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Concluding Unscientific Preface to "How I Would Run the Valpo Life / Family Express Social Media Job"

August 24, 2012.Finn.0 Likes.13 Comments
Home/Blog/Digital Marketing/Concluding Unscientific Preface to "How I Would Run the Valpo Life / Family Express Social Media Job"

Update 2012/09/04

Since I wrote this post there’s been a ton of interaction and, even cooler, a response by and the team. What did they do? They made it infinitely easier for people to verify the validity of the job as well as how to apply for it even if you don’t tweet anthing for Family express. Their information is as follows:

Position:  Social Media Community Manager for Family Express.
Descripton:  in this PDF.
Email to apply:

  • content in email:  “Include an introductory letter where you mention 2-5 ideas you have for how you would use a social media channel to engage Family Express customers and prospects”

Family Express in Social Media circles:

Now, as for the rest of this, I left it as I wrote it. As you read it, remember the changes the have made. I’d like to see them encourage referrals more, but I don’t know the nature of this contest arrangement between the two corporations. All in all, it was pretty awesome that they made the changes they did. They didn’t have to. Props to Family Express, Valpo Life and Dalton!

Please enjoy the read…

 “Normally I Would Support a Community Movement”

About a week and a half ago, Chris Mahlmann approached a few of us about the contest was running for Family Express:  promote Family Express on Social Media and win a chance at a job. At first I loved the idea. Why not? Let’s get someone a job using social media. That sounded great.

Me, Kathy Sipple, Daver & Mahlmann met at Blackbird Cafe to talk about it. And given my love for BB, I was already in a good mood. The pitch could have been about anything. I had a lemon wedge in my iced tea and a free refill left – not a care in the world. Kyle Yelton came by to talk shop. It was a great day. So much so that I brought up the idea that those at the table should write about how we would do the Social Media job.

At the same time, Dalton was hitting folks on the NWiSM contributor email list about the contest. He was pushing its value. As a couple fought back and forth on the thread, I dropped the contest idea to them. They all were gung ho – which in #NWiSM terms means Coach Lee will have hers spun up the next day. I’ll be a day or two behind and then we’ll wait months for the others, blood-from-a-stone style.

And this time was no different.

As I left the cafe…

…and started to look more into the contest, I became hesitant, closer to nauseous. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. I’m one of those that shut down when I start feeling that uncomfortable. And shutting down I was.

I couldn’t figure out why.

I love the idea of the community growth. I love showing we’re more than steel workers, teachers & nurses – not that there’s anything wrong with any of those professions. My grandmother was a head nurse. My maternal grandfather was a labor leader in Gary even after he was one of the first families to start the White Flight to Porter County back in 1961. My uncle is a college professor in California. All noble professions that have helped shaped my dreams.

But I’m in Internet marketing.

I’ve seen its amazing potential and possibilities it can bring to The Region. I am proud that I have had the two biggest, most influential IT & Internet Marketing companies on my resume. I love knowing I have had to work with international clients, running 4 time zones in my head that from different corners of the globe and hitting razor thin deadlines. Pretty soon, I’ll be over-the-moon ecstatic to share my Project 03 details and the case studies that are coming to fruition even in this testing stage. It’s been those Old School IT & As Seen on TV pioneers that allow us to consider this conversation. It’s why the national scene will even look at us. I’m still humbled that such opportunities were in my backyard and as my friends continue to strengthen the roots they’ve planted in Duneland, I’d like to make sure their children have the same opportunities. And I think as we head deeper into the 21st century we can still get ahead of the curve and shape a formidable future around the natural beauty that starts at the majestic third coast Lakeshore of the Dunes with all its beaches and wooded trails and campgrounds, the surrounding breweries & wineries & horse farms, and down to the the fertile farmlands of the Kankakee river valley.

I think Chris Mahlmann’s “Life” Properties will be a key part of such growth. I am a fan, a soldier for Mahmlann. I think what his budding crew is absolutely beautiful in their methodology, support and other-focused mentalities. Their success has helped me consider how The Wolf & I do Project 03. The Lifers have spread the good word over and over and over again and have brought a smile or two to probably everyone from Lansing to LaPorte. Even in South Indiana where Virgil Sweet chimes in on occasion!

Chris Mahlmann has also helped me personally on occasions. He sat there in Cornucopia & listen to me lament back in the Spring as I watched NWiSM become bastardized from the community vision I had for it. He even supports it on the radio and NWiSM is starting to take off – so long as folks stop trying to stop trying to use it for roundabout self-promotion and continue to push a forward-thinking, pot-stirring editorials. NWiSM is at its best when there’s a debate. Give Dalton his due for the direction twist.

“..,But I Won’t Support This Contest…”

But as I sit here, day 11, wanting to write the “How I Would Do the Family Express Social Media Job,” article-spinner free, I feel as though I wouldn’t be properly be returning Mahlmann’s kindness to me and to the community if I blindly supported this campaign. We in Duneland do that too much with Mahlmann as well as with each other. Mahlmann doesn’t ask for it. In fact, I think I know him well enough to know he hates blind support. And I honestly think that most of us blindly support because they believe in what he does. Hell, even my mentor Douglas Karr pushed the contest on Facebook. But I think we got so wrapped up in the could that we never stop to think whether or not we should.

I Don’t Think The Contest Is Evil

I know Dalton’s involved and it wouldn’t be a Dalton thing unless someone’s pot’s getting stirred (all about being a bus dev bulldog, buddy). They also probably considered the PR benefits – it isn’t non-profit afterall. Again, give Dalton credit for pinning Mahlmann down long enough to push such an idea. I think it’s a step in the right direction. But there’s a significant backlash to such, “contests.”

Reasons include:

  • Not paying folks for work
  • Folks having to sing for their supper / act like a court jester for others amusement
  • Cheap approach for PR – Like many contests, no one wins
  • Cheap SEO backlinks – having “contestants” write posts for absolutely nothing
  • The best talent is probably at another job and can’t even apply for risk of losing their first job
  • It doesn’t use Social Media for its true purposes (listening / inbound. The contest just spams / push markets)

I have my own issues that I’ve been ranting to friends about:

  • Undefined metrics
  • Undefined scoring system
  • Not CTA for the “contestants’ to send traffic
  • NOWHERE TO APPLY FOR THE JOB to confirm it’s real – unless you can navigate that cumbersome job search feature
  • Vague – lack of structure implies a lack of seriousness intent to pursue the medium

Approaches such as this show that not only is Family Express only dabbling in Social Media, they also show that they’re not completely versed into the hows and whys of it. This could be dangerous to not only them but to the person who might win the job and expect to pay rent with the gig. If Family Express doesn’t know what they’re getting into, how are they going to know if this is worth their investment? The position becomes a high-risk gig and the best candidates are probably passing on this one because of the informalities. I don’t know what goes on behind those closed doors on US 30, but a site that doesn’t have a blog and just put up a Twitter account isn’t bowling me over with confidence as to their commitment.

By the way, heads up to Chris Theisen for sending me the story by Emily Seuss on her rant of such contests. It gave me the courage to finally let it out publicly.


The contest should support community growth. But this one supports only Family Express. As Dave Matthews recently penned,

lick your sticky fingers, boy, and sing for your dinner, sing.

How I Would Do the Family Express Social Media Job Search

  1. Announce Family Express is looking for a Social Media Expert / Strategist / Specialist/ Community Manager / Marketer… Post the listing on the website and MAKE IT EASY for people to find it. Tell the folks at Catalyst Marketing to use Contrast and CTA on that home page to make it stand out.
  2. Use Social Media, blogging and email to ask for referrals for the job. Ask people to promote their referrals by use of social media, blogging and email. Now at y’all can point out that there’s dual value in those posts aside from just SEOing & PR.
  3. Offer a nice reward for the one who refers the applicant. Offer the reward in two stages:  One for initial hire and another if the person stays for 6 months.
  4. Make the reward pretty f*****’ cool. A gas card for a YEAR. Most people know it takes a couple hundred dollars to train someone and more to hire. Giving a $25 gas card, a perks card, a pink FE t-shirt and a box of square donuts won’t be enough. If you’re serious about this job, make the investment.

This approach not only supports Family Express’ cause, but it also helps promote others in the area who are talented and need a job. They can begin connecting with each other.

  • We get a good person a job
  • We support the client
  • We support a positive-sum game which highlights area talent
  • We support job growth
  • We support Valpo Life’s beauty – for it is beautiful
  • We show the true power of Social Media
  • We support each other
  • We support the community
  • We grow

And we finally get another great story on which we can hang our hats.

As Sam Cooke sang,

Ain’t that good news? Man, ain’t that news?

Unless we think teenagers tweeting about gas & gos is a success story.


Final Thoughts

Mahlmann – I love you. I love the idea. Tweak the contest and I think not only will Family Express get the results to which they are leaking, but you have a business model of which others could adapt. I think you’ll get much more of that favorable, positive interaction in the community of which you sought the first time.

And I think your soldiers such as myself will be much more willing happy to march to the of the returned drum!

It’s a Duneland kind of life we’re all trying to live, together.



 Update 2012/09/04

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, props to the team to making the changes, broadening the parameters and making it easier for people to find the contest. I hope y’all find someone incredible for Family Express.

Photo credit: – great shot, y’all.
  • Greatly appreciate you throwing this out there. Im all for supporting your community and the greater good of all that is online and social but as you know this doesn’t sit well with me, for basically all the reasons you posted. As I’ve stated in other forums I do hope it works out for them but you are spot on. Keep fighting the good fight sir. 

  • damn near my sentiments exactly, I have been working on a post since we sat down with Mahlmann and I could never get it right. I like FE and we all love or should love what Chris is doing. They do not nearly get the recognition that I feel they deserve. Finn told me over that weekend is just because they have your ingredients does not mean they can cook your dinner (or something along those lines). 

    I let my success speak for itself. They should be able to easily look out in the NWI stream and tell who is doing it and doing it right. I can point at several companies in NWI that went out of the area and are doing it horribly. 

    My largest complaint has been companies jumping spreading their word without helping spread community. If you want I can call out a few banks, IT and marketing companies large and small for sucking the wind out of the #nwindiana stream. I still have about a half dozen unanswered tweets outstanding. Ha, one did return my tweet 6 months after the fact. #FAIL. Oh, and do not get me started on the self-righteous lone gunmen out there. They are full of criticism and offer no real substance. 

    You want to support community – then jump into the community, look around and see who it helping build it versus bringing it down with with hallow broadcasting and empty-headed criticism. 

    I am still working on a post, but my blogs, my videos and my presence in the community should stand. 

    If I can offer 2 things up to Family Express: 
    1. get Coke back in your stores
    2. carry NOS Energy drink Sugar-free 

    that is all. 

  • natfinn

    Yeah, @davewoodson:disqus  & @twitter-18610613:disqus .

    It’s unbelievably difficult to say a bad word about them. I went through 4 drafts. I think it’s just a contest tweak they need and from there engagement will foster.

    But, it was even more difficult to NOT say something. The idea is there to deepen the lines of communications with area businesses by doing this contest but not in it’s current structure.
    Besides, if we can’t be supportive when, we shouldn’t be a community.Hopefully, we took a nice step today.Once again, thank you guys!

  • ktatgenhorst

    I actually felt the same way. I had no real word from FE that this was a genuine recruiting effort. At first I put a couple shares on FB and started planning a few tweets and then it struck me, I was approaching like a paid project as I am sure were a few others in the region with the skills to do so. I was becoming a pawn in ad hoc goodwill (read that free) marketing campaign. I stopped. I love the Duneland Life and would love to promote it, but couldn’t in good conscience do so.

    • natfinn

      Hey, Tat.

      It sucks especially because we’d like to get more corporations out here to catch up to he curve. Hopefully it is stories like these that will make them learn they have to listen and talk to instead of AT.
      A little more marketing and a lot less advertising.
      A little less talk and a lot more action.

      Somebody cue up Toby Keith.

      BTW – please let me know by three whether or not you want the piano.

  • Allyn Hane

    Did anyone ever get the salary and benefits for the position? To me that’s the issue. What the heck would a person be working for?

    • natfinn

      Hey, Allyn,

      Yeah, I want a’lookin’ for the listing and I couldn’t find it using “social” “social media” “socialmedia” and the like. Catalyst’s job search site (open source?) is crap. How many jobs could the possibly have that they’d use it over a job board…but, off topic.

      @daltonsbriefs:disqus says they’re sincere. We’ll see what they do this week.

  • Allyn Hane

    BTW – your article spinner comments were hilarious considering who you were aiming them at lol

  • As you’ve now received my preliminary response by email Finn, I won’t belabor the points here.   Daver, looking into the stream is not enough my friend.  There are untapped talented people who aren’t in that stream, and there are far too many “experts” as well as we’ve discussed often.  Looking forward to our upcoming face to face with the local leaders this week.  I can assure you all, Family Express is desirous of hiring and hire quickly. 

    • natfinn

      as you’ve now received my reply to your preliminary response, @daltonsbriefs:disqus , I won’t relay them again. 🙂

      But, @davewoodson:disqus  has a point. The streams have been trickles. I hope y’all like my revisions. It should help tap into those talent pools. 

      Though, you even put the term, “experts” into the comments. Why did you get on me for my SESBS? Snapper fish 😛

    • props to the team for making the changes!

  • Good to see all the interaction Finn, I’m still working on the process for encouraging referrals by influencers in the region … but we all agreed that the contest language was off and we needed to be more specific about the steps to take to get one’s name on the list of applicants.   Thanks again for your input. 

    • natfinn

      Glad it’s panning out. Speaking of interaction, I just sent in my Family Express Social Media Community Manger job tips. They’re going to need to split up the post. It’s only 3,500 words.

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