Get good at social media. Now.

The second start-up I did was with a guy who had great data about city governments but didn't know how to turn it into an Internet company. So I wrote a business plan and got it funded.

It turned out that he also had no idea how to use the Internet. He had a secretary, Laura, who printed out his emails for him to read and then he dictated responses to her.

He hid this from me until one day I needed to dig through his emails to find correspondences from investors. I said, “Give me your password.”

“I don't know it.”

“Okay. I'll get it from Laura.”

“No. Okay. I'll give it to you.”

“What is it?”

“Hold on. There is stuff about sex sites in there and I want you to know I don't know how it got there. ”

“I know. Everyone gets spam from sex sites. It's not just you.”


This is funny now, right? It's funny that he thought typing was not in his job description. It's funny that he thought he could get by without learning how to use the Internet.

But that was 1996. The corollary to that today is people who think they do not need to be good at using social media.

The whole Internet is going to be social media: shopping will be social, your resume will be social, your whole career will be built on social media, and your kids' education will be built on social media. (And if you think you don't want kids, then the way you are going to get to a place where people don't bug you about that decision is through social media).

I wrote very early that social media is the key to a good career. It seemed so crazy when I wrote it, but I was sure it was true. And now that I am running a vibrant tech career from a rural farm, I thank god every day that I'm great at social media.

Do you think social media is too much work, and you have a life to live? This is what social media gets you:

Social media gives you control over your life and your career so you can prioritize however you want. You can achieve what you want. And you can ignore what you want. That’s why I get to post photos of basketball on my career blog.

Being great at social media makes the odds better that I’ll be where I want to be when I want to be there.

But watch out. Because social media isn't a skill you list on your resume. That would be like putting “Internet” on your resume. (Yes, I swear. There are people who still put that in the skills section of their resume. We should gather those resumes for the Smithsonian collection while we still can.)

So then the question is, “How are you going to learn about social media?” You could do what I've done: I've spent the last five years of my life doing nothing but social media. Trying everything, making mistakes, working 100-hour weeks.

I do not recommend that.

So what do you do? The first thing is, start rewriting your resume to show that social media is a part of your life. It's just what you do to get the job done. Think of this as similar to what people had to do in 1998 when it was too late to put as your job title, “Internet Manager.”

The next thing is that you need to start learning from experts. And here's where Brazen Careerist comes in. My company. For those of you who have forgotten, even amid farm fights and pig sales I still own a large share of Brazen Careerist.

I will love Brazen Careerist the most when it sells for millions of dollars and I can be a farm princess. But until then, I love Brazen Careerist for its amazing track record for using social media tools. That's just what we do to run the business, and we are totally great at it.

So we have decided to offer a Social Media Bootcamp. And honestly, I think every one of you should take it. First of all, I'm teaching part of the course. But each of us needs to learn from a range of people so we can figure out what's best for us, and the course will be taught by a collection of people that even I am excited to learn from.

So. Here's the link. Sign up. It's $245. And I’ll see you there!


66 replies
  1. Paul Hassing
    Paul Hassing says:

    Onya,P! Three years ago my special superpower was writing recruitment advertisements (job ads) for print newspapers. With smaller ads, for fewer jobs, in thinner papers, I was facing starvation. I began a figure-out-social-media campaign not unlike yours. Today, as London burns, the Aussie dollar plunges ten cents and the stockmarket dives 20%, I’m scoring a growing number of paid blogging gigs. This is the future alright. Nice piccies; great post! Best regards, P. :)

  2. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hi Penelope, yesterday I contacted 25 strangers on FB asking to review my blog. So far only one accepted to do it. I thought: ‘Even if it doesn’t work out and my ego gets killed, I can still write about how my ego got killed'(which is kind of re-framing before anything happens). Many people think they are experts at social media because they can use FB and Twitter. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Good initiative!

  3. Alan
    Alan says:

    How does social media work for people that others dislike? How does it work for the person who was the disliked kid in school, in jobs, in social life? How does it work for the person who the more people know about the less they like, the person who has learned that it is better to keep a low profile?

    • Maureen Sharib
      Maureen Sharib says:

      Alan, if the person who is active on the site is dislikable – eventually that will come through. There’s a country western song lyric:
      “What’cha gonna do when the new wears off and the old shines through?”

      • Alex
        Alex says:

        Hey Alan, you say you need the course to learn where to look for people. Honestly? I’m not sure. I wrote earlier (a few comments above) that I contacted 25 strangers to ask to review my newly half-launched blog (gonna change the header of course!). Do you think for a moment that was easy? I was thinking: ‘Ok, how am I going to introduce myself? How can I be interesting? How am I going to feel if NOBODY replies? Can I take it?’. You know what? Those are the same questions I ask myself when I’m out at a bar. Social media or not, you’re still the same person. Which makes me say: ‘do you REALLY need this course to learn where people are’? Or maybe what prevents you from contacting people similar to you TODAY is that you’re scared of rejection? If you are, know that the fear will not leave just because you’re behind a computer screen.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Well Alan, have you ever felt you didn’t belong? Well, what if at that time you could find people like you? A guy who works with me is super passionate about 80’s cassette players. He’s got a ton at his house. Whenever he speaks about it, people go: ‘Whaaaaat??’. But thanks to social media he is quite the star in the cassette players’ world. He has a second small income on the side (he fixes old broken machines and sells them on ebay. Total 500$ extra a mont). To answer your question, social media is about organizing information. You can use such info to find people similar to you (as my friend does), or to listen to people completely different when you want to do so. Social media organize things so that you know where they are. What you do with them, it’s another story.

      • Alan
        Alan says:

        Huh. I guess it works for ENTJ Penelope. (I’m an INTJ)

        But then I guess I need the course to learn to find people. My Facebook Friends galley would be empty. Is there a friending service like dating services? Facebook would love that! They could load it up with adbots…. Hey, Penelope! Here’s another startup for you!

      • Lindsay
        Lindsay says:

        Alan, even the most hated people can look popular on social media. I bet if Casey Anthony, for example, had a FB account she’d have a ton of friends. It works for everyone!

    • K00kyKelly
      K00kyKelly says:

      It may be time for some introspection. Why do people avoid you? Do you insult them? Do you creep them out? Are you just trying to say as little as possible so that people won’t figure out what you really think about them?

  4. Paul Goldring
    Paul Goldring says:

    I”m over 70, ending a 40 year career as a psychologist, and I feel certain that if my future depends on my connections to more people then the hell with it. How can I duck this round of self-exposure?

    • Simonetta
      Simonetta says:

      @ Paul – I checked your website. Are those recent pictures of yourself? If so you look a good 20 years younger.
      So you should promote some type of fountain of youth, or something.

  5. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about how more and more recruiters are using Facebook to find employees as opposed to Linked in and Monster.

    I do try and manage my online life, ie, my blog, my Etsy shop FB etc. It is a fine line to walk in order not to let it take over your life so that your creativity suffers.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think there should be no line between the medium and the creativity. The more outlets you find for your creativity the more ideas you get for those outlets.

      Maybe. Just another way to think about it.

      But honestly, I had no idea why I would even start using Twitter, I just did it because so many other people were using it. And teaching myself to be productive on Twitter actually opened up lots of new ways for me to think about language.


  6. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    I’m an INFJ (why are we talking about our Meyers-Briggs results?) and I love social media. It makes me more social than I would be in person. I’m curious about more details though, Penelope — I want to see what your predications are.

  7. Paul
    Paul says:

    I’m not afraid to admit that: 1. I don’t get social media, and 2. I hate social media. Maybe I’m just naive or a cynic or probably some of both, but it all seems like a huge spam platform to me. I have a facebook account, and that’s all I do with it. Hell, the only reason that I read what other people say is so that I can reply with more thought spam. I think people in general overestimate how little anyone else gives a shit about what they have to say.

  8. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    What would be helpful to know is if this will be available for viewing for other than in September.I’m going through a busy time at work for the next few months. Will there Q and A? Sounds great. Thanks!

  9. tatiana
    tatiana says:

    In the few months I’ve been using social media, the only advantages I’ve found is meeting friends. I haven’t won anything, or secured a job through social media. Right now, it’s mostly – if not entirely – about meeting people.

    This probably means that I don’t know how to use social media. Which is HIGHLY plausible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why nothing amazing has really happened since I’ve started using Twitter.

    Generally though, I mostly feel that social media “is the next big thing” because people think it should be the next step in how we use the internet. I really resisted social media, and only have a FB because someone made it for me. It was a long time before I got a twitter – and I mostly got it because I started blogging. I’m a reluctant social media participant. And I’m pretty sure I’m not even really doing it right.

    How does one get good at the internet?!

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      There are lots of uses for social media, and one of them is to find a job. You’re not necessarily using it “wrong,” unless you aren’t meeting your goal. If you started using social media to meet and/or reconnect with people, and you’re doing that, then you’re probably doing things just fine.

      Now, if you want to use social media to find a job, you’ll probably need to change things up. But keep in mind that social media sites are tools, and you can decide which tool works for you, and how it works best for you.

      As for how do start that process, here’s one blog post I came across today:

  10. Ashley Hoffman
    Ashley Hoffman says:

    @Sandra – This is Ashley Hoffman from Brazen Careerist. As a participant, you’ll get a password to a private website that will allow you to access the program’s resources through Dec. 31. However, you can also download the transcripts and videos for your use beyond that date. Hope that helps!

  11. Kellie
    Kellie says:

    Love the post about Social Media, I am really trying to break into using the internet as a platform for my future career and this post was really helpful

  12. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Penelope, I laughed when I read about the manager whose assistant printed out his e-mails for him to read. Because at one of the companies I worked at, one manager didn’t know how to use e-mail, and would have her assistant read her e-mails to her over the phone. In 2003.

    And while I don’t list “social media” on my resume, I do talk about my accomplishments that involve social media. You hint at that distinction, but I think it’s worth saying explicitly: it does belong on your resume, just in the right way and not a useless way.

  13. Dale
    Dale says:

    Hey Penny, you got quoted on one of my favorite blogs, they got your location incorrent though:(
    It talks about the double standards you highlighted, associated with parenting as a poor person and as a rich person.

    Penelope Trunk, a newspaper columnist in Virginia, commented: “If you’re poor and you abandon your kids, you’re a bad parent. But if you’re rich and abandon them to run a company, you’re profiled in Fortune magazine.” Penelope is right on. Abandonment is abandonment and there should not be a double-standard. As All Pro Dads, let’s send the right message that men who are truly rich have their most important investment, their time, mainly allocated to their family. Here are 10 ways to know what your most important investment really is and, also, how to get the most ROI for your most-treasured investment by keeping your family time fresh.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s funny that the person quoted me as a newspaper columnist in Virginia. I am, actually. I’ve written a syndicated workplace column for a newspaper in Virginia for almost ten years.

      In fact, I am still syndicated in a lot of newspapers, it’s just that I never talk about it because my blog has a bigger reach than most of the newspapers that syndicate me.

      Which, of course, goes back to the whole point of this post: social media is going to be the default for everything.


  14. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    This is great! I’d like to think I get the whole social media concept but I know I still have a ton to learn. For starters I have two very separate careers, in my mind.

    One is working at a vet clinic and the other is doing energy conservation for an MEP. Merging the two stresses me out.

    I worry my MEP boss looks down on my part-time job because my life should revolve around his company only. He’s also stuck in the 90’s and doesn’t get social media. Granted I could be the expert for him but I wouldn’t get paid more, it has no value to him.

    As a result I’m the one at the vet clinic doing the social media trial and error thing because the owner values it/pays me for it. She doesn’t understand it but she sees it’s a positive. This is a business that had DOS based record keeping just a few years ago! Now we have a FB page, twitter account, and a website. It’s very exciting and our clients love the interaction. I know I’ve only scratched the surface so I want to learn more.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      “He’s also stuck in the 90’s and doesn’t get social media. Granted I could be the expert for him but I wouldn’t get paid more, it has no value to him.”
      This is where selling an idea is so important. Have you gone over with him a specific course of action that demonstrates value to him? It sounds as though speaking to him in general terms about the value of social media to him won’t work. I think he needs someone to spell it out to him and guide him if social media will truly benefit him. That would be my approach.

  15. Alan
    Alan says:

    Re Alex: “Fear” is a word that people use to sound clinical while they’re insulting someone. Your perception is from a different sphere entirely.

    Signing out, lest this become a distraction.



  16. Ericka
    Ericka says:

    Great post about social media especially as it relates to education. I created a technology curriculum for a graduate education class that was geared towards refugee English language learners in high school. The bulk of the material centered around social media which a lot of people questioned. But I agree that it absolutely permeats all of American life and in order to acculturate as a newcomer to the US you need to know social media. Otherwise your left on the fringes. Technology is a big part of keeping social classes divided because without access to technology from an early age kids are just as behind as they would be if they could not read or write.

  17. Ashley Webster
    Ashley Webster says:

    I’ll believe it when I hear it from an investment banker, or a millwright, or an airline pilot, or a doctor, or a forester, or an accountant, or… So far the only people who continue telling us that social media is the be-all-end-all are bloggers and techies (and people promoting workshops on social media). Every job is different and there are many for which social media makes barely any difference. So could we please stop over-hyping social media. It’s a new tool, nothing more.

    Not that I disagree with your basic premise that people should learn it, but the statement “social media gives you control over your life and your career” is utterly false for 90% of the population (unless you are a professional blogger). Experience is still the measure of whether you get hired or not and that has everything to do with your professional history and accomplishments and nothing to do with how often you tweet (unless you are a professional tweeter).

    And could someone please explain to me how all these new social media tools are fundamentally different than good old email? I mean in terms of the communication service they provide?

    • Cat
      Cat says:

      @ Ashley – I can see for freelance writers, marketers/recruiters, or career coaches/lifestyle mavens; but in general, I don’t see how “social media gives you control over your life and your career”.
      That expression is great copy, though.

    • Laura Brown
      Laura Brown says:

      Ashley, imagine you are at a gathering of some sort (party, festival, conference). Email is like being allowed to interact only with people there whom you already know well enough to have exchanged contact information (an email address). Social media (a name I despise although it’s apparently quite sticky) is like being allowed to interact with anyone and everyone attending the gathering without having to know them already.

      • Ashley Webster
        Ashley Webster says:

        Good point. Social media adds a layer of networking that is difficult to achieve on email (but not impossible, I’m sure most of us have made new acquaintances over email by CCs and forwards).

  18. Lisa Dillon
    Lisa Dillon says:

    Social media is used to let the world know your are an expert within your discipline. If you want to stay at the same job for the next 10 years no you don’t need social media. If you want to network and advance your career it is highly useful. The reason you don’t hear about investment bankers using social media is because you are not an investment banker, they are networking with other investment bankers and people who would use an investment banker. People also use social media because they want to help or give advice to others. For example I was on Linkedin the other day and someone posted a question asking if it was legal for a school district to observe a child without a parents permission. You had teachers, lawyers and parents respond. Who do you think will get more business the lawyer who occasionally gives out some free advice on a social media site or the lawyer who has a static website? It is simply good business practice to have a positive image on the web and it can be done very easily with social media.

    • Cat
      Cat says:

      @ Lisa – I do know many CFOs and SrVPs etc whose social media presence manage by their staff. These guys don’t care how Twitter or LinkedIn works. It’s another tool, like ham radio or the telegraph.

    • Ashley Webster
      Ashley Webster says:

      Lisa, you make a decent point but it is only relevant to a small share of the population (a very small share if you measure it on a global scale).

      Social media’s so-called game-changingness is relevant only to the info-class – those of us who deal in information and communication. You latched onto my example of investment bankers and provided your own of lawyers and teachers…all members of the info-class. Perhaps Penelope’s point is that everyone is becoming a member of the info-class insofar as everyone is looking for new ways to stand out and to manage their “brand”. But I counter that this has always been – nothing has changed except the medium. It’s not like investment bankers only started networking when twitter came along. I would go further and say that the real networking continues to be done at conferences and meetings or over drinks or a round of golf. Social media is soft networking at best. The important decisions and connections from a social / economic point of view are not made there. At least not in my experience. I work in governance and fundraising and while I do see potential for social media in the work I do, it is not where I make my best connections. Granted I don’t put that much effort into it but that’s because, for the moment, there is very little evidence that I should, and I need to prioritize.

      I venture a guess that if we could quantify social media’s impact in terms of added social and economic capacity / effectiveness / capital / whatever, it would be a relatively small change from 20 years ago and it certainly wouldn’t compensate for the social capital that has been lost over the last 50 years in North America.

      The evidence is not in yet about social media and how, if at all, it will change the world. What we have now is a popular theory. To leave it on a positive note: the inspiring story within all of this is that a whole lot of people around the world seem to crave deeper social connections. The loss of social capital is being missed and we are looking for ways to get it back that don’t involve joining political parties and bowling leagues. What excites me is how social media could be a gateway into stronger forms of network building and community development.

      • Yvette
        Yvette says:

        @ Ashley Webster – interesting thoughts. Would you share your blog or twitter acct, so we can follow you? I google-stalked you, but couldn’t pinpoint you (no fund raiser Ashley Webster). Thanks

  19. K00kyKelly
    K00kyKelly says:

    This post is funny to me because as a 20 something who used FaceBook when it was still just for college students I think of Twitter when I hear “social media”. I forget that people don’t know how to use FaceBook or Linkedin. A friend at work told me a co-worker asked if LinkedIn was like the new FaceBook.

    Similarly I was shocked when I started looking for jobs and realized that job descriptions included Microsoft Office in the requirements. I thought, “Doesn’t everyone know how to do that?” (a few years in the corporate world cured that misconception and landed me the unoffical title of Excel Wizzard)

    Penelope, when you say “social media” what do you include? Do you include blogs, forums, wikis?

  20. Chas
    Chas says:

    Many companies are finding that Tweets and Likes don’t necessarily translate into sales.
    Has the Social Media Wave already Crested? Facebook is already seeing an attrition rate in North America, and this trend started before Google+ was even launched. 174 million+ Blogs- how many Unique topics can there be? Information Overload?
    You may find this poll interesting about how many small business owners view Social Media~ keep in mind, that it is only 304 participants;
    For those that want to participate in Social Media, but, still wish to retain a somewhat anonymous presence, there are alternatives to Facebook and Google, such as this site;

  21. Steve
    Steve says:

    Great article. In response to whether or not to put “social media” on a CV, one possible way around it is if a candidate is on LinkedIn, they could possibly provide a link to their LinkedIn profile. Not only will it provide more relevant information relating to the CV and gives them a chance to show off any recommendations they may have, it also suggests that they’re competent in using social media without actually saying (as saying “I’m good at social media” might look like they simply love to play around on Facebook and Twitter all day).

  22. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Penelope – I read this awesome blog post and groaned. Unfortunately, the situation you described circa the 1990s, is STILL happening today. You described my old head boss to a T. The guy doesn’t read or reply to his emails, and doesn’t even have a computer in his office! I knew my days as a social media person were numbered there when my stellar direct boss left – little did I know I would be leaving in such a dramatic way – splashed above the fold on the front page of the local newspaper. (

    In any event I couldn’t agree with you more. Social media, just like the internet is an integrated tool into our lives at this point and those that leave it to us “experts” if there is such a thing, are crazy.

  23. Delphi Scalper Bonus
    Delphi Scalper Bonus says:

    3 many years ago my distinctive superpower was creating recruitment commercials (position ads) for print newspapers. With more compact advertisements, for fewer work, in thinner papers, I used to be struggling with starvation. I commenced a figure-out-social-media campaign not not like yours. Today, as London burns, the Aussie dollar plunges ten cents plus the stockmarket dives 20%, I’m scoring a rising number of paid out blogging gigs.

  24. Arabic Jobs
    Arabic Jobs says:

    I totally agree. Social needs to be conquered asap. But it needs to be the type of platform that anyone can get a definable ROI from rather than the larger organisations chucking in unlimited resources be at everyone’s beck and call 24/7. I know some people are still struggling with the engagement side but listening is still probably the best way to go for smaller organisations.

  25. Mr Gorilla
    Mr Gorilla says:

    Good luck with the boot camp I am sure people that go will learn a lot about social media and networks.

    I feel that social media is way over hyped and still has a long hard road ahead as people are just now finding out about some of the bad sides of having so much information out in public view.

  26. Jobs in the Gulf
    Jobs in the Gulf says:

    If you've been promoting your business Facebook page and Twitter account you're not alone. Companies increasingly are running online ads that focus less on pitching their products and more on highlighting their social accounts, writes Andrew Adam Newman for the New York Times.

    "The ads, which have menu tabs and increasingly resemble mini-Web sites themselves, allow users to click within the ad to see a brand's Twitter messages or Facebook wall posts in real time, or to watch a brand's video content from YouTube – all without leaving the Web page where the ad appears," he writes.

  27. Anna
    Anna says:

    Charge $245 for an online seminar? …. I am not sure if I should admire the marketing flair or despise the greed. I am sure plenty of people happily sign up after reading the post. I guess the success in making money this way proves the point: that mastering social media can be very profitable.

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