Tweeting and Sneezing: 2014 Social Media Lessons Learned

sick-day1I can generally beat colds before they start. My time-honored prescription is soup, tea and lots of cold meds, which almost always does the trick. Despite my best efforts, however, my system isn’t completely immune, and about once a year or so the common cold (or worse) forces me into a mini-sabbatical of Real Housewives, Law & Order and whatever happens to be on TMC.

Unfortunately, I can feel myself coming down with something – my voice is almost gone, I’m starting to sneeze and my body (and brain) are beginning to ache. So, I suppose it’s time to surrender to this annual inevitability and curl up under the covers to catch up with whatever case my good buddy Lenny Briscoe is trying to crack.

Que sera, sera, as Doris says. Whatever.

But before I turn on the tube and turn off my brain again, I wanted to put my suddenly newfound “free time” to use and do some of the stuff that I don’t get to do all that often during commercial breaks and Andy Cohen specials.

That includes ruminating back over the last year and look at some of the progress that’s been made in 2014. Maybe it’s the cold meds, but there’s nothing better than a little bed rest to force some retrospective reflection. And looking back, this proved to be a hell of a year.

Where It’s @: Twitter for Recruiting and HR

beckIn the context of social, 2014 has been, for lack of a better phrase, undeniably ginormous (OK, maybe I should give the Real Housewives a rest).

As a former recruiting solutions vendor myself, I know what it’s like to be on both sides of the HR technology and recruiting services marketplace. Whether you’re trying to fill your sales pipeline with qualified leads or trying to fill your recruiting pipeline with qualified candidates, social media can be an overwhelming and exhausting endeavor to sift through the cacophony of voices vying for market and mindshare, particularly when you’ve got business to close or reqs to fill.

If anything, the noise has become even more overwhelming in 2014, but while the din may be deafening, one thing is crystal clear: content marketing is exploding. When it comes to content, everyone has a competing agenda, from pushing products to peddling people to personal brand building.

Despite the disparate outcomes, and different strategies, that drive social media use,  everyone pretty much has the same end goal driven by the same basic needs. When you get down to it, we want to feel connected to each other, to learn from our peers, to showcase our own expertise and further our personal and professional growth and goals.

Either that, or you have way too much time on your hands or, worse, actually do social media for a living. OK, hell. For the purposes of this post, I’m going with the first scenario.

As a professional recruiter who’s taken to Twitter this year, I’ve managed to grow my account by about 2,000% in 2014 (going from around 100 to almost 2,000 followers) – which kicked the crap out of my initial goal of 2%. It’s been an interesting learning experience, and I’ve picked up some lessons along the way when it comes to best practices for building followers and online engagement that I thought might be useful to any talent professional still starting out (or considering) dipping your toe into the social media ocean.

RTs and Recruiting: Getting Started on Twitter

one-does-not-simply-get-twitter-followersFirst off, don’t focus on volume or absolute numbers alone – your follower count is meaningless if you’ve got nothing of value to offer them. That’s why it’s imperative to focus on what really resonates with you and build a targeted following instead of concentrating purely on how many followers you happen to have.

I made this mistake early on, and it took me a while to realize that worrying about who follows (or doesn’t, right away) you back. It’s nothing personal. Screw your Klout or Kred score.

Unless you’re, say, Oprah or Katie Perry, building social influence and an engaged fan base doesn’t happen overnight. But in my experience, if you stick to following folks you want to connect with and learn from, and share information that you actually care about around topics you have something you want to say (and can do so without sounding like a Successories poster or corporate copywriter) than it’s going to eventually going to happen for you, anyway.

Don’t follow folks based off some algorithm telling you that they’re influential or because they have tens of thousands of followers (both of which can be easily purchased or gamed).  If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy retweeting or engaging with an account, there’s no point in following them.

Similarly, if it looks like an account will overwhelm your feed, or piss you off, then just ignore them – trolls can’t survive unless you feed them, and while everyone has the right to be an opinionated jerk, you have the right not to participate, too.

Twitter for Recruiting & HR: Figuring Out Who To Follow

Twitter-funny-cartoon-birds-imageAs with the rest of life, if you can’t find the good in things or at least accentuate the positive, you’re likely closing doors that it’s in your best interests to leave open. Instead of looking for low hanging fruit and following the same talking heads who seem to constantly show up on those ubiquitous “top influencers on Twitter” lists, search for sources that provide value to you – and in turn, your followers.

So how do you figure out who’s worth following? Like anything, it takes a little trial and error.

You can’t tell from a single tweet or from a terse 160 character profile if the account in question is going to be worth watching or waste your time. That’s why it’s imperative to look at their timeline and review what they’ve tweeted about on any given day, week or month (depending on how much they tweet).

You’ll see some patterns emerge by reviewing accounts more carefully that serve as pretty good indicators of whether or not you should follow any given account.For instance, is everything they share some thinly veiled self-promotion?

Do they have a ten followers and tens of thousands of tweets? Does their feed feel like “noise” or is the  content carefully crafted and consciously curated?

It’s pretty easy to see the difference between a personalized, well-managed account and opting into what amounts to social spam before you press the “Follow” button. Just don’t do so out of a sense of obligation. Only follow those people who your finely tuned recruiting sensibilities tell you is worth the time to make a connection – and you’ll never go wrong trusting your instinct. Go with your gut and remember, you can always unfollow them later.

Twitter for Recruiting & HR: Getting Engaged

favorite twitterAs much emphasis as we put on “engagement,” it’s absolutely essential to making Twitter meaningful and getting the most out of your social networks. Remember, you can’t expect to get value without giving it. Always be gracious and grateful. Make an effort to mention the creators of the content you’re curating, and give the occasional shout out to the influencers whose information you’ve found valuable and think your audience will find value in, too.

Similarly, thank others who mention you or RT your stuff. Favorite or retweet anything someone shares that’s kind, helpful or poignant. Make sure your audience knows you’re listening – and are a real person instead of some automated bot or RSS.

Pro Tip: If you’ve got a public account, then your favorites are public, too. I really like the favorites feature, which I use a lot for bookmarking stuff that I can easily find or read later on.

Don’t pay too much attention to profiles – many people worth following have information that’s either incomplete or intentionally anonymized. For instance, that account with no last name whose profile only mentions their kids and their love of coffee might, in fact, be a CEO, colleague, potential client or one of those once-in-a-blue moon purple squirrel type candidates who could be a fantastic contact (and connection) for you. Treat everyone the same on Twitter and practice giving back. Remember, the Golden Rule applies on social networks, too.

Conversely, I recommend not wasting your time engaging with, worrying about or getting offended by trolls. Report and/or block any account you find unprofessional or uncouth and let other people (and site moderators) worry about their crap. The only way to take care of a troll is by ignoring them completely. It’s really that easy.

Twitter for Recruiting and HR: Finding Your Voice

twitter cartoonOn Twitter, it’s imperative that you always come across as authentic (while keeping it professional). I got some great advice a while back from one of the best in the business, Stacy Zapar (per the shout out advice above, @StacyZapar is one account you should be following NOW).

I took her advice and decided rather than create multiple accounts or choose between the two, I’d use my Twitter account for both personal and professional purposes. Now, this amalgamated approach can, of course, present some challenges, but some opportunities that wouldn’t be possible on some platforms to actually come across as a real person, not just a “personal brand.”

For example, I’d never share anything about that marvelous baked brie I made last weekend on LinkedIn, because it’s just not the right venue or audience. Similarly, I wouldn’t use Facebook as a professional networking tool or use my feed to advertise my open jobs to my family or friends.

Even if one was a candidate, or client it’s not going to look so great when my Mom chimes in every other post with an “I love you” or, on occasion, some slightly incriminating information (as she’s been known to do). And for the record, I wasn’t a fat baby – I was just a little husky.

Twitter, on the other hand, does a great job of bridging the divide between my personal and professional life, an approach which underscores the fact that I’m a real person who likes to cook, travel and hang out with my dog. It also shows that I’m a real recruiter who likes to share interesting infographics and industry articles, and occasionally, an open job when it makes sense (properly hashtagged, of course).

Twitter for Recruiting and HR: What’s Happening?

6566There’s this misperception out there, particularly among recruiting and talent pros, that you’ve got to be on Twitter, even if you don’t want to. But if you’re on Twitter because it’s mandatory and not voluntary, it’s going to show – and you’re unlikely to achieve the strategic goals or professional outcomes that prompted you getting on in the first place.

So if you don’t have the time or see the need, then just don’t do it. The choice is pretty much yours to make, and it’s not the right choice for everyone, particularly if you’ve got too full of a plate to find the time or have a recruitment marketing team or dedicated account at your employer who’s got Twitter covered for recruiting and sourcing.

This is particularly true if you’re in a management role – better to focus on leadership than “thought leadership” in the first place.

But if you’re thinking about whether or not Twitter is right for you, think about this: being on Twitter takes a commitment. Perhaps the people following, mentioning and trying to engage with you aren’t hearing back. This leads them to form an opinion based on social media that has real life repercussions. These opinions, particularly when it comes to lack of engagement or feeling shut out of personalized interactions, can cause people to proscribe those negative sentiments to your company, even if it’s a completely personal account.

Remember, whether you like it or not, when you sign up for Twitter, you opt in to becoming a public ambassador for your company’s brand, employment or otherwise. It’s something to be mindful of. If you’re just checking out Twitter casually or just want to follow the conversation instead of participating it, then adjust your profile or privacy settings accordingly – you might not even need a public account to begin with.

Bottom line: if you are in, go all in. If not, kill your account or stick to tweeting about your kids’ soccer games, that yummy hot chocolate you had this morning or RTing self-help articles from the Huffington Post. That’s cool, too – just don’t bring your brand into it or mention your professional stuff on your personal profile.

If you’re still on the fence about Twitter, I totally get it. I didn’t like or understand Twitter for the longest time because I didn’t actually know how to use it or what the hell I was supposed to do with it. It was overwhelming and a little scary at first, but once I put in the time and dedicated myself to “getting it,” the craziest thing happened: I found out I kind of like Twitter. Turns out this is a pretty cool network once you know what you’re doing.

After figuring out the basics, I set a personal goal for myself of getting to a thousand followers – and that goal, which I gave myself a year to meet, actually was easy to meet by just dedicating a few Sunday afternoons to the cause, with the help of a few free social automation tools and a basic understanding of Twitter 101. And if you want to actually put in the effort to get something out of Twitter, you can do it, too.

Or not, that’s up to you. But if you’re going to be on it, you’ve got to own it, girl! Snap. Cough.

Crap. The cold meds must have just kicked in. So before I go, there’s a lot more to take into account in optimizing Twitter, but if you focus on the basics outlined above, you should get what you need to get going when it comes to planning your personal and professional social media goals for 2015 – and beyond.

OK, I’m headed back to bed – there’s a Hitchcock marathon on, after all.

23a2306About the Author: Nathan Vance is a talent acquisition strategist, sourcer, and blogger who believes everyone has the right to follow their passions and have meaningful careers.

Ever since he faced down the washing machine in his Japanese dorm armed only with a pile of laundry and a Kanji dictionary, he’s been tackling tough problems in innovative ways. His nine-year career in Talent Acquisition began at an internet start-up. He has gone on to use his customer-focused approach and marketing savvy to advise major tech, telecommunications, and aerospace & defense companies on how to identify and engage with top talent.

He currently sits on the Programs Committee for the Chicago USBLN and volunteers for The Lakeview Pantry.

Follow Nathan on Twitter at@nathansources or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Nathan Vance


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