Social Media and the HR Professional: A Conversation with Claire Petrie
We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it. – Erik Qualman*
Claire Petrie and me at #SHRM19 National Conference in Las Vegas. We were in the Blogger Area listening to Chief Shoe Giver from TOMS, Blake Mycoskie.
I have no idea where my career would be without social media. That sounds like a hyperbolic statement at worst, or a goofy one at best. However, this is the 21st century. Like it or not, there is power in social media, and if used positively, that power can be harnessed for your own personal and professional growth.
It wasn’t always this way. I haven’t really used social media professionally all that long in the grand scheme of things. Oh sure, as the excellent Elder Millennial I am, I have used social media almost since it’s inception! I remember sitting in my college dorm room for hours fine tuning my MySpace account. I needed the perfect song, the perfect background, and the perfect array of information letting perfect strangers know exactly who I was!
(For those asking what “MySpace” is… well, I guess I can’t help you, or I am dating myself WAY too much).
Then came Facebook! Originally, one could ONLY connect with those who attended your same college. You needed a college email address to sign up. Then, it evolved where you could add other friends who attended other universities. Eventually, you could even connect with grandma… and that’s where it went off the rails! I kid, kinda….
Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn – social medial EXPLODED! There are now social media sites that I have NO IDEA WHAT THEY DO! And, I have grown from the hip kid to the guy on his front lawn looking more curmudgeonly than Clint Eastwood. Stay the hell off my block, not just my lawn.
However, I digress. Let me bring it back to the purpose of my writing. While I had a lot of personal experience with social media, I never really used it professionally until roughly two years ago. I created my Twitter account and reactivated my LinkedIn account, and I began having A LOT of fun with them! I simply used them organically without a strategic vision, and good things began to happen. After I began using my professional accounts,
I built an amazing community of colleagues that I learn from every day,
I made genuine friends that I share laughs and memories with, lean on for help, feedback, and guidance,
I was asked to join the SHRM Blogger Team at the National SHRM Conference in Vegas,
I became a better, more consistent writer, and began sharing my ideas with others through this very blog, and
I have gained more confidence in my skills as an HR professional.
One of the amazing connections I made once I expanded my social media presence has been Claire Petrie. Claire is an HR superstar from Buffalo, NY, who has such an infectious social media presence in the HR community!
Her positive energy, meaningful posts, and #ClaireShares hashtag set her apart and draw people in. We connected shortly after I created my Twitter account and have been friends ever since! In fact, she’s the first person I ever connected with “In Real Life” (IRL) after having “met” online at SHRM National in Chicago 2018. Without Claire, I doubt my extracurricular trajectory would be what it is today. I owe her a debt I cannot repay.
This past summer, we both attended SHRM National Conference 2019 as part of the Blogger Team, and spent time wandering the vender hall together when she stated during a conversation “I don’t know why more HR pros don’t engage in social media.”
Claire and me having fun at the #SHRM19 vendor showcase.
She meant it as an offhanded remark, but that comment stuck with me. Why don’t more HR pros use social media? Certainly, it isn’t for everyone, and we all know plenty of people who eschew social media in their personal lives, let alone any professional endeavors. Yet, social media when used appropriately can open up so many avenues for HR professionals make meaningful connections with like-minded professionals and challenge themselves to grow.
So, I asked Claire if she wanted to work together to expand upon that thought she had. I wanted to ask her a bunch of questions. And I wanted to have them answered immediately. Well, not exactly, but I did ask her a bunch of questions that she was all too happy to share her thoughts on!
Paul: How and why did you decide that having a professional social media presence was something you wanted to do
Claire: I love getting this question! J So back in the summer of 2017, I was in the thick of my first HR Manager position where I was a DOO (department of one). I was the only HR person supporting a staff of 300, and I felt really isolated. I remember one day I put a question out on Twitter with the hashtag #HR. You (Paul) and Keith Enochs both responded to the tweet and offered me some support. I was blown away that there were HR professionals on Twitter, and ones that were so kind! Keith then introduced me to SHRM’s Twitter Chat hashtag #NextChat and the rest is history. Although getting started with my professional social media presence was not intentional, after that day it sure was. I wanted to help others and contribute to the profession as you and Keith had done with me.
Paul: I was so humbled when you first told me that story! I think I was only on Twitter for like a week at that point, and I don’t think of myself as much of a social media presence. I think of YOU in that way! So, including Twitter, what social media channels do you use and why? Do you prefer certain sites over others? If so why?
Claire: Professionally, I am very active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Having worked for a staffing agency for a while in which I was essentially running my own business, showing up on LinkedIn and giving value to my network was crucial for me to build relationships and be successful in my work. Twitter is where I find more meaningful conversations taking place thanks to Twitter chats. I find Twitter is a little more informal than LinkedIn, and people are more likely to have conversations and share information. I do have a professional Facebook as well, but I do not check it as often. I haven’t found the value in it yet, but I also don’t put as much time into it as I do LinkedIn and Twitter.
The first time I met Claire was at the Elephant and the Castle in Chicago prior to #SHRM18! She invited several HR Twitter peeps out to dinner! This is also where I met Jeff Palkowski and Michael Mullady for the first time! We all “met” on social media an became friends and colleagues since!
Paul: Interesting you mention “value.” We’ve had conversations in the past about the value we feel social media has brought to our careers. Could you expand upon how social media has brought value to your career?
Claire: Ever since that moment in 2017 when I posted that random #HR question, my career has skyrocketed! Once I intentionally decided to show up on social media, allowing myself to be findable and visible, opportunities have presented themselves. If I hadn’t been active on Twitter, I would have never been invited to participate on the SHRM annual blogger team. If I hadn’t been active on LinkedIn, I would have never been invited by local companies and colleges to present workshops on LinkedIn to help others grow their brands and careers. Social media has added value to my career and life by allowing me more opportunities to learn and fulfill my purpose which is helping others!
Paul: What do you think are the benefits for having a professional presence on social media?
Claire: The benefits are being findable and visible for opportunities of all kinds, (job, speaking, writing, volunteering, etc.) having a virtual handshake, gaining influence and credibility, attracting and retaining talent to your company, establishing and maintaining trust, communicating your personal brand to help your career/employer grow!
Paul: You talk about visibility, which is important. I find being actively engaged is a must. Posting occasionally doesn’t seem to bring as much value as posting consistently. Along that thought, what type of posts do you feel are most important to publish consistently?
Claire: For me personally, community involvement and volunteering are the posts that get the most engagement – i.e., people seem to really like to seeing these types of posts. Through consistently posting this type of content, I also get reached out to more often for similar opportunities. I love to volunteer and share my knowledge with local colleges and community groups, so by showing that this is something I enjoy and care about online, I attract more opportunities to myself. This is the type of content I publish consistently, but I also (try) and do a blog post at least once a month for my own blog, someone else’s (thanks Paul!) or the SHRM blog to showcase my HR knowledge and expertise.
Paul: Thanks! I am glad we connected to work on this together! Going the other way, are there any types of posts that you believe don’t add much value in your experience?
Claire: Twitter is a bit more informal like I said, and if there’s a tweet I don’t feel adds much value I just keep scrolling. On LinkedIn however, I really use my newsfeed as a professional development tool, so I try and curate it the best I can by unfollowing people who don’t add value or hiding specific posts so LinkedIn can learn what I don’t want to see. I typically don’t like seeing memes or any type of complaining/calling out on LinkedIn. I also tend to hide personal posts that don’t have anything to do with business, learning, or networking. This is just my personal preference for how I use LinkedIn.
Paul: That’s interesting. I remember we had a phone conversation about a year ago, and you taught me how to be better at LinkedIn! I appreciated that we were able to have that conversation, and since then, I feel my LinkedIn game has been raised! Do you have any posts that stick out in your head over the past that have been exceptionally meaningful to you?
Claire: I screen shot Tweets and add them to a folder on my phone so I can refer back and use them as a reminder to take action. A couple stick out as I am looking back through my folder. One from Kyra Matkovich that said “#HRpals, please stop comparing yourself to others. You have the ability to have great impact on & influence in your organization. You don’t have to be a global HR thought leader. Focus on what’s right in front of you. Your employees need you.” I remember at the time I really needed to hear this. I had recently started my new job and was feeling a little bit of the imposter syndrome. I was hired into a global role, and I was feeling discouraged I hadn’t already done more. This helped me realize there was plenty of low handing fruit and people in front of me that I can help. Another one was from Laura Mazzullo of East Side Staffing. It read “Your hiring process should reflect your company’s core values. All hiring managers should review company values (really look at them) and ask themselves ‘how can I take these core values and improve my hiring process?’” I just loved this one because it’s easy (I think) to use the company values in aspects of the business-like R&D, manufacturing, etc.; but it’s harder to use them in the support functions like finance and HR because these are, well, support functions. This was a lightbulb moment for me that there are many ways I can help change hiring practices to better reflect our values.
In what is fast becoming an annual tradition, Claire invited some HR Twitter peeps out for pre #SHRM19 dinner festivities! I got to reconnect with Keith Enochs and meet Julie Ann Sullivan.
Paul: In my experience, it’s those type of interactions that bring out the best of what social media has to offer us! So, I want to bring it back to what made this blog interview grow! You mentioned to me at 2019 SHRM National in Vegas that you felt too many HR pros don’t have a social media presence. Why do you feel that is?
Claire: This is my experience in Buffalo for sure! It’s very interesting. I’m the Professional Development Director (programming chair) for my local SHRM chapter, and everywhere I go and every event I attend, I’m encouraging my fellow pros to get involved with #NextChat and get on Twitter in general. Most of them have LinkedIn profiles, but they aren’t updated, or they don’t check them regularly. It’s a huge missed opportunity in my opinion to build credibility, attract and retain talent, grow professionally, and all of the other things discussed already. The responses I usually get are that they don’t have time or aren’t tech savvy. I offer to help but get very little interest. I guess it’s hard to see the benefits before you’re knee deep in it. But I will keep trying because every LinkedIn post and Tweet aimed to share, network, learn etc. makes the HR profession that much better and stronger. And, it may just change the trajectory of your career and the opportunities available to you. J
Paul: Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to these questions! I find it so apropos that a blog discussion about the benefits of social media is only possible due to our social media connection over two years ago! I am so blessed to know you. One final question. For an HR pro just starting out in their social media space, where do you recommend they begin?
Claire: I recommend creating your Twitter account and following the HR pro who encouraged you to get started. Every time someone in Buffalo creates their Twitter and tags me, I make sure to retweet, or tweet out a shout out and tag my other active HR friends. This snowball effect is so powerful and afterwards, that person is always surprised by the overwhelmingly positive outreach and support. I also make sure to introduce them to #NextChat and #HRSocialHour in order to meet some new pros to follow, learn, and start getting comfortable sharing their voice online. I’ve never gotten the feedback that getting more involved on Twitter and LinkedIn hasn’t been beneficial. I think humans crave connectivity and community. I always feel good after I’ve spent some time on social sharing and learning from my HR network.
*Erik Qualman (2010). “Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business”, p.286, John Wiley & Sons
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