HR Roundtable: Helping Your Business by Growing Your Social Footprint

The HR Roundtable in Cincinnati was taking a new approach this month in discussing social media and HR.

Most articles out there condemn people for not being in social media, but few talk about context of why people could be involved in these forums.

So, as the attendees gathered to talk about their “social footprint,” Steve posed the following three questions for them to chew on:

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  1. Why isn’t your social footprint bigger?
  2. How can your social footprint help your business?
  3. What steps can you take to grow your social footprint?

The room was quietly intense as people really dug in to talk about where people are/aren’t socially. It was fascinating to listen in. Here’s what they had to share back with all of us.

Why isn’t your social footprint bigger?

  • I don’t “get it” !! Great way to start actually. There are millions of people who have some form of a social “footprint” in that they are signed up for the social forums, but few people get the context of how to use the forums and what is the value (or point) in doing so. We could all do better by being models of how to use the forums vs. bashing people for not being engaged.
  • I don’t have enough time. Ugh! This seems to be the mantra of everything we don’t like doing, or don’t understand as much. This answer comes up at almost every Roundtable. If we’re so busy that we don’t have time to do anything, then what are we spending our time on?
  • Fear of technology. Great response. It speaks again to people being taught how to use the forums available. Really taught. Taking the time to walk people through what the systems do, what their “language” is and how it personally works for people who enjoy using the forums would help alleviate the fear.
  • I can’t break through the noise! This is tough in our every day lives. People are bombarded in so many ways with so much information, it is hard to break through the noise. This takes more of an effort to be focused not only in what your read, but how you personally communicate through social media. Are you contributing content, or adding to the noise?
  • It’s anti-social. Here is a problem with the medium. People feel it’s distant because they just see head shots flying by them in a stream of data, posts and responses. They don’t know who those faces are, and aren’t taking the steps to see who they are. The way to break through this is to be intentional yourself. Relationships and making social media tangible requires YOU to take the first step to meet the people behind the pictures. It doesn’t have to be anti-social.
  • Concerns over privacy. This has to be something that you come to terms with personally. If it is something that keeps you on the fringes of these forums, that is fine because you’ve made that choice. It’s like any system in that you need to be responsible for what you put out in the “space.” There are creepy people out there, but they are the exception and not the rule.
  • Not sure whether to be “professional” or “personal. A personal opinion here: quit trying to compartmentalize your life. A great rule to follow is to be genuine all the time in all you do. That way either persona – professional or personal – will be fine in these forums.
  • There’s too many forums! Which forum should you choose? Here’s where the great HR answer “it depends” comes to play. You should be diligent in seeing what each forum has to offer and then dive in. If you choose only one forum, then great! If you have the capacity to be in many forums, then be present in them. Don’t just join forums because people told you that you should. Make the choices yourself

How can your social footprint help your business?

  • It’s a connecting tool. People want to connect with people. It’s how we’re wired. Since that’s the case, you can use social media to connect with others and, in turn, connect them to your company/business. In fact, these forums can facilitate warm introductions between people and alleviate the pressure of cold calls or unwanted solicitation.
  • It can help you find talent. More and more recruiters and HR are looking to social media platforms to find people. Also, candidates are learning to be present in these forums so that they can be seen and considered for the great opportunities that your company has to offer.
  • You gain more access/information than you’ve ever had before. Companies are making themselves social with their own Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest presence. You can help your company by making sure they are visible in these arenas and you can also search more in-depth on what companies are working on and where they’re trying to grow by reading their pages.
  • You can connect more directly with your customers. There is a more open door to this which is both good and bad. People can make comments about your company, product, service, etc. immediately through social media. Knowing that, you need to be prepared as to how to respond and/or address their feedback. It doesn’t have to be a defense mechanism. In fact, many companies are being proactive in reaching out to their current customers as well as try to generate new customers. It can be amazingly positive.
  • Potential clients can find you. The more visible you are, the more that others can check you out and see if you have what they need. This could be individual customers, or other companies looking to partner with you!
  • It can beef up your brand. Most people think social media is about a “personal” brand, and part of it truly is. However, you can also leverage the opportunities to give support to your company’s brand as well. With the forums out there, plus the whole world of blogs, you can great significant exposure for what your company has to offer.

What steps can you take to grow your social footprint? 

  • Get past the avatar! Don’t settle on just seeing someone’s head shot on your screen. Send them an email to connect and work on connecting with them professionally. You don’t have to connect with everyone, but if you think someone is interesting and has been saying things you’re interested in, reach out and connect with them.
  • Schedule time. This is true for all areas of our life, but if you want to be more engaged in social media, then schedule some time each day to practice being involved. Over time, you’ll see what amount of time works and then follow that pattern. When others see you more active, they will start reaching out to you!
  • Get educated. Instead of saying you “don’t get it,” find ways to learn more about the various forums out there. You can do this through blogs about the forums, books about the media, or connecting with someone who is very active and learn from them. Once you are more educated, then you can choose where to be connected yourself.
  • Be genuine. No one likes fake people. Don’t have an online persona that is out of line with who you are as a person. It may work for the short-term, but if people find out you’re not genuine, the fallout is massive. There’s no reason to be anyone than who you are. It’s a great rule for life, for practicing HR and especially for being active in social media.
  • Find your comfort zone. If you feel pressured, then that’s a personal issue. You can be as involved, or not, as you choose. This isn’t a mandatory thing. However, take note of one thing  — social media isn’t going away. It’s only going to evolve. So, seeing where you can connect is important both personally and professionally.
  • Get connected! It just takes one keystroke and hitting the “enter” button once to jump in. Be intentional about where you want to be involved, and then be an active part of the communities that you join.

Personal note from your friendly facilitator: Social media has opened incredible doors for me personally and professionally. I think it’s a great way to truly grow as an HR professional and add value back to your company. I encourage you all to consider taking that first step into the pool!

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio area with 16 locations and over 1,200 team members. Steve has been an HR professional for more than 30 years in the manufacturing, consumer products, and professional services industries. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an Internet message board for HR pros that reaches 7,800 plus people weekly. Steve joined the SHRM Board of Directors in January 2016. You can contact him at, or on Twitter (@sbrownehr). You can also read more on his personal blog, Everyday People.



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