It’s not just a way to attract great talent, social networking technology can help create the brand buzz your organization is seeking.
By Sue Marks and Laurie Ruettimann
Time spent on social networking sites is up 93 percent. Consumers trust real friends and virtual strangers the most. Companies are discovering hidden and not-so-hidden value.
The consumption of traditional media usage such as newspapers and television is at an all-time low and trending downward. Everyone is using some sort of social media. A new Nielsen study indicates that recommendations are the most trusted forms of advertising. A survey of consumers noted that 90 percent said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online. Finally, beyond its use to gain more influence with current customers and reach new ones, social media also offers companies the opportunity to monitor online chatter. This creates an instant cyber focus group, from whom you can hear uncensored what your prospects, customers, employees, and candidates are saying about you.
If you are solely invested in traditional media for your business and talent acquisition methods, we hope this series of articles will encourage you to embark on an “extreme social media makeover.” We will start by talking about what social media is, why you should care, and what the benefits are.
Before we explain how to use these new and emerging social media tools, we will spend some time exploring your brand and the concept of authenticity. It is easy to create a Twitter account or Facebook fan page. The mechanics of getting on any of these sites are simple and the instructions are clear. We want to help you understand “how” your brand relates to a culture of authenticity. We want to help you learn how to implement real-time social media strategies, but only after you understand how these tools fold into your brand, your reputation, and the way your company represents itself to consumers and job seekers.
What and Why?
What is social networking and social media? Social media is a category of online media in which people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Social media encourages discussion, feedback, voting, comments, and sharing of information from all interested parties. It is a two-way conversation with consumers and potential clients. It is unlike traditional media, which is often a one-way broadcast of facts, trivia, and advertisements.
Why should you care about social media? Their greatest value to you is in relationship building. Whether the relationship building is with customers, partners, community members, peers, or potential recruits, the purpose is the same: relationships.
Increasingly, business relationships are beginning online with a search for information or a query to friends and colleagues on social networks. In fact, blogs, podcasts, video, and other forms of social media are being used to create opportunities to engage customers, prospects, and candidates in conversations that can lead to more formal relationships. We call it the “know-like-trust” cycle.
Social media and the ubiquity of new web applications have changed the way top talent considers future employers and opportunities. Increasingly, candidates live and breathe online. The time spent on social network sites has increased 83 percent from June 2008 to June 2009, according to a report from Nielsen Online. Job seekers are using social media to look for opportunities and to formulate impressions of prospective employers. They are influenced, in part, by what they hear and read online. Employers need a comprehensive digital strategy, appropriate online presence, and the ability to engage candidates in a conversation to attract top talent. Still viewed as a cutting-edge tool used by only the most forward-looking recruiters, social networking is a must for today’s recruitment teams, and the increased adoption has transformed the way recruiters find skilled, passive candidates.
What can you do differently or better with social media, and what can you do with social media that you could not do before? You can use social media to:
- Help manage your company’s reputation and build brand awareness;
- Get closer to your customers and learn about their needs by having a two-way conversation;
- Respond, discuss, and debate issues related to your company’s best interests;
- Learn insights not previously available from pools of customers, candidates, and industry sources;
- Improve employee engagement and retention; and
- Develop relationships with passive candidates and candidate sources.
But how should you even start thinking about this? Well, it starts with culture. Culture, brand, and authenticity are the necessary components underlying a successful social media effort.
So now that we’ve convinced you to look further, how can you get social media to work in and for your organization?
As we said before, it’s about relationships, which are ultimately about some level of trust, which goes hand-in-hand with your brand promise.
Brand is the persona and perception you and others have created about you, your organization, your products/services, and your company as an employer. Authenticity is when the real you and your brand converge. When that happens, you establish trust and confidence in the online world.
Jobseekers, customers, and potential clients are media-savvy; they have all learned how to spot a disingenuous campaign or recruitment ad a mile away. Sales pitches, which are often rolled up into fancy web sites with video and audio components, are as authentic as a commercial for used cars on a local TV channel. Consumers and candidates are using social media tools to dig deeper and make more informed choices before spending a single dollar or even taking a phone interview with you. Job seekers are just like consumers. They want to commit to companies, brands, and services that are dependable, honest, and demonstrate a measure of authenticity. This applies to MP3 players, DVD players, talent recruitment and retention, and HRO/RPO strategies.
The key to winning over new clients and candidates is authenticity. In a Web 2.0 world, your social media strategy becomes a community-building strategy. Visitors to your web site demand candor and content. You are tasked with reaching out to a potential customer, client, or candidate as if you were communicating to that person over a cup of coffee. Your audience is less interested in your press releases and more interested in the stories behind the scenes.
To select the employees who should be positioned front and center to evangelize on behalf of your employer brand, ask yourself:
- Who embodies the spirit of your mission, vision, and values?
- What departments make your organization successful? How have they done it?
- When there has been a challenge or mistake, how has it been handled?
Armed with these answers, you can effectively speak the language of authenticity by connecting your employees and employment brand to the products and services you sell.
Create a holistic link between your employees, your executive team, and your customers. Use social media tools to tell your story, and teach your customers and candidates something they didn’t know about your products, services, industry, or job openings. Lead your audience to a light bulb moment.
Ready for the “How”?
Social media tools are the most effective way to share stories of success and help your investors understand the underlying value in your organization. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—together with your company web site and blog—are the best tools on the market right now to help your current and potential customers and employees learn something new about your company.
There are countless examples of successful companies who have adopted an aggressive use of social media tools.
- Southwest Airlines and Dunkin Donuts offer blogs and tweets from employees who are brave, honest, and candid.
- Dell, DirecTV, JetBlue, and Charter respond in real-time to customer issues that are voiced on Twitter.
- Zappos has been particularly successful in generating raving fans of their brand. They are authentic champions and advocates who will sell products and services to their own colleagues, families, and friends. They will evangelize on behalf of the company and its value proposition and recommend passive candidates to the Zappos recruiting team for current and future openings.
At the core of these social media strategies is a leadership team that has created a culture where employees are empowered to blog, tweet, and speak to consumers and job seekers. They are openly encouraged to capture the spirit and culture of their organizations. The result is that potential customers and candidates become as enthralled, excited, and passionate as the employees.
If you build a core value of authenticity into your social media strategy, you are well on your way to speaking the language of Web 2.0 and capturing an ROI on your social media strategy.
In our next article we’ll take the discussion to a review of the steps you’ll need to get started. In the meantime, feel free to connect with us on Twitter as a great way to start exploring social media tools. Check on what’s happening at http://twitter.com/SueMarks and http://twitter.com/punkrockHR.
Sue Marks is CEO of recruitment process outsourcing firm Pinstripe and has built a following of 3,000 Tweeps, almost 500 connections on LinkedIn, and hundreds of friends on Facebook. Laurie Ruettimann has more than a decade of experience in Fortune 500 organizations including Pfizer, Kemper, and Alberto Culver. Check out her blog at punkrockhr.com