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Inc. Technology Covers Lateral Link's Marketing Strategy

Tech Talk: Recruiter Markets via Social Networks

By Elizabeth Wasserman

An executive search firm for lawyers finds that it can use viral marketing over social networks to sign up attorneys, make contact with legal employers, and get referrals.

Lateral Link is a New York City-based executive search firm in the legal market. The business, which has about 30 employees and contractors, has increasingly used social networks to build up its clientele, match attorneys with firms that are hiring, and make valuable business contacts, Michael Allen, a principal of Lateral Link, tells IncTechnology.com.

Elizabeth Wasserman: What does Lateral Link do?

Michael Allen: We’re an executive search firm in the legal market. A lot of our communication is done over the Internet. We’re a full-service firm with our search consultants dealing with candidates and employer clients, and we have a job board apparatus that’s open to our candidates as well. Unlike other search firms, where you have headhunters calling candidates and updating candidates’ files and information on their internal tracking software, we have candidates approach us and sign up for our site to access our services. So, if I’m a lawyer, instead of taking a cold call from recruiters, it’s a little different process of matching and vetting. But it’s a closed network and employer clients cannot access a candidate’s information through the site, and employers only review formal candidate submissions after a candidate gives express prior permission.

Wasserman: What interesting ways have you found to use social networks?

Allen: One of the more interesting ways we use social networks is that we’ve built our own Facebook application, called Lateral Link. The point of it is twofold. Contacts or Facebook friends can “gift” other Facebook friends $5 Starbucks cards. Facebook users will typically gift virtual flowers or an Obama pin and Facebook users put it on page. This enables you to give a virtual Starbucks card to your friends and we will send a real $5 gift card once the user registers for Lateral Link. I can send a free cup of coffee to my friends very easily. I just go down my list of Facebook friends. I send the application to those friends I think might be interested. If those friends download the application and register we give them a free Starbucks gift card. That’s the marketing aspect.

There’s another aspect. When the user downloads the application, they can choose to receive job alerts when there are certain job matches to a candidate’s credentials. They can get these alerts through e-mail but also if they choose through Facebook alerts.

Wasserman: What are the benefits of using social networks?

Allen: It’s using others to market Lateral Link through their viral connection in an easy way. I can ask one of my friends from law school to call a friend. But for her to take the next step of calling her friends or e-mailing her friends, it’s a lot more effort. Using a social network, she can quickly check off names that are already part of her Facebook network. That enables her to really spread the market for Lateral Link through Facebook. If she could reach out to a broader range of people through Facebook than phone or e-mail, it’s going to be received more favorably. It’s still personal referral from one friend to another. It’s a stamp of approval and grows exponentially through Facebook viral networks.

Wasserman: Is marketing the only way you use social networks?

Allen: No, we also use it for business development. LinkedIn more or less converts a cold call into a warmer call. There are all different ways, different kinds of accounts. I have a more preferred corporate account and people are able to send me in-mails. If you don’t have the corporate account, you can be introduced through contacts. On the employer side, we still need to source accounts. Say we want a contact at Goldman Sachs or Microsoft or another Fortune 100 company and we don’t have a direct contact. We can use LinkedIn to get a contact. Imagine if you’re in the HR department at a big company and you get a cold call. You’re more likely to get a better reception if you utilize a common connection to make that call a warm call.

Wasserman: What have the results been?

Allen: It’s been a mixed bag. You can’t really rely on only one way. You have to try a variety of ways to make contacts. We’d be at a disadvantage if we weren’t using LinkedIn to get these introductions. It doesn’t always work. I think we get a better response from LinkedIn utilizing common connections to get a stamp of approval to meet the contact you want to meet.

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