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At this point in the 21st century, if you’re not actively engaged in social media to help boost your practice, you’re missing out. While not all tools will be appropriate for all HR consultants, there are three in particular that deserve a look: LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
LinkedIn is a professionally oriented social media site that is frequented by the business community, representing, to a significant degree, your potential clients. Creating a network and engaging in conversations through LinkedIn Groups specific to your areas of emphasis can help build credibility and clout and, most important, generate prospects.
Twitter, while decidedly more ephemeral in its immediately apparent value, can be a good way to build awareness of yourself and your areas of expertise.
YouTube—particularly for HR professionals who are involved in training and development or for those using presentations as a business-development tool—can provide a forum for sharing video clips and presentations, which also helps to boost traffic to websites.
The key with all of these tools is to use them strategically, starting with building a solid profile. The profile attributes of each site will vary; the one that provides the most thorough coverage of your background and areas of interest is LinkedIn.
The same tips that work for job seekers can work for HR consultants interested in positioning themselves to attract prospective clients’ attention. Here are some must-do’s for making an impact through your social media profiles.
Think Carefully About Keywords
In the social media world it’s all about being found. The best way to accomplish this is to think about the words and phrases that potential clients might use to find the types of services you provide, and then embed those words and phrases into your profile and the content of your posts and updates. To get ideas, pay attention to terms within the industry that may be trending on Twitter or take a look at your competitors’ profiles—their keywords can be a good starting point for your own.
“Your social media profile is like a virtual handshake and many times [is] the first time someone ‘meets’ you,” noted Sheryl Johnson, founder of BD-Pro Marketing Solutions in Charlotte, N.C., and a specialist in business networking. “It is critically important to leave a memorable and lasting impression through your social media profile. Your virtual handshake is just as important in making an initial impression as meeting someone face to face,” she said. “People will decide whether or not they want to learn more about you and your business by what you say online.” You have about five seconds to make your case online, she added.
Keywords count and serve to attract the right people to your profile—that is, those who could be your prospects.
Write a Compelling Headline
Matt Kerr is director of executive search and talent at BPI group, which has headquarters in Chicago. Like all of your content, Kerr explained, your headline should be optimized for searchability.
The headline should convey what you do in a compelling way, Johnson advises. “Don’t just state that you are an HR consultant,” she said. “Instead include a proclamation about how you help your clients in a value-added way.”
Position Yourself Relative to Your Competition
Think carefully about what you write, since this is your advertisement to the world. “By describing what you do, you have the opportunity to introduce some key buzzwords that are tied to your functional area of expertise,” Kerr pointed out. “These efforts will enhance your ability to be found.”
Focus on tangible results, stresses Kim Shanahan, senior client partner and managing director of Korn/Ferry International’s Human Resources Center of Expertise for North America, based in Northern Virginia. “Companies are looking for real results, not HR speak,” she said. “What have you done? How has your organization or the talent across the organization evolved because of you and your team’s efforts? HR professionals should be using social media to showcase their knowledge, reach and achievements.”
Think Strategically About Your Connections
Along with what you write about yourself in your online profiles, make sure you are judicious in building your network, as the people you are connected to also send a message to others. “Ultimately, the quality and number of an individual’s network and connections are critical,” said Shanahan. HR professionals should ensure they are connected not only to other strong HR professionals but also to non-HR leaders they have worked with in the past. “It is a lot about who you know and your reputation among that group,” she explained.
Get Recommendations, Likes and Mentions
Your credibility expands exponentially when you are noticed—and, especially, when you are referenced—by others. On LinkedIn that means getting recommendations from and being endorsed by other LinkedIn members. On Twitter, that involves having your posts “liked” or “retweeted” by others. On YouTube, that entails getting multiple views and having viewers “like” your content. You get the point. A tip for all of these sites is not to be afraid to “ask for the like.”
As Stephanie Jones, a recruitment expert at Cuff Jones in London, said: “Boost your online profile by asking your contacts to recommend you—the more recommendations you have, the more confidence you will build.” For HR consultants, these recommendations can be thought of as testimonials from satisfied clients.
Jones offered several more suggestions to help HR professionals garner attention through social media:
Today’s rich social media climate means that HR consultants can easily boost awareness and credibility through thoughtful consideration of their social media profiles, at significantly lower—or no—cost than promotional efforts of the past. Time will be your greatest investment, and it’s an investment well worth making.
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, is a Wisconsin-based business journalist with HR consulting experience in employee communication, training and management issues.
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