I’ve had this post floating about in my head for a while. It won’t be a long one, or one that says anything earth shattering, but I think it is something that lies at the heart of social media in general and social recruiting in particular. We are just trying to get to dam strategic. We spend too much time planning, dissecting audiences, thinking about message and content to actually get the most out of these mediums. The more we look to training, guidelines, rules and the like, the more social becomes marketing. A controlled message, and dare I say it, a sterile message.Too many rules, too much searching for immediate return and the obvious audience to achieve the most out of these mediums. For the earlier adopters, social media and social recruiting was a bit like the wild west. We were all trying to figure it out, trying different things and taking different approaches. I made a point of always doing the opposite of what I was being told. I tweeted a lot. I retweeted even more. I shared everything. I made noise. I joined twitter chats when people complained about me flooding their streams, suggesting that you shouldn’t tweet more than ten times a day.

I joined Facebook and started getting friend or foe messages because I was sharing  business content in what was seen as a social stream. Because I was still working out what I was going to be doing and had nothing to sell, I connected without objective and without a target audience. I talked about anything and everything, but above all else I was social. That meant talking about all kinds of things apart from work, because I had no work. I was just interested in people, where they were from, what they liked, sports teams, family, the whole picture. I got to know people before I got to know prospects. Mostly I learnt from the conversations I had with the people I met on-line, then I moved these conversations to in person meetings and events, because social made me want to meet the people I was speaking with wherever that might be. That hasn’t changed no matter how the business has grown. I have a lot less time, but I make time to chat, and I get a great return.

The problem now though is that as the medium gets more established, and more companies want to use the channels for business, then what seemed like the wild west scared the life out of them as they imagined horrors and damage to the brand that never really materialized. They felt the fear, so they appointed sheriffs, and worked to cut out what they viewed as irrelevant conversations with what they viewed as irrelevant people. My fear is that when we take out these conversations and these connections, we cut out the pipeline to what is possible.

Work always has objectives and expected outcomes, when these are not achieved there will always be consequences, but we must allow and encourage people to build their own relationships and their own conversation. To be able to talk to people who might not look relevant to the business, and to just chat about things that could be considered irrelevant. Measure the outputs, not the inputs.

The real return for me has come from these connections and these people. They have been the introducers, referrers, connectors and sharers who gave me the help, encouragement and direction to get started. They did this because we became friends, and we became friends because we chatted about anything and everything.  When you work for yourself you can do this,  but what about the people working in a company now? Does this strategic approach of policy and rules allow for irrelevance. And without it, will a return ever really come?