Should You Be Using Social Media?
By Tony Restell
- What are the upsides of engaging via social media?
- How much time commitment is needed?
- How long will it be before we start to see results?
These are some of the most common questions I'm asked by contacts trying to decide whether to invest in their social media presence. The following data compiled by the University of San Francisco helps illustrate why these are not straightforward questions to answer. The results are intended for the broader business market, but I'll endeavour to present them in the context of their use for recruiting (a.k.a. "social recruiting")
How much time commitment is needed?
This is one of the most important messages to internalise. 59% of marketers spend 6 hours or more per week engaged in social media activities - with many spending considerably longer. My own experiences suggest that if you want to have a meaningful presence across multiple social media platforms then 2 hours per day is the kind of time investment needed.
Anything less than that and you will either not be engaging with people (only broadcasting) and / or you'll not be maintaining a consistent presence. Both are key factors in achieving social success. If you can't make a time commitment of 2 hours per day, you're better off steering clear of social media or confining yourself to only one platform. Do it well or not at all!
This is the context in which you should view anyone claiming that social media is a "free source" of candidates. It's only free if your time is worthless and there's nothing productive you could be doing for the business instead.
What are the upsides of engaging via social media?
This is the most interesting element of the data presented below. Most commentary around recruiters' investment in their social media presence has focused on the ("free") candidate hires that may result. But there are other benefits too:
- Increased exposure for your recruiting brand. Hard to put a value on, but over time this will add to the potential sale value of your recruitment business; be a differentiator that keeps you in business; or for an employer, make yours a business that candidates instinctively think of joining next time they are considering their career options.
- Additional website traffic. For some recruitment websites, social media activity is the single biggest source of web traffic to the site. This is particularly true where the website offers valuable content in addition to job adverts. Get your social media activity right and 5,000+ web visitors a month resulting from this is perfectly achievable. Bought via pay-per-click advertising instead, you could easily spend $1,000+ per month achieving the same results (and considerably more if the candidates you target are of the harder-to-reach / more valuable variety)
- A valuable source of market intelligence. What if you learnt through social media that morale in your organisation was at rock bottom? Or that a competitor was about to initiate a round of redundancies? Or that poor salary was what was consistently causing you to lose out on prospective hires? Do you think there would be value to your business in knowing these things and having the chance to act on them? You bet!
- Lead generation for your business. Job board clients have said it for years - advertise on the right boards and sometimes the client enquiries that are generated can pay for the advertising irrespective of whether any hires are actually made. The same is true of social media. Whilst it will undoubtedly be a source of candidates over time, what if it brings you a consistent trickle of client enquiries too?
- Growth of a loyal fan base of advocates. People like to share the content of those who've provided valuable content to them in the past or who've shared something of theirs before. If you had an army of advocates out there spreading the word about everything you published, you'd be in a much stronger position than a business having to pay to advertise every time they wanted to achieve the same reach, right?
- Improved search rankings. Studies on the subject have shown that social media shares of content help to elevate that content's position in the search engine rankings. If your business appeared more regularly on page 1 of Google, would it be a fundamentally more valuable business? Sure it would.
- Formation of business partnerships. What if your business came to partner with others looking for similar talent but in different geographies or verticals. Could there be some candidate referrals or business leads that might flow from such relationships? Maybe not enough for your business to invest in proactively going out to find such partnership opportunities. But what if through social media they were presented to you on a plate?
- A reduction in recruitment marketing expense or an increase in average quality of hire. Increasing your presence on social media will without doubt bring you a greater stream of prospective candidates. You may continue to engage in all the same recruitment marketing activities as before, in which case the average quality of your hires is likely to increase. Or you may use this candidate flow to cut back on some of your other sources of candidates, say newspaper adverts or roadshows.
- An increase in sales. Depending on the nature of your business, you may even see sales flow through directly from your social media activities. Probably the least likely of all the upsides for a recruiter - and one it would be hard to have attributed to the efforts of the recruitment marketing team. But nonetheless, for some companies it'll be a consideration.
How long will it be before we start to see results?
What should hopefully be apparent is that the gains from many of the above take time to filter through. Do you see that return in the same month that you've invested the time in social media to get you there? No - it'll feed through long after your social media efforts started to be ramped up.
Even if we focus just on just candidate attraction, typically you need to give in order to get. You need to invest time in following people, engaging with them, sharing content and advice that will help candidates. Only once you've done these things for some time, befriended people and established yourself as a trusted contact, only then can you expect to see a meaningful candidate flow resulting from your social media investment.
If I were starting from scratch with a recruitment firm or an employer brand, I'd look to have a time window of 3-6 months with 2 hours invested per day to get to this point. Even once you've reached this point, you have to continue giving more often than you seek to gain from your social media relationships.
That's why so many companies have had disappointing results from social media. They've either not invested the time to build relationships before trying to sell; or having built a following, they've burnt those relationships by leaning on the channel too heavily with their sales pitches thereafter.
If you're a recruiter wanting to incorporate social recruiting into your hiring strategy, these are the pitfalls you need to avoid - and therefore the investment of time that you need to make.
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