Emerging Best Practices: SM is not SEO

Despite widespread excitement about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, many recruiting leaders are struggling with how to approach social media.

During the recession, most recruiting departments scaled back and many haven’t rebounded enough to hire new staff or add new initiatives. Even something as simple as maintaining a company Facebook page means adding workload to people who are already stretched thin. Then there’s the problem of figuring out just what it is a Facebook or Twitter account is going to do, and whether any social media can be counted on to get the job done.

The industry habit of learning “best practices” from our neighbors aren’t panning out. The field is just developing and there aren’t many experts. It’s clear that colleagues sharing their experiences aren’t giving the whole picture. Yes – companies are jumping in, but few are willing to go open-kimono because outright success is not clear. Instead, we hear more about initiatives than results. But when results are shared, the scope of investment required to achieve those results is held back. Nevertheless, the unending buzz surrounding social media is creating a bandwagon effect, and there is pressure to figure it out and get on board.

So how do you get beyond the reflex to set up a Facebook page and proclaim your devotion to social media? How can you get out of this no-man’s land of indecision to a clear social media plan? There is one issue that overrides all others. This is Concept One in social media recruiting  and critical to success. Here it is: SM is not SEO. What this means is that, conceptually, you need to separate advertising strategies from social media efforts. It’s simple enough on the surface, but often challenging in practice, particularly when you’re just starting out.

Many well-intentioned initiatives start out as social media tactics but end up becoming advertising campaigns. This is because recruiters habitually rely on call-and-response advertising, where the ability to broadcast job announcements equates to hiring success. But that is not the promise held by social media (this is not a criticism, but an observation). Advertising, whether in a newspaper, a job board, or via Twitter, is a one-way communication. SEO, as it is used today, is primarily an advertising practice. Advertising online is ‘us shouting at them’. Social media is a conversation. Advertising is transactional. ‘Social’ media are relationship-oriented. Over time, you cannot succeed using a transactional approach in a relationship world.

That said, the two will invariably overlap. In fact, at some level of mastery you want them to. But, those who fail to distinguish between the two efforts often begin with social media in mind only to be hijacked by advertising campaigns. This may seem innocuous, but consider the impact it could have on your brand. Have you ever been invited to a social event only to find yourself sitting through a sales pitch? How did it feel? Most people seek to avoid these encounters. Can you imagine the impact on your brand if this happened on a regular basis? Indeed, Amway had to change their name because of it.

The point is that advertising and social media are approached in different ways. They’ll probably overlap, but when they’re separated conceptually, you’ll be sensitive to the tradeoffs and manage them ore carefully. This creates effective social media recruiting, positioning the brand more effectively. And is far more appealing than mistaking social media as merely a vehicle for ad distribution,  not getting hires, and inadvertently ruining your brand in the process.

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