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Friday 31 October 2014
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Look beyond bottom line on social media

June 2013 | By Sam Burne James

Social media is widely used in recruitment, but how well has measuring its effectiveness kept pace?

Jon Hull, global head of resourcing at components maker RS Components, says that recently he has “probably saved on more senior agency fees, about £300k a year via LinkedIn”.

And he notes that when RS Components line managers personally share a job via Facebook or LinkedIn, it is “highly likely to be more effective”.

How much something costs is easily measured, but what about its effectiveness? Well that’s another matter. You can see what seems to drive good hires in the short-term, you can work out where your brand presence is strong, but determining whether social media recruitment strategies are really delivering the goods is by no means clear cut.

More and more employers are tracking cash return on investment (ROI) from their social media recruitment. However, Hull and others agree that you have to do more. It is imperative to take this tangible result hand-in-hand with a more nuanced appreciation of what your social strategy actually achieves, and how it achieves it.

“Recruiting has always been an art, but it is now becoming a science,” claims a LinkedIn spokesperson, adding: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it.” With its various “real metrics” and “data-driven insights”, LinkedIn is offering fixes — but it’s not always that simple. 

Matt Lavery, the director of talent acquisition at logistics giant UPS, says they do indeed practise the ‘scientific’ aspect, meaning “track everything we do, applicant flow and so on… we go back and look at what drives that activity or didn’t”.

However, he continues: “You can get stuck in a bubble where it’s just about how many people you hire. We also look at it as a means of awareness, influence and action.” Again: less easily measured, no less important.

Steve Fogarty, adidas Group’s employer branding manager, goes further. “I see a lot of chatter in the industry about measuring direct ROI and conversion numbers around hires from social recruitment,” he says. “From my point of view this is very short-sighted.”

Of course, adidas tracks metrics (see PowerPoints, below) but Fogarty is also conscious of broader needs. “If we engage in a relevant way based on core reasons our audiences come to us in the first place, then the conversions will follow,” he says. You can’t put a metric on understanding your own brand and your audience.

The big question Ashley Hever, European talent acquisition manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, asks is: “Is it really generating good quality hires?”

Enterprise hires almost solely at graduate level, so seeing how hires have progressed six, 12 or 24 months down the line, looking back to where they came from, begins to answer that question. “It really is a long-term thing,” he says, explaining that nothing happens overnight.

Eamon Collins, group marketing director at recruiter PageGroup, warns against forcing an unsuitable metric on social media. “In some of them, it’s early days — we’re still learning about what is an acceptable benchmark to use,” he says.

“Showing a tangible ROI is often going to be hard,” he says, not just in social media recruitment, but across a lot of marketing and advertising activity. While again, they have specific measures in place and a dedicated team, Collins also knows that a key return is “investing in our staff” — providing social media training will give ROI, but one you can’t necessarily put your finger on.

“There are a huge amount of activity measures,” acknowledges digital strategist Matt Alder. “You really have to work out what you want to measure, what metrics are actually important to you.”

Alder agrees it can be “slightly difficult to measure in a joined-up way”, adding it is vital to shun “vanity measures” — followers and connections. If you quote those, “you probably aren’t looking deeper into the process”.

However there is, Alder says, “absolutely” space for the intangible ‘buzz’ factor. Social ‘buzz’ is essentially what it sounds like — making it hard to measure, not necessarily visible in tangible results; in March, a senior Coca-Cola marketer admitted that despite (expensive) efforts at creating and maintaining that buzz, the company had not seen measurable short-term sales impact.

Where Coca-Cola has fallen down on the consumer front, recruitment users have gone from strength to strength, Alder believes. “Most of the companies that are shouting about how good their social media is, are probably backing it up – three or four years ago, that wasn’t always the case.”

Sam Burne James

Power Points

Adidas Group employer branding manager Steve Fogarty on different social media:

• “What we measure within Facebook is our growth, reach and level of engagement”

• “On Twitter it’s about reach and click through”

• On LinkedIn Groups adidas measures “growth and the quality of the talent pools”, on company pages “we measure growth and impact of posts”

• Other platforms adidas uses include Pinterest and Youtube

Employees hired through LinkedIn are 40% more likely to stay with a firm beyond six months than other hires, data from the social network shows

“Keep it aligned to your core business objectives. It’s very easy to get distracted almost on a whim, but we don’t just jump in there because something is new and shiny.” Eamon Collins, group marketing director, PageGroup

Share your insight and blue-sky thinking. Contact the editor: deedee.doke@recruiter.co.uk

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