Luring ‘Specialized’ candidates through social HR

I’m really fortunate to be in a job that I love at a company that’s a great fit for me. But so many people in a variety of industries and careers are struggling right now to find a job — and they also want to make sure it’s the right job. Likewise, companies want to hire the best candidates who can get the work done but who also fit in with the company culture. Often this matchmaking is difficult because each side doesn’t effectively articulate what it’s looking for — especially on the company side.

Sure, plenty of corporate sites have dry and bland “Careers” sections that give a few paragraphs on the company environment with (sometimes stock) photos of happy looking people in generic conference rooms. Then they dump the job seeker into a dizzying maze of job search queries (function, business unit, department, location, etc.).

If finding the right talent is so important to companies, why are so few taking advantage of social media and other avenues to help them communicate to job seekers what they’re looking for? It’s fairly quick and easy these days to add context to a careers Web site and give candidates a lot more information about what to expect.

One company that is doing it right is Specialized (Disclaimer 1: I’m a loyal Jamis rider. But the Tarmac is one sexy bike. Disclaimer 2: Team Saxo Bank rides Specialized and I love Frank Schleck). The most prominent feature on the Careers section of its Web site? Videos. Embedded from YouTube, these videos interview employees and describe some of the interesting benefits Specialized employees receive. You get a nice sense of not only what the company offers, but also what the people who work there are like.

What’s most impressive is this video interview with Specialized’s director of HR. She tells candidates exactly what the company is looking for and what job seekers need to do to land a gig there:

She answers the real questions that most job seekers want to know. What kind of people are you looking for? What do you want to see in a cover letter? What are the steps in the hiring process? How can I impress you in the interview?

Specialized could have easily listed out this information on its site, but the video interview makes a much greater impact. What’s more, the videos on the site can be easily shared and linked to. Maybe a job seeker realizes that the company isn’t a good fit for him or her, but knows of someone who would be great at Specialized. A few clicks and that person can post a link to the YouTube video to a friend’s Facebook page.

Companies don’t have to dive headlong into a social media strategy before they’re ready, but quick hits like this are a relatively easy way to connect with an audience in a more personal and engaging way.

Social Media Smackdown: Cannondale vs. Trek

It’s the time of year when cycling-nerds worldwide turn their eyes to France, anxiously awaiting daily stage results, jersey changes and, uh, doping allegations. I watch the Tour purely for Phil Liggett’s commentary – and to remind myself to get my butt in gear and start riding more. It’s no secret that many TdF cyclists are active on Twitter (Lance even announced the birth of his son via a tweet), but far fewer bicycle manufacturers, especially high-end ones, seem to be employing social media tools as domestiques in their quest to influence the peloton and spur genuine engagement among brand fans.

OK, enough with the lame cycling analogies. Let’s get to it. This installation of Social Media Smackdown pits Cannondale against Trek, two of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers.

(Note: I’m a loyal Jamis girl, so I really don’t have a dog in this fight.)

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Round One: Twitter

Both brands have a Twitter presence: @RideCannondale and @TrekBikes. Each has roughly the same number of followers, but some vast differences emerge.

Trek: Following 1,032; Follwers 1,122; Tweets 158
The @TrekBikes account does a good job, despite just having started on Twitter, interacting with people and offering up useful information. A majority of its tweets are @ replies and range from helping with bike repairs, directing folks to their customer service e-mail address, sharing information on how their bikes are designed and offering encouragement to riders. The account also shares links to cycling stories on various races and events. My only real criticism is that the Twitter bio doesn’t identify who’s actually doing the tweeting for the account. It would be great to have a name to put behind the tweets. An excellent job. It also turns out that Trek has some additional accounts for its different audiences (@Trekmtb for mountain bike fans and @trek_ben for roadies).

Canondale: Following 3; Followers 1,095; Tweets 79
Another newer account on Twitter, with only 79 tweets so far, @RideCannondale doesn’t seem to understand the engagement component to Twitter. They’re only following three people! None of the tweets are @ replies. I will give them credit though – it doesn’t appear that their tweets are automated feeds from a blog. At least it seems like there’s a real person behind the account and not a bot. Many of the tweets share information about professional cycling races (Cannondale sponsors Team Liquigas) and share links to product announcements or videos. It’s not overly sales-y, though. It has the potential to be a great presence for Cannondale on the Web – but they really need to start following back and engaging with fans to get real conversation going.

Point: Trek gains the maillot jaune here for a great combination of conversation and information sharing. Cannondale needs to engage more with followers.

Round Two: Facebookcannondalefan

Trek’s Facebook fan page has 3, 325 fans, but it doesn’t appear to actually be managed by Trek! There’s a Trek group that appears to be the “official” Trek presence on Facebook. The group has 2,445 members, 187 wall posts, and four discussion threads (all with minimal activity). The group has close to 300 photos posted and most are pictures of single bicycles with no people in them.

If you check out the Trek fan page, there doesn’t appear to be any input or participation from the brand. The page is pretty weak. No wall posts from Trek Bikes (or whoever manages the page) and no content posted. Trek’s missing an opportunity here. Even if they didn’t create the fan page, they could take Coca-Cola’s lead and offer to participate or help manage the page. As it is right now, Trek’s Facebook presence is fractured among groups and the fan page.

Cannondale’s fan page on Facebook has merely two posts since 2008 andthere’s very little content posted by the page owner. More than 7,700 Facebook users have become fans of Cannondale, so even if the brand didn’t create or doesn’t manage the page, they’re missing out on an opportunity to reach interested consumers. Fans have uploaded more than 500 photos of Cannondale bikes to the page.

BUT WAIT! When I went to Cannondale’s Web site, the Facebook icon at the bottom of the page took me to a completely different fan page! This one is slickly designed with spaces for videos, promotions and events. There’s not much content on there yet and only 406 fans, but Cannondale is sharing information on the wall, posting links and sharing race results. The trouble is, this page didn’t even show up on the first page of Facebook search results for the term “Cannondale”. Having a great fan page that no one can find won’t help much. A simple fix would be to post a message on the wall of the other fan page on Facebook (you know, the one that’s accrued 7,000+ fans?!) and direct them to the new page.

Point: I hesitate to give a point to either one here. Neither brand is really maximizing its use of Facebook. Cannondale has started building out a nice page, but how are they going to migrate fans to the “correct” Facebook page? Trek has a nice little group growing, but Facebook groups don’t provide the flexibility or reach that a fan page does. It’s a draw.

Round Three: Web site

Each site begins with a landing page that asks you to select your country, so I’m basing this evaluation off the US version of each site. I was specifically looking for how “social” the sites were. Yes, I expect that each site is trying to provide product specs and information, but I wanted to see how interactive each site was, how easy it is for consumers to link to and share information, and how the brands are integrating social media tools like blogs to attract and engage with potential or current bicycle owners.

Trek’s site doesn’t link to any social profiles from its home page. The page is dominated by a link to watch a video, which takes you to a page with several videos about the Livestrong team. The videos are documentary-style and follow the team as they train, test equipment and ride in races. All have links to share or embed and there’s a prominent link to Trek’s YouTube channel. The “Trek Life” portion of the site includes four blogs (road, mountain, fitness/rec and women). The road bike blog hasn’t been updated since March, but the others are fairly current and even have a handful of comments on many of the posts. It would be  nice to have obvious RSS feed icons for all of the blogs. It also would be great if this portion of the site (or even the home page) had icons and links to other social media outposts.

Cannondale’s site is slick and visually pleasing, but not very social at first glance. There’s a tiny Twitter and Facebook icon at the bottom of the home page, but it was “below the fold” on my screen so I actually didn’t even notice it for a while. Most of the pages detail product lines (either bicycles, apparel or gear). It turns out there’s actually a fair amount of social interactivity on the site – but you have to dig a bit for it. The “Cannondale Planet” section of the Web site includes links to RSS feeds of videos, photos, and the “Ask Brad” blog. However, this section isn’t the easiest to navigate and a lot of the content isn’t that easy to share. The “News” tab takes you to some pretty cool sites that profile Cannondale’s various cycling teams, like Liquigas. This is where the site shines. It features videos from professional cyclists preparing for races, links and widgets to various cyclists’ Twitter streams, and links to news items and wallpaper images. I just wish that this cool content was more prominently featured and easier to find and share.

Point: Trek wins here for its use of blogs and video, but could take a lesson from Cannondale in making links to social outposts available on the home page. Cannondale has a lot of interesting content, but it’s not easily findable or shareable.

3302949809_95574f9444Round Four: Other social sites (Flickr, YouTube, etc.)

Trek’s YouTube channel includes 17 videos and these range from the Livestrong clips to product tours to TV commercials. The channel has 216 subscribers and some of the videos have 40,000+ views! The Trek Bikes group pool on Flickr has more than 264 members and close to 1,000 images, but I have no idea if Trek created and/or manages this group. There’s also a Trek Bikes profile on Flickr that includes a handful of promotional photos of bikes and gear, but it doesn’t seem as though Trek is doing too much with this photostream.

Cannondale did not appear to have a Flickr profile (but the name and many permutations of it are taken). There is a Cannondale group pool on Flickr with 200 members and nearly 900 photos uploaded. Again, hard to tell if Cannondale created this pool or if it was done by fans. On YouTube, Cannondale comes to life. Their channel is designed to match their Web site’s colors and theme. It features 70 videos that are sorted into playlists based on topic. The channel has 143 subscribers and has received more than 5,000 views. Brad, of the AskBrad blog, was uploading new videos as recently as this morning.

Point: Both are doing a good job utilizing video in their social media strategies, and both could take advantage of photo and leverage Flickr more. Even though Trek’s YouTube channel has gotten more views (having Lance helps), I’m going with Cannondale here. I love how they’ve designed their channel in the Team Liquigas colors and have Brad maintaining it for consistency with their Web site.

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The Final Verdict: In a sprint to the finish, Trek is the winner. Cycling is a sport with a fanatical level of engagement, so it makes sense that social media is a great fit for these fans to tap into their consumer bases. Both need to refine their Facebook strategies a little more, and Cannondale would benefit from being more engaged as a brand on Twitter. But it’s a good showing, especially when many bicycle manufacturers aren’t participating at all.

Allez!

Previous Smackdown: Columbus, Ohio vs. Columbia, S.C.
Previous Smackdown: Mountain Hardwear vs. The North Face
Previous Smackdown: Magic Hat vs. Bell’s Beer

Images via Flickr users trekbikes and Celso_Flores

Small businesses: It’s 2009! Get a Web site!

tonks22In October I became a cat owner. I’d like to think that I’m not one of those freaky obsessed “cat ladies” but the hundreds and hundreds of digital pictures on my computer of my “girls” would probably convince you otherwise. Nevertheless, one of the first things I had to do when we got the kittens was to find a good veterinarian.

Being relatively new to the area, I had no prior experience with local vets and I didn’t really even have anyone that I could ask. I wanted some place that was close to my home and that looked decent. I went to Google. I searched, as just about any reasonable person would, for “veterinarian” + my city and state. Only about three results came up (I live in the sticks) and I selected the one closest to my house.

In the end it turned out to be a great little place called Homestead Animal Hospital. I’d highly recommend them – but I won’t be doing it with a link because they don’t have a Web site.

I understand that small and local businesses often don’t have huge Web development budgets or in-house staff that knows how to create a Web site. But this is 2009. There’s really no reason to not have claimed out a little portion of the Web. Maybe you don’t want to be bothered with a domain name and Web hosting. Fine. Get a Tumblr or Posterous page. Make a simple WordPress.com blog. Do something so that people can get some basic information about your business and share it with their friends. It’s as critical today as the sign post on the front of the business or listing in the yellow pages used to be 20 years ago.

I need information in order to make my decision. If I do a Google search and am confronted with businesses who have a Web site versus those who don’t, I’m much more likely to investigate, and ultimately patronize, the one with a Web site. Even if it’s not a particularly good one.

With a business like an animal hospital, just think of the existing engaged community you could tap into. Run a photo contest where your customers submit their favorite pet pictures. Add some links to resources on animal behavior. At the very least, post profiles and photos of each doctor or technician and the location and the hours of the practice. It would hardly take more skills or knowledge than knowing how to type and upload a picture for someone in the practice to maintain a simple site.

In the end, Homestead Animal Hospital got my business (likely for life) because they were pretty much the only result returned for my town. But if I had lived in a bigger area and conducted the same search and Homestead had been one of five or eight or 20 results, they wouldn’t have even made the cut for me to investigate further. And that’s a shame, because they’re an outstanding veterinary practice.

No one can afford to ignore the Web anymore, no matter how small or local your business is. And with so many simple tools out there, no one needs to.

Photo credit: Me. That’s my baby girl Tonks.

Do you have “shovel-ready” communications projects?

shovelWe all have projects that we’d just love to do for our clients or organizations, but with budgets being tightened and the economy in shambles, the money and resources aren’t necessarily there to complete them– or even to get started. So we move on to maintenance activities, doing what we can on the budget we’re given and hoping for better times ahead.

If the economy does start to turn around later this year, are you ready? If funds become available, do you have a project waiting in the wings that you can quickly pull the trigger on? As an example, maybe you’ve wanted to do a Web site redesign for your organization to integrate more social features, revamp your online newsroom, or freshen up the content. You may not have the budget now to hire a programming firm to complete the project, but that doesn’t mean that you can have plans in place. Do a thorough review of the current site. Determine what it’s lacking and take a few moments to define what the new site should accomplish and how it would help your organization reach its audience better. Create a document outlining what changes could be made and list the resources that would be required to complete them. Make it as specific as you can: seven hours of copywriting, 12 hours of code edits, nine hours of graphic design work, a few hours of content management training. Be detailed so that you could potentially turn this document into a vendor RFP or a presentation to management in the future.

It could be that your department is short-staffed right now but you can’t hire a temp, intern or full-time employee due to funding. If you suddenly could, would you have a job description ready? Do you have a sense of what projects you’d have a new employee work on and maybe even have some candidates in mind you could reach out to? Or do you have existing employees that maybe could use some refresher training or could expand their skills into new areas? Are you knowledgeable about which conferences or workshops might be a good fit? Take the time to evaluate your team and its deliverables. Figure out where the pressure points and talent gaps are and put together some plans to address them. There may not be anything you can do about it immediately, but if you’re not ready when opportunities become available, then you could miss out on the chance to add or enhance your staff.

Business decisions happen so quickly that if you aren’t prepared with a proposal that clearly defines a project’s scope, the resources involved, and the benefits it will bring to the organization, then any money that becomes available will likely go to a different department. At the very least, even if things don’t turn around as quickly as we all hope they will, you’ll have done some useful assessment of your organization, clients or team members.

Image via Flickr user lanchongzi

How I ported my blog to WordPress.org

I’m getting settled in here at my new home on the web, after moving from my free wordpress.com blog last weekend. The process to move my blog over to a self-hosted wordpress.org account was actually much easier than I anticipated, thanks in large part to my tech-obsessed husband, but I thought I would outline the basic steps for anyone else looking to move from a site like name.wordpress.com to a WordPress.org site. Here’s how I did it:

1. Purchased my domain name and hosting

There are two steps here: I had to register the domain and then pay for a hosting service where I can store my Web site’s files. I think it’s substantially easier to buy the domain and hosting from the same place, so do some research to find a good hosting service that you’re comfortable with and then register your domain name with them. I would recommend using yourname.com if it’s available. If you’re not yet ready to move to a self-hosted site, you should still consider registering your domain name just to reserve it. I used hostmonster.com for both domain name registration and hosting and have found it to be really user-friendly, inexpensive, and to have great customer service.

wordpresslogo2. Logged in to my hosting service and installed the WordPress.org software

With Hostmonster, this process was extremely easy as it has an “Install WordPress” icon on the control panel – it was literally the click of a button and WordPress was installed. WordPress gave me a temporary password to use (the username is “admin”). You can change this password to something easier to remember. Make sure that your hosting service’s easy-install option installs the most current version of WordPress.org.

3. Found a Wordpess theme design for the new blog and uploaded it.

There are thousands of themes available – many more so than with WordPress.com. The choice can be overwhelming! Make sure you choose a theme that’s widget-enabled (most are) so that you can install cool plugins on your blog. I found a theme I liked and downloaded it to my desktop. Then I went back to my hosting service, logged in, and uploaded the theme to WordPress.org. You can upload several themes if you want to test out different looks for your new blog.

4. Exported and imported content from my old blog to new blog

This part was much easier than I thought it would be. In the old blog at WordPress.com, there is a “Tools” menu on the left hand side with an “Export” link. I clicked on this link, made sure the “All Authors” option is selected and then clicked “Download Export File” and saved the file to my desktop. Then, I logged in to the admin console of my new WordPress.org site. In the new WordPress.org blog, I clicked the “Tools” menu on the left hand side and clicked “Import” and then found the file that I had saved on my desktop. I checked the box to import all media and then imported my old blog. (*If you’ve been blogging on WordPress.com for a while and your export file is larger than 2MB, you may need to contact your hosting service to see if they can increase your limit so that you can import your blog in one shot.)

5. Played with the look and feel of the new site

My new blog was then populated with all of the old blog’s content, including tags, comments, categories, and pictures. Easy peasy! I played around with the theme and cascading style sheet to get things looking how I wanted them. I changed some font colors, background colors, header pictures, and more. I experimented with plugins to add functionality to my blog. Ari Herzog has a list of 23 great WordPress plugins that he uses; there are thousands available.

(6. Repoint domain name server to the new site)

I didn’t have to do this, as this step only applies if you previously had your free WordPress.com blog at your own domain name (so if you were already using yourname.com but had it hosted at WordPress.com and were using the free WordPress.com software). This step involves repointing your domain name to the new site at your new host. You would need to go to your domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, whatever you used) and repoint the site to your new host. Your hosting service usually has step-by-step instructions on how to do this that are specific to that host.

movingtruck7. Notified my friends that my site moved!

I asked people who had me listed on their blogrolls if they could kindly update their links to point to my new site. I placed a link at the top of the mengelmusings.wordpress.com site informing visitors that the site has moved and linked it to my new site. I inserted a sentence at the top of each blog post, since I didn’t have too many, that informed people my site had moved and gave a link to the same post at the new site. I published a final blog post at WordPress.com and let readers know where I moved. I also put a link to the new RSS feed for the new blog on the old site so people could find my feed and resubscribe.

A word on permalinks and redirects

If you have been blogging for a long time and have tons of posts, you may need to think about redirecting old permalinks so that they automatically trip to the new site if you change domain names. I didn’t bother with it because I only had about 15 posts on the old site. But if people stumble across a blog that has linked to one of your posts on the old site, you’ll want to make sure that they end up on your new site. Here is a document that talks about permalinks and automatic redirects. It is a big deal for people who have established blogs with lots of incoming links and thus, Google or Technorati ranking. Do some extra research on porting your blog if you’re part of this group. I figured that I was in the clear and didn’t really need to worry about permalinks with my whopping 12 readers and three incoming links.

This is meant as a very general outline of how I moved my site over. There are myriad resources on the Web that offer additional instructions and are specific for moving different platforms onto WordPress (LiveJournal, Blogger, TypePad, etc.). The main thing is not to be too fearful of the process, as it’s relatively simple. And if you are thinking of moving to a self-hosted site, I would do it sooner rather than later. The longer you blog and the greater the readership and links you build up, the harder it can be to make sure everything syncs up with the new domain and people find you! If I had it to do over again, I would have started with my own amymengel.com domain name from the getgo.

Here are a few more links to help you out:

Michael Martine offers an excellent analysis of  moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org
Problogger also explains moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org
Digital Inspirations shows that it’s easy to go from a Blogger/Blogspot blog to WordPress
Foliovision offers a step-by-step for moving from Typepad to WordPress

Images from Flickr users koka_sexton and Custom_Cab