How to write a social media strategy

Posted on August 20, 2010


Recent research by Penna Barkers, has found that 90% of organisations feel that managing their employer reputation online is important – yet only 38% believe they are able to do this well and one in seven thinks social media is ‘dangerous’ when used as a recruitment tool.

Although the discussion of social media has taken centre stage of late, a key principle in planning a strategy is to treat them in much the same way as traditional platforms.  Who am I targeting?  What do they think about my organisation already?  What do I want them to do in response to this work?

But many organisations simply worry about how many other employers have a Facebook page (44% as it happens) or whether they should join the 30% that Tweet, rushing into this space, unsure as to what resources might be needed to maintain their presence and without a ‘community management plan’ to deal with visitors who may wish to post comments or start a discussion.

Instead, we’re trying to encourage employers to start in a considered manner – beginning with an understanding of their employer reputation online in the same way that we would start any marketing campaign with a full understanding of a company’s brand offline.

We also make sure that objectives are clearly articulated and understood.  With social media, organisations often believe that, just because it is possible to have a two way conversation, they should.  And that’s simply not true.

In fact, not only is two way conversation the most resource intensive and least easy to control for organisations just finding their feet with social media, it is not necessarily the case that candidates themselves are receptive to a two way exchange with a potential employer prior to the official recruitment process.

In our Social Media Audit, we found that there are three main catalysts for online conversation:

  1. when an audience wants to complain
  2. when they are asked to participate directly (eg “ask us a question”)
  3. when giving feedback

The latter is especially used for new product development and of less relevance in recruitment where the ‘product’ – i.e. a job – is immutable.  The first is hardly something to be encouraged…

Despite this, starting and managing two way dialogue is often seen as the end goal of many social media strategies.

there are three main catalysts for online conversation

But we have found that organisations can use social media in a way that is effective, even when not strictly social.  Indeed, its wide reach and ability to communicate with audiences means that one-way advertising on social channels has become a highly efficient way for many of our clients to direct traffic to events or to their recruitment websites.

The research also highlighted a large number of blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages being used to deliver what is in effect a broadcast message – delivered one way to a receiving, not participating audience.

Indeed, building and maintaining an online presence through social media is a great way to ensure a wider reach, allows organisations to occupy more online real estate and ensures potential candidates can find information in places other than the corporate website.

Managing this digital footprint as an employer is important.

Although controversy often reigns when discussing whether companies should look at candidate details online, there are no such qualms when it comes to candidates looking up companies and indeed individual recruiters via social media.  A number of recruiters have been surprised by interviewees asking them how their holidays were…but you shouldn’t be.

Yet often organisations do not have a consistent approach to managing their presence across social media.  Some may have legacy sites, groups and pages which are inconsistent not only with the current brand, but with each other – leaving candidates confused and unsure as to which is the correct story.

As with all communications, social media requires an understanding of the audience, the channels and the desired objectives.  But unlike other platforms which can be built once and sent live, the ‘always on’ nature of social media requires recruiters to also consider the resource needed to maintain a presence.

If all of these considerations are factored in up front, social media offers a whole raft of benefits to recruiters, but approach it in a piece-meal fashion and it’s likely that messages will become unclear and target audiences disengaged.