How can social media be used to generate talent pools, communicate with potential candidates and promote a recruiter’s brand?
Today almost 2.5 billion people around the world use social media, according to the statistics portal Statista. That figure is set to climb to more than three billion by 2021. Social media’s vast reach and user-friendly interfaces – not to mention its huge popularity – explain why it has become a central component of most recruiters’ business strategies. Recent research by The Global Recruiter found that 79% of recruiters were using the technology. But while we are using it, certainly, it is not always the case that we are using it well. There is much more that we could do with social media to generate talent pools, communicate with potential candidates and promote our brands.
The professional networking site LinkedIn has firmly established itself as the first point of call for recruiters looking to generate talent and it’s easy to see why. Effectively a gigantic database of the world’s most digitally-savvy job hunters, particularly in skilled professions, LinkedIn is the official showcase of people who are serious about their careers and broadly open to new opportunities. Hence they are usually happy to connect with contacts who may be of use to them and will willingly share career histories, achievements and personal endorsements with new connections.
Yet while LinkedIn is a boon to recruiters in many respects, the risk is that they become so focused on it that they neglect the many other platforms that exist and fail to appreciate its downsides. In the world of social media, LinkedIn is comparatively small fry compared with Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and even Twitter. As of January 2017, Facebook had over 1.8 billion active users worldwide, according to Statista. WhatsApp had a billion users, Instagram 600 million users and Twitter 317 million users. In contrast, LinkedIn’s users stood at 106 million. So by focusing purely on LinkedIn, recruiters are effectively all fishing in the same, relatively constrained pool, and missing out on a wider talent pool that consists of hundreds of millions of people.
Another challenge that recruiters face with LinkedIn is getting up-to-date information. Members don’t necessarily log in to it as much as they do to their other social media sites and it is not necessarily an important business tool to them in the same way it is to recruiters. Unsurprisingly, top talent may be hidden with out-of-date profiles or missing key skills and phrasing that exempt them from searchers.
As a content marketer in the industry I’ve seen much of this frustration in career advice blogs, which – while informative – have the subtext of urging readers to use and update their profiles on LinkedIn. Yet a relationship-building strategy is inevitably going to be flawed if it is based on asking people to do something that is predominantly for the recruiter’s benefit. The jokes that flew around after LinkedIn was hacked for its users’ login details in 2012 are evidence of the cynicism that already exists. Some users jested that they hoped the hackers would go into their accounts and delete invitations to connect with recruiters.
When it comes to competing in today’s super-busy online world, recruiters can’t just stick with one social media channel and expect to be there at the moments that matter. What that means in a recruitment context is that recruiters must do more than publish a long series of job ads – they need to be posting useful, relevant advice and sharing content published by either themselves or third parties. In fact, an 80:20 split between content and job ads is a good rule of thumb for recruiters who don’t want their feeds to get hidden.
Recruiters need to lessen their reliance on LinkedIn and find different ways to interact with potential talent at different times, ideally through the social media platforms that people log into on a daily basis. Facebook is an obvious choice, but WhatsApp can also work well for recruiters - for example, a WhatsApp group can be used to advertise contract or temporary positions to individuals who agree to join it. In Asia, the Line and WeChat apps have similar potential.
Another way in which recruiters can be inventive is by targeting capabilities, rather than people. Facebook and Twitter can be good routes for reaching individuals in other countries or regions, particularly if a recruiter is looking to source speakers of other languages. With Twitter for example, it’s not unusual for people to use it for work purposes and, even if they don’t, they will often include their job title or area of work in their biography. Once Morgan McKinley held a webinar on the theme of women in leadership and we used Twitter biographies to discover that a number of the women who attended the seminar worked in risk and compliance. As a result, we knew that they might be interested in further webinars that we were holding on risk management and could personalise the invitations that we sent out to them.
The most successful social media compaigns are not built on brands broadcasting a steady stream of corporate messages. Instead, they convey the human touch – the feeling that there is a real person and not a ‘bot’ managing the account. They engage in two-way conversation and there is listening and learning on both sides.
It is also important to remember that social media is – by definition – social. When you hold a conversation on social media, you are not just talking to the talent you want to reach today, but the talent you may want to reach in future or the friends and family members of that talent. So there needs to be an element of contributing to the greater good in any social media strategy – as a recruiter, how can you help people to improve themselves or take that important next step in their career? At Morgan McKinley, we have a Career Ally ethos – effectively we are saying that we may not be able to help you today, or at all if we don’t recruit for your area of work, but you are still welcome to use our tools, articles and attend our webinars.
You will know that your social media strategy is successful when it extends your network of advocates. The channel can be a particularly powerful way to gain referrals, for example it is not unusual for someone to ask the name of a good recruiter on LinkedIn, which will then lead to their contacts making recommendations that tag particular individuals and companies.
Dara Boland in Morgan McKinley— RefConfHolland (@RefConf) August 15, 2016
As a very human channel, social media is well suited to showcasing the authentic values of an organisation and allowing people to get to know it outside the context of a business transaction. This can help recruiters to attract the best talent, particularly among the younger generation. According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than half (52%) of millennials would deliberately seek out employers whose corporate social responsibility values match their own.
Think of the social media celebrities who are prominent in the worlds of fashion, fitness or food. You may not have purchased any of Joe Wicks’ cookbooks, or his fitness programmes, but his social media profile means that you can form an opinion if whether you like him or not, and whether you think he knows what he’s talking about.
With social media, you can give people the opportunity to ask questions and by answering them, your brand becomes more accessible. You can also use the channel to show the many different faces of the company – whether that’s corporate news, interesting research or employees’ exciting achievements.
It is worthwhile, remembering however, that while social media can be a great way for a recruiter to build their brand, it can also be a way for them to damage it. It’s not just candidates who need to think about the information and the pictures that they post online; staff who work for recruitment firms should practise as they preach and be equally as careful about how they come across on social media. Avoid using social media channels as a means to publically complain about candidate no-shows or not answering the telephone.
The arrival of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation in 2018 will force recruiters to change the way they operate – particularly any recruiters who still rely on spam emailing. Going forward, individuals will have the right to request that their personal data is deleted or removed from organisations’ databases and the right to object to direct marketing.
With email becoming a more challenging channel to use, search engine optimisation (SEO) of website content will be key draw for recruitment companies in attracting talent and potential talent – for example, tips on CV preparation or interview techniques – to attract active jobseekers. Social media, meanwhile, is the most obvious way for them to engage with passive jobseekers.
Technology is transforming the world and shaking up the dynamics of a host of markets, including recruitment. Anyone who doubts the urgency with which recruiters must respond should look at the example of the UK estate agency business. Research by accountancy firm Moore Stephens in July found that up to 5,000 high street estate agents were showing signs of ‘financial distress’ as they struggle to compete with low-cost, fixed-fee online agents. Fortunately, social media is an important tool that recruiters can use to ride the wave of disruption, rather than be drowned by it.