About six months ago I turned a random idea into a hack that landed me my dream internship. All it took me was $0.34 and about a day’s work. I didn’t even have any superpowers – all I had was the desire to work at this company and a creative idea. And I’m thinking, if a monkey like me could do it, so can you.
I’ll show you the hack, how it worked, and my take on why it worked along with action steps if you want to try it out yourself – if you have your eyes on a special internship, job or another opportunity that requires the attention of someone busy, this might be the solution you have been looking for. Allow me to start with from the beginning.
The company I applied for is the well-known flight aggregator, momondo. It’s the brand I’d like to work for the most if I could choose from any one in the world. What can I say, once you are bitten by the travel bug, there’s no going back.
I actually applied for a job that they ended up hiring for internally but counter offered me a great internship role instead. Not quite the same deal but I was happy with it – I was lucky enough to get to go abroad on training sessions to the headquarters of some of the biggest internet advertising companies in the world: Google and Facebook. My mecca.
It didn’t work out the right way at first. I called, asking questions and applied with a kick-ass cover letter and CV – or so I thought. It didn’t work of course. Later I noticed that the application had more than a thousand views on LinkedIn so they probably received quite a few of applications.
After a while of waiting, I got bored and decided to try another approach. I quickly realized that I needed to impress this guy or I wouldn’t stand a chance!
I decided to do what I do best: down a couple of beers and brainstorm ideas with my flat mate. At the time the idea sounded insane which is why I liked it. I went to work.
I made a quick advertisement on LinkedIn and Facebook targeting the employees of the company in the hopes that either the guy in charge or a co-worker would see it and share it with him.
This is how it looked (move the mouse over to zoom):
For the sake of his privacy, I have covered his name with black.
The ad copy read “Please help me deliver this important message to NAME”.
I knew that just getting his attention this way and then showing him the same useless cover letter and resume wouldn’t be enough to convince him, not to mention that his co-workers probably wouldn’t be impressed enough to go out of their way pass it on. It had to be different.
So I used my amazing computer skills to right click and “save as” on their website, quickly copying the jobs-page and exchanging their text with my own along with links to my Facebook and LinkedIn profile using Window’s most amazing tool Notepad. It looked like this:
The headline wrote “Important message to NAME”.
Within a few hours an email ticked into my inbox:
Later I learned that he had actually shared the link on his Facebook wall too.
Naturally I was ecstatic that it had worked and particularly because it barely cost me anything, as you can see below! I can’t believe it worked!
As you can see I placed it on both LinkedIn and Facebook as I wasn’t sure which would work better. I knew it could potentially make sense because I just needed a single click from the right person to deliver the message.
I had no skills
The best part of it all is that I wasn’t good at writing, I didn’t know how to do web-design, code websites or any of that.
What took me the longest was actually perfecting my copy on the landing page and brainstorming what the ad should say to catch attention.
I was considering to use the guy’s Facebook profile photo on the ad but I thought it might come off as intrusive so instead I settled for the brand’s logo.
I wasn’t sure how to get his attention at first but I knew that he or some co-workers must be online on LinkedIn on Facebook from time to time, so I stalked him on Facebook trying to find as much info as I could to target him specifically. I ended up targeting people who lived in his location, spoke three specific languages along with several other details I found listed publicly on his Facebook profile. The target group ended up being extremely small and almost sure to reach only him and a few other people.
LinkedIn was tricky because I needed an audience with at least 1000 people in it for the campaign to be approved. That made me quite nervous as I wasn’t sure how much I’d end up spending because the company had only 50 or so employees showing on LinkedIn, so most of the time my ad would be shown to people who weren’t relevant to me at all.
Why it worked
I have no proof why it worked nor do I have any scientifically based evidence but here’s my own take on it.
It was written to his colleagues in such a personal matter that they might have felt it was uniquely made for them (it was). I was actually worried that it might not be approved because it called out a name and therefore might be too personal but that didn’t turn out to be an issue.
I also expected the logo would be too generic for anyone to notice but what I hadn’t thought of was that many people (including myself) feel a sense of relation when they see an ad for a company they are employed by. I imagine that naturally draws attention to it.
The landing page
He mentioned that he at first thought I had hacked their site until he noticed the URL was different. I believe it spurred a feeling of “what-the-heck-is-going-on” when he saw the website had a personal message to him.
I believe the website design made a difference by tying everything together as a part of the message. It was well-suited for the application as the job was in online advertising so it somewhat showed I knew how to do the things needed to fill the position.
You can do it too (action steps)
There is no reason why you can’t apply my method and achieve the same – I had no money, no particular skills except being able to search Google (if you call that a skill) and I didn’t spend much time putting it together – you can easily do the whole thing in a weekend. Here’s how:
Step 1: Figure out where the person hangs out online and how you can reach them
The first thing you need to do is figure out where the person (or people) may be hanging out online.
In many cases you should be able to find them on Facebook as they have amazing targeting options (e.g. you can target people employed by company X).
LinkedIn could be a great option too. At the time of writing it does require a minimum of 1000 people in your target audience but that worked out just fine for me.
Ideally you should test all the channels you find relevant to get a better chance of reaching them at the right time – when it’s convenient for them.
But you don’t have to use paid ads, get creative!
If they hang-out in a certain subreddit, try sharing a personal, open, letter to them there or send them a PM.
The key is to get them to click out of curiosity and convince them after. We do that by making things personal and surprising – your message has to be unexpected. Surprising can be both a surprising message or a message in a place they wouldn’t expect.
Don’t let them do ANY work. If they see your ad, make it easy for them to see the rest of your message – don’t make them install a specific tool to show your fancy graphics or something like that. Make it clean, easy and fast for them to learn more. Make it ridiculously easy to contact you!
Action step 1: Brainstorm ideas on where the person hangs out online. Go look at their social profiles, Google them and see what comes up – you need to know a bit about them. Then decide where to reach them.
Action step 2: Once you have decided where, it’s time to figure out how. What does the platform of your choice allow? Do they sell ads? Do they have a forum or can you write a blog post? Again get creative and consider using multiple ways to reach the person at the same time.
Step 2: Figure out what your overall message should be and create it
In my case it was my landing page and my application text. The landing page design was part of my message.
You don’t have to use a landing page. If you want to but don’t want to mess around with the website code like I did, I imagine wix.com or wordpress.com would be a good choice to get a basic free website that you can design yourself without having to touch any code. – I bet you can still imitate the design of the person or company’s website easily, if you’re looking to do that.
The point is that the message should be unique to the person receiving it and make them feel special.
Offer them something amazing and make it ridiculously clear how it benefits them. Think about the objections that could come up as they are reading your content and address them by offering solutions right there and then. If they have a single reason for saying no in their mind and you can’t counter it with a solution, you won’t win.
You’ll also need to make it clear what they should do next (contact you) and how – make it no-brainer, you don’t want them to be confused, overwhelmed and think “I’ll do that later” – which is code for never.
Make it ridiculously easy for them to contact you! I’m repeating this one because it’s so important. Give them several options so they can decide what suits them better. You should also consider preparing a script for them to copy-paste so they don’t have to even think about what goes in the email!
In my case I mentioned that I had a retargeting campaign schedule for him and if he would please reply me when he saw the ad so I could pause it.
Action step 1: Figure out what you want to tell them – are you applying for a job? An internship? Something else? Decide on your core message and keep it as short as possible.
Action step 2: Figure out if there’s a cool way to tie it together with the place you have planned to reach them in and the method you are planning to use – if you want to reach someone at an ad agency, a fun way to do it would be through an ad.
This step is not necessary but will be the icing on your cake and will definitely help you a lot if it’s well executed.
Action step 3: Create the message – ask someone else to go through it when you think it’s finished. It’s important to address all relevant objections the receiver could have when reading your message.
That’s it – remember that it’s all about getting creative. And don’t forget to kick ass!
I hope you liked my case study – I had a lot of fun with it. Feel free to ask any questions, I’ll try to help as much as I can.
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