Thursday, 24 September 2009

Social media ROI... aren't we missing the point?

Boy, social media sure seems to have got people talking!  On the one hand you have Marketers going all a quiver over it, treating it like some divine new marketing tool and claiming it's the new CRM, (even giving it a suitable acronym - SCRM!) whilst at the same time obsessing over the ROI.

And then you have HR departments stuck with an awful dichotomy - is it a needless distraction for employees costing us £ in lost productivity? A shady place where poisoned conversations take place about their employer? Or is it 'the' new source of talent, the latest place to go fishing to find the workforce of the future, to belt out the 'employer of choice' message?

If you work in either function and you are struggling with social media in this way then I would say you are probably not really 'getting' social media in the first place.

Social media just 'is'.

Here's how I can best describe it:

Imagine you are standing outside a building that has blacked out glass windows. You know there are people inside but you have no idea how many or who they are. Inside there are, say, 100 people, each sitting on their own in little offices. Some of these people are your customers. Some of them are your friends. Some of them are your employees and some of them are people you have never met.

Most of these people are aware there are others in the building but have no idea how many.  Some come out from time to time, occasionally meet and talk to others, realise they may actually know someone in one of the other offices but mostly they stay on their offices.

Now, try to imagine that at the flick of a switch the glass becomes clear and the internal walls disappear, allowing all the occupants inside to mix and mingle freely, to chat, to see who's there and who's who.

The clearing of the glass? Social media. The removal of the Walls?; Social media. The resulting conversations? Social media.

Now ask yourself this question - "where am I?"

If you 'get' social media you are inside the building, engaging in conversation, sharing experiences, making notes, exchanging ideas, having a giggle along the way maybe, in both an structured and unstructured way.

If you don't get it, you are probably sitting in the corner or making your way quietly out of the building without engaging anyone.  Or maybe standing on a chair shouting inappropriate messages over the heads of those around you.  Or worse still - standing outside looking in, wondering what "those people" are saying about you.

Social media is a stream of conciousness, a babble of conversations and a sense of 'connectedness' that used to take place between close friends, family members and employees face to face, by phone or email. The Internet and a whole bunch of tools (social networks etc) have just made these conversations visible, actionable, connectible.


And you don't need a social media 'guru' to help you understand this. As they say "beware a consultant wearing a watch!" All you need to do is get involved, being honest, genuine and open in the process.

Your employees using Facebook? Then you need to start communicating with them on it too. Customers talking about your products in Twitter? Then get on there and tweet them back.

Want to get social media? Simple - jump in and join the conversation.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Email is dead... hopefully..

Or at least that's the headline I'm hoping to read within a year of the Google Wave launch in a couple of weeks. I should have seen the challenges of email coming though. Sitting in the company lecture theatre of my old employer back in 1990 (yes that's 19 years ago!) listening to our IT guys talking us through the concept of this new thing we had just introduced called 'electronic mail', it sounded so great.

But the very first reaction from the audience was a telling one:

"Great! Now if I send Bob one of these and he said he didn't get it I will know he's lying!" Cue lots of chuckling in the back row but you see even then it was destined to be a 'cover your ass' tool more than a significant value added communication tool.

Not withstanding it revolutionised our ability to communicate, especially across geographic boundaries, I would argue it came at a price and the benefits have been completely outweighed by the drawbacks. Just one look at my in-box on a daily basis and the effort it takes to respond to the ever growing list wil tell you that.

According to some research, if you receive 50 emails a day it can take up to 4 hours of that day to deal with those emails.  Worse, according to a computer scientist at Microsoft, it can take on average, 25 Minutes to "deal with each email interruption".  25 minutes!  That's 'average' folks and don't we know it.

But apart from the obvious personal grief email creates for me there is a far more damaging consequence of email - it's actually killing business.  More specifically it's killing relationships. 

In any service business and especially in recruitment, building personal relationships, keeping in touch, forming new bonds etc is fundamental to success. But it can't be done effectively through email.  We are allowing email to destroy this precious ability we all have to communicate in person, to understand each other, to pick up on subtle cue's, to read emotion in voice and reaction.

To talk.

BT, our beleaguered national telecoms guys don't get much right but they hit the nail on the head with their marketing strap-line from the 80's:

"It's good to talk"

Damn right there!

(Sent by email from my iPod) ;)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Social Media Sickness...

So I pay a visit to my local GP and this is how it goes:

Me: "Doc, I'm not sleeping well"

Doc: "Why's that?"

Me: "Well, I seem to be having vivid dreams all night and consequently I never fall into deep sleep."

Doc: "What are your dreams about?"

Me: "Work! Mostly about our social media strategy, how we are using it, what benefit we will see from it and how to keep up with it all."

Doc: "I see. And what exactly is social media?"

Me: "Well, you know, things like blogs, communities, social networking sites.  Facebook, myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, stuff like that."

Doc: "LinkedIn?  You are on LinkedIn?!"

Me: "Well, yes."

Doc: "We should connect!  I'll send you an invite!"

And so it goes on....

The end of the road for Search..?

You may have seen the recent post entitled How free social media beat the recruitment consultants to death  It seems to have caused much hysteria in certain circles and whilst it is still a bit premature to hail the death of the recruitment consultant (again!) it does serve as an indication of the power of social media in the recruitment mix.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial.

One group in particular who should be discussing the development and impact of social media more than most are those involved in Executive Search.  Of all the players in the recruitment industry it is the Search firms in particularly that have considered themselves immune from market forces. And rather arrogantly so at times.  It is clear from the evidence above that if nothing else they really should start thinking more openly about what lies ahead.

However in recent discussions with senior HR folk, the general view was that Search will remain largely immune from the impact of social networking.  After all, like many senior level decisions, sticking with industry standard is the safe option. Nobody got fired for picking IBM right?

Similarly no one got fired for using one of the top 5 Search firms for the CEO search. (although I would argue IBM are a little more reliable as a choice!)  "The Board/CEO will always want to use them" they argue; a point nicely illustrated by the above article when Tom Allason points out that the board of his previous start up chose to use a ‘headhunter’ on insistence of their VC partners.

So what is the attraction?  There are two principle reasons people chose the search firms in my experience:

  • Access to their network – the little black book of contacts inaccessible to those not "in the know."
  • To make themselves visible – They need to be seen. They want to be one of the names in the book to make sure they are on the radar should a juicy job come up in the future.
Many of todays senior executives are baby boomers who, like me, left university with only a limited number of tools available to keep in touch - namely landline and snail mail! Consequently I lost touch with many people and it's only recently through the emergence of sites like Friendsreunited and Facebook that a larger part of that network is now available to me. So, its reasonable to assume that a Search consultant's network will deliver a better crop of potential candidates than I could rustle up myself.

But will that always be the case?  Methinks not.

Consider for a moment what might happen in the future.  Take someone currently aged between 18 and 22 and fast forward 15 years.  That snotty nosed, binge drinking student is now the CEO of a successful company (hard to imagine I know but bear with me). That individual will use IM, Facebook, LinkedIn, and probably another 8 tools already embedded in their DNA as there defacto method of communication.  There is already evidence that they will not use email as a primary communication format, if they use it at all.  (Lucky beggars!)  They won't be looking to trace old classmates or colleagues like we do because they will not have ‘lost touch’ with them in the first place the way we did.  In fact they will probably be trying to reduce the number overall.

They will be ‘super connected’ and, as such, are they likely to appoint a Search firm if they need to hire a senior team?  I suspect not as their own networks will challenge anything a search consultant could offer.  Will they also need to be on the search consultants radar?  I somehow doubt it given that they will be on everyone elses.

I know where my money is.  Tom Allason managed to do what he did with tools that are only really now coming into their own.  In many ways they are still in their infancy, the extent of their power and value yet to be fully appreciated until those that make up Generation Y and the Millenials take centre stage in the workforce.

Ironically, it is actually possible that the search guys might be the first casualties of the change and not, as has been suggested, the last.  After all, there are some compelling reasons to put them at the top of the list:

  • The savings per hire are substantial
    many more senior people are now traceable and contactable online
  • senior level recruitment is low volume and therefore manageagble inhouse
  • The positive effects of exploiting networks in terms of candidate attitude, as demonstrated by Tom's experience
Low to mid level recruitment however requires much more legwork simply because of the higher volumes involved and as such demands an infrastructure that only the largest of organisations seem willing to take on, RPO’s and outsourcers aside.  Perhaps senior level recruitment is more vulnerable to change than many think?

Dont get me wrong, the volume market will be affected too, but what a turn up for the books it would be if social media turned out to be the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs of the search industry.

I’ll leave you with Tom’s own assessment of the implications of what he has achieved:

"I think what the recruitment industry should take away from this is that prospective clients really can beat them at their own game, if they want to make the effort. The recruitment industry needs to recognise this and innovate… find ways of adding value… and justify/rationalise their proposition."

'Nuff said.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Passive is the new Active

When I first dipped a toe into the world of recruitment the term 'Passive' when referring to candidates didn't really exist.  Back then they were known as 'innactive' candidates and only really of interest to Search firms like the one I was with at the time.  Paid to dig around and not rely on advertising, we had no real choice but to target people who were probably quite happy in their current job.  It was all justified, of course, on the basis that the best people never looked for a job and those that were currently active and applying for jobs through press ads were, in some way, 'slightly more shoddy goods'.  Hmmm.  Don't you just love those Search guys?!

Anyway, over the last few years the notion of the 'passive' candidate really gained momentum with social networking tools opening up a number of new channels through which to target those hard to find, 'waiting for the call' kind of people.  And having made many 'ident' calls as we used to call them I know how welcome those other channels are.

But as these tools have matured and gained credibility, particularly in the professional arena, are we not witnessing the demise of the truly 'passive' candidate?  Whether or not you are looking for another role, the fact is that if you don't have a LinkedIn profile for example, you are in danger of rapidly becoming a social outcast.  Like it or not your profile puts you centre stage in what is fast becoming the recruitment equivalent of a Broadway smash.

Similarly, those active folk now don't have to appear so active do they?  Create a profile, bang in some mutually beneficial recommendations, answer a couple of well placed questions and Bob's your uncle - 'passive' status achieved!

Letting it be known that you were on the market used to be frowned on;  at best it was a little 'grubby' and at worst you could get fired for such disloyalty.  Not any more.  Listing 'Career Opportunities' and 'Job Enquiries' in the 'Interested In:' section of your LinkedIn profile would now appear to be totally acceptable.

But that's probably because its also the same in your boss's profile too...!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

If there is only one reason for getting involved in twitter..

I’ve been on Twitter in various guises since Jan 8th 2009 (or so I'm reliably informed by twittercount!)  Admittedly, in the beginning I wasn’t sure exactly what the point was and even when I had that light bulb moment when I realised the power of it and how it can be leveraged, I was still uncertain as to what value I would see from it, especially in the long term.  And of course, in the beginning, being informed by my followee’s that they were currently in Pizza Express picking holes in a Fiorentina or that their 3 year old had just tried to cram the cat in the washing machine wasn’t helping.

9 months down the line however and I'm beginning to wonder how I would ever manage without it.  Twitter manages to do one thing for me I that have struggled to achieve using other sources – it keeps me informed.  It’s become my own personal ‘Super Aggregator’ of interesting, compelling and timely information.  It also has the benefit of connecting me with people who would otherwise be completely off my radar.

Anyone in a client facing service industry (especially recruiters) should be using twitter in my view.  A little exploration of the twittersphere can yield a significant amount of information on a business or even an individual.  Invaluable information when you are managing relationships particularly where your expertise and knowledge are key elements of your personal proposition.

To those that say ‘I don’t have time for twittering’ and ‘I can’t see the point in scrolling through loads of inane comments’, well they have a point, but it’s not a good enough excuse.  I have a busy job too, and I don’t have time to spend all day tweeting and responding, so I find that I'm now managing who I'm following to ensure that what I'm receiving (and hopefully, what I'm saying) is relevant.  I have also separated my personal and professional persona’s.  I realise this is hotly debated subject and as my learned friend Mr Saunders pointed out, it can leave you with multiple personality fatigue but I find it suits me best.

Its early days for sure, but I expect to get more value from the whole twitter experience over time.

If you are new to twitter, id say:
  • Get on it and give it a chance
  • If you can, put aside and evening with a glass of wine/beer/coffee and take an hour or two to explore whats going on and how people are using it.  Its a much better way to see first hand where the value is.
  • Grow the list of people you follow slowly to give you a chance to get used to it
  • Don’t be afraid to unfollow people.  I have no idea if this is good ‘twitiquette’ (apologies if it’s not) but sometimes its better to ‘catch up’ with what people are saying using searches rather than follow all the time as the volume of tweets can be overwhelming and irrelevant
  • Once you are comfortable with the basics, try some of the third party tools which help you manage your twitterings and explore the searching capabilities.  Its amazing what you can come up with.  I’m no expert, but I find tweetdeck a great tool for managing my twitter accounts and I also use twitterrific on my iPod touch.  Both are very good and the best of the small bunch I have tried.
    Go on, take the plunge!

    Good luck!

    Thursday, 3 September 2009

    Face to face is STILL the best option!

    As a job seeker, despite the rapidly shrinking economy, you have never really had it so good.  Gone are the days of creating each cover letter individually, printing off hard copies of your CV and posting the small number of carefully selected applications via snail mail.  No more Lever Arch files containing pristine cut outs of each press ad applied for.  No more logging each application response, stage by brutal stage.  No more waiting for the response letter to hit the mat and clocking it was sent by 2nd class post – the reject ‘giveaway’.

    Ok, so maybe it was only me who kept it all in OCD orderliness, but you get the picture.  Nowadays, the internet has opened up a whole new world to the jobseeker and more new channels are appearing every few months.  Looking for a job, it seems, has never been easier even if actually finding one is getting harder!  Applying for a job is just a click away (Which is not always a good thing but that’s another post altogether!) and with so many open professional and social networks through which you can showcase your skills and experience you can connect with literally thousands of people directly or indirectly who can significantly increase your chances of getting that next job.  Anyone in the professional arena who does not yet have a LinkedIn profile for example needs to think very seriously about getting one.  Pronto.

    However, one of the advantages of the LinkedIn type medium can also be one of its biggest drawbacks – connections are only a click away.  One look at my LinkedIn home page every morning and I can see that some of my connections are waking from months of dormancy and connecting to 12 or 15 people in a row, per day.  A veritable feast of connections!  But before you embark on a connection frenzy, ask yourself how real and useful these connections are.  Sure, sometimes even a loose connection can pave the way for a great opportunity, but nothing beats actually ‘knowing’ someone.  Linked in is, after all, a rolodex.  To make the most of it you still need to work the network and that means getting to know them better.  And what better way to do that than to actually meet them face to face.

    My advice, for what it’s worth:
    • Spend less time making your network wider and invest more time in making it deeper
    • Go through your connections and make a mental note of when you last had any kind of interaction with them.  If it’s been a while and you still want to be connected then make an effort to reach out to them.
    • Look out for your connections on some of the other social media platforms like Twitter.  Twitter, especially, provides a more ‘immediate’ contact environment and is a good way to re open a dialogue that may have been dormant for some time.
    • If you are joining groups on LinkedIn, try and attend the face to face gatherings some of them offer.  Make a list of the people you want to get to know better and suggest you meet up at the event.
    • Stop typing and start talking!

    Tuesday, 1 September 2009

    Social Reputation Management – An acronym waiting to happen

    Back in the early summer of 2005 I penned an article entitled “Smart Consumer...  Smarter Employee” which attempted to capture impact of the internet on the ability of customers to share brand experiences and the effect this may have if this emerging (at the time) trend migrated into the employee/potential employee group.  Here is a snippet:
    "What has been missed is the emergence of the ‘smart employee’. With Enron, Tyco, Worldcom and now Rover in our back pocket, the attitude of the employee is changing. They no longer believe the bullshit. They are becoming more and more cynical. And most important of all, they are sharing this cynicism online, with millions of other like minded people. The emergence of the smart employee has taken longer than that of the consumer, and has yet to have any major impact but the signs are all there that it will.

    Organisations ambitions to be the ‘employer of choice’ and to have that killer ‘employee proposition’ will be tested on a global stage, in a theatre where they have absolutely no control. More worrying perhaps, is that the increasing budgets of £m’s spent on developing the corporate employment image could be rendered worthless over night by the smarter employee.

    Today my wife consults a million people she does not know, but trusts implicitly, to determine her next purchase.  Tomorrow, she will consult the exact same people about her next job."
    Click here to read the original.

    When I wrote that piece, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn were only just emerging and a whole generation of social media tools were not even a twinkle in their founder’s eyes – Twitter included. Indeed ‘social media’ itself was a term that was generally unknown and the social media revolution had not gained any real momentum.   The ‘Power’ and ‘dialogue’ I was referring to at the time took place mainly in forums, specific sites within specialist interest groups or the message boards on stock pages.

    Even without the ability to see the social media stuff coming, I did feel that this kind of dialogue would gain momentum nonetheless.  And of course it did.  Now that the revolution has really kicked in Brands, and increasingly their status as employers, are being assessed real time.  Coupled with the rather poor behaviour of some employers in recent years (layoffs by text, revelations of greed and fraud etc) employees and perhaps more importantly potential employees are becoming way more cynical.  What your peers on Twitter say about that company you are interviewing at is increasingly carrying more weight than the efforts of the employer branding or HR Team.

    I was discussing this recently with someone I know at a PR agency.  They had developed a ‘new’ offering based around the threat of social media to your brand - I guess you could call it social reputation management (Or SRM! - you heard it here first folks!)  As nice as it sounded, I couldn’t help feel they had missed the point somewhat.  More often than not you don't manage your brand through social media; social media manages it for you.  Whether you like it or not. 

    It doesn't mean you can't influence it at all, but the magic word here is authenticity.  Because if you are not authentic you will make thing ten times worse.   Facebook, MySpace and other similar places are littered with embarrassing and humiliating examples of brands trying, but failing miserably, to influence and manage their presence in social media channels.  And if you do mess up, no amount of PR investment will right things for you.  In fact, if you have to ‘manage’ your profile in the social media channel then you probably don’t ‘get it’ any way.  You have to be ‘in it’ to do that. 

    Consumer and increasingly employee ‘connectedness’ is a force to be reckoned with.  As Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics puts it “With social media its best to... listen first and sell second.  It’s the world’s largest focus group out there”