Social media is a useful recruitment tool - as part of an overall campaign

With HR professionals facing reduced budgets, recruiting the best possible talent is more important than ever. Prospective employees are engaging more with social media, which means that HR needs treat these new channels as part of their overall recruitment campaign.

However, Penna Barkers’ recent Social Media Audit found that one in seven organisations believe that social media is a ‘dangerous’ recruitment tool. This awkwardness around recruiting via social media is resulting in many organisations falling at the first hurdle.

Many organisations simply worry about how many other employers have a Facebook page (approximately 44%) or whether they should join the 30% that Tweet. There’s a tendency for organisations to rush into the social media space before a decision has been made on what resources are necessary to maintain such a presence; a ‘community management plan’ to deal with visitors, who may wish to post comments or start a discussion, should be factored in tool.

A key principle in engaging successfully with these relatively new channels is to approach them in much the same way as traditional platforms. Employers should go back to the drawing board and consider who they want to target, what their target audience currently thinks about the organisation, what social media channels this audience are actively participating in and what the organisation would like prospective employees to do in response to the social media efforts. Firm objectives and clear messages need to be clearly articulated and understood.

Starting and managing two-way dialogue is often seen as the end goal of many social media strategies. Organisations often believe that just because it is possible to have a two-way conversation, they should. And that’s simply not true. Not only is two-way conversation the most resource intensive and least easy to control for those organisations finding their feet with social media, it is not necessarily the case that candidates themselves are receptive to a two-way exchange with a potential employer prior to the official recruitment process.

The results of the Social Media Audit showed that there are three main catalysts for online conversation: when an audience wants to complain; when they are asked to participate directly (for example, ‘ask us a question’); and when giving feedback. The latter is especially used for new product development and is of less relevance in recruitment where the ‘product’, that is, a job, is immutable; and the first is hardly something to be encouraged!

Organisations can use social media in a way that is effective, even when not strictly social. Its wide reach and ability to communicate with audiences means that one-way advertising on social channels has become a highly efficient way for many of employers to direct traffic to events or to recruitment websites. The research also highlights a large number of blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages being used to deliver what is in effect a broadcast message – delivered one way to a receiving, not participating, audience.

Building and maintaining an online presence through social media is a great way to ensure a wider reach, it allows organisations to occupy more online real estate and ensures potential candidates can find information in places other than the corporate website. However, managing this digital footprint as an employer is important. 

The research also found that although 90% of organisations felt that managing their employer reputation online is important, only 38% believe they are able to do this well. Although controversy often reigns when discussing whether companies should look at candidate details online, there are no such qualms when it comes to candidates looking up companies and indeed individual recruiters via social media. A number of recruiters have been surprised by interviewees asking them how their holidays were, but they shouldn’t be.

Yet many organisations do not have a consistent approach to managing their presence across social media.  Some may have legacy sites, groups and pages that are inconsistent not only with the current brand, but with each other – leaving candidates confused and unsure as to which is the correct story.

As with all communications, social media requires an understanding of the audience, the channels and the desired objectives. But unlike other platforms which can be built once and sent live, the ‘always on’ nature of social media requires recruiters to also consider the resource needed to maintain a presence.

If all of these considerations are factored in up front, social media offers a whole raft of benefits to recruiters, but approach it in a piece-meal fashion and it’s likely that messages will become unclear and target audiences disengaged.

Phill Lane is head of planning, Penna Barkers