What 99% of recruiters don’t do in social media (but should)

There are many good recruiters out there for a variety of positions – but in the world of social media, have you ever noticed how most of them sound the same?

“Great opportunity! Candidate must have X years of experience, be a self-starter…”

I get it. You have listings of jobs. And in our economy, that’s great to share. Really. But the strange thing that most recruiters don’t do via social media is guide candidates with:

  • Helpful advice for their resume or portfolio (if you’re in my field)
  • Good interview questions to ask
  • Tough interview questions to answer
  • Tools and technology related to job hunting

The opportunity to stretch from Recruiter to Career Sherpa is there for the taking. But few recruiters are taking it.

In my view, just listing an opportunity puts you in the same league as any other job site out there. Even if the job is unique. Because if you’re “all listings all the time,” you’re a commodity. On the other hand, if you have helpful career advice, I’m more apt to return to your site and subscribe to your blog.

That’s right. A blog. Of course you know what those are. And if you place a certain type of candidate in a very specific type of field (i.e. advertising and marketing, financial, CEOs, etc.), you have all the more reason to address that select group in a blog that shows you know how they think, what they’re looking for and the questions they’re likely to have. No matter what age, no matter what level of experience, they’re looking for a career coach. Not just the person with the online version of the classifieds.

How about video blog entries instead of text?

How about a Google Hangouts chat session with candidates on career advice?

How about a video interview with a hiring manager?

Writing up a job description is the easy part. I’ve done that myself in a recruitment advertising role and it didn’t take that long. Putting some real thought into your content takes work. But besides the upside of search engines finding you more often, there’s that moment when you get the referral from the person who you placed in a job and in the letter that former candidate says, “Just read her blog and you’ll see she’s the most knowledgeable recruiter in ______.”

Then you’ll be glad you gave your social media efforts that little something extra that most recruiters don’t do.

I know you’re attractive media, but I’m just not that into you.

I’ve noticed that generally, the cycle of love for new forms of media often goes like this:

1. New media tool arrives.

2. A few reports suddenly trickle in about the potential of the media tool.

3. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon of those reports, proclaiming it as the best thing since sliced bread.

4. Everyone clamors to be seen as experts and evangelists to their clients about the new media tool (whether or not they actually understand it in reality is debatable).

5. A few reports suddenly trickle in about the negatives of the media tool.

6. Blogs and articles hop on the bandwagon of those reports, saying that maybe the new media tool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

7. Everyone clamors to become one of the first “I told you so” gurus in order to save face.

8. Everyone is on to looking for the next big thing.

This isn’t a post about whether or not a certain channel does or doesn’t work. It’s that there’s an evaluation of media in general happening that doesn’t work. And in a race to be the coolest/hottest/hippest, some forget that maybe our clients want us to evaluate what’s right for them – new or not new.

The fact is, too many communicators and marketers often set this wild up-and-down “what’s hot, what’s not” roller coaster in motion…when we really don’t have to. How? Pure and simple, as an industry we’re way too overzealous in our attraction to new things without first exploring them, understanding them, seeing how they fit into our client’s overall brand strategy, etc.

When it comes to evaluating The Next Big Thing, as an industry we fall in love too fast, too much and, when things start to sour just a tad, we can’t get out of the relationship fast enough.

The more we rush to proclaim one form of media as a game-changer and then rush back in the other direction to denounce that media, the more we look like wishy-washy practitioners. And that’s not good.

Look, some media choices have good long-term prospects. Some ultimately don’t. Along the way, there are absolutely ZERO forms of media that work for everybody. As we explore these choices, we should never apologize for attempting to understand the new things and how they relate to a client’s brand, whether it was user-generated content yesterday, Twittering today, 3-D digital imagery that allows for hologram interaction (also known as “augmented reality”) tomorrow and whatever else is invented in the near future.

What we should apologize for is blaming the useful tools themselves when the reality is that perhaps – just perhaps – some of us didn’t understand those tools that well to begin with, yet recommended them anyway to clients when we shouldn’t have. Truth be told, having more media tools in the toolbox is a wonderful opportunity for people who understand them and an awful thing for people who don’t understand how they fit into the overall picture (i.e. firms that make the recommendation that social media tools should always be at the center of a media strategy and nothing else matters). Media choices don’t kill brands. People that don’t know how to plan and select the right media choices kill brands (and if their creative sucks, that doesn’t help either).

How can we get off the roller coaster? I can think of a few steps:

1.    Stop acting like a ravenous dog when something new comes out.

It’s new. Remain calm. Study it. Get to know it. Does it fit into the behavioral mechanism of your client’s audience? It’s possible that – gasp – maybe it doesn’t fit after all. If so, the brand’s world will march on.

2.    That new thing is not for everybody.

Again, your client’s audience may fall into this category. And if so….

3.    Just because the new media tool doesn’t apply in certain cases, don’t rush to condemn it as a failure in an effort to make yourself look like a genius.

Please. Everything has its pros and cons. Maybe it’s not a failure but instead a case of where some misinformed people understand the tool better and realize it doesn’t fit into their overall media mix. And that’s really OK. A blanket statement about that medium can be dangerous, such as…

4.    Stop saying “(INSERT MEDIUM HERE) is dead.”

Traditional media’s role is changing but it’s not dead. Knock it off. We’re creators, not killers. I myself was guilty of saying a medium was dead not long ago in a blog post. My mistake because really all that medium did was re-surface in another life form. What’s “dead” to some prospective target audiences may be very much alive for other ones.

5.    With diversification of media, some choices will always work a little better than others.  

What clients don’t like to hear is that the only way something works is to try it, considering that exploration is on their dime. But even so, there’s a smart way of exploring results, as in testing selectively and monitoring results. If results are positive, expand the effort. If results are negative, adjust accordingly.

What we’re all searching for, clients and agencies alike, is a better way of connecting with a certain group of human beings. And since they’re human, they’re sophisticated. And since they’re sophisticated and often have a range of changing tastes, we have to remember that exploring new ways to find these connections isn’t brave but a necessity to being relevant in their world. The key is if we can enjoy the new tools responsibly like we would, say, a fine craft beer, wine or liquor and not be so drunk in our love for that particular new media right from the get-go, maybe we won’t end up potentially hurting ourselves and our clients later on.

Still, that new hologram thing is pretty cool. Just kidding.

Don’t hail a cab. Tweet for one: @ChicagoCabbie

I love stories of how everyday people stumble into innovation for a traditional business model when they aren’t even looking for it.

Jacqui Cheng has a great article at Arstechnica.com spotlighting Rashid Temuri, who goes by @ChicagoCabbie on Twitter.  When I was standing outside freezing the teen temperatures the other day, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could tweet a cab and then get one fairly soon rather than hoping I get lucky by one seeing me?” Glad to see Temuri picked up on this idea, whether intentional or not, using social media to address a common problem – getting a cab to come to you when there aren’t any in plain sight in your location.

Obviously, using social media tools like Twitter to tweet locations has worked out well for everyone from food trucks to municipalities (Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the King here).  Why not cab drivers? One point that I think is going to potentially get lost here besides the story about Tweeting for customers: Good for Temuri to offer extra perks other cabbies don’t to enhance the experience for tech savvy customers who use his services such as free Wi-Fi for iPhone/iPad users and discounts for social media users. Especially since I gather that he won’t be the only cabbie after this to use Twitter to get customers.

I don’t think Rashid Temuri set out to do something dramatic from a marketing perspective as much as just using existing tools to open up the lines of communication a little better. Yet, fortunately, he opened up a nice opportunity for himself along the way.

The takeaway is that you don’t always have to be a person who wields code and builds a cool new app to change perceptions about your business. Sometimes if you take a step back, there are ideas from other industries that you can adapt and integrate into your traditional business model. How? Don’t say “We need to be on Facebook doing ____” Start with the consumer problem first. Think about their biggest pains. What they’ve told you and what you’re hearing. Then you can go about identifying what existing tools you need – existing or custom-made for you – to address that problem. Who knows? The next step forward may be a lot more simple than you expected.

Do you have a similar story where you unexpectedly stumbled into a new revenue stream or product/service line just by trying to solve a common business problem? 

6 Tools Better Than An FAQs Page

Picture that someone has just absorbed your home page and perhaps dove into your other pages. They’re crossing an important point where they’ve gone from ordinary visitor to more interested party. They may not be ready to BUY just yet, but it’s reasonable to expect that they’re moving toward having an initial conversation, right?

They just have a few questions they’d like to have cleared up, perhaps even before that first actual meeting takes place.

Perfect! They can just go to the FAQs page on your site and surely most of those questions if they’re common enough will be addressed, right?

Sure. And that’s the problem.

You can have your website answer the question and watch the lead potentially disappear by thinking about it or YOU can personally address the question by building customer service mechanisms into your site that are more advanced than a page of “Catch All” answers.

A personal answer leads to a conversation.

An FAQs page may go nowhere.

Imagine that you’ve just answered that prospect’s burning question. Now you get one of those cherished moments where the prospect says…

“You know, as long as I have you on the line…”

It’s this follow-up sentence that leads to moving the conversation down the tracks further. And that’s a lot less likely to happen with an FAQ. In that case, the prospect gets the answer they’re looking for, but there’s not much to build upon the answer. Many times in a conversation, thoughts and questions arise that you hadn’t considered before, which leads to more questions.

And in turn, that creates the opportunities for more answers. Customized answers.

Here lies another fallacy of the FAQ: Lack of customization.

You say you’re not a one-size-fits-all company but you’re giving common answers for all. I know, you’re just being helpful. But again, if you want to ensure an experience that helps the prospect get exactly the answer they’re looking for, even if it’s something that another prospect has asked, don’t you want to be sure by answering it yourself? No two conversations are exactly the same. This is a good thing.

Ah, but you may say the FAQs provide all the answers in one place.

Convenient? Sure. But let’s remember something about your website. It’s got to work hard to hook a person in and give you information about that visitor so the visitor converts into a more serious lead opportunity. You know more about them and you know they have interest in learning more about you. They’re no longer a data point. They’re Jim McGillacutty from Fayetteville, Arkansas who has a question about your services. If Jim browses an FAQ and leaves, you’ve gained little. If he opens a chat window to get the answer, you’ve gained tremendously.

But the customer doesn’t want to be sold, right?

So we’re assuming that every personal chat is going to be used as a blatant selling opportunity? I don’t agree. If you’ve trained your customer service team appropriately, the sell is very soft and the advice is very helpful rather than too sales-ish.

Sure, if your people leap into “How many orders would you like of that today?” right after they’ve answered a question, that’s a turn-off.

You can be personal without being pushy.

To help you feel better about leaving the FAQ page off your site, here are 6 mechanisms that I believe work better:

1. Blogging

Sometimes I hear, “Search engines like FAQ pages because they provide a lot of content.”

Does a blog not have the ability to provide a lot of content? Does a blog not have the ability to answer a common question that prospective customers have? Could you not build certain keywords into it so search engines find it?

And if they come across a blog post that answers their question, wouldn’t it seem likely that they’d explore other posts and stay more engaged with the site beyond just one page of answers?

Seems to me that if you had a dozen common questions, you might have a blog post or two. Or 12.

  

2. Skype / Instant Message Windows

A few months ago, on a client’s behalf, I was evaluating a company that helps set up apps for Facebook contests called Wildfire. I give them props here because they handled my questions exactly the way I would need them to without an FAQ.

See, the problem with FAQs is that you run the risk that the prospect’s “Q” is not on the list. And that leads to frustration. Buh bye. Thanks for playing. Game over, man.

Instead, I was able to chat with one of Wildfire’s customer service reps via text chat in a convenient window on their site. I typed out my stupid question, which led to more stupid questions and I was able to get the app set up without too much difficulty. And I’m a content person, not a developer. Would an FAQ have answered my questions as well? No way.

 

3. Dedicated Twitter Handle

I’m not talking about your general Twitter account but a Twitter handle that is designed purely to connect and interact in real-time with questions about your business. Taking a cue from the hospitality industry, there are hotels that use Twitter as concierge to inform travelers to that city about reservations, things to do in town, restaurants, bars, concerts, you name it. Your business may be able to apply the same principle to your audience as well.

 

4. Private Message on Your Facebook Page
This is a feature that Facebook is rolling out and will become more and more prominent – business pages will allow fans to private message that business, which helps alleviate any concern you might have about asking your question out in the open for all to see.

Like Twitter, this provides a place where you can answer your prospect’s question and capitalize on the location they’re already living in, in the social media realm.


5. Google Plus Hangouts
Dell is a big fan of Hangouts for customer service purposes, as it plans to use the video chat service of Google Plus to help multiple users. As G+ continues to gather steam, how great would it be to host regularly scheduled sessions to help a group of people at once with similar questions, again, in real-time.

 

6. Question Box and Form
I like this avenue least, but it’s still an option that invites conversation – the question box. It’s less advance and less interactive, but it’s better than nothing. This is very, very important – make sure if you’re going to make them articulate their problem in a boxed area on your site that you guarantee when you’re going to respond back to them – definitely within 24 hours and preferably sooner.

 

Why can’t you do both?

If you must have an FAQ and chat mechanisms on your site, so be it. I would rather you try the best of both worlds than have an FAQ and nothing. The reality is that some have become so comfortable with FAQs and little else that if eliminating such a page makes you that nervous, keep it but make sure you’re building in other avenues that, quite frankly, I hope your prospects pursue before they even feel the need to visit your FAQ page.

Because if you build in the tools you need, they won’t need to visit the FAQs and your brand’s relationship with that person will be better off for it.

How To Take An Effective Social Media Vacation

Happy 2012 to you all! I’m excited about the possibilities this year brings as I hope you are as well.

Coming out of the vacation period in which many companies took time off for a week, I was thinking about how the last week of the year is probably the least productive one. Even beyond that week, I’m sure you can agree that we should be allowed to take a week or two like that off to recharge the batteries – even those of us heavily entrenched in social media.

Which is why I believe an engineer much smarter than me needs to invent a simple yet effective tool: For everything we do, every social media channel we’re on, there should be an applicable “I’m On Vacation” Button.

That way, our Fans, Followers and Connections would know there’s a reason we’ve gone silent for a little while. And while we’re at it, although I’m not going to be one more person who piles on the social influence measurement tools (i.e. Klout), it would be lovely if these tools factored in the common sense realization that we human beings need to take a break now and then, so we shouldn’t be penalized for doing so. The “I’m On Vacation” Button would allow everything to pause.

I suppose this is where some of my colleagues in social media will say that social media never stops. I agree. So if you can:

1.    Invite someone to guest post for you that week.
Guest posts are great to have anyway for getting new perspectives, so what better opportunity to have someone step in than when you’re away?

2.  Share the load internally across individuals or departments.
You shouldn’t be the only one in your company who “gets” social media. If you are, start training someone else to step in to handle your responsibilities for the planned and, heaven forbid, the unplanned. Do it now.

3. In my case as someone who handles this on the client’s behalf, provide the client with posts in advance with admin names and passwords for posting on certain days, if you are in a place so remote that it doesn’t have Internet access. Cruise lines aren’t impossible but they can be a challenge at times when you’re floating along the Caribbean.

4. Put mechanisms in place to re-post archived posts during your time off that still have relevance.
Obviously if it’s a post that speaks to really old news (i.e. how this hot new tool called MySpace is surfacing), you wouldn’t want to post it. But if it was a broad enough but useful topic back then, it’s probably still useful today.

Then there is a fifth option that’s more powerful than any of the above:

5. Create content so good you could take a sabbatical and return with
just as much Influence if not more.

Here’s my greater point in regard to stepping away from the computer temporarily and what it means for our overall Influence – we are so wrapped up in measuring the elusive metric of Influence that we must realize it really isn’t a day-to-day or week-to-week thing.

If Lady Gaga takes a week vacation, does she stop being influential? How about Warren Buffett? Jimmy Buffett? Guy Kawasaki? Seth Godin? How about any of the top 500 or so people on Twitter? How about other respected authors and speakers? How about sources that haven’t even formally existed for decades like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles?

Of course not.

They have influence that transcends the mini measurements of percentage points or number of Fans. For them, influence doesn’t die. Because they have pieces of content so impactful that they bridge the gaps of time. Through their books, their speeches, their videos, their songs, their presentations, their photos, their posts.

Wait a minute. If we created so much great content that people could chew on it and appreciate it for at least the week or so we’re in Tahiti (or whatever escape floats your boat), we might not even need a Vacation Button. We would be able to come back and see that it’s not the end of the world because people would be sharing a lot of what we have had to say anyway.

It must be nice to go on vacation now and then while knowing your content is just that worthy of being shared while you’re away from your desk.

Not a bad thing to aspire to, eh?