By now, even the latest adopters among HR consultants have at least dipped their toes in the social media ocean. Whether using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or other tools that seem to be continually emerging, HR consultants are finding that social media offers opportunities to expand their networks, build their credibility and even increase business.
Alex Raymond is the founder of Kapta, a Boulder, Colo.-based firm that provides performance management tools to companies of all sizes. “I’ve gone from about 200 Twitter followers in October to over 1,700 today by building up a network of HR professionals and passing along information that’s interesting to them,” said Raymond.
Raymond also has a Facebook page that he uses to post articles, e-books and photos. It’s a work-in-progress. “We’re just getting started and don’t have many fans yet,” he said.
Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults in Irving, Texas. “We use social media for business development and to build brand awareness with our network,” said Johnson. “We are big advocates and believe it is critical to being current in the HR consulting market.” Johnson uses a number of tools, in combination, to generate results, including a daily blog, Twitter, Facebook and a monthly e-communication.
Charles Krugel, a management human resources attorney and counselor based in Chicago has been in practice for 12 years. About three years ago he started a LinkedIn group—Charles Krugel Labor & Employment Law & Human Resources Practices. The group now has almost 1,700 members from around the world. The group, he said, “has helped broaden my outreach.”
“We have discussions concerning all matters of HR and labor and employment law. Moreover, I’m now in talks with other media outlets about writing for their business blogs using my LinkedIn group as a crowd-sourced means to respond to real business owners’/operators’ questions.”
Focus and creativity are foundational to success through social media (or through any communication effort, in fact).
Angie Linsey owns a boutique executive search firm specializing in communications and marketing search, based in the Seattle area. She recently launched a social media/digital communication campaign called “Conversations with Communicators” to boost her business and she said that it is making some headway. Every other month Linsey interviews an expert on a specific communication topic through web video. She promotes the event through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
“From a business development perspective, it’s a great way to bring value to my clients and candidates, show them that I understand the field and give them an opportunity to get to know me a bit better,” she said.
What HR consultants do through social media can have a marked impact on their reputation and credibility, and that can cut both ways.
Social Media Best Practices
Kirsten Dixson is a personal branding and online reputation management strategist based in the Boston area. She said there are two primary things that she sees consultants doing in social media that can be problematic. The first is not conveying enough differentiation between what they are doing and what their competitors are doing. The second is not clearly focusing on a specific target audience.
“Targeting is really super-critical for social media and it’s the thing that I see most people missing the boat on,” said Dixson. “Naturally, we like to keep our options open and a lot of us are interested in a lot of different things.” But, she pointed out, just because you focus on a specific niche online through your social media interactions, doesn’t mean you can’t step outside of the box should an opportunity arise in another area.
Another issue that can be difficult for HR consultants is the sense that they are “giving away” too much information online. Their product, after all, is their knowledge. Importantly, though, said Dixson, “you have to demonstrate what you know by giving it away to some extent.” That means sharing information designed to help others more than it is designed to promote yourself.
Raymond agreed. “I make sure not just to send out my own blog posts or e-books, but instead to continuously add value to the HR community.” The key to success with social media, he said, “is consistently adding value and being part of the conversation, not just being a one-way conduit for your own message.”
Like Raymond, Johnson stressed that she doesn’t use social media for direct selling. “We use it more for relationship selling,” she said. “We use it to share what we know and learn, as well as promote our brand—which is essential for business development.”
Finally, HR consultants need to carefully manage the time they devote to social media. As those who are already heavily involved know, it can be a significant time drain if not managed effectively.
Dixson said: “I think the solution is to carve out the time—decide how much time you want to spend each week and put that into your calendar.”
Multi-purposing content is also a good way to maximize your time, recommended William Tincup, SPHR. Tincup is CEO at Tincup & Co., a marketing and advertising firm in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “What I would probably argue is you don’t have time to create new content or unique content for a unique audience or a unique need. However, I think most people are already creating content—white papers, webinars, PowerPoint presentations. They’re creating something, so why not expand the life of that content for use on different mediums?” He points to Johnson’s PeopleResults as a great example of how this can be done effectively.
For those that have not had much—or any—experience with social media yet, Tincup suggested starting out with LinkedIn. “Get your profile up to date, explore LinkedIn groups. Then look at where you might next be comfortable—is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Is it Pinterest? It’s all content—it’s just content rendered in different ways.” It’s important, he said, to make whatever you do comfortable for you.
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, is a Wisconsin-based business journalist with HR consulting experience in employee communication, training and management issues.