Using Social Networks to Communicate and Engage: The Future of Your Talent Acquisition Strategy

Sep 25, 2009

crl_mastheadThe growth, adoption, and momentum of social networking over the past 18 months brings another round of significant change for recruiting departments. The first question that needs to be answered is whether or not you believe social networking is all hype or if it will result in lasting change. Then you can answer the question, “If social networking is here to stay, is it right for our organization?”

Some look at the social networking trend and say that it’s all a bunch of hype. Some look at it and feel the need to, and will try to, be everywhere. Some will consciously decide to be nowhere — we have the phone and that works very well, thank you. Many are feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening, the pace of change, and the fears about transparency. In most cases you don’t need to be and shouldn’t be everywhere. And, you may decide to be nowhere, but make sure that’s a conscious decision and not just resistance to inevitable change.

As for fear of social networking, the pace of change and transparency, think of it this way — whether you engage your brand in the discussion or not, the conversation moves on — nothing stands still, except that eventually people may just not care about your brand at all, and, well, at that point you won’t need to recruit anyways. If you want to influence the conversation about your brand and if you want to engage people in your brand story, then social networking has a lot to offer. The complete article featured in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership October issue, will delve further into that, but here are my more brief thoughts for the time being.

Social Media and Social Networking: Strategy or Tactics

The underlying premise of this article is that social networking is not a passing fad and that it deserves significant positioning in your talent attraction and management strategy.

Let me begin my differentiating, for the purposes of this article, the difference between social media and social networking. The terms are often used interchangeably, but I see an important distinction, especially for recruiting. Social networking is the application of social media, which provides the tools to share content and information, engage in conversations, and build networks. The key difference is what you choose to do after sharing your information. Social networking is pursued with the underlying intention of dialogue, engagement, and interest. It also results in a more sustainable talent strategy that differentiates your brand and brings forward many other business benefits. If you are simply pushing jobs out to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you are socializing job postings by using social media, but not necessarily engaging in social networking. If you’re engaging prospective talent in discussions and building active communities, you are pursuing a social networking strategy.

There’s also a significant difference between the two that influences how you design an effective strategy and how you define your desired outcome. Social media is in part strategic but mostly tactical and is really saying: “Hey, these are new channels through which we can reach people and we should broadcast our jobs.”

That may be fine, but it limits the value and doesn’t fully realize the potential or move you toward a sustainable solution. Also, and most importantly, when you use social media there is an expectation for networking! If you push a job out on Twitter and someone reaches out to you, they expect a response. When you don’t respond, the brand can be viewed unfavorably and over time this type of behavior will dilute the brand reputation and value.

This is similar to what job seekers expected with the introduction of corporate recruitment websites. They wanted a way to reach and connect with someone in a company they were interested in joining. Remember all the discussions about the “black hole of recruiting”? Well, in a social world, the expectations and consequences are higher. And, while today’s job market may be in favor of the employer, the cycle will turn again and the strategy that you develop and implement today will absolutely impact future talent attraction effectiveness — positively or negatively. If you want to develop a sustainable talent acquisition strategy and actively invest in the longevity of your brand, then it’s time to engage.

They Really Are Interested in You — Really!

The evolution of technology, social tools, and ease of access are driving rapid advancements in communication. People like to play, create, share, and comment about your company and brand. The fear you may be feeling about letting people “in” to your brand, so to speak, can be looked at one of two ways. You can either be fearful of what they may do to your brand, which “they” will do anyways, or, you can celebrate that people are interested in your brand, products, and services. Listen to what they have to say. You may learn something. Engage them in your business challenges; they may solve them for you. Yes, they want to hang out with you — if, that is, you have something interesting to say! A UK student who found his job through Twitter shared this with me:

Personally, the companies that I’ve been most interested in have been the ones that are blogging and therefore appear to be knowledgeable industry leaders … also, some companies have begun posting jobs on blogs, which I think is better than on a recruitment website or in a newspaper, because the candidates applying have read the blog and are interested in the company.

Now, that’s something to think about. Does silence imply your company has nothing interesting to say? That you’re not knowledgeable about your industry? Pursuing a social strategy isn’t just a way to attract and engage talent. It can also be a way to expand the innovative capacity of your organization — perhaps something we should consider as the talent function evolves.

Clearly the impact of “social” is still emerging and the potential is just beginning to be understood — although it’s already profound. We are still at the edge of what the social media wave will bring. The potential for sweeping change is enormous. We will certainly see the future impacted and unfolding before our eyes.

Look for the complete article in the October edition of the ERE Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership. Visit me online at and follow me on Twitter @TalentSynch.

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