February 1, 2010

Thomas Pardee‘s Facebook ad brought him all kinds of attention. It just wasn’t the kind he had expected.

Dozens of resumes, an active network and cold calls weren’t getting Pardee any response, so he tried Facebook ads that are targeted to specific users. He started by aiming them at people at Hearst and then Condé Nast.

Pardee, who is interning at Chicago Magazine — his seventh internship — landed an interview, but it was for a story, not a job. Salon’s “The Big Money” recently ran a story about Pardee titled “Will Targeted Facebook Ads Land You a Job or Creep Out Employers?”

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The story led Twitterers and bloggers to talk about whether it is wise to target employers in Facebook ads.

“People have called it a gimmick,” said Pardee, a December graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s journalism department. “They have called it creepy. … Most people who are going to see this will see it as something different and new and not necessarily as something creepy. I want to work with people who will see it as a creative approach.”

I asked some people for their reactions to Pardee’s Facebook ads. Ju-Don Roberts, senior vice president and executive editor of, wrote to me in a Facebook message: “Sight unseen, I appreciate the initiative taken. It’s going to set this kid apart — good or bad — and give him at least an edge against the competition, especially with all employers these days seeking entrepreneurial, social-network-adept hires.”

Dennis Smith, founder of and a contributing co-author to Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0., agreed with Roberts:

“I don’t call this guy creepy,” Smith wrote to me via e-mail. “I call him innovative. Creativity can be a huge differentiator in a tight job market. I’m sure that most of the people complaining about the creepy guy who did something ‘different’ to land a job are those still unemployed.

“Recruiters who target their search efforts to a particular audience are wise (and more productive). Why should it be any different for the jobseeker? I have a name for creative innovators willing to pull out all stops to get their face in front of the hiring manager: employed.”

Pardee said he thinks the Facebook ads have helped him. “I have talked to some people who are good contacts,” he said in a phone interview. “I got a call from a recruiter at one of these big magazine companies and we had an interview via Webcam. Ultimately it became a success. It hasn’t been the ad so much as it has been the reaction to it. It’s not something that I regret at all.”

Targeted Facebook ads of all types creep some people out. Tricia Bobeda, a student at Michigan State University who was closing in on a job last week that has social media responsibilities, said, “Facebook ads are creepy in general, like, ‘We need 22-year-olds to do this job …’ “

Recent Tweets about Facebook ads also address the creepiness factor, including one that said: “I find the over-targeted FB ads (e.g. explicitly reference your age) to be intrusive and creepy.

Pardee is not creepy. He is just a young guy who wants a job. “When you do something like this,” he said, “you aim for the top and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

Would he do it all over again? He says he might and is retooling his approach.

For one thing, he said he would set the age of the people he is targeting at above 25, not just 18, as he reasons most magazine editors are older than 25. He also would look at the page people land on when they click on the ad. And he said he would include an explanation, not an excuse, about why he was using the ads.

Pardee said Facebook statistics say his ad showed up on 200,000 Facebook views by Hearst and Conde Nast employees. People clicked through about 150 times. The campaign cost him $60.

McKenna Ewen, a young journalist in Minneapolis, had similar but smaller results with an ad he used to target editors at MediaStorm and the Center for Public Integrity. He has been using the targeted ads for a while to point people to his work, including his Times of Recession project.

Once, while he was working with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he targeted people who worked at the paper. Initially, he said, people got the impression that the ads were appearing on everyone’s Facebook page. He explained to them that his ads were only showing up on their pages -– not the whole world’s.

“There’s a way that you can make any advertisement creepy.” Ewen said by phone. “I can put my face up on a billboard and say, ‘Hey, do you want to give me an internship?’ That could be creepy. It’s just the impression that you come off a little more arrogant or self-promoting. One of the ways that I do them is that I put it on a solid white box with black text and it just says, ‘Need an intern?’ “

Ewen explained what he sees as the benefit of using Facebook ads to promote yourself to employers.

“These advertisements are very much like a business card, and every time you see the business card it reinforces that brand,” he said. “Everybody’s constantly refreshing Facebook while they are wasting time at work. If you can give people a work-related ad while they’re at work wasting time, that can work. The thing that I like about the Facebook ad is that it is an innovative approach to get into that newsroom.”

Young journalists such as Pardee and Ewen are getting attention for this innovative approach, for better or worse.

“One of the things I should have paid attention to is that my industry is full of people who write about stuff like this,” Pardee said. “I didn’t expect it to become a thing, and I should have. It’s one of those lessons in social media.”

Additional resources: Pardee found instructions for a Facebook job campaign on the “One Day, One Job” Web site. The advertising link at the bottom of your Facebook page will walk you through it, too. Shawn Smith has just posted an article on “How to Get Hired for a Journalism Job Using Facebook Advertising.”

E-mail Joe for answers to your career and job-hunting questions.

Coming Wednesday: Join me and Colleen Eddy as we address the question, “How do I target more than one opening at a company?” during a live chat at 1 p.m. ET.

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Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website. From that, he published…
Joe Grimm

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