Just two years ago, advertising on social networking seemed to be an afterthought for most businesses, including employers looking to ramp up recruitment. But from 2006 to 2008, there has been a 70% increase in spending on this fast-growing medium, according to emarketer.com.
Social networking, the newest online recruitment tool, includes building and interacting within online communities designed for people who want to connect with others who share their interests. Depending on the platform, social network initiatives can include features like chat, news feeds, messaging, blogs, email, discussion forums and video sharing. This phenomenon is becoming more and more popular, particularly among students and young professionals, with MySpace and Facebook dominating the competition. According to their respective sites, Facebook has over 80 million active users and MySpace boasts over 110 million. Whether you’re looking for name recognition or a more modern recruitment strategy, it’s time to get online and start building a profile.
Search for yourself—and others
To find out if you already have a following on a particular social network, you can usually perform simple searches within that website’s main interface even if you aren’t a registered member. That following could come in the form of message board posts, individual user profiles or even robust, built out mini sites incorporating many of the social networking features we’ve mentioned. If you’re new to user profiles, blogs and widgets, search for other companies’ sites to get a better idea of how to get started and what you’re up against. Note features like messages boards, polls and comments pages that encourage people to interact with your business and provide feedback.
How to leverage social networking
The advantages of joining a social networking site, or even building your own, are significant. It allows for company name recognition, the benefit of an interactive experience, and it’s a way to drive traffic to your homepage.
Aquafina has a strong presence on MySpace with over 10,000 registered friends, an interactive game featuring new products, a discussion forum and a link to its website. Honda is another company that is making MySpace friends by the thousands and spreading its brand name respectively. The auto maker has a page dedicated to its crossover SUV, the Element—this page hosts a contest for users, various photos of their product, a discussion forum and comments from Element owners. These companies have launched an interactive relationship with their consumers, and encourage feedback in a fun way.
Social networks are frequented by Internet savvy people willing to share personal and professional information online—these are the same people who are also the targets of job boards. In fact, some social networking sites allow you to post jobs the same way you would on a job board, only through a separate channel, and for a price. For example, MySpace has its own jobs channel, MySpace Jobs, with a keyword and location search feature.
Information you would implement on your own company website or partnering job board can be plugged into a social networking page as well—be sure to highlight job openings, benefits, events and fun facts about your company, and keep everything updated and relevant. Also, make sure your profile accurately reflects your company’s culture while also appearing current.
Putting it into practice
Once your page is up and running, set some goals for what you want to accomplish, and deadlines for site upkeep. Decide who can submit and view comments—registered users or anyone who views the site? You also need to establish how often the site will be updated and what content will be included. Finally, find employees who can be trusted to contribute and interact with users. Transparent communication is key in social networking; employers should be open and honest when interacting on these sites.
You need to decide if you’re going to build your own social networking site or partner with an existing one. McDonald’s built their own site, StationM, for their employees with a blog, photo wall, news feed and contests. You could also join an existing space like Friendster, MySpace or Twitter.
Be sure to consider the risks associated with social networking—you will be losing some control over your brand, but you are gaining an open and honest dialogue that engages employees. While you may want to implement profanity filters and prohibit the discussion of certain personnel issues, too many restrictions will limit the success of social networking initiatives.
A final note
Social networking sites aren’t targeted to a specific audience, so make sure you put links on your company web page to direct viewers who otherwise may not have found your profile.