Five years on using social media: have recruitment agencies learnt to interact?

We have all seen the power that social media has. Most recruiters, whether a recruitment agency, HR department or a hiring line manager will use sites like LinkedIn to identify candidates and, more often than not, Facebook and Google to vett them. However, they do not always contribute to this online community. This one sided approach to social media is foolhardy and has, in some cases, backfired, causing the perception of a brand to shift toward the negative.

Vic Okezie of Social Recruiter said, "Some recruiters use social media to 'pounce' on people the wrong way... social media will play a role in naming and shaming companies that use these tools wrongly, as everyone can see their actions publicly... agencies that use social media properly will be noticed and commended as an early adopter... but most importantly they will earn the recognition of candidates and respect from their clients."

In the case of the recruitment agency, five years ago social media was the seen as the opportunity to gain commercial information that had previously been unavailable. This online facility enabled agencies to shortcut the traditional business development call and meeting requests, kick starting professional relationships and speaking to otherwise unknown passive job seekers.

Unconservedly plundering this mine of commercial information has resulted in social media biting back, publicly and unreservedly.

Vic's words above ring loudly and clearly true. On a discussion on our LinkedIn page, Timothy James Consulting were commended for not abusing the free job posting facility in order to CV gather. This was a discussion that our group members had created and run with, so any feedback given was completely out of our control. The discussion was extremely heated and generated numerous contributions, mostly bemoaning the industry pillaging commercial information from an extremely vocal online community:

“There has been a separate discussion running over the last few weeks on the aspects and attitude of agencies. The general view is that most are utterly useless, unprofessional and give the industry a very bad name... The likes of Timothy James should be applauded but they are few and far between. "

This positive feedback about Timothy James Consulting demonstrates that we have adopted the right approach to social media: it is now working for us, with no direction or manipulation from us needed.

However, the negative feedback voiced is nothing new to the industry. What is new is how it is being articulated and the connotations and consequences of a one-sided approach to social media. We undertook a survery of 300 candidates and found the following:

  • 67% of candidates are influenced by social media in their opinions of an agency or consultant
  • 49% have changed their opinions to being negative about an agency or consultant having encountered negative feedback about them on social media sites
  • 73% are frustrated with the attitude agencies take to social media and their lack of contribution to the online community
  • 86% will use social media to research or vett an agency or consultant

These numbers demonstrate that there has to be a change in the grassroots' attitude towards social media. Marketing can set the tone and standard of interaction with candidates and clients online but individual consultants need to behave as if it is exactly that: interaction.

In an age where individuals are running larger networks than ever before, can agencies really afford to alienate this entire online community? Absolutely not. Agencies need to show themselves as the facilitator of relationships, as the enabler of networks, not the raider or looter of commercial information. In other words, we need to give back what we take out.This can be done in the following ways:

  • Show your consultants negative online discussions and blogs about their industry so they can see the consequences of a one-sided approach
  • Run a workshop on how to correctly interact (key word here being interact) online, through running discussions, adding news feeds, contributing ideas and giving recommendations
  • Treat all positive feedback like a testimonial and make it available to all consultants to see and use.
  • Tackle any negative feedback publicly and in a calm, consultative and appeasing manner - the social media community will respect you for it
  • Ask candidates and clients their opinions on how you are faring and take their suggestions on board
  • Measure your success - this will be evidenced by an increase in public positive feedback about you, raised company profile and being seen as the agency of choice.

Give and take in social media, especially in times of compromise and coalition, will ensure a consistent positive presence in the marketplace. If you treat users of social media as your peers, they will treat you the same way, ensuring robust, profitable relationships at a time when you need them.

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