Social-Media Storytelling

December 2, 2014   //   News

Effective use of social-media tools to communicate an organization’s corporate culture eludes almost half of all organizations that use them, according to a new survey.

Companies are turning to social media as a way to convey their corporate culture and engage candidates in learning more about them. But according to a recent survey from the Human Capital Institute, although 72 percent of organizations use social media for recruiting, only 55 percent believe they’re using it effectively.

Some are skeptical of the latter number.

“I’m surprised it’s as high as 55 percent,” says Steve Cadigan, whose tenure as vice president of talent at LinkedIn coincided with the Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s growth from 400 employees to more than 4,000.

“I see very few companies using social media effectively in recruiting,” says Cadigan, who’s started his own San Francisco-based consulting firm, Cadigan Talent Ventures. “I see a lot of companies taking a wait-and-see approach or just dabbling.”

Simply posting job openings on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter does not make for an effective social-recruiting strategy, says Jenna Filipkowski, director of research at Cincinnati-based HCI.

“Most people just post jobs, versus the hard work of building a talent community around the employer’s brand,” she says. “The ones that use social media effectively are able to do both.”

The companies that have mastered the art of recruiting via SM use it to showcase their culture and values in a way that makes potential candidates interested in learning more about them, she says. “They lead with their culture, and follow that up with postings about job opportunities.”

Yet, many companies fail to recognize the storytelling platform that SM affords, says Cadigan. He cites a meeting he had with the head of diversity at a large agricultural-products company, during which he asked her if diversity was important to the company.

“She looked offended and said ‘Of course it is!’ That is when I asked her, ‘How would I know that by looking at your LinkedIn profile?’ Her profile had nothing about how she or her company cared about diversity, other than the title she carried.”

After Cadigan showed her the LinkedIn profile of the diversity head at another firm, which included videos about that organization’s commitment to diversity and its percentage of diverse executives, “she got it,” he says.

At LinkedIn, HR and marketing work closely together in promoting the company brand to potential candidates, he says.

This is also the case at Oak Brook, Ill.-based SWC Technology Partners, where a majority of the consulting firm’s new hires have been found via social media, says recruiter Jill Neumann — including its HR manager, who was found via Facebook.

The firm’s YouTube channel includes videos that explore a “day in the life” of its engineers to give viewers a sense of what it’s like to work at SWC, along with the work it does with clients, says Neumann. Other videos showcase events such as National Pi Day — an annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi on March 14 — during which SWC employees participated in pie-eating contests and competed in “pi recitation challenges” to see how many pi digits they could name, she says.

“We use the videos to give people a well-rounded idea of what we do and what it’s like to work here,” says Neumann.

Recruiters partner closely with marketing on ideas for furthering the company’s brand on SM, she says. Each recruiter has his or her own Twitter account and is encouraged to be themselves, she adds.

“I’m a big White Sox fan and discussing that via Twitter has helped me build personal rapport with people in this area whom we’ve ended up hiring,” says Neumann. “Talking about your likes and dislikes, funny banter about things that happened that day — doing this makes it more likely you’ll attract lots of followers on Twitter.”

In addition to celebrating its culture, a company’s social-recruiting outreach should include all employees, not just HR, says Cadigan. “Candidates can smell BS a mile away — they’ll respond more to real people and real issues than contrived campaigns.”

Indeed, according to a survey by Arlington, Va.-based consulting firm CEB, although millennials are — not surprisingly — more likely than other generations to rely on social media to learn about potential employers, only 29 percent of them “trust the information they receive.”

Many companies are hesitant to rely more on social media for recruiting because determining the return-on-investment can be difficult, says Filipkowski.

However, some easily available tools can help. In terms of obtaining social media ROI, “Google Analytics seems to be the big one,” says Jon Heise, senior technical recruiter at Chicago-based Instant Technology. “It’s become sophisticated and detailed enough that even basic to highly advanced users can understand what their efforts are resulting in really easily.”

LinkedIn continues to be the most-used social-networking site, by far, for recruiting, according to the HCI survey: Eighty-three percent of organizations use it for recruiting, compared to 38 percent who use Facebook for that purpose.

And yet, HR may want to be careful about putting all its eggs in one basket.

“Everyone is using LinkedIn and, as a result, it’s becoming over-saturated — hot candidates are getting so many In-mails from recruiters that they’re not even responding anymore,” says Barbara Marder, a Baltimore-based senior partner at Mercer. “It will be interesting to see whether Facebook and Twitter really organize around recruiting the way LinkedIn has.”

Many companies are also having trouble converting Facebook and Twitter followers into potential candidates, she says.

“Employers may think they’re doing a great job using Facebook and Twitter to communicate their brand, but if they’re only giving people an opportunity to follow them or ‘like’ them, that’s not going to turn them into job candidates,” says Marder.

Marder, who’s working with a five-person team at Mercer on developing innovative ways of using online games and other tools to assess candidates, says companies can use social media to link potential candidates to games that can assess a player’s cognitive abilities or determine whether they’re a good fit for a particular job.

“You can put a short little game on your company’s Facebook page that could be a cognitive game or a 3D job simulation,” she says. “It’s a better way of engaging candidates than just letting them like or follow you.”

This article, “Social-Media Storytelling” originally appeared online at Human Resource Executive.