The ABCs of Social Media Recruitment: Always Be Connecting

Note: This blog post was originally featured on CareerBuilder’s The Hiring Site on June 7, 2011 where I was a  guest contributor. Screenshot of Alec Baldwin is not from the original post.

Chances are high that any salesperson you have met since 1992 can recite lines, if not the entire script, from Glengarry Glen Ross.  David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play was adapted to film in 1992 with the likes of Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin giving way to memorable quotes, and providing fodder for film buffs and sales trainers alike.

 

Despite the origin of the term – whether or not it was Mamet – Baldwin’s character brings the concept of the “ABCs of sales” to new life and gives entrance to modern sales vocabulary in one of the film’s most memorable scenes: Always Be Closing.

 

As personal online networks like Facebook grow to more than 500 million users and professional online networks like LinkedIn hit audience levels of more than 100 million, it’s evident that when fueled by technology, connectivity is easier and more accessible than ever.  The agents in Glengarry Glen Ross may not have been concerned with the relationships they were building (or not building) in always-be-closing deals; however, as the economy and job market recover today, solidifying relationships between individuals and organizations is crucial for pipelining future talent.

 

Whether your organization consists of five people or you’re part of the Fortune 500, social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have opened up opportunities to target and attract new candidate streams that are otherwise inaccessible. Despite your industry, user-generated outlets like YouTube and WordPress have given your audiences the ability to sing your praises or sink your battleship with their reviews of your product, process, staff, and service.

 

As recruitment evolves via emerging technologies, how do you make the most of opportunities to push your brand forward? Put a spin on Baldwin’s insightful speech, making your goal to “Always Be Connecting.”

 

Because everyone has their 2 cents
Just as the adage goes – without being crude – opinions are like certain body parts, and everyone has them.  No matter who you are or where you come from, you will think a specific way about a place, interest, topic, etc. Opinions can be formed through first- or secondhand experiences, education, and –although we might not like to admit it – even stereotypes and biases.

 

Sites like Glassdoor.com, Jobitorial.com, and Careerbliss.com provide platforms for past and present employees as well as interviewees to provide reviews of your organization.  If a candidate has a bad experience and feels as though your interviewing process was unprofessional, warranted or not, the candidate has highly popular websites on which to post that opinion.  And with 64 percent of candidates researching companies before even applying to a position, overwhelming amounts of negative 2 cents can add up to serious recruitment challenges, whereas glowing employment reviews can propel recruitment efforts.

 

Because it’s human nature
In just seven short years, Facebook has grown to be the world’s largest online social network, with more than 700 billion minutes spent on the site each month and a 50 percent daily log-in rate. Despite your 2 cents about Facebook, not many can argue that the phenomenon is akin to who we are as human beings – creatures with a disposition to connect to others, validate our thoughts and perhaps self-worth through those that we know, and possibly even play out our innate voyeuristic and narcissistic tendencies. (OK, so this might be a stretch. But keep in mind that photo sharing and photo viewing are top activities on the site en-masse, and the average Facebook user changes their profile picture more than 18 times a year – three times the amount they did only a couple of years ago.)

 

Because everyone is a passive job seeker
In the last six months, I have consulted a handful of Fortune 500 organizations that are launching social media strategies aimed at employment branding for the first time.  These organizations have been active in the social space for years, but they are just now beginning to use the platforms for recruitment and employment branding campaigns.  Just a few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported a similar trend in which some boutique firms have conducted almost twice the amount of employer branding analyses than in years prior.

 

Regardless of whether people will actually label themselves “active” or “passive” job seekers, it’s safe to assume that at almost any given point in time, everyone, no matter how happy they are with their position and organization, is a passive jobseeker. People are typically taught and encouraged to pursue greater opportunities and not accept complacency. Managers don’t accept mediocre performance, and people shouldn’t accept mediocrity in their careers. No matter how sufficed one might be in their career, opportunities for advancement, increases in pay or benefits, better work-life balances, shorter commuting times, and more flexible hours can all be motivating factors for a happy and high-performing individual to move to another organization. As most recruiters and hiring managers know, talent is hard to find and equally hard to keep.

 

As the job market recovers, expect to see more and more companies marketing their organization almost as a product to candidates – a product that is desired, offers value beyond a paycheck and has many other happy customers (in the form of current employees).

 

The future of recruitment truly does transform Mamet and Baldwin’s “Always Be Closing” concept to “Always Be Connecting.”  Social media and employment branding are now part of the strategies for pipelining talent post-recession. Note that social media is not going to take the place of email marketing, targeted advertising, out of home advertising, print, TV, radio or any other platform on which your company currently sees recruitment success.  Instead, it’s a supplement – an ongoing effort. Social media takes strategy and helps forms the right path for conversations.  And while it – like people – may not be 100 percent controllable – social media gives your organization and the individuals at your organization the opportunity to create connections. Through it, you can actually show your company’s value proposition as well as give your employees – real people with unique stories – the opportunity to share how they contribute to your company’s success. It’s these stories from these brand advocates that will give life, reason and passion to why they’re working for your organization and why others should, too.

 

As a company with a growing employment brand, you’ll be able to participate in online conversations where appropriate, engage current and future employees and enthusiasts, provide a platform of information and education for your targeted audience to discuss topics of interest, and truly begin a long-term and evolving strategy for your employment value proposition.

 

People + Content = Social Media Win

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Note: This blog post was originally featured on CareerBuilder’s The Hiring Site on May 3, 2011 where I am a guest contributor. I am not featured on the actual contributor page because I don’t post my photos publicly online (if you look closely at my mini-avatar, you can see me behind my two dogs).  For more insight as to my reasoning on the conscious decision to maintain an online persona with the photo of a dog and the real value of online social networking, click here

The concept of social media is a simple one: people and content. There is nothing new about this.  People have been connecting with each other and content since the beginning of time. With the advent of technology, namely the Internet, it should be of no surprise that human beings have taken their desire for interaction to new heights as they connect with friends and family on Facebook, and with professional colleagues on LinkedIn; share and follow others with the same content interest on Twitter; watch stories unfold via video and photography on YouTube and Flickr; and produce and connect with others via the written word on WordPress and Blogger.

People will connect to brands on social media, too. No other medium has afforded brands the opportunity to build this intimate and innate connection with desired audiences. eMarketer reports that the number one reason consumers connect with brands on Facebook is to let their social network know which brands they support.

Realistically though, how can one define the ROI of “support”?  Will it be in the form of short-term or long-term sales? Will it be in the form of traffic to a website, in which more robust content is delivered?  Is it measured on increased brand equity or sentiment for employment branding? And how does one even quantify brand equity or employment branding?

Building Support
All too often, our team sees that organizations tend to measure the success of social media via likes, followersand subscribers. Unfortunately, “If you build it, he will come,” is quite possibly the biggest social media myth that I encounter and consult against on a daily, if not hourly, basis. (For more insight on how to resist this Field of Dreams whisper, check out Melissa Murray Balsan’s post, How to Launch in the Social Space.) Just because you are there doesn’t mean that people know or have a reason to care.  And just because you invest in content doesn’t mean people will automatically know how to find it.

To begin growing your presence, go to the people that know and love you in the “real world.”  You already have an audience with individuals that comprise your organization as well as those who help keep the lights on by buying your products and/or services.

  • Employees: Assuming you treat them well, with the appropriate message and reason, your employees should be your first selections for brand advocates. Without them, your organization wouldn’t exist. How can their stories be framed to push your corporate initiatives forward?
  • Customers: Assuming you have a good product or service, your current clients and customers are another audience base that you can preliminarily leverage to push your message forward. Again, without them, your organization wouldn’t exist. How can their voices help you with your overarching business goals?

If you are not planning to fund the growth of your social media presence via advertising, how are you integrating and messaging your two core audiences of employees and customers to join you online? If you are not messaging your audiences and giving them a reason to participate, you are missing out on your first brand advocates. How else can you integrate your current marketing and communication materials to make audiences aware of your presence?

Realistically Define Success Metrics
Not everyone will be able to achieve nearly 26M fans on Facebook that consistently sing the praises of the organization, like Coca-Cola has done. Meanwhile, Starbucks has more than 21M fans that not only defend the business against competition but also upload user-generated content and publicly profess their taste preference for the brand.

While 20M to 25M fans might be out of the question for most, every organization can still utilize social media to tell its corporate story. More importantly, social media affords the best platforms to leverage audiences to push that same story forward, like the trend seen on the Starbucks and Coca-Cola pages – everyday consumers publicly “loving” a product. It’s not the simple act of clicking like on a page; it’s the story that each individual shares with his/her 130 friends about your brand.

Get Them Talking
So how do you provide a platform on which those audiences can actively participate with you? Social Media is a visual platform through which people will connect and share content. As mentioned earlier, the heart of this content should tell your corporate story. Understanding that not everyone can be the behemoths of Starbucks and Coca-Cola in size and marketing dollars, Epic MedStaff Services Inc., shares the success it has seen by empowering audiences via social media.

As an organization that recruits only the best nurses in Texas and provides top of the line care for children in their Epic Pediatric Services Division, the relationship that Epic MedStaff has with its employees is essential for its business. By providing a platform for and cultivating these relationships with employees, Epic MedStaff’s Facebook page is a great example of social storytelling. Key tactics include inviting and fostering dialogue with employees. “Social Media has allowed us to cultivate new relationships with our employees,” says Kristian Stevens, corporate recruiter for Epic MedStaff. “By utilizing Facebook, we have created an online platform where we can communicate to our employees and clients without boundaries.”

These new types of dialogues with employees have publicly garnered such commentary:

  • Hello Epic, you guys are doing a great job. Keep it up… You rock!
  • Day 2 of my new employment with Epic. So far so GREAT 
  • Today was my first day orienting at [Epic MedStaff]… I love this job!

So what do these dialogues and public testimonials do for Epic MedStaff? Understanding that what was found through eMarketer’s report, “support” isn’t as quantifiable as traditional marketing campaigns in terms of ROI. However, Stevens tells us that these conversations have helped brand Epic MedStaff in “the online world” in a way that traditional media and marketing hasn’t been able to. Along with corporate and employment branding, these conversations “have created more awareness about who we are and the patients we serve.”

Determine Your Wins
Once you have built your preliminary audience, I challenge you to ask yourself and your colleagues how you can increase your organization’s audience base. When doing so, be sure to concentrate on what current and future audiences will give back to you via engagement and how those stories can be pushed through your current audiences to new ones.

In an ever-evolving business landscape, how can you create success out of a corporate story that you already have? The hardest part sometimes will be determining what that story is, but once you have honed in on it, create the emotional connection with your supporters so they push the story forward within their respective networks. Soon you will be on the path to creating a platform created of brand advocates – individuals willing and ready to publish testimonials to your current and future audiences.

People and content. Social media wins are that simple. What objectives can you meet if you empower your audiences to tell your story?

My Love/Hate Relationship with LinkedIn

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Please note:  The goal of my personal profile and “work” on LinkedIn is not to obtain a job or to be sourced for positions.  If job seeking were my goal, I could speak more to the experience of using LinkedIn for that purpose and would apply the appropriate tactics in order to build relationships with those that could assist in that goal. When you are attempting to use a social site in any regard, there must be a defined purpose and tactics tailored to that purpose.  This is true for both job seekers using LinkedIn, individuals looking for thought-leadership on Twitter, and also for corporate brands using social media to meet business initiatives.  Musings such as “So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am” are in no way a reflection of what this platform can or cannot do for you.  Simply, if you are actively looking for a job, you should not be reliant on a single tactic alone such as posting a profile on any website, posting a resume into a database or applying for a position.  There are other actions that you must take in order to produce better results in your job search.  It’s a competitive market, make sure you’re as creative as you can be in order to get in front of your intended audience.                                                              (Note added 1/19/2011)

Okay, so this doesn’t have much to do with LinkedIn as a social platform (I could spend hours on that subject as well), but more so of the behaviors of people that are on LinkedIn.  Actually, it has nothing to do with LinkedIn and the behaviors of people on that site in specific, but with people in general. LinkedIn, in this sense, is just a facilitator of human “behaviors” that irk me, so, unfortunately, LinkedIn as a social network becomes the front and center impetus for the following example(s).

After spending a good year or so analyzing user behaviors within online social networks, you begin to see patterns.

Social Learning #1: People really don’t act much differently online than they do in real life.

As an avid LinkedIn user as well as a social network analyst, LinkedIn is a powerful tool.  Too bad no one knows how to use it.

Will LinkedIn (or a professional “online profile”) replace a traditional resume?  Absolutely not. There are certain things within resumes that help sell candidates that should never be posted publicly.  Like what?  Try, sales numbers, revenue growth, confidential projects and the nature of those learnings, etc.  It’s a complement not a replacement. Funny how LinkedIn now wants your resume for you to now have a “complete” profile.  I am curious how many people upload in order to fulfill that achievement, “Your profile is 100% complete!”.  Who cares?  An official resume shouldn’t be shared publicly if you are not an active job seeker.  And even then, you must keep some things private (trust me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of public resume snafu’s – but I digress).

So we hit on job seeking and the reverse – candidate sourcing (kind of). So what else do your professional relationships help with (aka, what else is LinkedIn good for)?  Sales. As in selling things on a corporate standpoint where you source buyers and corporate hierarchies so you find your appropriate decision makers.

Does LinkedIn make it easy for you to source leads?  Yes, of course.  It’s a public (when logged-in) user-generated professional network.  People put up their professional histories and education and “perform” the social dance of “this is who I know”.  Then they put up their blogs and their slideshare and powerpoint presentations and join groups and ask and answer questions so their entire networks (and those viewing their profiles) can have a better scope of “this is what I know.” You can argue that this is done on LinkedIn as a passive aggressive way to say “hire me”, or “buy from me” after we have solidified our online relationship. So, no harm, no foul.  As humans this is natural behavior to connect with others and to gratify feelings of our self worth.

So, why do I hate LinkedIn?  Because people don’t know how to use it.  People don’t know how to create relationships. People don’t know how to sell themselves and/or their service.  LinkedIn’s fault? No, absolutely not.

I can’t count on my fingers and toes the amount of cold calls I have received in the last year based on my LinkedIn profile.  Is anyone trying to hire me? No. (So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am).  Is anyone trying to sell me something based on “we share a group” and “you work at a huge company”?  Yes.  Every single one of them.

How many people have I called back? None.  Why? Because their messages are irrelevant to me and I don’t waste people’s time and I expect the same of others.  I’m active on social sites so with a minor amount of research you can find out what I do and tailor your sales pitch to me.  LinkedIn,  narcissism, and the internet itself have made this research available to you at no charge.  On top of that, people are narcissists and social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, location based platforms magnify this behavior and social longing.  Use it to your advantage when you’re sourcing for your leads, please.

After all of these horrendous cold calls, I tweeted this:  

(I’m in social media and everyone cold-calling me knows this because they sourced me on LinkedIn to sell me their social media crap – so you would think, “Venetta is involved with social media, it looks like she is passionate about it, her blog is on her LinkedIn profile (that I am sourcing from), oh and look, her Twitter account is attached.   Let me see if there is anything I can use from those sites to help tailor my pitch to something that could be relevant to her. Or, if all else fails, it looks like she has an affinity for dogs.  Maybe I can mention my dog/cat/bird/whatever and reference her dog(s) to make it look like I at least kind of care or went through the motions just to create some conversation and common ground”  This is not a stretch, we’re talking about social media here, something I am deeply involved in and something I am being targeted for on a purchasing standpoint. And really, come on, my name is incredibly easy when it comes to finding me through a simple Google search. Social Learning #2:  People love talking about themselves.  They really do.)

Then, I get a cold-call from Leanne (her full name is being protected because I don’t want to embarrass her or put her company in any jeopardy).  Awesome.  She sees my company on my profile and calls the general corporate number and they transfer her over.  I don’t pick up calls that are routed this way for this exact reason.  She leaves a horrible voicemail talking about her company and the only reason I listen to the full message is so I learn from her mistakes and never do this on any calls I ever make.

Then, Leanne sends an email. (Feel free to click on the image if you care to read it)


At this point, I am only assuming that she used my LinkedIn profile to find me.

So, I double check.  (And thank you LinkedIn for this feature, because I love seeing who views my profile, it helps my personal narcissism grow.  Not being facetious, I love this feature).  And there is my Leanne:

Is LinkedIn the greatest (free) business tool of all time?  That might be a stretch, but yes, perhaps.  Will it ever work for sales and recruitment?  Yes, absolutely.  I’m afraid no one I’ve ever come in contact with knows how to use it in combination with other (free) research in order to achieve their goals (in Leanne’s case, selling me something).  I looked into her company (only because I was writing this).   Do they have a decent service that I would consider? Actually, yes.  Would I buy from them?  No.  Why?  See above.

Sales 101 and social media 101 both have taught us that no one cares about you and no one cares about me.  Social Learning #3: You are irrelevant (as a brand, product, service and person) until you tie your offering to what the other person wants and/or needs.

Be a good human, good recruiter, good salesperson first and then have at the tools within your reach.  They work better that way.

It’s All About the Content (Strategy), Baby!

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What’s the next best thing after social networking sites for marketers?

Another innovation in content delivery.  Yes. That’s it. That’s all Facebook is and why marketers are flocking to the medium.

As AOL announced that it would let go of Bebo in April 2010 (yes, another Bebo reference), only a few months later did the news make it out that AOL would be hiring hundreds of reporters for their new media venture Patch.com.  In their own words, Patch.com is “is a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you […] a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”

So, citizen journalism, right? Not quite. With the emerging popularity of Examiner.com and subject-specific writers/bloggers spreading their content via their own social networks (“Examiners” are paid on traffic, comments, and social shares of their content, and I hear that it’s barely pennies), Patch.com notes that their communities (what the beats are called) are run by “professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers who live in or near the communities” they are reporting on.  Patch is banking on their elevated credibility as opposed to the you-don’t-even-have-to-interview-and-can-write-for-us Examiner.

Moving away from competing with the social networking behemoth, Facebook, AOL is investing in content. Rightfully so as their CEO, Tim Armstrong defines AOL as “a global media content company” in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.  The full interview can be viewed here.  Regarding the “hysteria” of paid vs. unpaid content, Armstrong notes that companies have “to be open to the business model that meets the content you’re producing”.

Enter genius marketing/business strategy by, of all organizations… The United States Postal Service.  With all of the buzz of internet marketing and earned media through social media, marketers don’t need direct-mail anymore.  Why pay for production, shipping and barely any tracking when only a small minority of the recipients will even open the piece? Instead, jump onto FaceSpace and track your followers.  Boom. Complete.

Not so.  And who better to let you know than the United States Postal Service.  Deliver is a magazine geared towards marketers with an attempt to revive direct-mail budgets. Not too bad of an idea from the USPS.  Create a niche publication geared towards your actual buyers.  Give them content and still promote your agenda (direct-mail budgets).

I mean, I loves me some social media, but the back cover of Deliver Magazine, July 3, 2010, Volume 6, is pretty compelling:

(Written on the paper: “Why are we paying so much attention to this [social media] if HALF the population isn’t”; Response in alternate color: “Cause it’s the cool new thing”).

I give it to you, USPS, clever idea with this Deliver Magazine of yours.

And then… the impetus for this post… Rouge Magazine.  Publisher?  P&G. Yes.  Procter and Gamble.  Procter and Gamble published a magazine for women. Yes, that P&G. Comet, the household cleaner P&G. (Okay well, Javelin Custom Publishing Inc. for Procter and Gamble).  You can read the Totem (Javelin Custom Publishing is a subsidiary of Totem) brand story about Rouge Magazine here.

I received my first copy of the magazine today (in the mail, thank you United States Postal Service) and was completely in awe – I didn’t order this, this is an amazing piece of content I can waste my time with, and… these are “inspiring ideas by P&G Beauty”. Intrigued, I go through the magazine. Okay, granted, all ads are for P&G brands.  Most advice is shrouded in “Head and Shoulders is not just for dandruff”, but it really isn’t that overwhelming salesy.  I’m actually quite impressed.

The Fortune 500’s beauty magazine makes sense. Why spend millions on a campaign in Allure or Glamour or any of the over done beauty magazines.  You’re competing with plenty of others in the retail stores, why fight for the advertising eyeballs? Chances are, the $50,000 one-month full page spread may or may not drive sales at your local Target. You really can’t measure the ROI on that.

But… create your own content (women read anything that has to do with beauty even though we’ve read the same advice since we were in high school, there are just new advertisements now), advertise your own array of brands, sprinkle your own specific products within the content you’ve produced (I took note of a blouse in their fashion spread and I vividly remember the CG lipstick the model was wearing – of which I might buy), and offer up a couple of coupons in the back. Oh – and did I mention, send the less than 60 page P&G brand-orgy magazine to someone that you identified from one of your retailers as buying a competing product (I’m almost certain I was targeted, pun not intended, based on my Target Visa).

Take it from AOL that threw their attempt at creating a social networking site to rival Facebook away and refocused on content.

Look at the clever way the United States Postal Service is getting marketers to digest content aimed to increase direct-mail efforts.

Even P&G, the consumer goods manufacturing titan is making content part of their overall strategy.

Social platforms such as MySpace and Facebook, YouTube and Blogger, have altered the way that we communicate with each other and digest content.  That’s a fundamental shift in how we will do business and interact with our various stakeholders.

But do keep in mind – Facebook wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the content that personal networks produce.  You post a picture (you add content), your entire network knows and the voyeurs digest that content and possibly act upon it (comment on your picture).  But if it weren’t for your personal networks, and the automatic interesting content that humans are prone to (because realistically, it’s the controversial that gets the ball rolling for discussion), Facebook wouldn’t be where it is today.

The future of innovation is the content itself and it’s delivery.  It’s that simple.

And I cannot believe the best examples I have seen are from Procter and Gamble and the United States Postal Service.

For the reference… my copy of Rouge, making its way to the top of bills and news journals: