I like to refer to engaging with today's business social networking environment as the “LIFT” strategy (LinkedIn-Facebook-Twitter) — for both individuals as well as companies.

For individuals, especially during a period when unemployment remains high and job growth sluggish, the LIFT strategy provides something unheard of in previous downturns — an ability to connect with business communities from across the globe.

That's why the recent recession was perhaps different than previous downturns — unemployed people were no longer victims, cut off, waiting outside the walls of the business world. Now, people have the chance to be more proactive, take the initiative, and connect and communicate not only with colleagues from previous employers, but also their professional community, regardless of location. Yes, there has been great pain, and many people are still struggling with unemployment and underemployment. But the LIFT strategy offers incredible opportunities not available before.

The opportunities work both ways, by the way. And, as the economy turns around, it will soon be employers doing the scrambling for talent, not the other way around. Through LIFT, companies, too, have a way to connect with talent out in the world and build relationships with prospects even before they walk in the door for the first interview.

I just saw an interview with Craig Shumard, chief information security officer at Cigna, who sees the advantages of LIFT for that purpose. Speaking to FierceCIO's Caron Carlson, he said that the main beneficiary of Cigna's growing social media strategy is human resources. “They've found LinkedIn to be a really great recruiting vehicle for them to identify candidates,” he said.

Like a large ship, the economy is slowly turning around, and as it does, labor markets are going to tighten up, and available talent growing scarcer. The Monster Employment Index, for example, is up 12 percent over the previous year, and has grown for seven consecutive months.

A highly effective social media approach to human resources and recruiting, in which companies actively participate in professional communities, may be the LIFT needed to get through what will soon be challenging times. Experienced and talented IT professionals, fraud and security professionals, claims adjusters, underwriters, salespeople, and customer service professionals are going to be soaked up by the emerging hyper-competitive economy.

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