In Praise of the Twitter Soft Sell

Whether you’re a big brand or an individual, shareable content drives engagement across social media. If you want to attract top talent, you have to create relevant content that is worthy of their attention.

At the outset of my Twitter friendship with @RossSheingold, a brand channel management wizard, I had no intention of hiring him away from Big Fuel to work at my considerably smaller but fast-growing shop, Laundry Service. As a matter of fact, he initially reached out to me on Twitter after seeing a video we made of a 10,000-square-foot QR code that we skydived over so that viewers could “Scan To Win.”

Over the next year, Ross and I exchanged tips on selling Apple products on Craigslist to buying Facebook’s stock. Ross and I were providing value to each other — the equivalent of, say, a retail fashion brand offering discounts on its products or seasonal style tips for fans. Whether you’re an agency, enterprise business, executive or consumer-facing brand, you have to ask: How are my tweets helping my followers?

It’s safe to say that if our tweets aren’t improving the lives of our followers, they aren’t valuable. Gift cards, discounts, tips on selling your old iPhone all provide hard value. Curating industry-related content for our followers saves them time (and possibly money). But creating a video that makes our followers laugh and puts them in a good mood can also be valuable.

Of course, not all tweets can be superficially rewarding, and it’s not practical to think that all posts will receive favorites and retweets. Ross and I frequently debated the social media space. We did see eye-to-eye on one important thing, though: an anthropological approach to BCM, with companies developing an emotional connection to fans through one-to-one communications. Even though Ross and I didn’t agree on everything, we got to know each other as more than the brands we each represented in our general tweets. In order for a Twitter account to be truly successful over the long term, it has to form genuine relationships with its followers. Only then will ROI come into the picture.

Without realizing it, Ross and I were applying our BCM practices to our personal Twitter accounts. I wasn’t recruiting him; he wasn’t trying to get a job. The primary objective wasn’t to sell. And that’s exactly how a brand needs to approach its strategy on social media — because by creating content, providing value and developing an emotional connection you are selling yourself. Brands have to want to chat with its followers. When the time came to discuss Ross’s next step in his career — “the big sell” — it actually came up as an afterthought during a phone call about the social implications of the Nike FuelBand. This was another example of content causing engagement, as Ross told me he was interviewing at new agencies. (Ross Sheingold recently became the director of strategy at Laundry Service. Naturally, I welcomed Ross to the team via Twitter. We ended up talking about Instagram’s new geographic features.)

When it comes to Twitter recruiting, your account needs to implement the tactics of the most social brands. In this digital world, with so much driven by social media, using Twitter to develop genuine relationships is the best way to attract top talent, especially if they’re working for your biggest competitor. Because when your values and interests align, there’s a good chance your company and their career will, too.

Jason Stein is the founder of Laundry Service, a social media agency. Tweet him @jasonwstein.

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