140 Characters to Shine

“You don’t know who’s watching you,” said Amy Hoeksema, a senior at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California who recently facebooked her way into a potential career. Social networking presented her with an opportunity to turn a hobby into an occupation. Hoeksema’s story is not merely inspiring; it carries implications for every unemployed social networker.

Though she had previously toyed with Myspace, Hoeksema never felt at home with social networking until she created her first Facebook account in 2007. Her time on Facebook has since bloomed into an internship at a growing clothing company, Loveless City, opening doors into a little known but rapidly developing field of employment: social network marketing.

“I made [my first account] right when Facebook was getting really popular,” said Hoeksema. Facebook had universality that other social networks lacked. “It looked a lot cleaner,” she said. “It was easier to navigate, and you didn’t have to worry about other people’s music playing when you clicked on their page.” According to Hoeksema, Myspace had, and continues to have, a reputation of being “dark, dirty, and junky.”

Companies are realizing the unprecedented popularity of social networking and are tapping into it. This means one thing for writers: jobs. Loveless City recognized Hoeksema’s talents and hired her to market the company across the Internet. “My job right now is to use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and blogging to promote the company—get the word out,” she said.

Hoeksema currently has eight Facebook accounts, though most of them are secret. Her primary Facebook account has 630 friends, and she has 298 followers on Twitter. She uses her other seven Facebook accounts to role-play with a few close friends—“just the ones that write well,” she said.

As both an English major and a writer, Hoeksema values carefully worded ideas. Even on casual websites like Facebook and Twitter, words are powerful. On Twitter, a post (“tweet”) is limited to 140 characters—a strict limit that entices some people to fill their tweets with careless writing. Sloppy social network jargon includes posts like, “bad day lol c u all 2morrow.” Hoeksema counters this abuse of the English language with structured posts like the following, published on August 12th, 2011 on Twitter: “Sitting in the dentist’s chair…again. As Sam Gamgee would say, “Well, I’m back.”” This post succeeds because of its clarity, structure, and sarcastic undertones.

Hoeksema is passionate about social networking and writing, and is therefore a tremendous addition to Loveless City’s staff. According to Hoeksema, this line of work promises to create jobs across the world, and the need for writers is growing. “There is huge potential for other English majors and writers to get in on this kind of work,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to break into something that both an English major and a business major can do.”

Hoeksema offers advice to unemployed social networkers. “Potential employers are watching,” she said. “Be careful what you say, and put some thought into your next post.” Social networking is largely rooted in text, or what Hoeksema calls “prime real estate for English majors.” Every sentence is an opportunity to write well.

Despite the common misconception that social networking is only to be used as entertainment, Hoeksema believes that social networking should come with responsibility and tact. “If you want to really promote yourself, there should be some degree of professionalism,” she said. Employers will be more inclined to hire someone who is already displaying their qualifications. In this sense, social networking becomes a virtual resume. “Be succinct, precise, and eye-catching. Everyone can do something, but not everyone can do it well. Words matter.”