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. This article was first published at blogs.hbr.org