The Hidden Benefits of Building Your Brand Through Social Media: (Passive) Recruiting

Over the last year the big discussions were around company layoffs. The layoffs were obviously newsworthy and mirrored the state of the economy, and the recession we are in.  During this same time period however, an issue that was not as given as much attention was the implementation of hiring freezes. Though it was most prevalent in the school systems, hiring freezes were occurring across the board, and many companies (even ones that I worked with) had a hiring freeze in place.

It is a frustrating thing, not only for the potential employee, but also for the company. When you stop hiring, you stop aggressively recruiting, and in doing so, you can tarnish your brand’s image.  That is where social media comes into place and can be extremely beneficial to your brand and your recruiting efforts. 

This is a great time for companies to revert back to their social media strategy and goals in order to identify where they need to gain awareness and encourage engagement.  If your main goal was to increase traffic to a landing page that offered promotions and sold a product, you should consider sending people to a landing page that talks about the benefits of working for your company. 

I am not saying you should get people’s hopes up, and claim that you have many open positions, instead I am saying that you should point out the reasons your company is a great place to work.  Talking to people honestly, discussing the fact that you are not hiring right now but in the (near) future you will be, will build confidence in your brand and your company’s image.  While doing this you should ask people to submit a resume and their contact information so that you may contact them when you are hiring again.

Instead of losing the traction your recruiting strategy had gained, you are continuing to build a list of potential candidates that you have connected with on a personal level, and you can reach out to when the hiring freeze is over.

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The Trade Show Lesson: Using Traditional Marketing to Learn About Social Media

I attended a great presentation yesterday that was put on by The Essex Group at the GNHCC.  The topic of the presentation was Secrets to Trade Show Success.  To most in my age group, this topic may not spark much interest, and I would be lying if I said I couldn’t sleep the previous night in anticipation of attending the meeting.

However, thanks in part to the presenter, I became very interested in the business of trade shows, and the planning and effort that goes in to a few hours or a few days of promotion.  The lessons that were covered ranged from body language and tone to set up and booth location.  When the meeting was over I was able to go through some of the information that was provided and relate it to my line of work, social media.

There were some keywords that I took out of the presentation, and I am going to explain how they are significant to online networking (social media strategy) and offline networking (trade shows in this case).

Goals

Before you decide to enter the new media world you need to make sure that you have goals set, and you are not just jumping in with no idea what you want to gain from the work you put in.  In trade shows it is a similar situation.  You need to decide why you are there, do you want new customers, do you need market research, or are you there to introduce a  new product or service.

The key here is to set your goals and determine your message based on those goals.

Preparation

The main difference between trade shows and social media is the amount of time you should take to plan for the event.  The Essex Group recommended that planning takes between 6 and 9 months, and can take even longer for some shows.  If the preparation time to implement social media take that long you will start way behind the current trends.

There were some strong similarities in the preparation however.  These included the importance of budgeting, staff selection, and training.   From a budgeting perspective, though most tools in social media are inexpensive, there are costs involved if you want to do a good job, and do it right.  Staff selection and training are both an important part of branding online and offline.  Your company’s brand is tied directly to whomever is representing you, so making sure you have the right people and they have the skills necessary is worth the time or cost you put into it.

Engagement

The engagement at a trade show is literally shaking hands, smiling, and making eye contact.  Online engagement however, is a little different.  Online, companies need to make an effort to build conversations around topics important to their brand.  Companies also need to be prepared to respond to discussions about them that are going on everywhere online.

The Essex Group made a great point about engagement, and one that I could relate to.  They explained the importance of the Killer question.  The Killer question is that one question that will draw people in and encourage them to speak with you.  This works online as well, and the power of it online can create successful viral campaigns.

Follow Up

The follow up at trade shows is comprised of qualifying leads and sending out information that you may have promised them, or that they may have requested.  Online it is similar, but there are more opportunities here.  Qualifying candidates can be done in advance by finding them first, and then placing your brand and your information in front of them on a regular basis.  This can also lead to relationship building, and engagement.  The follow up is the most important part of the networking, and doing this online using CRM tools can make that process easier and more organized.

These are just a few connections I found between trade shows and social media strategies.  There is a much longer list that includes; contests, incentives, and measurement.

As someone that has little experience working the set up and execution of a trade show booth, I believe there is a lot to learn from the traditional ways of marketing, and there are many common themes with new media marketing today.

Ad Age, Paid Media, PR and Earned Media

Kudos to the Council of Public Relations Firms for using paid media to promote a profession that has until recently been based on earning media for organizations.

As I tell many clients, advertising can be a very effective pr tactic.  Especially if you are trying to guarantee that your message is delivered as intended.  Crisis situations, leadership building through op-ed ads, etc.

One of the challenges that our profession faces is getting reporters to write pleasant things about the true nature of public relations.  Most times, the “s” or “f” or ”p” word is used to describe the public relations profession.  Thankfully, today we also have more direct channels via social networks to help us communicate our value beyond media relations.

But, what I really like about the Council’s approach in the October 26 paid supplement in Advertising Age is the tone of the articles.  No pleading, no convincing, no dreary academic language that obscures the point:  Brand development, marketing and public relations are blending.

Thanks for advocating for our profession by taking the road less traveled — traditional advertising.  I’m pretty certain that you’ll see a return on this investment.  The only criticism here is that I cannot link to the actual article — or in this case the ad — since Ad Age doesn’t show it on their home page.  The next best thing for the Council to do would be to have a link on its site.   It’s not too late.

Press Release: Dan Healy Joins Mason Onofrio as New Media Manager

Former BrazenCareerist social media guru joins Mason Onofrio offering Connecticut businesses a sophisticated instate resource

NEW HAVEN, Conn., (Oct. 9, 2009) – From Twitter to Facebook, blogging and beyond, social media is taking the world by storm. From a business perspective, social media is connecting brands directly with their followers and global communities by combining text, picture, audio and video content to foster interaction and loyalty.

“Social media is about creating conversations, connecting brands directly with their audiences, but more importantly, allowing the public to shape consumer discussion about brands,” said Dan Healy, manager, new media, Mason, Inc. and Mason Onofrio Public Relations. “People are talking and will continue to talk about your brand, and social media allows you to participate in those conversations.”

Before coming to Mason Onofrio, Healy was instrumental behind the launch of BrazeenCareerist.com as Client Services and Community Manager, and he has spoken at industry conferences about social media as a marketing and recruiting tool.

At Mason, Healy will work with clients to first conduct a social media analysis by identifying where conversations in their industries are occurring, who the influencers of those conversations are and how visible any competitors may be. As Healy completes the social media analysis for companies, an underlying recommendation will be that it is necessary to have a “complete” brand and marketing strategy with social media as an extension.

“I believe in the power of social media, I believe in conversation, and I believe in the benefits of having an online presence,” said Healy. “However, organizations cannot put together a few profiles and cross their fingers. Instead, they need a vision and strategy that combines a social media program with traditional brand advertising and public relations to best reach their audiences.”

“As a full-service agency, we want to provide a closed-loop program and take integration to the next level,” said Francis Onofrio, APR, president, Mason Onofrio Public Relations. “With Dan’s skill and expertise in social media, we’ll help our clients build better relationships with their stakeholders and help make it easy for them to participate in conversations where they previously did not have a voice.”

Want to create a viral marketing campaign? Get brand evangelists.


Brand evangelists have been around forever. Think back to the paper boys in the early part of the 20th century standing on the corner shouting headlines in order to sell the local periodical. They were out there building brand awareness, while using the headlines as the hook. Times have changed a bit and instead of the kids standing on the corner, people are now using social networks to share information on brands and products.

The paper companies hired a set number of these kids, but do you know how many people are online promoting your brand? If your answer is no, try doing a Google Blog search or a Twitter search to see how often your brand comes up. If you are fortunate to come across conversations about your brand online then look at the value of them, and how many people they are reaching. Is it @johnsmith with 10 followers mentioning that he stopped by your restaurant, or is it @janedoe with 10,000 followers talking about the great sandwich she had at your restaurant, and how everyone should try it! Most likely it is John…

John has 10 followers for one of two reasons; either he has his updates protected and is wasting time using Twitter, or he has nothing of value to say and people could care less about following him. Either way, go back to Jane’s profile, and you will see that she is constantly saying things of value, and is always reaching out to her following through @ replies and re-tweets.

Here is another way to look at it, John is the guy from high school playing Dungeons and Dragons, and Jane is the Class President and captain of the cheerleading team.

Now that you have realized your position online and who is representing you, it is your job to control it as much as possible.

There are a few ways to do that, so in preparation begin with a few preliminary steps including; identifying the influencers, reaching out to them, getting them to care about who you are, and then convincing them to represent your brand to their following.

When you have done that, the next thing you can do is offer them something. You can give them some sort of promotional code or some free product and ask them to write about you in return. This may work, but most likely they care as much about their personal brand as you do about your company’s brand, so they aren’t going to sell out that easy.

The second and more plausible option is to connect with them. Go to their blog, get involved in the conversations they are creating, and give them a reason (outside of bribery) to put your name out there.

Brand evangelists are a necessary part of a successful social media strategy. They are not easy to find, but you can define them based on age, gender, and location, helping you to target a specific customer instead of just anyone.

It is kind of a waste of time to get someone in Miami to promote your restaurant that just happens to be located in Seattle…Right?

Is the Future of Advertising Public Relations?

I know, it’s a strong statement, right?

I’ve always been a firm believer that it takes more than just one discipline to move a product, get your message across, create interest, ring the cash register, or more importantly, engage your audience. As things continue to evolve, smart marketers are looking at newer, more exciting and engaging ways to reach their audiences that will offer the best possible return on investment, right? There it is again. That “E” word: engage.
I stumbled upon an interesting blog entry the other day from Social Media Explorer, and also borrowed the title. It’s loaded with some pretty good stuff and certainly gets you thinking. The entry is about how bloggers are a great medium for product launches and obtaining exposure. It later touches upon the ways brands reach out to bloggers- be it a little pay for play, a.k.a. advertising, or traditional editorial coverage, better known as public relations. The article touches upon some very important points:

1. Why advertising dollars are not being spent on blogs, but public relations initiatives are. Remember, bloggers can be very influential because their audience tends to be very focused and defined. That, however, hurts them for getting advertisers. See point two below…

2. Bloggers often complain that they get the PR pitch, but can’t get them to spend money to advertise on their blog. Why? Well, for starters, bloggers can help put themselves in contention for advertising dollars by quantifying their audience numbers, including traffic, demographics, reach, etc.

Interesting, right?

As a result, some creativity and a little ingenuity has been born: the sponsored post. Is it wrong? You decide. But what’s important to learn from this is that when it comes to the future of social media, it’s about communicating and engaging your audience. It’s not about one-way messaging or simply blanketing the world with a marketing gimmick on Facebook, Twitter and the like. That’s just obnoxious and people will see right through it. It’s about engaging, communicating, being informative and connecting with your audience — aka Facebook friends, Twitter “tweets” and so on. As the Social Media Explorer blog entry says:

“…whatever the future of advertising is, it will be centered on content and engagement which is what good public relations has been doing for years.

I couldn’t agree more! Some food for thought. What do you think?

The Power of Twittering

I am a firm believer in the power of Twitter, and this is a great example.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, Costa Vida recently did a Twitter promotion announcing a one-day free burrito to about 80 fans on Twitter. What happened next is that Costa Vida fans then forwarded it to about 15,000 fans that prompted more than 2,500 people to redeem the coupon.

I know a lot of companies would worry that people are taking advantage of a freebie, but isn’t this a true-and-tried method of getting people to experience your brand?!? You can only tell people how good your product is so many times until they actually try it and judge for themselves.

To me, this is a great promotion harnessing the power of social media. Job well done. Bravo!