. Over time you will begin to build your own audience and before you know it, you yourself might become an answer to the question: “Who do you follow?”
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.