James Mayes

Blog: 4 things companies need to learn from individuals

In Conference, Personal Development, Recruitment, Social Media, Social Recruiting on July 7, 2011 at 8:25 am

I had the pleasure of my first AGR conference this week – having spent some considerable time in recruitment, it was the first time I’d found myself deep in the topic of Graduates for an extended period.  It was also an opportunity to step out of the social recruiting sphere I usually inhabit to take a look at quite a different side of the industry.

I was struck initially by the Twitterstream. Of an event of circa five hundred delegates (and probably over a hundred supplier representatives) #AGR11 was remarkably quiet. Maybe twenty or so regular contributors. Compare this with a #TRU event, or #SRConf the week before, the difference stands out. Why does this worry me?

  1. The wealth of information about changing recruitment technology on Twitter is simply too great to be ignored – so whether Graduates are or are not using Twitter, the professionals recruiting them can certainly learn from this platform.
  2. The next generation of teenagers coming through – I know approximately ten living along our little Sussex street. Four are on Twitter. These aren’t undergrads, these are A-level students. Neither are they brand new to Twitter and just playing around. It’s not the 70% penetration you get currently with Facebook in that market, but it’s certainly enough to warrant interest.

#agr11I was also struck by a tweet I received. It’s a brilliant question. Not a good one, a brilliant one.  Take a look at Social Media – not just Twitter, but YouTube, or Groups on LinkedIn. It’s often a PERSON that makes the difference or stands out, not so often the whole team. For new firms, teams or industries trying to fathom out how best they can use Social Media, perhaps individuals are the people to learn from, not other corporate case studies (which yes, we do present back at whichever conference is next on the circuit).

So, I was asked the question – and being a good citizen of Twitter, I responded and said I’d try and blog my thoughts. Initial reactions:

  1. Be quick. I’ve heard tell of companies taking forty-eight hours to approve a tweet.  That’s twenty minutes PER LETTER! Sure, you might want to double-check a tweet isn’t completely ridiculous – but trust and empower employees to react like real people – and answer a question quickly.
  2. Be varied. Most people don’t spend their entire time pushing a single agenda. We talk about our jobs, our families, our sports teams and our holidays. Sure, a company Social Media presence is almost certainly there to convey a message of some kind, whether it be jobs, product news, etc. but please, humanise it a little. It makes it easier for those on the other end to actually care.
  3. Show us. We’re looking at a screen. You know that old saying, a picture’s worth a thousand words? Put a personal or team picture on there somewhere. As above – humanise it.
  4. Ask. Some of the people I really admire, on Twitter particularly, have this down to a fine art. They regularly ask what their followers would like or are interested in. I’ve also seen people do this with video, audio, blogs, etc. You’ll find people not only like to be asked, but it delivers two other benefits – those who are nervous will feel as though they’ve been given permission to speak – and you’ll know precisely what your followers, fans, subscribers want. If you’re struggling for inspiration, not sure on content – this could be the lifeline you’ve been looking for.

I’d love to hear any more along these lines. In the meantime, I’ve been writing this one while delayed trying to get somewhere personally important – using it to distract myself from matters more urgent but beyond my control. Apologies if it’s not to the usual standard – I’m trying not to review and edit anymore as I think it probably does more harm than good. Maybe that’s one more thing to add to the list above!

  1. Four simple and obvious, but often overlooked points with regards to Twitter. I follow a number of ‘corporates’ on Twitter and the variation in terms of response and Twitsona (it’s a persona on Twitter…) is staggering. For such an open and transparent platform you’d think best practices are easier to be shared and learnt from than any other medium.

  2. Great post James and great seeing you at the conference!

    Likely because I know the AGR well and have attended a few times I am not at all surprised by the lack of twitterstream buzz. Most of the recruiters in attendance represent employers that purposefully block access to social media platforms and contractually prohibit their staff from speaking on it’s behalf. The recruiters themselves are often so busy with their day jobs that they can’t imagine where they would find the time and absolutely don’t want to make themselves available the high volumes of candidates they routinely deal with.

    Having recently thrown off the corporate shackles myself, I can see this is a massive opportunity lost. Both for the recruiters missing out on the wealth of information about changing recruitment technology that you mention, and for the AGR itself and incredible exposure amplification and global connections social media makes possible.

    • Clearly, I’ve been highly immersed in the social world for the last few years – it’s good to switch to a more mainstream event from time to time and get a flavour of how much work is still to be done. As for recruiters being too busy to be social, I’d suggest that perhaps this is akin to the lumberjack so desperate to bring down the tree that he won’t pause long enough to sharpen his axe…!

  3. Hey, thanks for answering my question (which I really wanted to ask in the session!) and dedicating a whole blog post to it.

    I too was shocked with how quiet the twitter-sphere was on the agr side of things – hence me `coming out` and tweeting even though I don’t normally use it for work.

    I completely agree with what you’ve written – the whole point IMHO of social media/social networks is to start conversations and engage with other people. You can’t do that if you’re an anonymous faceless entity – when I respond to organisations I follow, it’s because I get a sense of the person behind all of that (@luckyvoice is fab at this).

    I think a key part of this is an organisation having a really clear idea of what it stands for, what its values are and its house style – how this is communicated, what language and tone they use – and then using this on social media. It gives them individuality and personality.

    For me, I have managed to build up a following for my blog and on twitter by just being, well, me – I offer virtual cake to new people who follow me, I ask them questions, I ask them what sort of blog post they want etc etc. That’s what makes it fun.

    Anyway enough of me me me – great post and I will be sticking your blog on my reader. Hope all is okay with the personal stuff you alluded to.



    • All is indeed coming good, thanks. The personality side of it is such a key aspect, but seems to be the core part that most firms are nervous of. They will get there, gradually – partially because audiences are moving, partially because expectations are higher, and partially because organisations like PepsiCo, Deloitte’s and the British Army are making great use of social. These organisations are hugely concerned with brand, risk and security respectively, so if they can trust their staff to do this, no-one else has an excuse (imho!).

  4. Really interesting discussion from my perspective. I’ve been writing a careers blog (http://davegilchrist75.wordpress.com/) for the last 2 years to support my careers advising activities at Brunel University and have deliberately branded it with my name, have used a conversational tone and alluded to aspects of my life outside of work in setting the scene for some of the posts I’ve written. So I think I’ve got the human element in there.

    The challenge might be for those less sure or comfortable about expressing themselves through the written medium of twitter or blogging. It’s not everyones cup of tea and I must admit I rolled my eyes recently when I heard of one media related small firm encouraging all of its 40 or so staff to regularly tweet and blog because…well, because the management felt they should be given everyone else was. No guidelines were given about what to tweet or blog about and there was no attempt made to identify those in particular who had a desire to or a knack of doing so. Bit too kitchen sink for me

    • Absolutely agree with your concern there. I’ve talked through starting social media related projects with a number of firms (blogging, Twitter, etc) and personally, I’m a big advocate of spending some time talking to your staff first and finding out whether any already run personal blogs or Twitter accounts. If so, the chances are they won’t need much encouragement to join in with the company’s efforts, they’ll need less support, will already be more confident, can lead the way for less social-savvy employees, etc…

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