Monthly Archives: June 2010

#ConnectingHR 2: The Square Pig & a Well-Rounded Community

In a similar vein to @TheHRD, I could well indeed reel off a list of trivial facts about last night’s #ConnectingHR tweet-up:

•    I went into the evening believing that stickers would be easier to manage than badges.  Much to the delight of the aforementioned anonymous blogger (whose shirt was anything but), I was wrong. Apologies to everyone whose sticker I ripped…
•    Staff at The Square Pig use a bucket for their wine measures – great news for those who like a vat of vino in the evening; bad news for a collective gaggle of HR heads this morning.
•    @garyfranklin has some amazing ties.
•    @garelaos brushes his hands through his hair when he’s had a few shandies.

Now, those that know me will know that although very true, these ‘observations’ are indeed intended to be tongue-in-cheek.  If I desist from being facetious for one minute, allow me to draw your attention to what were, for me, the ‘real’ points from last night:

•    @mattalder and @garyfranklin KNOW LinkedIn.  The introduction of two informal ‘discussion’ groups for people who wanted to know more about Twitter (with @rapidbi) or LinkedIn were an excellent way to steer the conversation from World Cup football to Social Media and HR.
•    Expectation does NOT always spoil a party.  I had feared that after the success of #ConnectingHR, where no-one had really known what to expect, last night wouldn’t live up to the hype.  Happily for all involved, it did.
•    This is a point that @mervyndinnen has made many times in his excellent blog, but people really are ‘like’ their Twitter personas in real life.  Social Media isn’t full of people ‘acting up to an avatar’ or portraying a ‘manufactured identity’ – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook – they are all extensions of us as people.
•    There really is no substitution for face-to-face networking.  There’s no denying the fact that Social Media allows people to connect with relevant, interesting people that they wouldn’t normally have met, but this does not make the need for ‘face time’ redundant.  Social Media is simply a channel that can increase – and enhance – interaction prior to establishing ‘in-person’ relationships.

I’m not strictly an ‘HR person’ per se, so I was always wary about whether I would be a viable member of the ‘community’ – but nothing could be further from the truth.  The beauty of #ConnectingHR is that everyone there had something to offer – yet everyone was equally willing to learn from other people.

I remain adamant that HR and marketing are natural bedfellows and will continue to merge as Social Media plays an increasingly prevalent role in personal and professional life.  And you know what?  Informal tweet-ups such as #ConenctingHR are simply one of the many ways in which this shared pooling of knowledge and support will continue to benefit us all.

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Jekyll & Hyde: the Curse of Multi-Personalities on Twitter…

Now that Twitter has cemented itself as a valid tool for individuals to use in a ‘professional’ capacity, many users of the ‘micro-blogging’ site are choosing to create separate accounts for personal and professional use – and why not?  After all, a ‘professional account’ allows one to convey a ‘professional persona’, and reduces the risks of alienating business contacts with inane chatter about last night’s football, right?

On the surface, it seems that this is, indeed, the correct modus operandi.  Harking back once more to the old ‘Facebook = personal, LinkedIn = professional debate’, separate Twitter accounts seem to be a viable practice in order to ensure you communicate with the appropriate people through the appropriate ‘channel’.  But this, in my opinion, is where potential issues start to arise.

People’s increasing use of Facebook in a professional capacity has undoubtedly started to blur the boundaries between the ‘personal’ networking site and its professional competitor, LinkedIn.  Nevertheless, this willingness to embrace the former as a professional tool is still very much academic; the fact remains that these are two, very separate, Social Media sites – but the ‘identity’ of the user remains the same – Callum on Facebook and Callum on LinkedIn.

Which brings me on to my Twitter conundrum.

I have no doubt that the opines contained within this post will split opinion and cause a great deal of constructive criticism – however the fact remains that Twitter is one channel, just as Facebook and LinkedIn are both unique channels.  If you use Facebook for personal use and LinkedIn for professional use, the fact remains that you are on each individual channel ‘as an individual’.

Now, I’m not talking about managing a corporate account – after all, I manage three, comprising accounts for Stopgap, Fitzroy and Courtenay HR. This is not the issue in question: after all, I am Callum and Stopgap is Stopgap – two separate entities.  I refer instead, to ‘individuals’ (the clue’s in that label folks) who have a ‘John Smith’ account along with a ‘John Smith {company name}’ account.

I recently set up a ‘professional account’ (@Stopgap_Callum) in order to establish a professional presence in order to differentiate my professional followers from my personal followers.  But after a few weeks of operating in this Jekyll and Hyde fashion, I’ve come to the conclusion that this simply does not work.  Why?  There are numerous reasons.

•    Many, if not all, of my ‘professional followers’ are also following ‘personal Callum’.
•    People are sending @replies to both @callumsaunders and @Stopgap_Callum, in order to gain my attention, and thus a response, through the quickest channel.  Twitter, after all, is a communications tool.
•    You know what?  I actually want to share many of my interesting ‘professional tweets’ with people I know only follow my personal account.  Why should they be subject purely to tweets concerning Tottenham’s latest signing, when I have knowledge to share and real value to offer?

We live in an age of digital transparency – all of us have a substantial digital footprint, which means people can build a picture of us through Social Media channels whether we like it or not.  So why the need to create split personalities on Twitter, when this is just one channel in which we make up our overall personal brand?

Studies have shown that users tweet about different topics at different times of the day, which makes sense really.  When at work, I have my ‘professional hat’ on.  In the evenings, I’m just plain old Cal.  And since Twitter is an online extension of our personalities, it naturally follows that online behaviour follows this pattern.

Now, I’d be foolish to sit here and say that you should tweet professional messages during the day, then regress to a drunken yob in the evening, tweeting everything from offensive swearwords to sexist comments and derogatory remarks about your workplace.  Common sense should surely prevail, since Twitter remains a publishing tool through which you are publishing accessible content – one should feel free to be oneself, but individuals need to be aware that people can access your messages if they look hard enough.

The point I wish to make is that I am not a Victorian doctor who is able to drink varying Social Media potions and become different personalities.  I am one individual.  I may chose to keep my Facebook account separate from my LinkedIn account, but these are two channels in which I have one identity each – not two.

Twitter may have great use as both a personal and a professional tool, but the fact remains that it is one channel.  For better or worse, we only have one identity as individual people, and this is why Twitter should reflect this: unless of course, you are indeed Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde.

Connecting HR 2 – Fresh Anticipation

I’m not going to beat around the bush.  At the last Connecting HR, I was flying into an event blind; my supportive role in a marketing / Social Media capacity not affording me the same levels of excitement as my Courtenay HR colleagues.

After all, this was an HR event in which HR Twitter contacts and HR professionals were coming together to solidify virtual relationships.  Me?  I was badge monitor, brand representative and apparently, a Social Media ‘guru’ – thanks for the David Brent-esque moniker Gareth…  Either way, I was attending in a supportive capacity; a square-pegged marketer trying to fit into an HR-round hole – which meant I didn’t share the same excitement as my peers.

But now?  How things change.  With the second Connecting HR now only one week away, I am relishing the forthcoming event and the opportunities it brings.  Why?  Here’s why things, for me, have changed exponentially since March:

i)    First and foremost, I now know people. Since the last event, I have started engaging with many of the attendees on Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and even through email (how very old fashioned / Web 1.0 of me)!
ii)    I’m looking forward to conversing in person. I had many insightful conversations last time, which I’m looking forward to following up; however I’m also looking forward to discussing new conversations that have so far been limited to 140 characters on Twitter.
iii)    I’m excited by the opportunity to learn. Whilst I feel I have plenty of Social Media information and learnings to share, I’m also excited by the prospect of learning from other people.  I genuinely believe that the lines between Marketing and HR have blurred, due in no small part to the advent of Social Media.  And I’m looking forward to learning from HR professionals and taking some new knowledge away from the evening.

I could go on: these are simply three of the many reasons that I am eagerly anticipating next week’s gathering.  But another key point lays simply in the fact that this event really is a superb opportunity for people to network.  I’ve enjoyed a daily glut of personal conversations with members of the #ConnectingHR tribe on Twitter, ranging from football to vintage paperback books.  However, I have also built a valuable network that has helped me professionally over the past couple of months:

•    Thanks to Abi Signorelli for technical advice on Facebook pages – we seem to be forming a good team that can muddle through together!
•    Anna Birtwistle – provided a fascinating article on employment law under the new coalition government, as featured on the Courtenay HR blog.
•    Michael Carty – provider of an unending stream of useful HR news, blogs, articles and opinions.
•    The enigmatic and elusive HRD – a valued (albeit anonymous) contact who has provided me with no end of information on the virtues of different blogging platforms.
•    Charlie Duff – a fantastic HR publishing contact and author of a very well received Connecting HR review
•    And of course, Gary Franklin – provider of some fantastic classic rock tracks that have been played in the office!

So many people still question the value of Social Media, claiming that it doesn’t deliver a measurable ROI.  Well, drawing upon the illustrations detailed above, I’d boldly purport that for those seeking monetary ROI, they’re missing the true value of Social Media.

My own mini Connecting HR network has already reaped fantastic value and it’s this – along with the opportunities to meet ‘social friends’ once again – that has got me so fired up about next week’s Connecting HR.

Coffee Copywriting – The Perks of Persuasion

As a copywriter / marketing type, it naturally follows that I frequent coffee shops with alarming regularity.  Whilst this affords me a much needed caffeine-injection on a daily basis, it also hands me the opportunity to see first-hand a variety of internal recruitment advertising employed by various coffee shops.

In Costa Coffee this morning, I took my place in the queue alongside the ranks of pre-caffeinated, suited zombies, when this great piece of copy caught my eye:

Clean, simple and not over-complicated: this strapline is much like the Americano I ordered upon reaching the till.  ‘Thrills (not spills)’ is a fantastic piece of copy that plays on a famous phrase connoting excitement, as well as tying in nicely with coffee and the job itself – ‘no spills’ (which is more than can be said for the unfortunate Robert Green).

Examples of copy written for products, goods or services will often be some of the most creative, effective and impressive writing out there, but at the end of the day, its purpose is simply to convince someone to purchase a commodity.

Conversely, when writing copy for recruitment, you are dealing with a much more complicated commodity – people.  As part of your writing remit, you are in fact asking them to invest in a much more long-term relationship than simply buying an, ultimately disposable, product.  With this premise in mind, it naturally follows that recruitment copy should be even more evocative, appealing and creative than advertising copy for consumer goods – so why isn’t it?

So many recruitment ads are tired, clichéd, introspective and show little signs of any significant creative input, or indeed, genuine call-to-action appeal.  As surprising as this is, there’s no denying that this is still the typical modus operandi of several recruitment copywriters – which is why those switched-on to the intricacies of this market will inevitably succeed while others flounder.

Costa Coffee should be lauded for some clever, appealing and imaginative copy.  This well written piece of advertising illustrates how businesses employing persuasive copy instantly connect with their target audiences, which will always result in huge perks for their recruitment campaigns – as well as their brands.

Marketing & HR – In Bed Together At Last?

Despite the (unfortunately all-too-common) perception amongst my peers that all I do is ‘play around on Twitter and Facebook all day’, my day-to-day role at the Stopgap Group is in fact rather diverse and indeed, unique.

For those of you that are still unsure as to what I actually do (including my other half!), I look after the marketing and Social Media functions for Stopgap, Fitzroy and Courtenay; marketing, executive and HR recruitment firms respectively.  Whilst this variety in brands affords me an enjoyable amount of diversity in my day-to-day role, it has also allowed me to look at both marketing and HR from a holistic viewpoint.

If I look back to when I started in the Marketing department here in late 2007, I wouldn’t be alone in claiming that HR and marketing were separate entities requiring different methods of thinking, marketing and strategy.  Move the clock forward to 2010 however, and Social Media has been a huge catalyst, I believe, in bringing these two functions closer together.

I first gained my first real glimpse of this at the well-received Connecting HR event in March.  I attended the event in a professional capacity representing the marketing function of Courtenay HR, but soon found I had more in common with the HR community than I had previously thought.

Several insightful conversations with various HR practitioners caused something of an epiphany for me.  Listening to these HR professionals discussing the role of Social Media from a human resources perspective, I found that this new medium has blurred the lines between marketing and HR exponentially.

Employees are now much more accountable in terms of ‘employer branding’ than ever before.  Traditionally, it has been marketing departments that have set the agenda for controlled communications.  ‘Digital Democracy’ however, has given all workplace denizens a voice – and thus an opinion that audiences listen to.

Similarly, ‘brand advocates’ within an organisation are being increasingly used to market the company.  In our own organisation, we have several prominent Social Media users whose primary function within the organisation is not marketing.  Nevertheless, their blogs, tweets and LinkedIn interactions have all combined to create an additional Social Media marketing / branding function that has undoubtedly complimented the more ‘established’ marketing efforts coming from my direction.

HR and marketing have so many similarities.  Both aim to engage groups of people.  Both functions wish to market an organisation in the best possible light.  Both look at new ways of communicating and engaging – the list is endless.

Now these similarities are not ‘new’ – these principles have been fundamental to these two disciplines for a long, long time.  However, the way we as humans communicate is shifting dramatically – and this can be ascribed almost wholly to the advent of Social Media.

As long as HR and marketing remain intrinsically about connecting and communicating with people, I have no doubt that Social Media will be the catalyst that draws these functions even closer together – and why not?  Marketing and HR are natural bedfellows and I believe it’s crucial for early adopters of this way of thinking to champion this union and achieve some very big things.

Sussed Social Media? That Don’t Make You a Marketer Mate…

Operating in the Social Media sphere in both a professional and a personal capacity, I’m coming across an increasingly prevalent number of ‘instant gurus’.  Twitter, and LinkedIn especially, seem to provide a natural home for these evangelists, all of whom purport to able to advise on Social Media marketing strategy, just because they’ve got to grips with Twitter and LinkedIn.

Well, reader beware.

At its core, Social Media is a communications channel and, naturally, different people use it to communicate in different ways.  Digital marketing is also a communications practice – but this does not mean that a ‘Social Media guru’ can advise you on productive marketing strategies for use in Social Media channels.

There’s no denying the fact that digital marketing and Social Media are becoming ever-more interrelated – they are, after all, natural bedfellows and operate within the same space.  But marketing is marketing – and no matter how many tweets you’ve sent, blog posts you’ve written, or LinkedIn groups joined, using Social Media personally doth not a marketer make.

I’m constantly shocked by the ill-informed and generic advice being banded around the Social Media sphere.  Whilst I’m nowhere near arrogant enough to claim that I’m a definitive authority on the topic, my professional use of Social Media has evolved as part of an integrated digital strategy – and it’s the digital marketing discipline that informs the Social Media strategy – not the other way round.

If you’re looking for Social Media marketing tips, some fundamental truths should serve you well.  If the advice does not have these values at its core, the chances are, you’ve come across a fly-by-night ‘guru’.  Here are my basic pointers for using Social Media as part of digital marketing strategies:

i)    Social Media is not a standalone strategy.  It’s a stunning, dynamic, exciting channel, but needs to support a wider business dynamic.  You should only use Social Media for marketing purposes if it is part of a wider, integrated digital marketing strategy.
ii)    Social Media is a communications tool.  New rules apply folks.  If you’re spreading your brand around in various channels and using different sites to promote one-way messages, you’re destined to fail.  Social Media plays by new rules – you are not in charge of a two-way conversation – you just need to engage.
iii)    You cannot control Social Media marketing.  End of.  A transparent strategy still divides opinion, but even negative conversations can be turned into positive outcomes.  If someone wants to say something bad about your brand, chances are, they’ll do it.  Be part of the conversation and ensure that you resolve these issues with your customers.

These are three very basic pieces of advice – but I hope they will help individuals looking for specific SM marketing advice to understand the difference between genuine Social Media marketing strategy and community cowboys who’ve never worked in marketing before.