The days of handwritten letters are all but over. Social media means that communication happens anywhere, at any time, and to a variety of people. It’s enabled users to connect with their family, friends, and colleagues worldwide. Not surprisingly, companies have jumped on the social media bandwagon to build and reinforce their brands, using social media to target specific groups based on information provided in profiles.

Hand holding a smartphone with colorful app icons popping out of the phone

For recruiters and human resources professionals, LinkedIn has become the gold standard of social media platforms in the hiring process, offering a look at candidates’ work history, recommendations, and skills. Yet some recruiters and human resources professionals are taking to Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to communicate and begin dialogues with potential candidates.

These platforms have become more than just a place to post family vacation pictures and trade jokes with friends and family. Social media has transitioned to a place where employers and candidates can meet each other, start dialogues, and move to the next step in the hiring process, whether that’s a resume submission, a phone interview, or an in-person interview.

However, some recruiters, human resources professionals, and executives believe social media may be detrimental to the hiring process, even though social media can help recruit top candidates faster. By turning the recruiting process into a dynamic discussion, engaging both candidates and employees, it can also foster employee retention and engagement. These engaged employees are more likely to refer top candidates to their employers, and this adds a strategic bent to the hiring process.

It doesn’t matter whether a candidate is passive or active; that candidate is using social media for her job search. When companies go where the candidates are, they are able to start a conversation and develop a rapport that will help both the candidate and the company determine if they are a good fit for each other.

Companies that learn to use the various social media platforms available to them, including Twitter and Facebook as well as LinkedIn, are able to tap a wider pool of candidates and learn more about the candidate. The candidate also benefits by learning more about the employer in a more informal dialogue and can demonstrate social media savvy as well.

But each platform, from LinkedIn to Facebook, Twitter and beyond, has its own unique quirks and etiquette. So how do you use social media to a company’s advantage during the hiring process?

Facebook Recruiting

Recruiters may be tempted to dismiss Facebook as just a good place to find out if candidates engage in questionable activities in their off-hours, but that’s missing out on a huge opportunity to find talent. With about 2.85 billion registered users in the first quarter of 2021, Facebook keeps growing. On average, users spend two hours and twenty-four minutes a day on this particular platform. Smart companies are investing heavily in Facebook advertising to catch the eyeballs of these frequent Facebook users.

And Facebook also offers a cost-effective way to recruit talent during the hiring process. Setting up a company page costs nothing; the biggest challenge is getting people to “like” the page and share updates, but that can also be done without spending money. Part of the reason is that, when someone likes a page, it shows up in their friends’ feeds, offering free exposure to the company’s page.

Even better is that when companies leverage Facebook to spark interesting conversations, those conversations are shared on personal Facebook pages, also increasing the company’s visibility. These conversations begin with status updates, uploaded pictures or videos, or shared links, which garners likes and shares. Even better, Facebook does not have a character limit on status updates like Twitter, so statuses can be longer. However, people do tend to skip over very long status updates, so shorter is still better.

Companies can start conversations by posting about industry trends or new technology. Photos or comics that relate to the industry can get people talking and sharing, and that means more exposure for the company’s page. While job postings sometimes get this kind of response, status updates that include a link to the company’s website help drive traffic to a more comprehensive listing of job postings, getting potential candidates started on the hiring process.

Facebook also includes the analytics necessary to see how many people a company is reaching. The feature that shows how many new likes and the page’s total reach to users allows companies to see what kinds of messages are getting the most people engaged.

With enough of a time investment, Facebook then becomes a critical part of the hiring process, helping to gradually attract top talent in a cost-effective manner. Results are not evident right away, but leveraging Facebook to create conversations increases a company’s profile, which is the goal of social media. Candidates who feel like they know a company are more likely to apply for openings. As long as companies are starting engaging discussions with their followers, they are enabling future candidates a peek into the company and start a conversation that may result in the company finding its next employee of the month.

Hashtags and Hiring

Those number or pound signs before words are not typos. Those symbols are hashtags, the way that a lot of Twitter users search for trending topics on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Almost everything now has a hashtag, from movies to clothing and every day actions, thanks to Twitter’s explosive worldwide growth. It took years from Twitter’s founding in 2006, but today it’s a worldwide phenomenon that people use for everything from breaking news to finding jobs.

Over 500 million updates are posted on Twitter every day, and many of those come from companies looking for the top tech-savvy talent that can round out their teams. Some network services like Jobvite and CareerArc help companies during the hiring process by tweeting out posts, but companies can take matters into their own hands and establish Twitter accounts specifically for recruiting purposes, adding another dimension to the hiring process by following other users in the company’s industry, as well as associates and recruiters.

Keep Tweets short and sweet. Twitter already limits users to 280 characters, and job postings need to fit those limits but still be enticing enough for potential applicants to click on the included (and shortened ) link and integrate hashtags so that the jobs show up in searches. For example, a company may tweet, “Boston ad agency seeks copywriter. Apply at (shortened URL) #Boston #jobpost #employment.” Hashtags that help in the hiring process include #jobs, #career, #employment, #jobpost, and #NAJ, which is Twitter shorthand for “Need a Job?”

Embrace the power of video. The hiring process has moved onto YouTube, no longer the domain of skateboarding videos and garage band clips. Companies now use the platform to post recruiting videos that detail what life is like in the company or clips from company events. Candidates use these videos to gauge whether they would fit in with the company’s culture.

Photos help the hiring process. Characters on the sitcom “Two Broke Girls” may have described Instagram as Twitter for people who can’t read, but it’s a social media platform that has gained incredible popularity in the past year. This visual platform, along with the popular pin board platform Pinterest, allows companies to highlight images of their headquarters, products, people and events, adding that personal touch to what can be a faceless process.

Companies have their pick of social media platforms to use for recruiting. Each platform offers something different for both recruiters and potential candidates, and companies who leverage more than just LinkedIn are better poised to attract qualified talent.

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