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A Tale of Two (Social Media) Cities

September 30, 2010

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend portions of the inaugural Coastal Social Conference.  Sponsored by the Baton Rouge Social Media Club, the event drew together almost 300 attendees who were interested in networking with each other and learning about social media.

I attended the luncheon keynote session with speaker Julien Smith and at the end of the day I returned and attended a closing panel discussion with Jason Falls, Tom Martin, Craig Fisher and Kyle Ferachi.

As one would anticipate, the audience at the event was comprised primarily of PR, Communication and Marketing professionals, as well as a healthy dose of entrepreneurs, small business owners and consultants.    Noticeably absent?  HR and Recruiting professionals.  I ran into one other HR pro who popped in for a bit, and had some great conversation with an independent 3rd party recruiter, but for an event that was widely publicized across the Gulf Coast, I had hopes that HR/recruiting professionals would comprise more than 0.01 percent of the attendees.

Not surprisingly, during the closing panel session “Social Media Policies in the Workplace,” HR got very little love. Many in the audience were the individuals in charge of Communication/Social Media activities for their organizations. They, as befits their roles, understand the value, power, and opportunities that SM provides as they work to build communities and convert social capital into financial capital (hat tip to Julien Smith) for their organizations.  But they struggle with internal partnerships with their IT departments and their HR Departments.  IT staff want to “block” all access for security and system reasons, while the HR professionals generally want to command, control and write policies for something they don’t take the time to understand.

Another thing that struck me about the conference was that there was a distinctly different “vibe” from the “vibe” found at a typical conference attended by HR professionals.  Like what, you ask?  Well –

  • A large majority of CoSo attendees took notes on laptops, netbooks and iPads; HR attendees put pen to paper; often using the note-taking papers they receive in their conference bags.
  • CoSo attendees expected, received and utilized the large array of plug-in stations that were placed all along the session-room tables.  HR attendees don’t seem to fret too much if they can’t access wifi or plugs.
  • Networking and building community was the name of game – there was even a lounge/room set aside to encourage business card exchanges.  HR people tend to slink outside after a session and make ‘very important phone calls’ – and thus not interact with each other.
  • CoSo registration check-ins? iPhone app.  Beautiful.
  • CoSo attendees got the Swarm Badge; HR conference attendees hear the word “swarm” and only associate it with an employee being bitten by bees and filing a Workers’ Comp claim.
  • There were 1400 #CoSo tweets by over 250 contributors.  HR conference attendees ask  “what’s a #?”

I’m a member of the Baton Rouge Social Media Club – there are about 160 members and as far as I can determine, less than 5 who work in HR/Recruiting.   It’s certainly not a unique observation that as a collective group, HR professionals lag behind in adoption and usage of these new media technologies.  If you are reading this, I’m pretty sure you agree with me that adoption of technology and social media is a critical competency for savvy HR professionals and there are significant opportunities for HR professionals to use social media to enhance their careers, their personal/professional development and the capabilities of their organizations.

I’m all for helping my HR colleagues make the shift.  Let’s work on this together.

Because I want to get a swarm badge at an upcoming HR event.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 7:12 am

    Keep plugging away Robin. Someday you will get them to see the light. Your post is all the more reason that SHRM needs to get out front on New Media and help us move the ball forward.

    While your assessment sounds dim for the HR community, it seems to have a life of it’s own otherwise.

  2. October 6, 2010 8:46 am

    Awesome post Robin! I can see HR making the turn around the corner (since even my mom hoped on Facebook) but it will take sometime. I’m happy you enjoyed Coastal Social and I’m even more excited that you were there to support me and the amazing Baton Rouge Social Media Club.

    You are a rare breed in the HR industry, but as I like to stay “you can either get on the bus or watch it go by!”

    Love ya.


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