What I'm about to share with you is a toe-curling social media scare involving our twitter account. One that will make you stop to consider your social media strategy, be it for talent acquisition, lead generation, relationship building or whatever else your goal may be.
But before I do that, let me just ask you to scribble down the main channels you are using as part of your strategy. I'm talking about the ones you would be absolutely gutted to lose. Your twitter account? Your LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ profiles? Others? I'm obviously focused on talent acquisition strategy, but the same message holds true for anyone investing in a social media presence.
Now ask yourself this: "what are we doing to maximise the interactions we have with this audience OUTSIDE of that channel?"
Or put another way, "what means of contact would we still have with that audience if that social media channel were suddenly closed off to us?"
A week or so ago, we were just settling down to do a day's work. Checking the follower counts of our twitter profiles we saw the main @social_hire twitter account was showing zero followers. Now keep in mind that since the launch of Social-Hire.com, this is an account we've invested blood, sweat and tears growing to 4,000+ followers. It's a readership that's highly engaged and that willingly shares what we publish. A great mix of talent acquisition specialists and high-flying executive candidates. Losing them would be gutting - and a significant setback.
Well that morning, a quick click to our profile page was greeted with the message "account suspended".
Now those of you who know me well will know we've fought through our firstborn son being diagnosed with leukaemia in the last years (treatment completed and on the path to full recovery I'm delighted to say). Let me tell you, a diagnosis like that is a piece of news that makes you feel sick to the pit of your stomach. But there are other developments in one's life that cause a similarly sickening feeling, albeit of a smaller magnitude. Being made redundant I can imagine is one. Having to make people redundant I know from personal experience is another. Making a career-threatening mistake at work I could imagine is another, one where you and you alone are responsible for a dire position the company finds itself in. Waiting on exam results that could make or break your future is another. I guess the common theme is that something happens that will have serious implications for your future - and that you may be powerless to do anything about.
That's not the type of anxiety you want for your career - or for your business.
Now let me tell you, those words twitter account suspended are right up there in terms of anxiety levels. Whether it's your twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn presence... the implications are the same. For some reading this it could mean your business has been struck a significant blow. For others it could leave your career precariously balanced. Did you really bet the company's talent acquisition strategy on the whims of a third party?
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For us, I'm pleased to say there was a happy ending. Our twitter account was suspended for sending too many thank you tweets to people who'd shared our content. You could see a similar pattern of messaging from spammers targeting people with dodgy links I guess. Anyway, to give twitter their dues, our account was back up and running in a matter of hours after we contested the suspension. But the experience does stop to make you think - what means of staying in touch with those people would we still maintain if we had really lost that account for good?
What was scary is that this happened overnight without the slightest warning. The thank you notes we were sending people were being really well received. Our followers were thrilled that we were singling them out for individual gratitude - the subsequent dialogues the messages produced left us in no doubt about that. Yet overnight we went from having that great asset in our business to potentially no longer having it at all.
I've seen recruiters have their Google+ accounts suspended. I've seen people's profiles be demoted in the LinkedIn search results. We've all seen Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn change the rules of the game - such that things you could do before you can no longer do (or must now pay to continue doing). That's before we talk about the demise of social media like MySpace, Bebo and Friends Reunited. Businesses that you felt would be with us forever - and yet that have withered to a fraction of their former selves. When you think about things in this context, you have to concede it's only a matter of time before something happens on one of your social media profiles that will negatively impact your talent acquisition efforts; and that you may be completely powerless to prevent.
So what have we become acutely conscious of as a result of our brush with twitter suspension - and what can you learn as a result?
Try to cross-pollinate your social media accounts, so that you have more than one social media touch point with each of your fans
Encourage your fans to register with your company directly in some way, so that you have a direct means of talking to them that doesn't leave you hostage to the fate and whims of third party social media sites (and yes, I'd include Social-Hire in that statement!)
Don't put all your eggs in one basket - spread your investment in social media channels (and don't abandon job boards, pay-per-click advertising, recruitment agencies and all the other routes you previously used to engage with talent)
Have multiple strategies at work on each social media platform, so that if one gets compromised you haven't lost your entire presence there.
Take these actions and you'll hopefully be able to sleep a little easier, knowing the impact of a social media scare in your professional life will have been minimised as far as is possible.
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