Author Bio: Rosa works in Business Development at Parkinson’s UK, helping to manage their corporate communications, and also contributes to various blogs. She worked at Amnesty International and has held several events management roles across the private and public sectors, before moving into marketing and communications.

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When you’re running a small business, hiring new talent can be a tricky and time-consuming process. You can’t rely on brand recognition to give you a flood of job applicants and you may not be in a financial position to use agencies to find the best talent. In order to spread the word about a vacancy, you’ll probably need to think outside the standard methods of recruitment. Using your online presence is a great way to recruit new hires and if you’re a startup looking for up-and-coming talent, social media is a source full of potential employees. One study by research firm Aberdeen Group found that 73% of 18-34 year olds found their current employer via social media. With that in mind, how do you work out whether social media recruitment is right for your company, and what strategy should you use?

What are the pros and cons?

If you’re new to recruitment via social media, it’s important to identify whether it is the right tool for hiring for your organisation, and to have a clear idea of the risks and benefits involved. On one hand, a small and relatively unknown company may struggle to attract much attention to an ad that’s been posted on Facebook or Twitter. If you haven’t yet established a sizable presence and large follower base on social media, it’s easy for your ad to go unnoticed, unlike job boards which can potentially reach a much broader audience. In addition, there are certain risks to using social media for recruitment purposes – it’s all too easy for recruiters to look at job-seekers’ social media profiles and be influenced by this when sifting through applications. This is particularly true of Facebook, where it’s possible for current employees to also share the role with their own social circle. With this situation, there’s the danger that current employees could weigh in and either criticise or recommend applicants, which could unfairly influence the hiring process.

However, social media can also be incredibly effective in reaching the very best candidates. You’re already communicating with a much more targeted audience – people already interested or using your business, meaning the ad will be more directly relevant to them. You’ll be reaching people who are already engaged and enthusiastic about the brand, making them more likely to be a great hire. It’s also a way to contact users who aren’t actively looking for a job at the moment, but have all the relevant skills and experience – who traditional job boards wouldn’t be able to access.

In a job market that’s improved considerably since the financial recession, candidates have more luxury to pick and choose, and many will try to find out as much as possible about a company’s culture before choosing to accept an offer. So using social media to give an insight into life at your company is an effective way to persuade candidates that it’s a great place to work. The ease of using social media may appeal to many job hunters, especially Linkedin which, as a more professional environment, is particularly well designed for recruitment. And finally, it’s extremely cost-effective, which is incredibly important if on a budget.

Tips for social media recruiting

Before you can start effectively using social media as a recruitment tool, it’s important to build a buzz around your company. That means having an active presence online, communicating regularly with your audience, and establishing a recognisable brand tone and identity in your social media posts. Using social media can be a great way to draw people to your business by giving a snapshot of what life is like behind the scenes.  You could share content that informs people while also showing off your company in the best light, such as social events, or a day in the life of an employee.

It’s now fairly common for HR professionals to use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to recruit for new positions. But depending on the type of role you’re advertising for, it might be useful to explore routes outside of the now ‘traditional’ social media. For example, if you’re looking to recruit a techie for your team, platforms like GitHub and StackOverflow are great hubs for specialised IT talent. Or for companies on the hunt for creative talent, Creativepool or Behance are thriving communities of designers and writers.

It’s also wise to tailor your recruitment strategy according to which social platform you’re using. LinkedIn is more professional and career-driven, with many using it to actively search for jobs. It’s especially easy to advertise new roles, with the ability to create a careers section on your company page. LinkedIn also streamlines the application process, with the function to directly apply for jobs without even leaving the website. Meanwhile, Instagram is a good platform to focus on raising your brand awareness, by providing a visual representation of just why your company is a great place to work. Depending on your chosen social network, you may need to use a different strategy to reach your audience. When advertising a job on Twitter for example, you may need to think carefully about what hashtags you use, to help your posts reach an audience outside of your followers.

With clear advantages over traditional recruitment, and an ever-expanding user base, it’s easy to see why social media has become an increasingly popular hiring method. As social media platforms expand and evolve, they’re likely to become essential recruiting tools, and for startups, they could be the perfect place to find your next hire.