This is a big topic. I’m first to confess I’m not a Social Media Expert – just yet. I’ve been watching, participating and learning from the early adopters. What I bring to the party is a deep knowledge of third party recruiting. I’ve been at it for 18 years, 10 as a business owner and 6 as an industry trainer. I have a passion for training, marketing and client development.

This article has three parts. As this is Part I, you’ll have to come back and read more about money-making ideas. Please, post your feedback. I (and I’m sure others) are very interested in what you have to say about this subject.

The “New World” light bulb lit up for me about a year ago. Fortunately, my firm had a very good first half of ’08. When our recruiting revenue dropped last summer, we shifted our business model and diversified.

The upside to recessions is that they’re cleansing. The strong survive – and so do the innovators. This is my third recession in the recruiting business. (My first was in the early 90’s.) Each time we’ve come through, wiser with new ways of doing business. What doesn’t change about recruiting is that it’s all about the engagement of people.

Before the Internet, recruiting was primarily about sales – direct person-to-person contact. Then the PC-Internet age brought database management and e-marketing. Now, the equation is shifting again with Social Media. Most companies and people haven’t gotten religion yet – or figured out how it all works together.

I think we’re still in the Wild West of Social Media – in just the 2nd or 3rd inning of a 9 inning game. It’s exciting to take part and watch it unfold! It also has the potential to be very lucrative if you play your cards right (like the Internet boom of the mid-to-late 90’s.)

Back to my light bulb turning on last summer. As part of our “recession strategy” I knew we needed a stronger brand image and greater market exposure. Most firms pull back on advertising and marketing in a recession. We did the opposite, negotiating deep discount pricing and did more. My first tact was upgrading our website. Then, advertising in industry trade journals. Then, a full-scale effort to get press in traditional media and issuing PR releases.

Earlier this year, I trained at two recruiting conferences. (My topic was “Power Marketing for Today’s Economy.”) I was told I’d get more speaking opportunities with greater exposure in the industry. After my video interview was distributed on Twitter, the Social Media bell went off. It was clear that we needed an integrated SM branding strategy. I jumped in two feet, full-throttle.

In the beginning stages, Social Media is all about building networks: creating connections, friends and followers. The power of brand building comes from leveraging the combined networks through broadcasting features.

Once our brand and networks are more established, how do we win new client business? Not recruiting candidates, but new fee-worthy clients? That’s the $64,000 question and what I’m after here. Stay tuned for Parts II and III coming soon. Again, post your feedback! Thanks.

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