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China Miner Gorman
Like almost anyone who signs up for Twitter, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Chief Operating Officer China Miner Gorman says she was puzzled by the social networking site, in which people update each other on what they’re doing or make comments about each other’s posts and links.
Yet, her initial experience was typical.
“Sometimes it’s challenging and it takes time to really understand the whole Twitter thing—it’s just so different,” says SHRM member Beth Carvin, president and CEO of the nine-year-old Honolulu-based Nobscot Corp., which specializes in retention management and HR metrics.
But slowly, as Gorman’s Twitter usage grew along with her following, she began to realize the benefits of twittering for HR. With more than 1,200 followers as of this writing in late May 2009, Gorman ranks No. 25,740 on Twitterholic, a ranking site.
What Is Twitter?
Launched in 2006, Twitter is a free social networking web site that allows users to send and read message updates, known as “tweets,” in real time. A microblog, it allows users to post updates in 140 characters or less. Those updates can include pithy comments, links to web sites, photos, videos and more. According to Nielsen Media Research, the site has more than 14 million users (and counting) in the United States alone. Twitterers can post from mobile phones and the web.
How She Began
Gorman says she decided to join Twitter when she discovered that bloggers who were invited to attend the 2008 SHRM Foundation Thought Leaders Retreat were going to be twittering about it live.
She says she decided that “if our content is going up on Twitter with commentary, I want to be able to see it and know about it.
“Initially I started to follow them, but what I found was there was this very, very active network and community of HR professionals on Twitter who have strong relationships. They refer business to each other. They are a very discrete community. They welcomed me into that community, and it’s not all SHRM members.”
She adds, “The view of [those outside] SHRM has been that because we’re not active in the social media arena we may not be current in other regards.” Gorman says her twittering has helped change that perception.
“I have been warmly welcomed by this HR blogging, twittering group of HR professionals, many of whom are not members, many of whom have been critical of SHRM. They seem thrilled that the COO of SHRM is engaging with them through social media, and it’s making them think, ‘wow, maybe SHRM is becoming more current.’ ”
Gorman says that from a business perspective, having a SHRM presence on Twitter helps show that “we’re contributing to a community that we’ve not had access to or been engaged with.”
Engaging HR members wherever they are—online and off—is important, she says. It’s why attendees to SHRM’s Staffing Management Conference in Las Vegas were able to attend a panel discussion on social media and its impact on HR. A number of panelists, including one of China’s informalTwitter coaches, Michael Long of theredrecruiter.com, tweeted during the session. Members attending SHRM’s 61st Annual Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans can learn firsthand about the importance of blogging and Twitter during a session titled “HR Bloggers: Who Are These People and Why Should I Care?” During that session, not only will attendees learn about blogs, Twitter and other social media tools, they’ll also learn how to use them to improve communication internally and externally with employees and customers.
Gorman says it’s her hope that traditional, non-social-networking HR practitioners will see the value in engaging community building online. It can be a good way to foster communication and break news in a non-traditional way, as she did with the announcement that the annual conference’s lead keynote speaker would be Jack Welch.
Stepping Out in Front
Not only do social media tools help change perceptions about companies and improve business relations, they also can make your company seem more personable. In Gorman’s case, she’s become the face of SHRM on Twitter, and she calls that a “humbling” experience.
Twitter has done something else, she says. It has helped SHRM reach and engage a group of HR professionals whom “we have not been able to have a conversation with because they don’t go to chapter meetings and they’re not interested in a face-to-face community, but are interested in an online community.”
The critical thing to remember, she says, is that SHRM is joining the conversation in an equal way. “We’re joining not as a leader in the conversation” but as a collaborative participant.
Perhaps one of the best benefits has been her ability to speak directly to those who have previously been outspoken critics of SHRM, she says.
Twitter has helped her reach out to many of them (the old-fashioned way on the telephone). Many of them are “floored that I would call them and say ‘what do you think’—it’s not the behavior they expect from SHRM, and it’s making them rethink their attitude about SHRM.”
Still stumped by Twitter? Here are a few things that might help you join the conversation.
Recognize the signs:
The easiest way to understand Twitter, perhaps, is to dissect a Twitter message.
For example, Gorman recently posted this message in her Twitter stream:
This is what is so great about Twitter. Just talked to @theredrecruiter. We're still brainstorming cool stuff for #SHRM09!
·@theredrecruiter is a reference to Michael Long (theredrecruiter is his Twitter handle). He is also one of Gorman’s Twitter coaches. The @ symbol alerts him that something has been written about him. By clicking @theredrecruiter on the right side of his Twitter page, he can see what messages have been directed toward him.
·#SHRM09 is the “hashtag” or conversation reference for SHRM’s 61st Annual Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans. Anyone looking for tweets about the conference or making comments about the conference will see them if the hashtag is placed in the search box on the right hand side of the Twitter page.
·When tweeting, users can use direct messages by typing the letter "D" before a person’s Twitter name before sending the message. Only the person addressed can see the message. Example:D SHRMCoo Are you attending the SHRM Annual Conference is a message sent directly to Gorman.
·RT means “retweet.” That is, repeating someone else’s twitter message: RT @SHRMCoo This is what is so great about Twitter. Just talked to @theredrecruiter. We're still brainstorming cool stuff for #SHRM09!
·On Fridays, Twitter users promote the people whose messages they follow by using the hashtag#followfriday followed by the @ symbol and the person’s Twitter handle. Example: #followfriday @theredrecruiter @SHRMCoo
·One tip Gorman offers is that people follow their followers, something she says is simply a matter of being polite.
You can find other tips about Twitter by visiting the Twitter Wiki, which will show you how to do advanced searches, teach you Twitter etiquette, and more.
Twitter has applications that can help you organize what people are saying on Twitter. For example TweetDeck sets up columns that allow you to use a search tab to view only streams about the topic that interests you. Type #SHRM09 to join or follow conversations about the 2009 SHRM Annual Conference.
Aliah D. Wright is a manager/online editor for SHRM Online. Follow her on twitter at 1SHRMScribe.
All You Need to Know to Twitter, The New York Times, May 2009
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