Friday, December 2, 2011

On Tweeting Well...

...and on LinkedIn-ing well, on Facebook-ing well, on Google+-ing well, etc., etc., etc. ...etc.

Social media is a medium for communication, right? To communicate, when you're not talking, what are you doing? That's right: You're writing.

Writers will recognize that the headline of this blog entry is a play on William Zinsser's contribution to writing well, the oft-republished "On Writing Well." If you write well, you'll tweet well; according to the chatter from this past Wednesday's #TChat, in fact, you'll be well-versed in perhaps the one indispensable skill necessary to succeed in social media, in any profession.

Social media is fertile ground for a "what-does-it-all-mean?" discussion, and in "Exploring the Heart of Mainstream Social Media Careers," #TChat covered a good deal of that ground. But what stood out, for me, was this idea that social media is a form of written communication, and to do social media well, you need to be a good writer. Matt Charney (@mattcharney), social media manager for, put it best:

That's the thing about writing: having a voice. In social media, tweets with voices stand out. LinkedIn groups with voices stand out, and Facebook status updates with voices stand out. They rise above the din. They sing. They come not from faceless social media managers, not from superficial tweeters, not from zoning-out Facebook users, and not from cogs-in-the-wheel LinkedIn members; they come, instead, from thinking, dreaming human beings. People, not tools, have voices, and only people whose voices resonate through their writing stand a chance of succeeding in social media.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Illustrated Marketing & PR

Here's a much-deserved shout-out to our friends at, whose new tool, SocialEars, effortlessly and aptly harnesses the power of new media to give marketers and PR professionals the ability to stop being traditional, and start being hip. Here's an illustrated explanation:

The Changing Landscape of Marketing and Public Relations

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hiring Veterans: They've Already Worked Hard for You. Hire Them Again

Today is Veterans Day. Perhaps you've already celebrated it by hiring a military veteran. That would be nice; our veterans could use the help: "The jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans is an estimated 12.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics," ABC News' bloggers wrote yesterday.

Think about how much veterans have already done for us. Think about how much they know, how much experience they have working under pressure -- and how hard they've worked already. You'd think military veterans would be the first to fetch the very best jobs in this challenging economy, and yet their unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average. Why is that? It's a question #TChat tackled Wednesday night, and the always-sage community brainstormed the many possible reasons.

The Federal(list) Papers

This is about the contents of their resumes, and this is not about the contents of their resumes. Here's how @dawnrasmussen put it:

Besides Dawn, who thought of that one? In key ways, federal resumes differ from private sector resumes, and military vets are stuck with their federal papers. In the colloquial sense, they have great resumes; in the technical sense, they do not.

Here's a limb to climb out on: When it comes to innovation, we know that the public sector often lags the private one. OK, that's just my way of injecting some politics into a discussion about resumes. Whether or not you agree might provide the basis for an interesting debate, but according to at least one professional resume writer, the federal resume doesn't resonate with private sector employers:

Tracking and Tracking

Numbers tracked are of use to HR, and @DaveTheHRCzar provided the following, sage tweet:

Stop me if I'm wrong. Actually, just stop me. This one is scary. I suspect that the military has a knack for accuracy in the tracking of data, and a question like Dave's prompts a corollary: Is 12.1 percent the real unemployment rate for everyone? [shudder!] Let's hope not. For military veterans alone, it's highly discouraging. But the question demands consideration. At times, Bureau of Labor Statistics' data can be spotty or suspect. It could be that vets don't have it any worse than the rest of the employable public, just ... just as bad.

Another tweeter, @DavidALee, threw into question the ability of typical applicant tracking systems to properly catalogue the kinds of skills that military veterans list in their applications:

That's another good question. The typical ATS reflects the typical HR vendor's mindset, and @BrendedMWright aptly observed that, just like (possibly) their ATSs, employers may not understand or recognize what military veterans bring to the table:

Know-how vs. Knowledge

This seemed to be the big one.

Present economic conditions have been particularly tough on those with only high school degrees, and some may think this adds some logic to veterans' plight. But it's a shaky assumption. Although a cursory search of the Web yields little hard data, the anecdotal evidence out there seems to point to the contrary. While conventional wisdom presumes that many veterans go straight from high school to the military, bypassing college, various G.I. programs and the like suggest that a surprisingly high percentage of actively serving members of the military may in fact have two- or four-year degrees. At the very least, a good percentage of them will attain one, at some point.

So, scratch the hypothesis that military veterans are unemployed because they lack a higher education. Whether or not that's fact and part of the reason, very few veterans are bereft of marketable skills that would benefit employers across many industries looking to fill a broad spectrum of roles. And even if most military veterans indeed lack a college education, hiring organizations might want to assess their preconceived notions about what a qualified candidate is. After all, does a qualified candidate for a professional position need to possess a college education?

Boy. The worms have escaped the can on that one, and the cat has exited the bag. (How has the cookie crumbled?) We won't debate the value of a college education this evening, but tweeters @Ray_anne and @DrJanice did make pertinent observations:

Are they on to something? Possibly, and the circumstances may apply to the plight of plenty of non-veterans who also lack an education from an institution of higher education. Yes, the liberal arts are edifying, but knowledge of literature doesn't trump literal know-how and ability when it comes to doing a good job, at a job. If you're an employer, and your reflex is to jump to the conclusion that a college degree of any kind is necessary for a new hire to succeed at your organization, check your reflexes and reconsider that jump -- it might be off a ledge, for all you know.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Give Talented People Swimming in Pools the Consciousness to Become Communicating Communities

Yes, that's a long headline and a wee bit too much unintended alliteration, but stay with me.

On Wednesday night, the weekly #TChat delved into figuring out and defining just what talent pools and talent communities are, and whether or not they're even the same thing (they're not—more on this, read on). Teeming with energy, the discussion featured a few participants' particularly apt stabs at those definitions. First off, allow me to add the tweet that I couldn't, because I must be somewhere else, away from Twitter, every Wednesday evening (insert sad emoticon?):

@brentskinner: Talented people swim in pools. Give them consciousness. Help them recognize that they in fact comprise communicating communities. #TChat

There you go, just 138 characters with spaces, hashtag and all (and slightly cheesy). If I had more than 140 characters—like I do, right now—I'd elaborate:

The two, talent pools and talent communities, are discrete. Furthermore, a talent community thrives on back-and-forth communication, and recruiters like this aspect of talent communities because it means they can reach the very best, often passive candidates with just the right, highly attractive and well-matched job opportunities. But talent pools aren't to be identified and targeted for the sole purpose of being turned into talent communities that become a source of potential employees. Yes, that's a big part of their value, but they'll never yield that value till organizations cultivate them just for the sake of doing so—for the rainy day, later, when those communities will come in handy. You see, for those in talent pools to feel a warm sense of community, they must feel like a community intuitively, not something that exists merely to be exploited. Then, and only then, will they become reliable sources of not only candidates, but also thoughts and ideas that lead to the spontaneous collaboration, networking and referring that are of such value to HR.

But let's set all that aside for the moment. At nailing down just what talent pools are vs. talent communities, others took stabs far superior to mine. For cogency, try @bncarvin's:

How would a talent community organically develop without many-to-many communication, after all? Exactly: It wouldn't.

Then there was @AutumnMcRey's take, which marries the importance of communication with the notion of being long-term—that talent communities aren't just for sourcing:

@TheOneCrystal expanded on @AutumnMcRey's tweet:

That conflates communities and pools a bit too much for my liking. Are we talking about shallow communities, instead? Maybe, but still, @TheOneCrystal's expansion on all this is really good.

Perhaps we're discussing something that begs for more than one tweet, because in just two tweets, @robgarciasj did an exceptional job Wednesday night of capturing the essence of the question at hand:

Yes, there's that pesky assumption that a talent community's raison dt̂ere is to serve the needs of hiring and retaining talent. But is it so bad that we're fixated on this aspect of talent communities? It's called #TChat, The World of Work, for crying out loud! Cut all these smart people some slack.

They're both important, by the way, these talent pools and talent communities. It's just that, to be of use to HR, one follows the other. Let's amalgamate all these ideas and take things a step further, for clarity:

If you're discussing talent pools as an end goal to be achieved, you're still in the abstract, baby. Furthermore, if you really want to benefit from the online environment's ability to bring more people who are more talented to your organization, you must never again replace the word "people" with "talent," and you must instead think of the candidates you want as "talented people." And, then, you need to go to the pools where these talented people swim and give them consciousness so that they may realize that they are, indeed, a potential community. Engage and interact with them in order to start building, fostering and nurturing communities of talented people.

You know what? I'm in a deconstructive train of thought. As you engage and interact with the talented people whose pools you visit in order to show them that they could be a talent community, don't think of yourselves as engaging and interacting. That's sterile. But certainly have conversations with them—long-term conversations, the kind that residents of actual communities have with their neighbors all the time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tweeting: It's Just Like Thinking and Talking In #

This blog entry discusses milk, and I thought about naming it "Twitter Does a Body Good." But the milk branding campaign is kind of played out, and besides, it's not every day that I encounter the opportunity to put the pound sign (#) in a blog headline.

This Thursday night my cat hadn't seen me in nearly four days, and whenever I'm gone for an extended time, she retreats to a very small world underneath my bed. Yesterday was no different, and sure enough, there she was. Upon hearing her name, she crawled up to me for a few pats, and I asked her, "Would you like some pound milk?"


Has Twitter wormed itself so far into my head that I'm now speaking in tweets—even to my cat? Yes, it has. But that's OK, and you ought to aspire to reach this level of oneness with Twitter, because tweeting is pretty much like thinking and then talking. (All of social media is, actually—but why should I write a book when I can just write a blog entry?) It's just that there's a big quirk: pound signs. And once you've learned to think in pound, tweeting should become second nature to you.

Twitter Code

By code, I don't mean computer code. You don't need to know that to know Twitter. Seasoned Twitter users will understand that I'm talking about hashtags. For the uninitiated, a Twitter hashtag is the pound sign on your keyboard. Placing it immediately before any word in a tweet automatically notifies the entire Twitterverse that you're tweeting about something relevant to the hashtag.

Do you want your tweets to be found in the Twitterverse? Then use hashtags. They're highly searchable on Twitter, a social network that, in ways, emulates a vast search engine of what people are talking about.

The Nuts & Bolts of Hashtags

Not all hashtags are recognizable as one word. Often, the hashtag will be several words strung together as one. That's because Twitter automatically makes a link out of any unbroken string of characters immediately preceded by a pound sign. Place no space between the hashtag and the string of unbroken characters immediately following it. Then, once the tweet is tweeted, watch the entire entity become a hyperlink. Afterward, clicking on that hyperlink will show you every tweet that's been tweeted with that hashtag.

Still more hashtags aren't words at all, or at least not per se. For instance, I recently attended the 2011 HR Demo Show, all about human resources technologies. SharedXpertise Media, LLC, the parent organization, was definitely on its game, alerting its tech-savvy attendees to two hashtags associated with the event: #HRDemo and (for concurrent HRO Summits, thrown by SharedXpertise's HRO Today magazine) #HROToday

Hashtags & Hybrid Networking

Why did SharedXpertise announce these hashtags? Well, both provided a way for all tweeting attendees to participate in a parallel, often equally compelling conversation in the Twitterverse. Employment of hashtags helps Twitter exponentially foster networking and the sharing of information at a brick-and-mortar event.

Smart Branding & Piggybacking

Using a hashtag in this way is also an exercise in smart branding, and a physical gathering of likeminded individuals provides fertile ground to plant the beginnings of a new hashtag brand through the cultivation of spontaneous, endorsed partner channels:

At the same event, (TMT), an online property newly acquired by ShareXpertise, launched and heavily promoted its own hashtag, #TMTech, piggybacking SharedXpertise's other branded, show-related hashtags, as well as other attendees' own branded hashtags (e.g. "#TChat," short for "Talent Chat," the weekly Twitter conversation hosted by Talent Culture) and generic hashtags around which TMT's target audiences congregate and search within Twitter (e.g. #hrtech).

Developing Twitter Clout

Through prolific tweeting at HR Demo, TMT's objective, clearly, was to promote general awareness of itself as an online destination and to attract the attention of its marketplace's leading denizens and thought leaders. By attending several more large HR-related events and employing this hashtag at every turn, with every tweet, TMT will be embracing a solid tactic to expand its sphere of influence on Twitter and thus promote awareness of itself and develop clout—and maybe even "Klout" (see a future blog entry).

Back to My Cat...

To know I was about to pour some for her, did my cat need me to speak the pound sign immediately before milk the other night? No, and in this way, speaking to a cat is different than tweeting to people (or cats). But tweeting is still pretty much like thinking and talking—and, yeah, about being noticed. Once you understand this, watch out: You'll find yourself speaking "#," too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SEO Is Hard

Have you ever felt like the world of search engine optimization is an uninviting one, the domain of the techie who bathes daily in a deep pool of seemingly arcane rules inscrutable to just about anyone except his or her fellow techies? Well, guess what: That's kind of true.

Sorry. You might have thought the turn of phrase was going to be that SEO is actually easy to master. But it's not. Maybe you were hoping that a few easily understood secrets would be all you needed to succeed, or that you could just sort of fix your SEO once and then be on your merry way. None of this is the case. SEO is hard.

But this is changing, and it's because search engines are getting smarter. At first, that might seem counterintuitive: If a search engine is smarter, wouldn't the need grow for ever–technically savvier SEO practitioners? Not necessarily—the smarter the search engine becomes, the better able it is interpret, catalogue and rank content without the aid of cues in the computer script.

Academics now freely flout SEO techies' expertise and even see SEO as primarily the domain not of the techie, but of the public relations practitioner, with reputation management and a focus on written content poised to eclipse technical SEO tweaks in their ability to influence search engine rankings. That's probably a bit of hyperbole—maybe even some PR for the PR profession—but the perennial importance of good content (of all kinds), which transcends all but perhaps the most technical of professions, remains one of the biggest factors in SEO.

Sourcing and retaining a long-term partner to develop content of various kinds (e.g. video, audio, written, etc.) is perhaps the single most important move an organization can take to make SEO a fruitful endeavor over the long haul. After all the hard work of technical SEO is conducted, and even as efforts continue not only to evolve a keyword strategy, but also to manage relationships and thus score backlinks from respected sources, the writing, video production, and more still needs to happen—and even if your internal team is strong and your organization's horsepower robust, it might not.

You Have No Fans on Facebook, and Nobody's Following You on Twitter

Sure, you may have hundreds, even thousands of fans or followers, but your fans on Facebook aren't really your fans, and your followers on Twitter aren't really your followers. It's just too easy to become a fan or to follow online. It they're on your roster, you can rest assured that they're ignoring you unless you have evidence to the contrary. And it won't change till you do something different, engaging and interesting. So drop the fantastical notion that you're a celebrity on Facebook; you're not. And lose the positive paranoia that tells you all your followers on Twitter hang on your every tweet; they don't.

Power Twitter users, with several tens of thousands, or even millions, of followers are probably succeeding at Twitter. But this isn't about them. Say you have 2,500-ish followers. Does it matter? Where did they come from? Did most of them follow you after meeting you? Or did they read just one tweet about a blog post and decide to click on the follow button?

It's too easy to click on that button, and in and of itself, it means nothing. A small, focused following on Twitter, one that's paying attention, is much better than a large following. Each follower is a potential emissary telling others about you. Nurture this following. Make it your core. Then, the organic growth of your followership will be strong, and their connection to you tight.

What about your Facebook fans? Sure, they've been "likes" for a while, but we still like to call them fans. Are they really your fans? Or were they on autopilot one day and just clicked on your like button almost out of habit? I hate to break it to you, but again, it's too easy to click on that button, and your fans aren't your fans, because fans hang on every word and activity of the object of their fandom.

Followers and fans on social media are nothing but static numbers until you do something to prompt those followers and fans to start acting like actual followers and fans. Be interesting and make frequent visits to your profiles a rewarding experience. This means volume of content. It means dedicating a team to the effort. And it means having the patience and stick-to-it-ness to see that effort through.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

News Releases Cut Up The Dance Floor

The slow, inexorable decline of news continues. It's not that, really, but the decline of traditional news reporting as a single-play, profitable endeavor has been undeniable for a long time. That's what people think when they think news: conventional publishing, the advertising model to support it, and the ham-fisted attempts to migrate that model to the Web. Contributing to that decline has been the online environment created by search and social media, and some have surveyed the landscape and called for the death of the news release. But news and the news releases that give rise to it are very much alive, and on search engines and social media, news is cutting up the dance floor as we look for and share information.

What else can we make of the apparent trends reported in a Washington Post article last week looking at social media's impact on the sharing of news online? Google is the 800-pound gorilla on the Internet, sending around 30 percent of traffic to all news sites. And that gorilla has an up-and-coming competitor, Facebook. A large primate feeding every day, all day, on Muscle Milk™ and who knows what else, all in an effort to bulk up and match Google's fighting weight, Facebook sends as much as 8 percent of online traffic to some news sites.

These are all significant numbers, and let's focus on social media for a moment: Any casual or not-so-casual Facebook user can attest that news links are popular attractions. Look in the home feed at any time of the day, and a good half of all status updates come in the form of a comment about a link to some news story. These typically draw conversations, and you want people talking about your news.

Does this appetite for news mean people are hungry for news releases? Certainly not, if those news releases are stuffy, boring affairs intended solely for the press. But news releases aren't that anymore, and notice that lots of people now call it a news release, not a press release.

Business Wire says making news releases ready for social media and search engines goes a long way in helping to spread your news. The problem is that, even now, few folks are doing so. Applying SEO to a news release is a subject well covered, and yet, "Only 18 Percent of News Release Headlines Are Optimized For SEO," according to a study reported by Business Insider seven months ago, when mainstream efforts to capitalize on the combination of news releases and social media had just gotten underway -- e.g. PitchEngine's launch of an app to place newsrooms on Facebook.

News itself is all around, and just like rock 'n' roll, it will never die. That's a cliché worth repeating, and news, as a currency, remains the same. Make your news releases interesting, findable and shareable. We humans have a tendency to search for interesting information, and once we find it, we have a propensity to share.