Social media – it’s a tool, not a strategy

I was very reluctant to write this post initially. There has been so much noise about social media, and how it’s going to impact our industry, do we really need another blog on the topic?

Probably not. But the rhetoric and hyperbole about social media has been bugging me lately, and it will make me feel better if I offer some thoughts about how all this may play out.

Lets start ‘big picture’ and then focus in on social media itself. It seems to me that the big issue facing recruiters is the fact talent sourcing will become increasingly fragmented. Years ago we got our candidates from press adverting. Period. That was basically it. Then we had choice between press and job boards. In the future it’s going to be far more fluid. Far more dynamic. Todays’ whiz-bang social networking phenomena, will be replaced by some thing else in time, and that new medium, in turn, will be superseded by something even more appealing and pervasive.

So recruiters have to be super dexterous, tuned-in, and flexible when it comes to sourcing talent, or we could be fishing for candidates in a dead pond before we know it. And if that happens, the recovery will pass us by, and so might the industry alltogether.

What is certain is that candidates will be accessed from an ever-increasing variety of channels. These will include social media of course, as well as blogs. Job boards will continue to be part of the mix, but increasingly niche job boards will work best, as well as specialty sites, associations and user and special interest groups. In addition we will need to invest more in innovative networking and referral programs. Certainly I believe it to be true that those recruiters who stick with outdated sourcing methods, who fail to innovate, who fail to really work at sourcing, will fall way behind.

In relation to social media itself as a recruiting tool, I believe it’s like a very interesting picture that has not yet fully come into focus. I don’t believe we really know yet how it’s going to impact our industry. As with all new technologies, there is a great deal of hype surrounding social media, but I don’t think anyone can point to consistent ROI from this medium.

There is no doubt social media is going to form part of any talent sourcing stategy, but my own view is that there is a danger that recruiters see it as a one-stop solution. It is not. It’s another channel - a very compelling one for reaching large numbers of people -but it takes discipline, time and resources to make it work for you. I am no social media expert, but I have learned a lot about harnessing its power, so I speak as a user, not an observer.

I set myself a few goals when I really started to work at my Blog, Twitter and Linked In. (which was very recently by the way). I wanted to raise the profile of Aquent with clients and the staffing industry in general. I wanted to drive readers to my blog so I could have a platform to voice my own and my organizations views. I wanted to access top talent who might end up working for Aquent, and I was hopeful of media coverage.

It has been truly incredible how these three platforms (Blog, Twitter, Linked In) have been able to work together to drive my goals. A tweet mentioning I have published a new blog post brings a surge of hits. A change to my Linked In status advising that I am hiring a manager for Aquent Hong Kong business brings me three very interesting candidates in a day. Linked In has brought me acquisition enquiries, job orders and candidates, and all three have provided us tons of media coverage across the world.

So social media has powerful application, no doubt. But the most important thing for an on-the-desk recruiter to remember, is not to confuse ‘sourcing’ with actual recruiting skills. I remain nervous that social media, and other technologies, will weaken core recruiting skills because there is a tendency to hide behind the technology and forget that the real power is the human connection where we can bring to bare our negotiating, influencing, persuading and broking skills.

Social media can help, but it won’t do it for you

I think you need to use social media and technology to ensure you are perceived as an expert in your respective industry. We must actually use social media to build relationships, not to spam people. The real goal is to develop strong bonds with that category of candidate you want to place.

And one final tip. The rules that apply to real life relationship building also apply to online relationship building. Giving as well as taking, politeness, replying in a timely manner, tone, language. These things count.

But most of all remember, social media remains a tool -not a strategy – to reach people. There are still many great candidates who will not be found on social networking sites. You don’t want to be seduced by social media and the hype surrounding it – but equally you must acknowledge its power, and figure out how to work it into your talent acquisition mix.

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