There’s been plenty of press about big businesses using social media to find and research new staff. But does the same dynamic work for small business?
Many small business owners say online recruitment services such as Seek are still the best avenues for finding staff. But SME Yvonne Adele, ‘chief idealist’ with a creative thinking consultancy, says social media has enabled her to gather an army of online helpers.
A Twitter think-thank
Ms Adele came up with the idea for a business called Ideas While You Sleep (www.ideaswhileyousleep.com) during a brainstorming walk. The concept is that she posts a brief for a client who has a creative challenge on Twitter by 4pm. By the following day at 10am she should have sourced 100 ideas from her bevy of Twitter followers that meet the challenge posed.
“When I came up with the idea I tweeted my then-3000 followers to see whether anyone would be interested in working on a brainstorming project and 72 people registered their interest within one hour, who then spread the word around the world. @IdeasCulture now has almost 14,000 followers,” she explains.
Ms Adele tested the concept with clients, who she says loved the idea. She now has clients in 12 countries – who pay $495 when they submit a challenge – and a network of 500 brainstormers in eight countries. Responses are narrowed down to the best 100, while a select eight get paid $25 for each brainstorm.
Ms Adele also uses online freelancing sites such as DesignCrowd and e-lance to source designers and Rent A Coder to find people with computer programming skills. Her assistant, from MJS Virtual Business Support, is also virtual.
Posting an ad multiple times
Catriona Pollard, of PR agency CP Communications, is also a proponent of using social media and the internet to find good staff, including a current opening for a senior account manager.
“We help businesses with their social media strategies, so using social media to find staff is natural for us, it really helps us level the playing field with bigger organisations in terms of finding talented people” she says.
For her current opening, Pollard has placed a job ad on her website, on business and personal blogs, her Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. She has also created a tiny URL on bit.ly, a site that allows users to shorten URLs, to help track how many people are opening the link to the job ad. And she has posted a free ad on marketing and PR industry sites such as Mumbrella and PR Report.
“I’ve also tweeted the job description to my 2,500 Twitter followers, and I’ve been personally tweeting the opportunity to my followers once a day,” she says.
“Taking this approach has two benefits – it let’s my community know the business is growing and expanding. It also shows people that I know social media.”
Targeting the right market
Anwar Khalil, managing director of recruitment technology firm adlogic agrees social media can be a powerful tool to find good staff, but says “whatever social media strategy you use, you need to have a way of measuring your return on investment”.
“For instance our recruiters can calculate the number of applications they receive from each media, whether it’s an online classified media like Seek or Facebook. They can use this information to refine the way they source applications, which is important given there is no one single winning recipe when it comes to finding staff,” he says.
Khalil’s advice to small business owners who are thinking about using social media to find staff is to “know their target market and where they spend their time”.
“Are they are they on Facebook or LinkedIn or both? Employers also need to understand how these media work, for example people don’t like head hunters to look for them and contact them on Facebook – it’s a personal space – it’s not how prospective employees want to look in front of an employer or recruiter.”
Does it really work?
Others, including Lisa Poulos of PR firm Hush Communications, are sceptical about the use of social media to find staff. She is currently seeking a showroom manager.
“I’ve posted really good job openings on sites like Mumbrella and had no response. But I’ve had a really good response to the same ad posted on Seek. My question is whether people are really looking for jobs on social media? I think people stick to more traditional media to find jobs and don’t realise there’s other avenues out there,” she says.