Working Smarter

How One Conference Does Hands-On Social Media Training

To encourage members to embrace social media in their jobs, SHRM created the HIVE — a friendly, expert-staffed hub for education and hands-on training during its annual meeting.

The general view among human resource professionals used to be that social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter were unnecessary distractions in the workplace. Wanting to help its members reconsider social media as tools they could use to enhance the recruiting process and to showcase their company’s overall brand, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) launched the HIVE, a social-media hub for novices to learn from experts, at its Annual Conference & Exposition — the largest human resources conference in the world — in Atlanta in 2012.

The concept for the HIVE grew out of SHRM’s Bloggers Lounge, which debuted at its 2010 annual meeting “as a place for registered bloggers to work and engage with SHRM,” said Curtis Midkiff, SHRM’s director of social engagement. After members voiced interest in learning about social media, the organization decided to bring the bloggers and their social-media savvy to the attendees. The HIVE was created in 2012 as a lounge area, positioned outside the exhibit hall, featuring comfortable chairs and a small stage for live tutorials. Attendees could pull up a stool at the “smart bar,” staffed by registered bloggers and SHRM staff, to get hands-on instruction on how to use social-media tools to attract new talent and build a corporate brand.

“In 2012,” Midkiff said, “approximately 400 to 500 people sent their first tweet from the HIVE. Several of our state chapters have incorporated the HIVE [concept] into their state conferences.”

SHRM brought back the HIVE for its 2013 annual meeting, held June 16-19 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, where it created even more of a buzz among the 15,000 attendees than during its first year. “There was definitely increased awareness and participation in the HIVE,” Midkiff said. “Part of the appeal of the HIVE is the ‘wow’ factor, which is similar to the appeal of social media. It serves as an incubator space for new concepts to augment the conference-learning experience, including speaker topics, non-traditional presentations, and peer-to-peer learning.”

Lisa Block, SHRM’s vice president of meetings and conferences, added: “I think it is very important that the HIVE reflected a different look that was complementary but stood out from everything else we do.” In 2012 and 2013, the HIVE featured both low- and high-tech elements, such as a whiteboard for attendees to share Twitter handles or answer a “Question of the Day,” and large plasma screens displaying Twitter and Instagram feeds. “Overall,” Block said, “it was a great place outside of sessions and the exhibit hall for folks to connect with one another and SHRM staff, to learn, and to network.”

With bloggers helping delegates set up new Twitter and Facebook accounts — sometimes as many as 60 a day — the HIVE has helped extend SHRM’s online reach exponentially. “It helped elevate our social-media credibility and performance,” Block said, “and was a service to both our members and the blogger community. It got people talking and connecting on a new level.”

Sarah Beauchamp

Sarah Beauchamp was formerly assistant editor of Convene.