Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess


Explaining Internet Research
November 10, 2008, 1:33 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Recruiting, Research

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet up with some local blogger chicks here in the Cincinnati area, and I was asked to describe a little bit about what I do as an internet researcher. Sometimes, it’s hard to describe what I do, and quite often, I get puzzled looks, confusion, the occasional “so you stalk people”, or most commonly, the “so you play on the internet all day” comment. So, to help clear up some of the confusion, I would like to take the opportunity to give you some idea of what an internet researcher’s job actually is.

To begin, I would like to point you to my very first blog post, which tells a short story about what first got me so interested in research. I think this will provide some background as to why I do what I do, and why I absolutely love it. I love the fact that so many little bits and pieces of my life have come together to make me who I am today, and there is a lot of irony in the fact that these experiences have each played a sort of puzzle piece to complete the picture that is my current chapter in life.

You may wonder why I find irony in the fact that back in the early 90s I spent $400 in a single month on AOL when they still charged by the minute for internet access, or that I was addicted to BBSes in high school, or that I tracked down the drunk driver who hit my car in college based only on some paint and a broken headlight, or that I participated in ‘internet dating’ w-a-a-a-a-a-y before it was cool. But each of these pieces of my life was pulled together to create a genuine love of internet technology, networking with people, and taking clues left by someone to pull a complete picture together.

As internet researchers, we of course need to have skill in navigating the internet. But this skill alone does not a successful researcher make. As colleague and fellow researcher Joshua Kahn recently commented, “Any technique you apply but can’t modify yourself isn’t a technique you understand. It’s mimicry…” If all you want is to plug formulas into search engines, there are plenty of automation products that can do that for you. But true internet research, in a recruitment setting, must consist of a combination of technique and strategy. There must be a human brain behind the technique in order to pull everything together.

Doing research is much the same as putting together a jigsaw puzzle. In fact, many internet researchers use this analogy to describe our function. There is a box cover with a complete picture to help guide you. But once you dump out all the pieces, it’s up to you to find which pieces fit together, and where in the picture they belong. Each of those puzzle pieces is a clue, a digital footprint if you will, left by a potential candidate that may or may not lead you to discover its neighboring piece. Some sections of the puzzle will be easy to find, such as the corners and edges. Specific areas of the puzzle will come together quickly, such as an area with a distinct color or pattern. But all in all, you must figure out each puzzle piece’s position within the picture in order to complete it, or your picture will be skewed. The complete picture, in this case, is the ideal candidate we search for. The puzzle pieces can be either the resources we use or the clues we discover within these resources.

So, how do we go about completing this puzzle? Each researcher is different in that we do not all use the same resources, strategies, or procedures. But there are common points among all of us in that we do use tools, strategies, and procedures unique to our companies and industries. In my case, one of the first things I do is look for documents online which contain information that will lead me to a person with a certain specialization. A common resource for me would be a press release with media contact information, preferably a combination of name/email or name/phone. This first puzzle piece is my “corner piece”, and from there I can determine a person’s skill level, location, contact information, and much more.

Things do not stop here though, because building out a prospect profile like this often requires some preliminary relationship development. This is where using social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook come in. I won’t give away all of my secrets, but if I have reached out to you in the last, oh, 6 years, chances are one of these tools helped me to find, and friend, you 🙂 I often tell people that I make friends for a living – in fact, it’s in my bio line on my Twitter account. While I tend to be very targeted and focused with the people for whom I build profiles, what sometimes happens is that we don’t have anything immediately available for them. Building relationships is a good 50% of what I do, so once I complete my picture, I need to start developing a relationship. Networking, interacting, engaging in community discussions, and basically just being a resource to people is part of what I, and many others, do as an internet researcher. We call this developing a pipeline. Anyone who understands GOOD networking understands that not every new connection will be an immediate benefit to you (though it may be for your new connection!) but that it might be later down the road. Something I always remember when doing my job every day is that there is a live human being behind every profile, post, tweet, update, and contact I uncover. Remembering this keeps what I do in perspective.

Many of you reading this may have been turned on to my blog through any one of these various strategies I’ve used to reach out to you. I fully believe that using these resources responsibly keeps us honest in our work. Referring back to the “stalking” comment I mentioned I hear once in awhile, research used properly leads to great opportunities. Research done maliciously, just like pretty much any other task done for the wrong reasons, leads to unfavorable results and potential destruction of one’s reputation. My pledge as a researcher to anyone I reach out to is that I will always be upfront and honest with my intentions. Any good researcher in this business will echo this sentiment.

Hopefully this provides a little clarification to some of the fuzzy areas of what a researcher does! I have also written a series of articles going into some more detail on internet research:
 

If you would like Word doc copies of any of these, please leave me a comment or send me an email and I’d be happy to forward to you. Please stay tuned for more to come!

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

AmyBeth, Great Article! Very strong explanation of what we do as researchers. Relationships are a huge part of our job and managing that relationship to fruition when an opportunity finally comes available is very gratifying. Great Job!

Comment by ryanleary

[…] sourcer. I’ve also written several pieces on what makes a researcher a good one: check them out here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Oh and make sure to check out this post which talks about all […]

Pingback by Referring Is NOT Sourcing « Amybeth Hale - Research Goddess




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