For some time, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have been the “big three” of social media, but a new and very powerful player has changed the social media landscape: Google+. Already overwhelmed with the multiple options and rapidly expanding time and resource commitments required to remain relevant across multiple communication channels, HR consultants now find themselves faced with a big decision—stick with LinkedIn or become engaged with Google+? Or both?
The HR Consultant’s Perspective
Jeanne Nicholson is the founder of HR BioTech Connect, a group comprising HR professionals in the biotech, pharma and life sciences industries. She also offers HR consulting services to many companies as part of her role at CBG Benefits. “While HR BioTech Connect currently has a LinkedIn group that all members can participate in,” said Nicholson, “we certainly have paid attention to what Google+ has done with the Communities features. Many of the features seem to present a lot of benefits—including the visual interface, the ability to easily share videos, the options for interacting on other’s posts, etc.”
However, added Nicolson: “The bottom line is this: You have to determine where your audience
is.” For her, she says, only a small number of members have Google+ profiles; nearly all members are on LinkedIn. So, she said, “While there certainly is a chance that we could transition to a Google+ community down the road, our most important objective today is to provide content, guidance and networking opportunities that our group can most easily take advantage of. And today, LinkedIn Groups provide the best solution.”
But, said Rasheen Carbin, director of business development at MBA Project Search in Washington, D.C., there are limitations to LinkedIn Groups, primarily because of the limited conversations actually taking place. “Most, even the biggest ones, don't have actual conversations taking place,” he said. “Everyone is trying to establish themselves as a ‘thought leader’ and so what you get are people posting links but rarely anyone commenting on them.” Google+, on the other hand, he said, offers more opportunities for better engagement. “They are pretty active and work more like a traditional message board. You can edit your comments at any time.”
Kimberly Patterson is an HR consultant with UNconventional HR () in the New York City area. She has a different perspective. “I'm not yet sold on Google+ communities at all,” she said. “LinkedIn has had more time to pick up speed and really develop the groups.” However, time has also led to some problems, including spammers.
What the Social Media Experts Say
The concern that most consultants have when making these sorts of decisions tends to revolve around “missing out” on opportunities. But as with any question related to which communication channels are most appropriate, it pays to step back and consider both the audience you’re attempting to reach and your goals, noted Katie Conroy, an SEO and local search specialist with Hall Internet Marketing in Portland, Maine. “The answer very much depends on what your goals are and what kinds of interactions you want to gain,” she said. “They are both very similar, but with a few important differences.”
Kimberly Judd-Pennie is the founder and CEO of CyberMark International, an integrated marketing firm in Phoenix. LinkedIn, she says, can help gain traffic to career pages, blogs or websites. LinkedIn Groups can help your profile to be viewed by a target audience. “Joining groups and engaging in active participation on LinkedIn will generate plenty of visits to your website.”
But, she added, “While LinkedIn helps you drive traffic to your business, Google+ will help your business rank better on search engine sites. Not only does Google+ give you the opportunity to share to a targeted audience in your network, it also offers you the option of creating a Google+ brand page that can act as a free SEO territory for your brand.”
Her recommendation for consultants: “Between LinkedIn or the always evolving Google+, my answer is that they should engage in both.”
A Foot in Both Camps
Chris Havrilla agrees. Havrilla is principal consultant with Recruiting Toolbox in Redmond, Wash. “I use both based on the situation or for broad reach. Linkedin has a larger audience but the tools and interface are limited—with limited capability for easy dialogue, interaction, and engagement. Google + has superior features and functionality to LinkedIn groups that can support the different way group members can and will engage.”
Havrilla encourages other HR consultants to become familiar with both platforms. In fact, she said, “I would encourage LinkedIn members to join Google+ and use it for the majority of
engagement—cross-posting notices, links, etc. to LinkedIn.”
John Fulcher, director of the healthcare west division at Bauer Consulting Group, an affiliate of MRINetwork, also uses both platforms to engage top candidates. “Each platform has its own benefits, but when used together as part of your recruitment strategy, they can have a tremendous impact on helping you connect with candidates that you might not otherwise have found,” he said.
“LinkedIn also tends to be a more formal platform; you are connecting with business professionals, so you feel like your profile page and all your correspondence, at least initially, need to be professional.”
While Google+ has not been around as long and doesn’t yet have the same breadth of users or communities, it is growing fast, said Fulcher, “and could potentially be a sleeping giant.” For that reason, it’s important for HR consultants to at least be aware of the platform and to spend time considering whether, and to what extent, their target audiences are engaged.
A Strategic Decision
The bottom line, of course, is that HR consultants need to be where their audience is. As Patterson noted, “When I join a LinkedIn group, I look for the ones where potential decision makers would be—business owners, CFOs, etc.” She checks to see how many members are in the group and how active the group is.” For those that have yet to explore either of these options, she also offers a dose of realism: “Believe it or not, there are many people who are still not on LinkedIn and even less on Google+.”
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.