Can a Company Take Social Networking too Far?

Word on the street is that Best Buy is now requiring applicants to not only be on Twitter – but to have at least 250 followers, as well. When I read this, my mouth hit the floor. In effect, the company thinks that hiring people with a large Twitter following will garner more business for them. How ludicrous is this? It’s not up to an employee to send out tweets and bring in business to a company like Best Buy. For one thing, what if a person chooses not to have that many followers? Not everyone is on Twitter to see if they can win the race for having the most followers. Some people actually use it only to follow interesting people and entities themselves, not caring whether others follow them back. Some of those same people never even update their own timeline. They choose, instead, to simply use Twitter to read the latest news, and keep up with what’s hot in the marketplace.

I cannot begin to understand why a company would – or can even be allowed to – require something like this. If a person’s job were going to be something along the lines of “Social Media Director”, I might be able to see the need for the applicant to already have some sort of following, establishing them as “social media savvy”. Beyond that – I’m just lost.

What are your thoughts? Is this going to become an eerie new trend in the job hunting process? Do you feel that this is just totally off the wall? Let’s hear your thoughts!

24 thoughts on “Can a Company Take Social Networking too Far?”

  1. Ok I can MAYBE understand Best Buy saying Ok you need to have an account on at least one social networking site, that what you don’t have some internet dolt working there. But saying that you have to have x amount of friends or followers? OUTRAGEOUS!

  2. Ludicrous. Even if they managed to hire folks with large followings, I am guessing they are planning to have these employees now tweet on behalf of the company. That would take the fun out of it for them.

    Remember when Netscape started paying their top news posters? They all quit within weeks. Well that.

  3. Looks like Sales in the old school way. Having a hot list of people to spam with Bestbuy deals sounds like a smart business decision. It’s kinda like having a mailing list.

    The only problem is that the new hire’s twitter followers didn’t count on being crowd sourced. Some will like it and some won’t. What counts is that they explain to their tweeple the new situation imho…

  4. The requirement you are blogging about is only for one position: that of Director of Emerging Media. Though I don’t agree with the arbitrary 250 followers number, it is certainly reasonable to expect your new director of emerging media to know something about Twitter.

  5. Chris,

    The Best Buy Twitter requirement may not be quite as wacky as it seems. In the non-retail world, sales people have long been responsible not only for finding the cold customer, but for bringing a batch of sales leads with them.

    To make a fair assessment, I’d have to know more about the specifics of the requirements, though. Is BB wanting these folks to actively use their personal Twitter networks for sales purposes? That carries a high backlash risk and not likely to last long, especially in the consumer electronics space where high pressure sales tactics often run people off. Is BB simply using Twitter in the same way many companies use a Bachelors degree or “years of experience” requirement: a way to quickly throw out the applications that are simply a waste of time?

    It’s impossible to truly know without being part of the internal strategy meetings, but the latter makes sense to me. It would actually be pretty smart for BB to use Twitter as a weed-out mechanism during a period where they are no doubt being flooded with applications, many from people for whom sales is not a primary skill.

    While a large following does not guarantee that the applicant will have the networking skills implied, for all of the reasons you list, it does make the odds a lot better. I’d wager that the number of people with more than 250 followers who aren’t providing either some content with value or decent networkers is relatively low.

    I don’t fully agree with your statement that it’s not the employee’s job to drum up sales. As a Sales Associate (or whatever BB is calling them these days), that’s more or less exactly their job, though we’ve come to expect much much less from most BB folks on the floor. Granted, as a major retailer BB has potentially better channels in which to work, but who’s to say that augmenting traditional sales and marketing efforts by shifting the company’s Social Media efforts down to the people who actually “get it” isn’t a really interesting approach?

    Ultimately, the market will decide if it’s a good idea or not, but, depending on the true rationale behind the requirement (assuming it exists), this is exactly the type of corporate experiment that ends up being a Harvard Business Review case study.

  6. Gah… two editing errors:

    “That carries a high backlash risk and *IS* not likely to last long…”

    “I’d wager that the number of people with more than 250 followers who aren’t providing some content with value or aren’t decent networkers is relatively low.”

    And one clarification: “While a large following does not guarantee that the applicant will have the networking skills implied, for all of the reasons you list, it does make the odds a lot better.”

    Bad comma placement. =-) I am agreeing with your list of reasons why a large following isn’t necessarily a decent indicator of skill.

  7. It’s a good point that many people are not on Twitter and those that are often don’t have many followers. While this is not the best way to find talented, intelligent workers, it is definitely a great way to create buzz. I mean, you wrote about it, I tweeted about it yesterday, and I’m sure there’s hundreds who have done the same.

    I would not be surprised that this was an idea of CP+B (which does advertising for Best Buy). Just looking at CP+B’s new “Beta” site shows you that they fully understand the shift that the social web is creating..

  8. Sources sources man…

    BTW your right, I didn’t start using Twitter until a few months ago, and I don’t have even close to 250 followers, nor do I want that many.

    How exactly does one get that many followers if your not interesting. Also if I had that many people interested in what I had to say… Shouldn’t I be able to get a better job then best buy has to offer! Just a thought.

  9. Hi Chris,

    I agree with your comment – it makes no sense that Best Buy would make this a requirement. It almost seems as some “quasi-tech” management guru in the company thought this would be a good idea. Hey Chris – why don’t you enlighten them a little bit? They’re intentions may be good, but some deeper insight may be necessary…


  10. I think this is totally off the wall. Doesn’t the company care about who the person’s followers are? They could all be spammers! And does the company have a ‘must be a brand evangelist on Twitter’ policy as well? I understand the thinking behind this idea, but the reality is just because someone works there doesn’t mean they’re going to tweet about it.

  11. That is ridiculous, so what happens when a user is not social media savy or has less than 250 followers or using other social media like myspace or facebook? what then, they wont interview the applicant on the basis of what I described? who even apply to be an employee at best buy after that, and best buy decides to start requiring their current employee’s to be a member of twitter with 250 followers, those employee’s will feel like quitting their job and going somewhere else, plus most people use myspace and facebook more.

  12. As someone who has been working for the company for 6+ years I can say that it is totaly false. All you need to work for the company is to be at least 16 years of age, pass a drug test, a 45 min application/test online, and a 3 seperate interviews. Accessing social sites like Twitter at work is actually is against company policy, so why would they require it.

  13. all you would have to do to get that many followers anyway is to say a bunch of dirty words and gather the pornbots. it proves nothing.

  14. I think it makes perfect sense for Best Buy to look for a manager in emerging media who has at least 250 Twitter followers. That position calls for a person who is experienced with new social technologies and Twitter is certainly one of those; no matter your personal feelings on Twitter and its usefulness, it’s a pretty big deal in retail/e-commerce right now and someone in this position should be using it.

    And 250 followers seems like a reasonable number for that – I think Best Buy is attempting to provide some sort of objective, quantifiable measure of “experience with social media”. Yes, it’s easy to get hundreds, if not thousands, of spambots and other junk followers, but it’s also pretty easy to glance at someone’s Twitter account and see if they are engaging in a meaningful way with real followers. The 250 followers number is just one tiny piece of a larger set of qualifications and I’m sure Best Buy knows this. It feels like a good enough starting point to me.

  15. lets say farmer bill wants a job but doesn’t have a computer or internet that’s discrimination and twitter is a waste of time only people will come to the store if they want to buy a laptop,desktop,any accessory associated with computers,video games,consoles,and so much more

  16. I will immediately tweet my outrage about this company whose sole desire is to be tweeted about at any cost!

  17. You make interesting point, one that I haven’t heard before. Usually it’s the other way around with the employer worried that people are goofing off reading jokes and taking silly quizzes. In this economy, this really crazy economy, it seems to be up to each and every individual to shine, keep the lights on and the paychecks coming. Try not to see it as a bad thing. The alternative is extensive face-to-face networking to talk up your place of business. I would much, much, much rather tweet about it.

  18. Twits.

    Friends? Show me somebody, with 250 friends, who is willing to bug his friends with manipulative crap, and I’ll show you somebody with no friends.

    Director of emerging media? Sounds like they need a director of sales more than a director of emerging media. Actually, it sounds like they need a brain.

  19. I think they are nuts to actually make that a requirement! I understand that they think this will help the company in terms of advertising, but I don’t think that they should base who they hire from the number of followers an applicant has.

    Scenario: An applicant that doesn’t care about social media but is a great fit for the position.
    –Would the company really hire someone who’s not as good but has a gazillion followers? That’s stupidity right there.

    I think that companies who do this are going overboard and really riding the wave of the Twitter craze. It’s pathetic.

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