Vanns Community Manager Update: I Turned The Opportunity Down

Because so many of my family, friends, friends of friends, etc. came out in hordes to support my Vanns Community Manager role video application, I felt it was important and appropriate to write a follow up for everyone.

I turned down the opportunity to be in the Top 5.

Some of you might wonder why in the world would I do such a thing after going through so much effort to win a spot.  Well, it unfortunately came down to something that had I known from day one, might have deterred my involvement in the first place.  The salary was WAY WAY too low to consider moving and supporting my family for.  I received a call the morning of the Top 5 announcement telling me I was being considered as a Top 5 finalist, but they wanted to share some job details with me first.  I was told the salary range first, and I was floored.  It didn’t make sense to me.

From their site:

So how much will you make? Let’s say for the purposes of starting a conversation that you’ll make a wage that is commensurate with your experience level in a job of this nature and get to live in what is probably the most incredible place to live in the Mountain West – Missoula, MT.

I was offended that a role as important as this one, and one that was so highly publicized and recruited for, was as low as it was and/or they were implying that’s what they thought my “experience level” was worth.  I know Community Manager and Social Media roles are still working on gaining credibility for themselves, but I was very surprised regardless.  Especially considering the great lengths Vanns went to hire someone for this role.  Yes, the cost of living in Montana is less then many areas, but I did my homework.  Missoula is not a small town, and the cost of living isn’t that low.  At least not for those newly finding their way there.

I have no ill will towards Vanns, the process, or any of the wonderful candidates that made the Top 5.  They seriously are a group of talented, passionate, deserving individuals, and I’m sure Vanns will have a winner on their hands regardless of which direction they go.  And everyone is different in their needs, cost of living, personal circumstances.  Perhaps their range is well within other people’s situations.  It just couldn’t work for me and mine.

Of course, I can’t help but offer some feedback on the whole process being as passionate as I am about community managment.  Especially some misses from a community perspective that Vanns really missed out on to capitalize on the great idea:

  1. 1. Be more transparent. Vanns really should have disclosed a salary range from the get go.  I don’t know; maybe I was the only one burned on this one, but if you are going to do a nationwide search for candidates to this degree, AND put people through a ton of work just to apply, you need to disclose this to negate those that can’t consider the offering. “Commensurate with experience” was not entirely accurate.
  2. 2. Be more involved. Besides a few Twitter updates notifying followers of new videos, there was no company interaction with the site.  Nothing to continue the momentum, encourage dialogue, or get people excited about the milestones.  Yes, they obviously are hiring someone for these things, but it certainly wouldn’t have been too difficult to be more engaged.
  3. 3. Be more efficient. The whole process took to long.  Interest waned during the down times.
  4. 4. Media execution. The process of the video portion of the application was a patch work solution.  It was too confusing for many users to figure out how to vote on the videos, and many of the applicants didn’t get the system working correctly from day one.  Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to.  YouTube (and Vimeo for that matter), offer robust, fully featured video hosting solutions that could have accommodated all the videos and voting mechanisms without requiring any registration to do so.
  5. 5. Involve customers. Vanns already has a community site up and running.  Why not have involved them in the process?  Put out questions or poll the community to get feedback on what they would like to see in their community manager.  Offer prizes, incentives.  Something to turn the experience into something more viral.

I can’t give the constructive feedback without the good.  Here’s what I loved:

  1. 1. The platform. By far one of the most innovative, slick presentations on recruiting a position in your company.  It’s obvious the idea was a winner.  I personally scored two news stories based on their innovative approach (here and here).
  2. 2. Social Media. Great use of Twitter and Facebook to evangelize the opportunity.  There was plenty of chatter going on throughout the campaign.
  3. 3. Vanns Site Integration. Not only did the publicize the role on their main website.  They prominently featured it frequently on the front page.  Bold and shows how important they view this role.
  4. 4. Bottom line…it worked. Despite my criticisms, let’s be honest, the idea worked.  They may not have gotten as many applicants as they would have liked, but at the end of the day, I assure you they will come out much farther ahead from the process as opposed to if they went the traditional route.

So another chapter closes.  I loved making the video, I loved evangelizing it, and if anything, it’s provided quite a bit of visibility for me in other areas.  Good luck to Vanns, their future Community Manager and continued success.  In the end, it all works out as I have some exciting things in the works that will involve doing my own thing.  That’s always who I’ve been anyway.

More to come…

9 comments

  • I hear you about the salaries issue. Have been looking for a new position and have been flabbergasted at the salaries I am being offered. Very low – not something you could live on. I wonder why our roles are so undervalued?

  • I was going to write a post on the way Vanns went about their recruitment process, but I did not know the details of salary etc. So I will leave my comment here. I think the way Vanns went about this media circus of an event was poor form. I think creating an elimination style reality TV look alike contest for the job was wrong. Now to hear that the salary was low is even more disturbing.

    I feel really bad for the folks who did not get the job because they spent a lot of time working towards a job they would never get. I think Vanns did not respect the time value of the people that were trying out.

    Looking back at it now there is probably a really good chance that the folks that were not hired may have generated enough publicity to land themselves a job that did pay well. Who knows, but I am definitely not in agreement with the way they went about the whole process.

    Good luck in your consulting work. I am on the same personal track.

    @keithburtis

  • Keith, can't argue with you on this one. Although it's hard to be able to come off as impartial since I was part of the process, I agree that overall the execution was failed on many levels. You simply do not go to all that trouble and offer entry level salary and expect to get someone that is going to come in and make a true difference. This is not a knock on their “winner”, maybe he will, I hope he will.

    I was quite angry at how little they valued everyone's time and effort, but other opportunities did come from it, so I've gotten over it.

    It will be interesting to see how things shake out and if this really does make a difference for them. Quite honestly I think they have more of a branding problem then a community one. Every single person I told thought it was the shoe company.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  • Absolutely, I wish the new manager a huge amount of success and I hope that the company gives him the tools he needs to do the job effectively. I am seeing a lot of companies/brands looking for interns to take care of their social media spaces. The fact is that many organizations are really still figuring it out and C-Level executives just don't have the time or the desire to get involved in the space. The ones that are seeing the power of the channels are taking it more seriously.

  • I was going to write a post on the way Vanns went about their recruitment process, but I did not know the details of salary etc. So I will leave my comment here. I think the way Vanns went about this media circus of an event was poor form. I think creating an elimination style reality TV look alike contest for the job was wrong. Now to hear that the salary was low is even more disturbing.

    I feel really bad for the folks who did not get the job because they spent a lot of time working towards a job they would never get. I think Vanns did not respect the time value of the people that were trying out.

    Looking back at it now there is probably a really good chance that the folks that were not hired may have generated enough publicity to land themselves a job that did pay well. Who knows, but I am definitely not in agreement with the way they went about the whole process.

    Good luck in your consulting work. I am on the same personal track.

    @keithburtis

  • Keith, can't argue with you on this one. Although it's hard to be able to come off as impartial since I was part of the process, I agree that overall the execution was failed on many levels. You simply do not go to all that trouble and offer entry level salary and expect to get someone that is going to come in and make a true difference. This is not a knock on their “winner”, maybe he will, I hope he will.

    I was quite angry at how little they valued everyone's time and effort, but other opportunities did come from it, so I've gotten over it.

    It will be interesting to see how things shake out and if this really does make a difference for them. Quite honestly I think they have more of a branding problem then a community one. Every single person I told thought it was the shoe company.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  • Absolutely, I wish the new manager a huge amount of success and I hope that the company gives him the tools he needs to do the job effectively. I am seeing a lot of companies/brands looking for interns to take care of their social media spaces. The fact is that many organizations are really still figuring it out and C-Level executives just don't have the time or the desire to get involved in the space. The ones that are seeing the power of the channels are taking it more seriously.

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