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.

 

“Social Media is Free!” No, It’s Not. Key Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Company

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One of my biggest pet peeves is the notion that social media is free.

I mean, yes, okay, technically it is free.  It doesn’t cost a dime to create a Facebook page, nor sign-up for a Twitter account.  WordPress gave me this blog for free.  Review sites don’t charge to post content (typically), Foursquare doesn’t run my credit card when I check into a location (off-the-grid of course because I am ironically private when in the online social sphere).

In any presentation I give, I typically tend to show a video from an outside source about social media because  A. No one wants to hear me talk. B. Stats are boring.  C. A collection of outside data is best for a wonderful potpourri of credible sources helping you make your point.  D. The music is typically pretty cool.

One of my favorite videos I never show is “What the HELL is social media – in 2 minutes” by timetogetsocial.  I like it because I am partial to the style of lists (Reason #1, Reason #2,  etc.).  Granted it’s a little bit of a ripoff of Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution, published in July of 2009 and then refreshed in May of 2010, but what is original these days? Anyway, Qualman usually gets played because I love “Right Here Right Now” by Fatboy Slim (and more so because of the final “reason”, outlined below).

My favorite pieces from timetogetsocial:   (awesome conversation starters and continuers):

So this is pretty much the trifecta of successful business conversations: people talking about your brand and company, people buying your products and services, and the juice of the internet: porn.  Bam.

Perfect conversation pieces with a mildly entertaining soundtrack, why wouldn’t I use this gem in any regard when discussing the importance of social media?

Well, after the holy grail of business fodder (purchase decisions, brand advocates and pornography),  Reason #10 sucks.  And is untrue.  And ruins the other points because of it’s lack of explanation.

Saying that social media is free in itself is a truth.  Again, it doesn’t cost anything to enter these realms of conversation as you don’t write a check  to Google every month for your monthly search subscription.

In order to effectively enter the social space, you are going to be spending more than just time.  You need the appropriate pre-research to understand what it really is that you are doing.  There are free tools out there to help you do this.  But there are some highly sophisticated ones that are, in fact, better, and also cost money.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Really.  No free lunch.

Are you combatting negative perceptions?  Are you leveraging the positive momentum from your products and services because everyone is singing your praises online?  How are you marketing your initiatives?

Why on earth would Pepsi, after almost a quarter of a century of yearly ads, pull out of advertising for the Super Bowl in 2010?  Because instead of spending 2-3 million dollars on a 30 second spot, Pepsi allocated resources to social media campaigns.

CMO of Pepsi Cola North America, Lauren Hobart explained, “It’s a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn’t the right venue, because we’re really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers.”

Ok, so… if social media were free (and if the Super Bowl were the correct “launch plan”), Pepsi could have still continued their yearly Super Bowl advertising and complemented the efforts through social media.  Let’s pay for the 30 second spot and social is free, so we do both.  Well, instead they used resources for philanthropic causes fueled by the resources put into the social user-generated campaigns.

Conversations and stories are free.  So are most of the platforms and accompanying tools out there.  But, in order to be effective, there does need to be an investment outside of just time itself in order to align the efforts and maximize the return.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to know what they are doing.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to understand the long-term strategy and work with other individuals in order to make sense of short-term strategies and tactics.

In putting together the following questions to ask yourself before venturing into the world of social media, I kept the platforms neutral.  Although created with social in mind, they don’t necessarily correspond to this arena alone.

What’s Already There?

  • What is the general public saying about you?
  • What are your key stakeholders saying? (Employees, Customers, Prospects, Candidates)
  • What is being said about your competition?
  • How do these voices differ from your message?
  • How do these conversations interrupt your business goals?
  • How do these conversations complement your business goals?

Where Should I Be?

  • Who is my audience?
  • How does my audience perceive me?
  • Where is the most conversation occurring?
  • What platform do I need to tell my story?
  • Why am I even here?
  • What are my current marketing and communication goals?
  • How do these goals fit into any new conversations?

What Should it Look Like?

  • How does my message need to visually look?
  • How integrated does the message need to be with my current branding initiatives?
  • How do I change my current branding to support my message on this new platform?
  • How does my current design promote the behavior I am looking to create?

What Should I Say?

  • What behaviors am I trying to promote?
  • What action am I trying to drive?
  • Who is my primary audience? My secondary audience?
  • What types of content does my audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Should I Market This?

  • Who are my current stakeholders? How do they play into this?
  • Where is my desired audience?
  • What does my desired audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How can I better integrate this into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Do I Manage This?

  • Who can do this for me?
  • How do I respond?
  • What do I say?
  • Why am I saying this?

How Do I Measure Results?

  • What were the goals for this initiative? Both long-term (strategy & business objectives) and short-term (marketing campaigns)?
  • How have these goals changed?
  • Have we uncovered any new audience needs and behavior? How can we continue to promote this or change this?
  • How has each campaign affected strategic goals? How can we continue to improve this?
  • What new learnings have surfaced? How do these affect strategic goals?

The list is still a work in progress as I am sure there are things that I have not added.  What else would you suggest as a key consideration to companies entering a long-term journey into social media?

Should Social Media Participation be an Employee Requirement?

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This dynamic question was posed on LinkedIn, and to my surprise it didn’t receive much traction. My major theory as to why? Too many companies are looking at the potential of social media for short term advertising and marketing campaigns. (I have a secondary theory regarding the fact that this was a discussion vs. a question and that people are less likely to participate in discussions because they are not published on your LinkedIn profile – for now at least – and therefore there is less social currency associated with, “check out how smart I am and look at what I answered” attached directly to my profile – but I digress…)

“Let’s go to Facebook and fish where the fish are.” It makes sense, do it. The fact of the matter is that not enough companies are carving out the long-term strategic capabilities of what it means to be social. Social is here and it is changing daily. People are people and will continue to be people. Whether or not Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. will suffer the fate of Bebo in the upcoming months or years doesn’t matter. It’s incredibly irrelevant to the long-term because the medium doesn’t matter. Social has taught us that people are ongoing and so is conversation. With technologies in place this will only continue. For marketing and advertising purposes, this is great, assuming that you do it correctly or constantly improve and refine your message.

Reverting back to the question, the following is the two cents I shared on LinkedIn where I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of engagement from those that profess to be in the social “know” and are self-proclaimed “experts” and “guru’s”. Again, to my dismay, no one seemed interested in discussing the potential of “social” for long-term employee engagement strategies to build competitive advantages. I hope that it is not a tell-tale sign that we are more concerned with our current customers than our future employees and future sustainability as an organization.

“It is imperative that all companies start engaging their own employees in social media/ social tools within their organization. But, “requiring” participation doesn’t work either. If something is required, the quality and quantity of content will be subpar no matter what. Transparency is what consumers are looking for right now, and will most probably be able to identify the companies in which the employees are made to participate in some capacity. The key is for companies to effectively motivate, engage and create brand enthusiasts and advocates of their employees so that they want to participate in the external social activities of the company .

Once you tie social media and participation into an employee’s “what’s in it for me” (along with having a product, service, and company worth the buzz), the participation won’t be forced. This is the one of the hurdles.

Another hurdle is that the big buzz marketing ideas and strategies are growing Facebook and Twitter fan bases aimed at engaging their customers. Companies are currently too focused on their external customers and in my findings, are not doing enough with their internal customers, and their most valuable asset: their employees. Social media has been widely discussed and implemented as a marketing tactic and hasn’t been explored enough as a strategic tool within the organization.

When you factor in the mindsharing capabilities that social tools enable companies with, the possibilities for a sustainable competitive advantage increases significantly. Considering the power of networks as well, a strong internal “social network” is also likely to decrease attrition and save companies millions of dollars a year. Organizational development and training is an area that large organizations can benefit from through social tools by harnessing the power of their internal crowd and collaborating on a much larger scale, without geographical (or even “cubical”) boundaries.

We already know the power of social media and companies are finally jumping on the bandwagon to listen to their customers. Most companies have forgotten the power of the employees that they already have and the power that their participation in company sponsored social media/social sites could have on their organization for not only external marketing campaigns and tactics, but also for long-term sustainable competitive advantage.”

-Originally shared (by me) on LI to much disappointment in the quantity of responses considering that many attest to being a “ninja” regarding social media these days
My positioning on whether or not social media should be an employee requirement teeters on yes, but knowing that motivation and recognition factors for human behavior hinder the feasibility of a yes or no answer in terms of implementation, the fact of the matter is simple:
If you have a good company, have a good product, treat customers and employees right, then requirements aren’t needed, people will oblige and participate for the long-term sustainability of the company, no matter what the collective effort is.
But truth be told, how many companies can truly say that they, in Google’s words, aren’t evil in any aspect of how they do business and that anything that they do internally (minus trade secrets, business strategies, and the like) should be published for all to see?