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Five steps to creating a social media recruiting strategy

I came across the results of another survey of human resource professionals the other day that outlines the increased use of and investment in social media recruiting. The survey also identified the decline of more traditional routes, such as job boards.

The numbers were really nothing new. Forty-six percent of HR and recruitment professionals plan to increase investments in social media recruiting, while 36 percent said they're going to decrease investments in job board spend. Nor was the overriding "hmmm" tone of the analysis. As in, "Hmmm, is social media going to continue to send the job board market into oblivion?"

The disruption at this point seems obvious, and the debate over whether the impact on the job board market is fatal might ultimately not really matter all that much. A more useful discussion might be on how to rapidly adopt a social media recruiting strategy that augments investments in job boards (in my opinion, they won't be going away anytime soon); ensures that candidate sourcing and recruitment efforts drive improved candidate quality; and establishes a talent community that can be introduced into the organization.

Here are five areas to consider as part of your social media recruiting strategy.

1. Develop a well-defined employment brand. While job boards require you demonstrate a certain degree of employment branding, it rarely extends much beyond the look, feel, and copy found on the online postings and the careers page of your corporate website. Leveraging the social Web for recruitment purposes demands that the employment brand be well thought out. If you are not confident in your brand as an employer, your social media recruiting strategies will fall flat.

2. Determine the level of desired social media outreach. It's crucial to keep in mind that the social Web is named that way for a reason. It is social, meaning it is about engagement, interaction, and relationship building; facilitating and participating in discussions. A conscious decision must be made to determine the level of outreach you hope to accomplish. Assume that whatever level you anticipate will actually be increased by about 15 to 20 percent. The content will ultimately always require more effort than originally estimated.

3. Define the target audience of your social media recruiting strategy. Social media recruiting is significantly much more than the individual job postings that your organization wants filled. It is about identifying the addressable market of potential talent and continuously bringing value to that audience. This requires that the talent pool be well-segmented to fit the macro-level requirements of your firm.

The next step is to identify what people in different segments find valuable and the type of content they will find interesting. This goes beyond their career objectives. Do they like Meryl Streep or Will Ferrell movies? Are they more likely to visit the art museum or the ballpark? Do they have a big family or are they perpetual students? You'll be engaging them at a personal level, so you should know a little about their personalities.

4. Determine if your social media platform will be broad or narrow. When companies start considering social media recruiting, they often start talking immediately about Facebook. Not a great start. A better strategy would be to decide specifically how you want to engage the varying segments of the data pool.

A good example of this is Microsoft. Microsoft engages talent that can program games for Xbox much differently than they engage .NET programmers. A broad approach casts a wide net and makes interactions more general. Narrow and multi-channel outreach is typically a more efficient method.

5. Prioritize the tools you will use to pursue your recruiting strategy. This step is last for a reason. Everything preceding it is far more important. For now, the best way to select the right social media tools is to start where your company's culture is most comfortable. A recruiting blog makes sense for a company that likes to dictate the tone of conversation. Facebook brings a slightly more casual element to the engagement. And Twitter is ultimately more about sharing content that the target community will find valuable.

These steps are frequently applied first in permanent recruiting efforts. Given the ongoing increase in contracted labor, it is also important ensure that any partner you use to source temporary talent into your organization has a well-defined social media recruiting strategy that adheres to these guidelines as well.

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