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The real cost of social media recruiting

A recruiter was recently overheard at a conference asking, “So, does social media replace everything else I do?” The answer, of course, is no – but it’s understandable why this recruiter was confused. The amount of hype and enthusiasm for social media recruiting has been substantial.

What is social media recruiting? In essence, the recruiter connects with candidates via social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, FourSquare, and others. One benefit to such interactions include the opportunity to locate candidates that may not be visible or active in more conventional recruiting venues, such as job boards or career sites. Some recruiters also feel that they can do a better job of evaluating a candidate by observing how they behave in social media venues. Finally, these platforms foster interaction between the candidate and recruiter, which can potentially result in a hire.

But there is one more benefit that many recruiters mention, particularly when comparing social media to job boards: at this point in time, most social media channels are free (some, such as LinkedIn, charge for certain levels of access and usage). Remember, though, that companies such as Twitter and Facebook are still experimenting with their revenue models, so they may not remain ‘free’ for long.

Be that as it may, the difference between ‘free’, however, and ‘no cost’ is significant. Social media does have a cost – time. In essence, what a recruiter trades for out of pocket expense is his or her investment in initiating, monitoring, and responding to a myriad of social media channels.

How might this time investment break out? First, the recruiter must identify which social media match up with the targeted candidates. What are they using, and how? Next, the process of content creation (blogs, tweets, comments, posts) and content distribution begins. It takes significant talent and time to create a constant stream of useful, compelling, and appropriate information that will entice the target candidate audience! Finally, the recruiter must respond and react as candidates query and network. A social media strategy is useless without follow-up.

Does this mean that recruiters should shy away from social media? Of course not – but it does underscore the need to have a plan ahead of time, and to be cognizant of the time costs involved. Social media is another tool in the recruiter’s belt – it’s just not the ‘do-it-all’ answer.

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