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Understanding the Available Social Media Recruiting Strategies — Leveraging Your Employees’ Time (Part 1 of 2)

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Nov 16, 2009, 5:16 am ET

Picture 2Social media presents progressive organizations with a plethora of recruiting-centric opportunities. Every day, new ways to directly source talent, support the engagement of people with the organization, market employment opportunities, and influence the employer brand arise.

The sheer volume of potential directions to follow is confusing, daunting, and at times, just plain overwhelming. While some organizations have stuck a stick in the sand and are pushing forward with a defined approach, the majority of efforts currently underway will fail for one key reason: they rely solely upon a small handful of individuals attempting to maintain visibility in a sea of content growing exponentially.

Relying upon a social media coordinator, online brand ambassador, or a team of recruiters dedicating only a portion of their desk time to social media initiatives dooms such efforts to stumble and underperform. Such efforts produce corporate fan pages on Facebook, where the only comments ever visible are sanitized “PR” posts and boring job announcements! (I actually viewed one such page last week where the only wall post visible was a notice from the organization’s legal department advising visitors to the page not to post negative comments!)

Delivering an engaging, interactive, authentic, and personalized experience requires a scale of participation that the limited resources of the recruiting function simply cannot provide. The alternate approach, the one most likely to drive success, is an employee-centric approach that relies on your employees to build and manage relationships and the recruiting resources to coordinate, influence, and support their efforts.

The 12 Most Common Social Media Strategies

Most recruiting managers fail to think strategically when they develop their approach to social media recruiting. In fact, if you want to test someone’s depth of knowledge of social media recruiting, simply ask them to list the range of strategies that corporations can pursue. Most recruiting leaders will respond that they either don’t know enough about social media yet, or ramble off how they are adapting historical marketing efforts for delivery via social media.

As a corporate advisor, I’ve seen what a lot of organizations are up to, including initiatives already live and others currently in development. To help frame the discussion about this topic moving forward, I’d like to categorize the efforts into the following strategy categories:

Limited Scope Strategies

  • The “laissez-faire” social media recruiting strategy — a do-nothing strategy where efforts are not managed or coordinated.
  • Reference-checking strategy — a strategy that employs social media solely as another source of information during the reference-checking process.
  • Post-and-pray strategy — a strategy that leverages social media as nothing more than another channel to broadcast employment opportunities to.
  • Employer brand management strategy — a strategy that focuses on using social media to evaluate and influence the perception of the organization as an employer by distributing content about the employee experience via social media channels.
  • Hybrid strategy — A hybrid strategy recognizes a need for different approaches to drive different types of activity supporting unique aspects of the organization. It uses components of nearly all strategies presented here.

Broad Scope Strategies

  • Centralized social media recruiting strategy — a common strategy that employs recruiters as the sole agents of the organization and relies upon them to carry out full-spectrum activities including direct sourcing, relationship recruiting, employment marketing, employer brand assessment, and employer branding.
  • The employee-centric recruiting strategy — a powerful “full spectrum” approach that exponentially increases the visibility of the organization in social media by using all employees as the agents under the direction/influence of the recruiting organization. (This strategy is the primary focus of this article.)
  • The “talent community” strategy — a variation of the employee-centric strategy that has a longer-term focus on building communities and relationships based primarily on professional learning.
  • Outsourced management strategy — A strategy that employs a third party such as a marketing or PR firm to manage a significant portion of the effort.

Organizational Strategies

  • Banned social media strategy — a strategy that seeks to minimize the impact of social media for better or worse by blocking or severely restricting access to social media throughout the organization.
  • Social media committee strategy — this strategy recognizes that where social media is concerned, the needs and wants of numerous organizational stakeholders may cross and seeks to coordinate efforts and more effectively marshal resources.
  • Distributed social media strategy — a strategy that provides organizational guidelines on social media usage, but that permits units/groups within the organization to plan, develop, and execute initiatives without oversight.

Organize Your Employee “Army”

Few would argue against the fact that implementing a program to manage and increase the organization’s presence on social media is a hot topic among managers and executives. While the most advanced work is being done in customer service functions, marketing, product development, and HR leaders nearly everywhere are at the very least exploring the possibility of using this new channel of communication.

The majority of early efforts by recruiting leaders struggled to produce meaningful and measurable results, but from experimentation comes innovation and learning.

The primary driver of failure among early adopters wasn’t lack of interest or individual effort, but rather lack of scale!

Social media erupted as tools to facilitate interaction, and interaction in too many aspects of one’s life can be time consuming and exhausting! Fortunately there is an answer to this problem: don’t do it alone. Use employees to build relationships, and then take advantage of those relationships! It’s the same principle that makes employee referrals the No. 1 source of hire at most firms. Both programs rely on harnessing or leveraging other people’s time (OPT) to contribute to recruiting results. Because the ratio of employees to recruiters is extremely lopsided, using employee’s time results in a quantum increase in network size, visibility, and professional relationships that can drive future recruiting successes.

The added benefit: employees are better able to communicate in ways and on topics more valuable to their peers, which makes it easier for them to build successful relationships.

Microsoft’s industry-leading long-term community-building approach, which relies heavily on employee efforts (highlighting employee blogs, displaying ERP advertisement on employee profile pages, etc.), illustrates the direction that recruiting managers should take. Large firms like Google already rely heavily on their employees, and smaller firms have resorted to this employee-centric or employee-centered approach because they simply don’t have a significant recruiting team.

Before you waste a lot of time and effort and become frustrated, shift your recruiters away from doing most social networking and instead toward orchestrating and managing it. Organize your employees, managers, corporate alumni, and even your vendors to become an “army” of social media brand builders and recruiters.

A Close Tie-in With the Employee Referral Program Is Required

The foundation of any social media effort that is employee-centric must be a seamless tie-in with a world-class employee referral program. Without a direct connection, the majority of great prospects your employees identify will never make it into your recruiting process. Nothing frustrates your employees more than putting maximum effort into identifying a superstar who is interested in your firm and then finding out that the organization that asked for their help failed to follow up.

The handoff from employee to recruiter must be smooth and seamless so that the candidate isn’t “dropped” or doesn’t feel like they have been transferred from a caring and highly interested employee to an uncaring recruiter or recruiting process from hell.

To ensure that the back office is ready for your social media effort, audit your referral process for major flaws and ensure that social network referrals are processed in a way consistent with social network users’ expectations. The employee referral process should also be modified to allow employees to provide online profiles in lieu of traditional resumes when they’re not available. You might also add a feature that offers a small reward to network contacts who refer highly desirable names to one of your employees who are part of their network.

Up next week, I’ll discuss why recruiters cannot and should not be on the front lines of your social media army, and offer some tips on how to engage employees in your effort.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Howard Adamsky

    I love to read John’s stuff. It is in my opinion, usually very good, usually correct and usually eye opening. My problem is not with John content but the business community as a whole in this country. (Forgive me for being a jingoist but I am most concerned with this country.)

    How many company’s will read, consider, learn and implement even 20% of his thoughts and ideas. Whats your guess? 10%? 15%? How many adopters will then follow through, develop metrics, make adjustments and create new best of breed practices? Whats your guess? 10%, at very very very best is my guess. Very sad state of affairs.

  2. Ross Clennett

    I would say 10% is optimistic, Howard. I am in Australia so I can only speak from my own experience in this country but reading about, and then taking action on, leading edge recruitment strategies would occur in less than 5% of our largest 1000 enterprises. More like 1%-2% in smaller organisations.

  3. Alan Lovitz

    I also respect Dr. Sullivan’s thoughts and recommendations. As for his comments about Social Media Recruiting – he is on the money! I come at it from a bit of a different perspective, as I work for a recruitment communications company which provides the HR/Recruiting function with recruitment solutions.

    I have had many discussions focused on how HR can leverage the social networks to enhance their recruiting efforts, but unfortunately, the typical response is that they’re putting a company profile page up on Facebook. There seems to be great resistance, in many companies, to do more either due to limited bandwith (time) or the so-called ‘controversial” nature of social networking. Eventually, they will get to where they need to be, but for the majority of companies I believe it will take a long time… until the vendor-supplied technology makes it easy to implement.

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  6. Omowale Casselle

    Great article. It really highlights the need for all employees to take ownership of recruiting the best candidates for the organization. If HR professionals expertly manage the process, it will become self-fulfilling as more employees get excited about the impact they have in the ongoing success of the organization.

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  8. Lesa Caskey

    This is an excellent explanation of, blue print for and argument in support of the use of a coherent social media strategy for companies that will benefit every aspect of their business, including HR. I think similar arguments can be (and are) made for all areas of business strategy.
    We as outsiders always have the advantage of standing outside and declaring how things ought to be in order to be the most successful and we have little compassion for those companies who do not immediately see the value of our wisdom.
    I appreciate John’s insights and thorough exploration of the topic and think that all companies who take his advice should send him a consulting fee (honestly!).
    For those companies who are grappling with the how’s and why’s of it all, let’s collectively support their journey as we would a colleague trying to figure out if they want to push on up the corporate ladder or make a break for it on their own. Everyone and every company takes their own unique route and we are all better off for it. For if they didn’t, who would lead us toward the next great thing?
    Thanks, as always, to John for great information.

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    The Athenian Arts…

    …an interesting post over at . …..

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