True or false: There’s still a healthy dose of fear about using social media in human capital management today. I’d answer this as true. I’ve seen human capital management colleagues make forced, half-hearted attempts at using Facebook and Twitter for talent acquisition, with little result to convince them of its value. Others staunchly ignore it as just a passing fad.
Here’s a statistic, though, that cuts through the clutter: According to a study by Forbes, 78.6 percent of salespeople practicing social selling outperformed those who didn’t have a social selling strategy in place. Whether you’re selling widgets or partnerships or your organization’s employer brand and job opportunities, that’s an eye-opener. For me, it’s reason enough to tackle social media fears head-on, and build a social selling strategy that delivers results for my company and for my career.
Your Brand, Your Pipeline
I like LinkedIn Senior Social Marketing Manager Koka Sexton’s definition of social selling: Leveraging your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships. It may look like a different approach to sales, but the underlying premise is the same — build relationships with people who are likely to want your widget, partnership or job opportunity. For recruiters, many of the benefits of smart social selling result from a stronger pipeline of candidates. These benefits are keys to recruiting performance, like reduced time to fill and increased quality of hire.
Over the last 10 years in the SaaS human capital management field, I’ve learned there are some essential elements that make a social selling strategy work. Here’s what I share with my team:
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- Walk Before You Run — One of the big mistakes people make with social media is lumping it all together. As with any new skill or habit, break the learning into smaller steps. Step 1 of social selling is the basics, like creating your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, etc., completing your profile consistently across the media, and learning the lingo. Step 2 is getting into the habit of regular social media interaction by liking, sharing and commenting in your network. Step 3 is taking engagement with your network further to the point of a sales interaction. Focus on becoming proficient with each step before moving to the next.
- Be a Master of Something, Not a Jack-of-All Trades — As you work through the first two steps, you will be building your professional brand. Give serious thought as to what you want to be known for. If you’re recruiting in healthcare, perhaps it’s your solid grasp of staffing trends in a particular environment, like hospitals or home health care. Your theme will provide ideas for what you’d like to post out to your network, and what you’d like to comment on. Become known as a master of your area, and you’ll start to build the kind of credibility that opens doors to new connections and a wider, larger network.
- Take Selling Offline — Use LinkedIn and Twitter to put your professional brand in front of potential candidates, and connect with them to expand your network. However, when you’re ready to pitch your job opportunity, take the discussion offline. It’s OK to ask for a brief phone conversation. People enjoy connecting via social media, but the moment it becomes a hard sales tool is the moment people disengage.
Set the Right Expectations
Measure your social selling strategy in terms of your pipeline. Could your network be larger? Should it be filled with more contacts with a certain skill set or experience in a specific area? Set realistic expectations for what your network can do for you now, and goals for how you want to grow it. And, realize that like all relationship-building activities, social selling takes time. You have to build up a level of trust before you can sell successfully.
Finally, keep in mind that people are watching. Some days it may feel like no one is paying attention, but what you do with your social selling strategy really does make an impact.