Monthly Archives: October 2010

#CHRU – 5 days on…

Last Friday, I quickly penned a brief summary of my thoughts surrounding the phenomenally successful #ConnectingHR unconference.  Like many people, I was caught up in a wave of post-event euphoria (although that could have been the vegetarian food).  Now that the, to employ an apt analogy, dust has settled, I have had time to think more clearly about the ramifications of #CHRU.

Despite my credentials as an ‘outsider’ – a marketing chap thrown into a seething mass of chilly HR professionals – I couldn’t have felt more welcome.  As my first unconference, I had no preconceptions or expectations, but instantly felt welcome and part of a warm (I’ll get more of these heating puns in as we go on) and embracing community.

For me, it is truly remarkable that I could sit in a ‘track’ session and speak openly to HR directors of large corporations, engaging in symbiotic discussion.  Without #ConnectingHR and indeed, the wider social media community, would I ever have got this opportunity?  Would I have been able to walk into the offices of Lexis PR and demand a cosy chat with their HR Director, the lovely Debbie Brooks?  Chances are, security would have been called – especially given the vitriolic abuse I received on account of my ‘burglar’ hat – thanks Mervyn!

By the end of the day, I was engaged in a small track including Darius Norrell and Patrick Hadfield, where we touched upon ways of using social media and social collaboration as part of a contribution to wider society.  I sat there experiencing an epiphany and gazed around the building at my surroundings.

A few metres away from us, sat a group of passionate individuals discussing how they would be taking #ConnectingHR forward.  Downstairs I saw un-attendees chatting cordially over cups of coffee.  I heard Doug’s guitar strum into action and a raucous cacophony of cheers break the gentle murmur of debate.  As I took all of this in, I really did feel privileged to be part of something special.

And at the risk of sounding like a tree-hugging hippy, I genuinely did feel that change, revolution, movement – call it what you will – was in the air.

Social media still has many pitfalls and there are plenty of people employing it badly.  But for me, #CHRU exemplified that above everything else:


If you attended the event, you don’t need me to tell you this.  And if you didn’t attend the event?  You can come along in January to the next one and find out for yourself.


#CHRU – The Start of Something

I’ve no doubt that a raft of more pertinent posts will flood the blogosphere today, and indeed, I shall pen my own more detailed blog next week; but last night one thought was buzzing round my mind:

Q. What’s the value of social media?
A. Yesterday.

Yesterday was a DIRECT result of conversations on Twitter a year ago.
Which led to the growing of a small, like-minded community.
Which led to a tweet-up.
Which led to blogs.
Which led to discussions and provoked debate.
Which led to the community growing.
Which led to another tweet-up.
Which led to the community growing further.
Which led to a Yammer network and a website.
Which led to the organising of #CHRU.
Which led to yesterday’s successful unconference.


Call it a movement; call it a collective gathering of like-minded professionals; call it an opportunity to learn from people in other industries; call it an opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise.

Call it what you want, but none of us would have been sat in that incredible space yesterday had social media not allowed us to facilitate the idea or our relationships with each other.

Viva la social revolution.

Addressing HR’s Social Media Fears…

Bill Boorman published a post earlier today addressing this week’s #ConnectingHR unconference – something that I am looking forward to greatly, from both a personal and a professional perspective.

In his post, Mr Boorman cites a number of reasons as to why the take up of social communication has remained limited within HR circles.  Of course, this is not to say that these views are his own; indeed, anyone who knows Bill will surely be of the opinion that he is one of the biggest social media advocates around.  However, the points he cites are indeed indicative of the HR industry’s thinking and it is these that I wish to address briefly in this blog post.

‘It’s a waste of time’.

Visible examples of ‘wasting time’ does not mean that social media ‘is’ a waste of time. Like any form of digital communication, social media is a tool.  How you use that tool is completely down to you.  If you want to tweet about the fact you’ve had eggs for breakfast, you’re feeling tired, you hate your commute, that’s up to you.  However, I have solidified relationships with business contacts; developed contacts with people I would never have been able to get in front of before.  As a business, we have received briefs from people we’ve developed relationships with exclusively through social media.  How’s that for ROI?  Waste of time?  Not when it’s bringing in tangible results.

‘The domain of the mad’.

Say you walk into a pub and spot the ‘resident nutter’ – some cantankerous old drunk in the corner spouting vitriolic abuse.  Does this make every patron in the pub a nutter by association?  Of course not.  And just because a wide range of social media nutters make themselves visible, this does not mean that every Tweeter is a mentalist; it does not mean that every Facebook user is a spurned lover hell-bent on stalking their ex.

‘A risk to law and order’.

I can see why many employers and HR professionals are worried about litigious comments and being unable to ‘control’ content that is published by their staff.  However, you know what?  Adults are actually able to control themselves without writing ‘willies’ or ‘bum’ in a tweet that may get seen by a client / partner etc.  Sure, you may get a rogue employee who has an axe to grind; you may have to implement some general rules (no swearing on public accounts) but on the whole, the advent of social media has not turned us into a mass of slobbering Neanderthals who are incapable of adult, rational actions.  We live in an age of transparency and most people don’t want to look like a tool in front of anyone, friends of business contacts alike.

‘Not worth the effort’.

Again, refer to the first point addressing the ‘waste of time’ issue.  If, as an HR person, you encourage staff to spend 5 minutes a day on Twitter discussing the X Factor, then yes, it is a waste of time.  However, if you promote a collaborative culture where employees share information, links, articles and documents that they come across, then surely this fosters a productive working environment – that alone is surely enough to ridicule the assumption that social media is ‘not worth the effort’.

‘It’s for kids’.

Again, what a farcical statement.  My boss, Gareth Jones (you’ll find him on Twitter under the handle @garelaos), is far from a spring chicken – meant in the nicest possible way!  Indeed, even at the tender age of 27, I wouldn’t label myself a ‘kid’.  Recent studies show that the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users are the ‘silver surfers’ – 50-60 year olds who are looking up old friends using this new technology.  Again, I refer once again to my ‘tool’ mentality.  Whilst kids may use social media to organise hedonistic house parties or ensure that ‘LOL’ remains part of youthful linguistic repartee, there are just as many adults using social media to network, share knowledge, converse and learn.  Internal comms is also undergoing a radical overhaul thanks to social media.  Just for kids?  Think again.


Hopefully my humble musings will alleviate some concerns that HR folk have concerning social media.  I will be attending the #ConnectingHR unconference on Thursday and will be more than happy to discuss this, the blurring lines between marketing and HR, and indeed anything else you may want to.

Just look out for the bald bloke with the beard who’s handing out the badges…

An Inconvenient Truth: Job Boards Exposed.

As the recruitment industry ‘supposedly’ moves towards a new era of social recruiting, the role of job boards has come into question once again.  Andy Headworth penned a blog on this topic this morning, asking whether job boards are trying to kill off social media in order to protect themselves.  You can see my comments on this matter, and indeed, Andy’s post, right here; but this is a huge issue, which I thought worth addressing in a post of my own.

Let’s make one thing absolutely crystal clear.  Despite the huge advances in social networking, online visibility, personal branding, digital targeting, community building, the recruitment industry remains very firmly entrenched in old practices.  Yes, of course there are thought leaders, early adopters and social advocates using these new tools effectively, but an equally large percentage of the industry remains sceptical, unconvinced and ‘afraid of change’.

The simple truth is that while this continued scepticism and hesitance to embrace exists, job boards are in a perfectly safe position.  Far too many recruiters are perfectly content to throw large sums of money at various job boards, all of whom claim that they can deliver x number of applications per month – and too many of us are happy to accept this.  Social media could threaten job boards one day if everyone gets behind the platform – but job boards have a much more pressing issue to worry about.


At the Stopgap Group, I have worked with colleagues to create, implement and refine a robust matrix for job boards.  As someone who is responsible for spending considerable sums of money on marketing and digital advertising, it’s only right that I know what that investment is delivering.  And for many job boards, the results are not good.

Since we implemented this matrix last year, we have halved the number of job boards we do business with and saved a substantial amount of money.  After referencing applications from job boards with our database, it transpired that certain job boards had delivered NO placements.  And I’m not talking about niche start-up boards or little known ones – one of these was a huge national player who had consistently poured honey in my ear, telling me that they delivered x number of applications per month.

What they didn’t tell me was that none of them were relevant candidates.

So you see, social media and social recruiting could well be a threat to job boards – one day.  But until every recruiter measures those job boards and holds them accountable for actually delivering the product they promise to – relevant candidates
– they can literally get away with daylight robbery.  And that’s wrong.

To back up these claims, here are some figures from the previous quarter.  For obvious reasons, I have excluded to name the boards in question and have also combined 6 job boards, but hopefully the figures will speak for themselves:

1,222 4,717 3.86 541 (11%) 4 (0.7% of those considered relevant)

What would you do if you had access to this type of information?  Would you continue to throw money at job boards, or would you start questioning their return on investment?  Knowledge really is power, and for us at least, it’s helped us to save money, invest in the right boards and work closer with job boards to deliver us the products we want – the right people.

The digital landscape is ever-changing; an organic phenomenon that is constantly adapting to new environments.  There’s no doubt whatsoever that job boards will eventually face competition from social media and social recruiting.  But for now, I honestly believe that job boards have more pressing concerns – namely, those who pay their fees are starting to wake up and hold them accountable.

David ‘Social’ Cameron & Nick ‘SEO’ Clegg – a Digital Marketing Coalition?

Three years ago, I started a new job as an SEO copywriter with the express directive of making websites visible in search results.  36 months on, and it is now consumers who are making themselves visible online, through social networks and digital communications platform.  Is SEO dead?  Can we actually continue to make ourselves visible, when consumers choose whom they want to see – and indeed, whom they want to be seen by?  Is there any point?

The topical Gap logo debacle is surely testament to the fact that consumers are now brand owners, although my personal opinion is that this was a cleverly construed PR stunt to generate buzz around the brand.  Regardless of the intended effect, the outcome of this recent issue adds further credence to the power of social.  Consumers now own brands, and social has undoubtedly been the conduit that has made this achievable.  But social is only half of the story.

Once people are talking about your brand, where is the transaction?  Gap may well be back at the forefront of the collective consumer mind, but if a search in Google generates no results, how does the customer journey continue?

Whereas magazine readers will sit down, engage with and caress a magazine for a discernible period of time, digital customers are fleeting phantoms.  If, as digital marketers, we don’t cover all touchpoints, our potential customers will become bored, frustrated and move on – I’ve behaved exactly like that on more than one occasion.

There’s no doubt that social is now very important for digital marketers – I’d venture so far as to suggest vital.  However, we have to keep social as part of an overall digital toolkit and ensure that we use those other tools convert the transaction that social generates.

Social media may be David Cameron-esque in its relative metaphorical position of power, but make no mistake; without Nick ‘SEO’ Clegg, the digital coalition would not be anywhere as effective.