The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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HR Social Media – A sytematicHR Case Study

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I should probably congratulate the readership of this blog. For CedarCrestone’s annual technology survey, we created one of the largest populations of viable, usable submissions out of any social media outlet that the survey used. (Note that this post was written a few years ago and never published.  I was never going to publish this, but I decided to use this to promote Lexy’s upcoming webinar on the 2012 HR Technology Survey on November 6.) Viable and usable meaning that the submissions were from actual companies rather than consultants or other bloggers not in a position to answer the survey, and also sufficiently complete that the response had enough content to be included in the results tabulation.

I think that is pretty cool, and I think there are very good reasons this happens to be a good outlet. I ran a reader survey a couple years ago trying to figure out who you all are. To my surprise, there are relatively few bloggers and consultants among you. Instead, I found that the great majority of my readers are actual HR practitioners, and that over half of those practitioners were at a director level or above in their organizations. I will have to guess that most of my readers found me through doing a web search and linking here, rather than coming in through another blog. I say that since I don’t participate in the blogosphere, and therefore I don’t get links from other blogs that would give me much larger amounts of inbound traffic – bloggers don’t link to other blogs that don’t li back, and I’ve long had a policy that I don’t link to every HR blog in the world. ((I once had a list of blogs based on an automatic calculation of the sites I referenced the most, not sure if that is still active.))

There are 2 thoughts that I would like to point out. The first is a blogger issue and the second a reader issue. Regarding the regarding my own habits, I’ve already pointed out that I don’t really participate in the blogosphere at all any more. Overall, is means that my google page rank decreases as bloggers reading and commenting on each others posts makes up a huge amount of the active participation out there. I’ve never really cared what other bloggers think about what I write, this blog is not written for them. But part of the social media equation is that participation counts. If my early idea that you can calculate and quantify talent partly through observing page hits, authorship, and comment counts are ever viable, then this blog would probably rank much lower than another blog that gets fewer page hits but many more comments. There is a great value to the interactions because it multiplies the viral effect and reach of the content. If HR social media is ever to be successful, content owners have to be active participants in the environment, and I have been sorely unsuccessful on this front.

However, even if my readers are director level and up HR practitioners, and I value that population more highly than others, my readership is not a commenting, interactive group as measured by the blog. It has always killed me that I don’t have a large number of active commenters, but VPs and Directors may not be that type of group. As noted above, I don’t get many incoming links from other bloggers. What surprises me, is the number of inbound links that I never publish – those are like from corporate intranets that sit behind someone’s firewall. To be honest, I love those links and the comments associated with the link, it tells m that even though you are not commenting here, you are telling your internal HR departments about the value here. So it turns out that you guys are actually highly interactive, it’s just not visible on the public facing portion of the site. The fact that you guys got more viable and usable submissions from a single blog post about the CedarCrestone survey means a lot to me. Even though I never hear from you guys, I know you are out there, reading, asking your internal HR departments to read, and actively participating in your own way.

When it comes to HR social media, what it all comes down to is how well you collaborate with each other, and participation is key. Without it, there is no knowledge sharing and creation. While I’ve failed at collaborating with my fellow bloggers, it seems that my readership has generally succeeded in creating discussion and action outside of this forum. We have alternatively been excited and then skeptical about social media in HR, sometimes both at the same time. I actually wonder what the model for information sharing will be. If systematicHR is any indication, having thriving populations that are visibly active and commenting on the blog might be harder to accomplish. Content publishers (other bloggers in your corporate environment) will be active, but trying to reveal the hidden community that is actively reading is much more difficult.

In the past, I have advocated using the tagging system to quantify expertise by counting the comments and links. This certainly quantifies the participation from other content publishers, but does not discuss the overall value that content may bring. Over time in your internal environment, you’ll begging to have content publishers that become favorites for large populations, and being able to see hit counts in addition to comment traffic becomes critical. The problem with this is that you often need to go to two different sources. My first source is an aggregator where I can see all comments and inbound links from another site/blog. This shows me the active participation. But then I have to go to a hit counter to see the total reader traffic. There are actually websites that show both activity meters, but I have found these to be a bit inaccurate so far. The point being that metrics are problematic – like so many other reports, there are multiple sources that may need to be combined to get the measurements we really want.

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4 responses to “HR Social Media – A sytematicHR Case Study”

  1. Lexy Martin Avatar

    Thanks, as always, for getting the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey more responses. Yet again, your survey invitation got the most of any bloggers (one more than Steve Boese!).
    We got 1,246 usable responses this year and about 6% from social sites, as opposed to direct email invitations. We spend a lot of time though, promoting the survey via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, through the blogosphere and some of the vendors also post a survey invitation on their customer/prospect communities. Yet it’s still the direct invitation via email that gives us most of the responses. When we analyze responses, it’s also the email respondents that are more complete than the social sphere respondents. Answering our survey takes some time and I’ve wondered if respondents recruited via the social sphere just have short attention spans or perhaps because the survey is long and really not easily viewed on mobile devices where they most likely see a social invitation, it’s not possible for them to respond. Or….perhaps it’s that people that respond through the email invitation have access to the information we request in the survey on items like headcount numbers. I could muse all day on these imponderables.
    What I’ve finally come to believe is that we have to be visible in multiple ways and it’s the visibility that lends credence to the invitation via email. We have to come to people in multiple ways – via the social sphere, via an invitation from IHRIM, or one from Enwisen, or one from ADP, or one from Cornerstone OnDemand, or one from…..some 50 other distributors so that we avoid vendor bias.( I certainly hope we don’t make people angry with all the invites.) I also think that the influencers – bloggers like you and Steve and Naomi and Bill and John Sumser and Jon Ingham and, etc. etc. etc. are why we ultimately do so well. Those of you with some gravitas brought about by thoughtful sharing of information give credibility to our survey invitation. So, big thanks.
    So, where is this going? You always teach me something. I just do simple analysis of where we got our response but had no idea there was the depth of analysis you suggest even possible. I want to know more!! Blog more!!

  2. systematicHR Avatar

    This both makes sense to me and does not at the same time.

    1) It makes sense because people who are contacted through email and vendors actually have a contact that they are aware of. In essence, there is a relationship in there somewhere. Even through the bloggers probably reach 10 times the number of possible participants, there’s no relationship to drive them to action.

    2) I’m not sure about shorter attention span, but I do believe that the rather tenuous relationship I have with my readers (they know they will never meet me in most cases), they have no real incentive to provide a high quality survey. In many cases, if they are finding out about the survey from the blog, they might not have a full perspective on what the survey means to the industry, and I can’t really explain that on paper either.

    3) What does not make sense to me is that I am still getting more responses (I have no idea if they were usable or not) than any other blogger. I haven’t even blogged in a year until I posted this year’s survey. It is gratifying and shows the quality of my readership, and that’s nice. 🙂

    I noted in this post that while I have not cultivated a readership that is huge on other bloggers and industry people, I do believe that I have a large number of senior and executive level practitioners compared to others. If it’s any sign, I get no comments (unlike many other blogs), and that probably shows in your results as well. HR peeps don’t seem to be active participants, and maybe that’s why they are not survey responders through this form either?

  3. Lexy Martin Avatar

    But HR peeps ARE survey respondents when invited by email. The other 94% that I get through email are mostly from HR.

    Wes…I just think people want you to come back to the world of blogging.

  4. Jon Ingham Avatar

    I’d support Lexy’s plea too Wes – it’d be great to hear more from you (and btw i have linked to you several times over the last five years, with no expectation of reciprocation).