What’s Up With The CelebutaHRd Phenomenon?

The Spring HR and Recruiting/Staffing conference season is almost complete (we have the exciting SHRM Annual Conference still upcoming in at the end of June). I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed the 2011 conference season. Most of the sessions I attended at ERE Expo Spring 2011 and at the SHRM Talent & Staffing Management conferences were excellent! The networking and vendor conversations were all great. Both of these conferences are truly different from one another, which makes them both must-go events.

Caveat here… some snarky humor is coming in this paragraph. One of the most important things that came out of this, the 2011  Conference Season, was the true arrival of the “CelebutaHRd”. You know what I may be talking about… those people who are self-appointed, social media climbers, HR vendor types, who have been crowned by the ether of the social media world as “Celebrities in HR”. Or, as I call them, CelebutaHRds. For example, here are these people, many of whom have never been (or very briefly were) in an corporate HR or Recruiting leadership role, and are out in the social media-sphere spouting out edicts on how our profession sucks, how HR is “not at the table”, how this tool or that tool will change our industry, etc. At the recent ERE conference, let me say, that the conference was so full of CelebutaHRds…that I counted no less than half of the main room full of people not paying attention to the sessions, but typing away with Hoot Suite, Tweetdeck, or some other site blaring away in their faces so that they could be consistently be building more inbound marketing and enhance their own sphere of influence to do whatever with. How could they be actively participating in the live discussion?

What is up with this phenomenon? I have been in this game for a long time, and there have always been “celebrities” in our profession. But, with social media… there are people who have built up audiences to listen to their (often excellent, often not) commentary. Much of the commentary is often “snarky” and controversial… some of it is very valuable. But in the end, 95% of the CelebutaHRds are not really HR folks. They are often more “observers” of the function, and a few seem to have a deep-seeded disdain for the function. Where are all of the voices of people who are IN or WORKING in the profession? Why do these people work for vendors trying to sell to the profession and are not IN the profession? Caveat– of course, I am a “vendor” to the profession too… but I will qualify this… I spent a long time running global recruiting and staffing functions and living in the HR world. I learned a lot during that time, and I also made a lot of mistakes that have helped me in my role as an advisor to the profession. I have also spent the bulk of my time in consulting (more than 10 years now), actually doing work with our clients, not “selling” them or building out my own “celebrity”. I wrote this blog article and am posting into the world of social media too — could I be a CelebutaHRd too? Maybe, partially.

Many of the CelebutaHRds are folks that may have had a very small part of their career in the HR or Recruiting profession and now they are “experts” in the world of HR by observing us, not by “living with us”. There are all sorts of people out in the social media sphere now spouting all sorts of observations about the profession without actually really being in it. I actually saw a tweet from one of these folks saying something along the lines of  “why is it so hard to get these HR people to like being sold to?”.

Social media is a huge game-changer for all of business… especially HR. But, most of the voices that are now building influence online (called “influencers”) are not HR people at all. And, the audience in the HR/Recruiting social media world, who are they? Spending time in the HR/Recruiting social media world its really hard to find more HR practioners and true “subject matter experts” than self or social media-appointed “influencers” as actual members of the “audience”. Many cliques have emerged of CelebutaHRds…”influencers” influencing other “influencers”!? So, what I have found is that so many of the early-adopters of social media in HR/Recruiting are the folks who have time. That’s right… they have the time. To be able to consistently monitor the web for content to push out to social media, to be able to effectively research and author content, or simply write rants and opinions takes time… time away from actually “doing” or practicing HR/Recruiting. There are so many “meetups”, “tweetups”, “unconferences”, and even old-school conferences filled with CelebutaHRds and their followers (usually other “influencers”), all talking about how to leverage and actively participate in social media.  Where are the real HR/Recruiting leaders?

Here is my point: HR/Recruiting practitioners must start taking an active role as both voices to be heard and the audience that hears them. Social media is here to stay, and to avoid active participation and  leadership is a huge mistake. Giving up the leadership of both the voices of influence and the audience that shapes how influence is implemented and executed is a huge scary misstep. To the CelebutaHRds… thank you for being early adopters of social media voices and audiences… now its time to help marshal our industry practioners to join you and truly have them do what we have always done… help shape the future of our industry, together.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Jeremy, I’ve read this post twice. I’ll tell you what I tell readers of my blog: there is no real celebrity in HR.

    If I were your coach, I would give you this feedback:

    1. When you question the bona fides of others, you put yourself out there as some sort of arbiter of acceptable HR. Are you willing to shoulder that burden? Do you offer great HR/recruiting to your clients and do you know good HR from bad HR? Why don’t you blog about that? And give us specific and actionable examples of good HR — and who’s doing it — and bad HR. That’s more productive for the HR industry. This? Not helpful. But probably good for traffic since I’ll retweet it. 🙂

    2. If you are really the arbiter of HR, you should speak truth to power and name some names. Convince me that these celebutards a) exist and b) you’re not just creating a straw man to enhance your ego.

    I dunno about this post, Jeremy. I have been on the receiving end of superficial commentary and I’ve learned to disengage because the conversation usually comes from a place of insecurity and immaturity. So I would ask you—how does this post help HR?

    That being said, I’m not taking this personally. I know you’re not talking about me. So who are you talking about? Who’s a celebutard? Who sucks and sits on Tweetdeck and doesn’t contribute to the industry?

  2. This is interesting to me for so many reasons. I was there, at ERE, with Hootsuite fired up, tweeting away. I was there as a vendor (2x) and as a practitioner.
    Do I count myself as a CelebutaHRd? With about 3K Twitter followers, and sporadic blog posts, I doubt it. Call me a groupie.

    I think, Jeremy, you’re referring to the “cool kids” who sat in the back tweeting and blogging and planning meetups and hookups. They (we?) can be kind of disruptive with their inside jokes and Foursquare check-ins. Definitely a new phenomenon at recruiting conferences. They are not all practitioners.

    But that’s ok. We need fresh blood. Recruiting is changing. Check out Matt Jeffery’s ERE article today. He was conference chair, btw. New skills, such as PR, marketing, attracting those inbound links will soon be the lifeblood of recruiting.

    I know you know this Jeremy. Not too long ago, I sat across from you, passionate about Boolean search and niche job boards. I probably sounded crazy. You hired me onto your team anyway.

    To my CelebutaHRd buddies: Don’t be so insular. Don’t be too salesy. Continue to influence. Share your wild and crazy ideas, but do your homework. Don’t be like the “personal branding” blogger who recently proclaimed that recruiters who use job boards are lazy. This dude not only insulted an entire profession and industry, he did a disservice to jobseekers. Grrr. He didn’t do his homework. He proved he knew nothing about recruiting, and proceeded to embarrass himself.

    Oh, and be nice. Some of your public snark is hurtful to speakers. Not cool. Private feedback is the better way to go.

    To my practitioner peeps (who probably are too busy to read this blog, much less the comments), don’t be scurred. CelebutarHRds are pretty accepting and nice people when you get to know them. The jokes aren’t really all that funny, once you learn what a hashtag is. Join the fun. Have a cocktail. Floss your Klout score. Write a guest blog. It won’t hurt.

    To Jeremy – CelebutaHRds isn’t nice.

    To Laurie – I think Jeremy struck a nerve. He has also pointed out a critical fissure between influencers and practitioners, old school vs. new school. That’s helpful.

  3. I’m not sure Jeremy struck a nerve. You know who strikes a nerve with me? Herman Cain. Newt Gingrich. Anthony Weiner.

    I just wonder why Jeremy wrote what he wrote. If I think about the very back row at ERE. It was me, Lance Haun, Chris Hoyt, Doug Berg, and Eric Winegardner. Jennifer McClure sat near us. So did you.

    What! A! Bunch! Of! Jerks! Who! Don’t! Know! Anything!

    Awful people who are celbutards. I mean, truly, what a bunch of chumps.

    I left HR because I didn’t enjoy some of the weird, passive-aggressive behavior of traditional HR leaders. This post struck me as a little passive-aggressive and (from what I know) Jeremy is probably better than that.

  4. Carmen, thanks for you thoughtful comment and response. Yes… I agree with 100% of your comments. Yes, I think you are one of the “cool kids”– always have, always will Carmen. And, (yes, it was LONG ago), you did sit across from me, and I am proud that I met you then and that I know you now. You are an expert and maybe a groupie, and a celebrity in my book (even without the boolean search!), but its all good.

    Now, to add to your comments… the purpose of this post was really to rattle the world of HR and to get the profession to recognize that they need to engage into social media in a much bigger way so that the voices of “influence” don’t only come from professional “influencers” (and yes you, and I could be one of those folks), but from themselves. You are so right about the critical fissure. But, we need both… we need professional “influencers”, and practitioners to create a much more powerful voice. And, the audience that those voices reach also must be more diverse in my mind. Yes, we all have thousands of followers… which is great… but the diversity of followers is what I question… early adopters, other professional “influencers”, social media pros, recruiters, and many vendors make up large swaths of the social media environment, and not enough true leaders and practitioners that are out there listening. Sure there are HR leaders, directors, and VPs in the audience today… but I dont think there are enough to really call the audience as diverse or balanced… YET.

    So, my apologies for the word CelebutaHRd, it was meant to be funny… I see the word celebutard or celebutant often, and I tried to make a play on words… oh well… sadly it may have come off as less than nice. I did take ownership of the word, and even accepted it for myself if so warranted. The comments about conferences and people blogging, tweeting, facebooking, or whatever was actually not pointed any anyone specifically, though I wanted to comment that just a year ago, there were far fewer people staring into their laptop screens during conferences… and this year there were exponentially more.

    The points you made in your comments again were very appropriate, and 100% spot on. You are a celeb of whatever ilk you want to be called Carmen… and you ARE one of the “cool kids”.

  5. Thanks for comments Laurie.
    I dont know you, never met you. It seems as if you took my post personally… hard to do if you dont know or have a relationship with me, and vice versa… But, I welcome a personal introduction since relationships on blog posts are not as good as the real thing. There was no one individually I was “calling out”… I was making an observation (which I am allowed to do). (PS: at ERE, it was far more than the “back row”… the observation had to do with the number of people at their laptop, not the back row specifically, or any one person or persons– it was the concept of all those “cool kids” as Carmen stated).

    The post was not meant to poke anyone individually or personally… it was meant to get the HR practitioners out there (much of our audience), to get more involved and be a voice in the HR social media game and be more of an active audience. Carmen’s response to the post was right-on… she got the gist of my commentary. The purpose of the post was simply to say to the HR profession… “dont leave it to us “professional influencer types” (me included) to shape your message and your voice in social media…. get with it and engage in social media… WITH us so we can shape the voice and the audience together.” Listen, as a consultant, I dont have too much time to spend curating my social media footprint, but I do it because its part of my job. HR practitioners and leaders have less time, but shaping and engaging in social media SHOULD be part of theirs too. That was the point of the post.

    Not a little passive aggressive at all… it was purely aggressive: it was meant to say to HR leaders– wake up, and join the dialogue. Sorry it touched a nerve… perhaps Ill see you in Las Vegas and you can give me more coaching… I would value it. Thanks again for engaging.

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