I wrote a post a few years ago about digital sharecropping – the practice of creating content on a platform you don’t own. I was inspired to write it because of a phrase I’d heard which resonated with me as much then as it does today: “Never build on rented land.” As recruitment marketing becomes more and more important for both client and candidate acquisition, I’m reminded again that digital sharecropping is still a bad idea. Sharecropping, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is a tenant farming practice that developed in the southern United States during the Civil War / Reconstruction era. It was also practiced in other parts of the world. Farmers who had no land of their own used some of the land that belonged to a wealthy landowner in exchange for a portion of the crops produced on that land. The practice was often exploitative, with sharecroppers indebted on a year-over-year basis with no real ability to ever earn enough money to purchase their own land (or even negotiate more favorable terms with the landowner). Landowners benefited from the arrangement because their fields did not lie fallow, they were not paying anyone to farm the land, and they were keeping a portion of the harvest for themselves.
It’s easy for small businesses to fall into a similar trap. When you’re first starting out, cash flow can make it difficult to spend money creating assets that you own, like a website or blog. Time challenges are another hindrance – it takes a lot of time to blog or create lead-capture pieces. Looking around, there are many free services that are practically the same thing – especially LinkedIn and Facebook (platforms I use regularly, both personally and professionally). When it comes time to do some recruitment marketing, it’s very tempting to produce your content on one of these platforms. After all, they can be used for free and you can easily find candidates and clients in both places. You don’t have to figure out how to host the site (or who is going to do it), and reach your audience, or worry about the latest SEO best practices. The problem is that you’re working for free, giving up control of your content to a third-party, and not truly reaping the benefit of your own hard work.
Let’s use LinkedIn as an example. Recruiters spend a lot of their day using this tool, building up connections, posting jobs, searching for candidates, and more. It’s really easy to publish articles on LinkedIn, and a fair amount of people will see your articles in their news feeds without much effort on your part. This is appealing in recruitment marketing. BUT – LinkedIn controls who sees your content. If they change their algorithm, your post views could rapidly decline. They can block you from using the site altogether for violating any of their terms of service. Furthermore, you’re not creating a funnel of your own – the only way you can interact with your audience is on LinkedIn, and only on terms defined by LinkedIn. You’re driving traffic and results for LinkedIn instead of your own business.
The same is true on Facebook – look at the recent changes to their company pages. We’ve seen a dramatic decline in reach on ours – posts that used to reach several hundred people now routinely only get to a few dozen. What if they remove company pages altogether? How will you rebuild your audience somewhere else when your only means of contacting them has been discontinued?
So what’s the solution? Build and host your own assets, and be savvy in how you use social media. There really aren’t any shortcuts. At a minimum:
- Build your own website that includes a self-hosted blog. Publish your articles there.
- Build your own recruitment marketing email list. Allow people to subscribe to your blog by email. This will help you convert site visitors to marketing leads, with a relationship that YOU control. We lost all of our blog subscribers when our distribution tool was purchased and the new owner discontinued it. It took more than a year to recover.
- Use social media to amplify your online presence and drive traffic back to your own site. Some ideas:
- Write summaries of your articles on LinkedIn, with a “read more” link that drives readers back to your site for the full article.
- Repurpose your blogs into Tweets that include a link to the full post on your own site.
- Create images for your blogs and post the images on Facebook, with a link to your own site. You can do this with Instagram as well, but it’s a bit trickier.
- Invest in a scheduling tool (I use the free version of HootSuite) to easily post social content across multiple social media accounts.
I’m a huge fan of social media and the ways it can support your recruitment marketing efforts. I’m not a fan of giving up control of the content you work so hard to create. Don’t use your content to make money for LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other third-party platform.