Social Selling & How a Recruitment Agency Goes 10 Years, No Sales Calls

I recently joined Alan Hiddleston from the brilliant Firefish Software as part of their Predictive Recruitment Podcasts, to talk about Social Selling, and how to integrate Social Media into a recruitment agency’s business development efforts.

dusty phoneI guess the headline is that I ran a recruitment agency that never made a sales call in 10 years (a recruiter’s dream, right?!) , yet worked with some of the leading brands in the UK and beyond because of the reputation we built through our social recognition & visibility.

I focus a lot on the dynamic shift of the quality of the relationship with the market when you shift from the Push to the Pull effect of market communication and attraction.

Key points to look out for:

  • Being multi-dimensional in your market presence and sales approach
  • The change in the relationship dynamic when the client chooses you because of word of mouth
  • Listen to the plethora of content & discussion in your market to know where to get involved on social media 
  • Start with who you know, join in warm industry discussion and build network 
  • Make every interaction count 
  • It’s probably a good business tactic to be a nice person
  • What makes good content 


Thanks to Firefish for having me, this is only the beginning of this subject and we could have covered so many points. I hope you enjoy this snapshot, and I look forward to your thoughts.

The Collision Between Recruitment & Content Marketing

So, lots of people have been telling lots of people in recruitment land to do content marketing. The problem is that they are in recruitment land. Sadly this isn’t a good start. There aren’t many creative writers/producers who chose recruitment as a career.

The first problem is differing Content Marketing with Content Production.

Content Marketing isn’t just writing stuff. Content Marketing is marketing already produced content as part of a campaign. Yes first you need to write or produce good content.

child on wall

LinkedIn is full of recruiters, trainers and consultants doing what they believe to be content marketing. Some are nailing content production, really well. They are producing well-blogged insights, video content, great visual ads, and even the odd white-paper. They’re not necessarily marketing them very well. And sadly all too often, they’re not producing them very well either.

What we see too often however is:

  • LinkedIn Publisher Job Advertisements – it’s a free platform, feel free to use it. But jeez seriously, do it well. It isn’t a job board. Story-tell around the role and the reason for expansion; market-impact, etc. If you are an agency, I’m sure your client never expected they’d be paying for you to just blast a job ad on LinkedIn publisher.
  • Automated Content From Third Party Sources – this isn’t the worst idea. If you don’t have the capacity to write original content; researching and delivering quality content from other sources works well. BUT – you need to check the content. Is it, a) fitting in with your company message, b) spelled and delivered correctly or, c) opening genuine discussion you are prepared to follow up. I see even self-proclaimed ‘social media trainers’ do this – automatically tweeting/posting content they’ve never even read! If your answer is no to any of those 3 points, don’t publish it.
  • Using Poorly Chosen Imagery – everyone will know I am the number one advocate of great imagery. But take care in selecting your images. Use a image editing platform such as Pixlr (free) or Photoshop (paid) to use wording into an image, and use a high quality image. Try not to be *too* obvious either. Jordan Belfort has been done to death, and actually – he’s not a great representation of your business.
  • LinkedIn Publishing For The Sake of ‘Doing Content’ – yes, LinkedIn Publisher is a free tool here that anyone can use to post whatever you like. There are no rules. However, there is an audience expectation. You are publishing content for an audience, and in doing so represent your brand, business or personal profile. So, make sure you write well – otherwise, I’m sorry – you look bad and make me not want to use your business. Spell well, make sure the message is clear. Get it read by colleagues/associates before publishing. Consider the tone – are you looking over-salesy? Are you delivering genuine insights that will inspire comment and sharing?

Content Production isn’t easy – and it isn’t for everyone. Free isn’t always good for your business – if you don’t have capable writers in your business; then bring in a copywriter to edit and best position each post you wish to write. That £50 for couple of hours work, could make the difference between business-winning material, and damaged reputation.

But then what’s the good in producing awesome content if you don’t actually market it well? You need to be thinking about platform nuances, SEO & keyword effectiveness, your advocacy networks, communities where the subject is relevant.

And respond. Always respond. Open discussion, and let it flow. Take the positive accolades with good grace, and face up to those who disagree – if you put public content out there, you stand accountable to it.

I’m not the ultimate content production marketing genius, but I know lots of people who really are. It’s been my area of specialism for a number of years. Don’t be afraid to spend a few quid making sure you are planning this stuff effectively, not just shoving content out there for content’s sake and then grumbling that only 100 people read your post.

Your Recruitment Agency CEO Should be on Social Media

Recently, I was judging the ‘Best Entrepreneur’ category for a leading recruitment publication’s annual awards. Some terrific people with very worthy and successful businesses. Some people who are awesome at selling themselves, and their impact on their company, team, the local community, charity efforts, integration into their industry, and CSR endeavours.

child leader blog headerSo me being me, I then looked at their social media profiles.

And looked…

And looked…

Of the 12, only eight had well presented LinkedIn profiles. One didn’t even have a LinkedIn profile. 4 were excellent profiles. 

9 of the 12 had a twitter profile; but only 2 or 3 were using it regularly, or for business profile benefit. 

Only 2 had ever written articles on LinkedIn, and none of the 12 had a personal voice on a blog, or their own website. 

Yet in their award submissions they had so, so much to tell us all – about how fantastic they and their businesses are. In fact the guy (yes, they were ALL men) with the greatest stories of all – was the one with no online presence whatsoever.

But they are hugely successful individuals. So really, does it matter whether they are actively on social media or not? 

I say yes. I say that they have a duty as figureheads in their business, their local/industry community, and to their employees; to have a position of vocal authority to aspire to. We call it a Professional Personal Brand. It accentuates the profile and credibility of the individual, but carries their work and business with them. People by people, and what they represent.

The maligned phrase ‘thought leader’ comes to mind – but what we see here, in most cases are fantastic leaders. But genuine thought leaders in the market? – well actually yes, some of them are – but they are not telling the story to the wider world how much they are, and in doing so, enhancing the profile of their business to the most widely accessible sources of readership – social media audiences.

If I gave you the list of names, you wouldn’t be able to read anywhere very easily, how significant their partnerships are with local and national charities. And in only 2 cases, will you see any stand-out content on their online profile, that tells you you’d want to work for their organisation.

What we must remember, is that the culture and character of an organisation starts at the top. In a tough working environment and a tough industry, people want to be inspired by their leader. When the chips are down, they need to see that their leaders are influential, heading the charge to raising the company profile in all the right places, and giving them the opportunity to sell with pride.

We also have to consider the wider industry and the aspirations for good recruitment and better perception; and each leader’s contribution to that.

In my opinion, Recruitment Agency leaders should be:

1. Leading their industry as an influential figure 

2. Having an authority and opinion on their industry’s news 

3. Contributing to the eco-system and development of the industry 

And I’m talking about their client/candidate industry; not the recruitment industry, by the way. They should be recognisable faces that have the ear of leading figures within the industry their serve – and positioning their recruitment business as chest-deep in the developments and trends of the industry they operate in, in order to have the credibility to assess talent correctly.

Social Media is an easy route to inbound business. But you have to be highly engaged and credible. You could give that to an intern or graduate, as so many limp-wristedly do – or you could head up the content strategy from the leaders.

Everybody wants to hear from the leader. Credibility starts at the top.



Steve Ward has just completed a 22 year career as a hands-on recruiter in the recruitment industry, and as an award-winning social strategist, is now an advisor to agency and in-house recruitment teams on using social presence to attract talent, win business and develop reputation management. Connect and drop me a message if you’d like to chat how I can help you. 

5 Basics To Make Social Media Work For Recruitment

So many blogs. So many opinions. So many failed attempts, but also some awesome case studies. Yes Social Media & Recruitment is a minefield of confusion, misdirection, and advice from folk who ain’t never done it.

child fiveHere’s 5 useful little guiding lights, from a bloke who’s been doing it hands-on since 2009; that remind you, and encourage you, that you don’t need to tip your recruitment agency/team upside down.

1. Start with your CRM

Well, you’ve been dying to get some proper use out of that damn thing for months and years. Well it’s the perfect place to try and do something with clients and candidates who refuse to pick the phone up to you. The confusion of social media so often stems from not knowing who to target. So, if you chose to populate your CRM with seemingly relevant people, then do the same with your social prospects. Candidates, clients, contacts – take the journey from CRM, to LinkedIn, to beyond. Hopefully you have chosen a modern day CRM, that allows you to integrate social media naturally anyway; then your social media communications can sit on a level playing field, with your telephone call activity. In fact, done well – it outshines it.

2. Think Brand

Please no, not Russell Brand. The scary bit about branding on social media is that it is marketing. Let’s be honest, most recruitment entities don’t like or understand marketing. It’s ok to admit it. You weren’t made that way. Actually, the branding bit is pretty easy – but I would suggest you need advice. (I can do that bit, if you need) But what you are doing in building your brand well, is in essence increasing the potential for people to say nice things about you. That’s good – it gets you business, gets you people, and increases inbound enquiries, profile and kudos. Now branding does *not* mean, your logo. Nobody buys logos. It means the substance of your people, your service, your interaction with your community, your stories, your original content, your thought leadership, your value and credibility within your marketplace. People buy from good people; we all know that. You can’t share those stories on the phone, and your brochure is out-of-date as soon as it’s printed. Social Media gives you platforms to keep rolling news and content alive and current.

3. The Best People For The Job – It’s Not For Everyone  

Ok, so let me start with this. If you are the CEO, MD, Founder, Head of Talent Acquisition, or whatever you want to call yourself; then YOU should be on social media. Not as your company brand, but as you. You’ve gone this far to create a good agency or team – now go stand out proud from the front. But aside of that, if we haven’t the budget to hire a social media specialist; then we have a habit of asking our sales people to manage social media channels. Invariably, your best sales people hate change in method, they like tried and tested methods; and they are great already. Don’t screw them up, by trying to make them write tweets 5 times a day then. They’re not going to stop and listen to the conversation they might create; and their work will be outbound. Bad social media. Find the unsung superstar in your team, that everyone loves – who you hired because they have awesome people potential, can select well, gets the industry you serve; but it turns out is utter pants at sales. I bet they’d be great at social media. Given they they no doubt want to succeed proactively, they will more likely *want* to be great at social media. If I come to train your recruiters to integrate social media, I will ask them at the end of the first session who actually wants to do it. Anyone that is honest, and would rather go back and continue make sales or headhunting calls, I would willingly set them free – they will *never* want to embrace it. Pointless for me, pointless for you. Find your superstars who can run with it, don’t crowbar in the nay-sayers. The other people to choose, are people already highly conversant and technically aware of your industry. Difficult to do ‘social’ with a .Net developer on a social channel, if your best shot at conversation is “How the devil are you?”.  

4. Social Media is for Business Development, not just Sourcing

Everyone talks about sourcing, finding hard-to-reach talent, etc – when we hear about Social Recruiting. For the recruitment agency out there, and for the executive hiring team; the need is for business development. Wins, not just Finds. At CloudNine, 100% of business came from social media potency and visibility, or recommendation from the reputation we created through that visibility. (see 2. Think Brand). B2B is about building relevance, relationship and trust – and where sales calls fail, is that they are, well… salesy. By targeting prospects expertly through social media, with conversation, market integration, relevant content and offline purpose,  the entrance to the relationship is more human and mutual than the pressure cooker of an unplanned sales call.

5. Choose Platforms & Emerging Technology With Care

Most social media platforms, are probably not for you. The problem with social media integration is that some bright spark will say “XYZ did this thing on Snapchat – you could do it too!!”, and then we all think we can do it. Stick initially to sound and solid bases; based on where you already have a hunch your industry is. Use existing specialist communities, conversations and groups as your catalyst for identifying socially active connections; and where relevant – use ‘dark social’, i.e. niche forums and specialist discussion areas – to find relevancy in your communications. Your inbox will also be full of apps, extensions and tech-wet-dreams that will promise to make you a better recruiter. Choose these carefully, and from good neutral advice. Too many will complicate what is a perfectly human process we’ve been doing for years; but people would have us believe that it’s a mystery online.

And that’s the point, it’s a human process that you are already probably pretty good at. If I could have added a sixth, I would say don’t fear online and business. (I could add more too, naturally…) It’s what your competitors are doing, and large and progressive brands are already leading the way and have been for years. Don’t get left behind, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. (I can do that too) 


Steve Ward is an early-adopter of hands-on social recruiting and following 22 years as an agency recruiter; is now independently helping recruitment teams and agencies improve the perception of the way they work, by helping integrate social media & digital transformation into hiring methods; to enhance inbound traffic. Still recruiting, but also available for training, mentoring and advisory roles. Connect & message me if you’d like to chat. 

The TotalJobs `Twitter Party` on Interview Advice

Interviewing is one of the most nervous experiences we will ever face. Some of us just aren’t made for it, our jobs often involve limited ‘verbal performance’ and so in many cases, frankly – they are pointless.

interviewHowever – they exist, and even more scarily, more and more companies are using videoing interview techniques too!! So if you thought it was tough in a natural face to face environment, now companies are asking you to perform ‘to the camera’!

Ok, well fear not – I happen to have interviewed probably 4000-5000 people to different degrees over the past 20 years, and am a reasonably useful guy to know in these situations.

Well let’s see. I’m putting that to the public test this afternoon on behalf of TotalJobs, as I run their twitter feed from 2pm – taking questions on interviews as part of their Job Academy project.

If you are a job seeker who wants some good ideas on interviewing well. And getting the most from the interview – then I’m there to help. It’s more than just about turning up on time and shaking a hand in the right way. It’s about how you play YOUR part in the interview and go away feeling you have made the most of the experience.

So tune into the @TotalJobsUK twitter feed at 2pm this afternoon (11th October) and I’ll be glad to help.

Hiring a Social Media Manager Isn’t As Easy It Seems…

So, I’m approaching 4 years of specialisation in the Social Media industry, and all that that encompasses. When I made the leap to be a specialist in this area, it was an unknown field for many – even in communications agency-land – let alone, on the corporate front.

4 years on, it still appears to be a challenge. Still corporate Social Media Managers are coming and going at speed, citing bad culture fit, lack of understanding, lack of leadership and red-tape issues. Even at agency level, the integration of social media is not a natural fit in so many cases. Not only that, the positioning of an employer brand in hiring generically through social – continues to be a corporate challenge. Managing word-of-mouth and social exposure, is tough.

SMM hire image

I’m going to be discussing this at an event we are holding in the late afternoon of 25th June in Central London; where we look at the factors that are essential in hiring and using social media in our talent culture.

Some of the headlines of I will be covering in my own talk around `Hiring the Right Social Media Manager For YOUR Business` are:

1. Culture

2. Preparation

3. Audience 

4. Leadership

5  Measurement 

6. Career Objectives

These are factors which are essential in understanding why, who and how you will select your Social Media Specialist – whether it’s a Director, a Manager, a Community Manager, or a Content Specialists for your business’s budding social media profiles.

If this interests you – then it’s only ONE THIRD of what is on offer at our event.  We have Social Business Specialist Tiffany St James, presenting on building a Social Business Culture that will allow your business to thrive in Social Media execution; and we have Social Recruitment Expert Bill Boorman, guiding you though using social media to identify the tricky to reach talent, like specialist IT people and the like.

I’m a nice bloke who knows my stuff, sure – but THESE guys are box office. And the event is free, as we’re covering the costs.


Steve stockpicBillBoorman

I hope to see you there – grab your FREE ticket by clicking the humongous Eventbrite sign below…







*Respectfully, this is aimed at Business Leaders, Hiring Managers, HR & Inhouse Recruitment Specialists in this space – and please not for other recruitment agency professionals or consultants to attend. There are limited spaces and we want to bring the best value for all concerned. Tickets taken by recruitment agents may get re-allocated. Thank you, and sorry.