How should recruitment agencies be using social media? What can you learn from the pros?

Can you remember recruitment before social media? No? Me neither, but then again, I was a 90s baby who knows nothing of the ZX Spectrum or even a fax machine. 

Although social media has only really been around for the last 15 years or so, its influence on the recruitment industry has been huge. 

It's changed the way we source candidates. It's changed the way we attract clients. It's changed the way we brand our agencies

In this article, we'll be looking at the extent to which social media has impacted the recruitment agency market.

It will cover:

  • The history of social media.
  • How and why recruitment agencies use social media.
  • How effective recruitment agencies are at using social media.
  • The benefits of social networking for recruiters.
  • Tips for using social media.
  • Should recruitment agencies invest money into using social media?

Social media: a brief history

Before we delve into the present day, let's take a quick look at how we got here.

Want to get straight to the nitty gritty of this article? Scroll down to read about how social media has affected the recruitment industry.

Early social media and the World Wide Web

Although unrecognisable from today's modern platforms, the concept of online sociability first emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. 

These maiden steps into connectivity, such as Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), were popular with early computer adopters and allowed many of the same basic functions as today's social networks (message posting, file sharing etc.). 

While traffic to these rudimentary hubs remained fairly high until the mid-1990s, limited access to computers (and an even less widespread knowledge of code) meant that these early systems were largely out of reach of the everyman - but not for long.

Coupled with technological progress, the launch of the World Wide Web allowed social media, amongst other things, to begin its journey into the mainstream.

Social media in the noughties

Do you know what the first 'real' social media site was?

Facebook? No. 

Twitter? No.

MySpace? Wrong again.

Six Degrees, launched in 1997, is widely regarded as the first social network by modern standards. It wasn't until the early 2000s, however, when social media started to really take off. 

As technology survived Y2K (remember that??), the years that followed saw a succession of social media platforms released, least of all the recruitment giant of LinkedIn

Throughout the decade, internet use increased and so did the number of social media users. 

Fast forward to 2017 and there are now around 2.3 billion social media users worldwide (that's nearly one in three of the world population!).

Impact of social media on the recruitment agency market

Social media has had a major influence on all aspects of modern life - recruitment included.

What was once a mere bullet point in a marketing presentation, is now an integral part of any business objective.

With Facebook poised to enter the jobs market in the near future, social media and the recruitment market is about to take another leap.

But just how much of an impact has social media had on recruitment and recruitment agencies?

How many recruitment agencies use social media?

It's thought that around nine in ten recruiters appear on at least one social platform. 

Put another way, there are around 103,000 people that work within the UK recruitment sector, which would mean at least 92,000 appear on a social network! 

Which are the most popular networks for recruiters? 

For recruitment, the main social networking sites are:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Recruiters may also tap into other platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram and even Snapchat - depending on their market. 

Not all social media platforms are created equally though, and when it comes to recruitment, some are definitely valued more highly than others. 

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), LinkedIn is the preferred network for recruiters, with 94% using it to source candidates. 

This isn't at all surprising, as LinkedIn sells itself as the 'world's largest professional network.'

But what if you're not sourcing candidates? What if you have another objective? 

Why are recruitment agencies using social media?

When looking into the use of social media by recruitment agencies, we wondered why exactly they want to have a social presence.

Our Twitter poll showed that the number one reason for using social media was to build a brand. 

But what does this show us?

Well, it suggests that recruitment agencies are looking at the long term. 

Why branding?

Having a strong brand is key in an age where so many agencies are vying for attention. You want to be a consistent voice that your customers can rely on and the go-to place for relevant information.

While sourcing candidates and employers offers a short-term gain, developing this kind of brand brings future benefits - including lead and candidate attraction. 

Put the work into developing a brand and everything else becomes a little easier.  

How are recruitment agencies performing on social media?

So it appears that recruitment agencies are using social media, but are they using it effectively? 

When deciding on a social media strategy, often the biggest hurdle is deciding how to measure success. 

As cash isn't a direct reward for a strong online performance, agencies are required to look at the bigger picture in order to assess the potential returns.

What is your Klout score?

Although the number of followers usually takes pride of place at the top of an annual report, this is a false way of measuring how effective a recruitment agency is on social media. 

You can't really use a single factor as a measurement of success.  

With this in mind, have you ever heard of Klout?

Klout is simply a measure of how influential a person or company is on social media. 

Rather than just considering one or two factors across one or two platforms, it pulls data from a range of social channels.

Some of the data it looks at includes:

  • Number of retweets or shares.
  • Number of mentions.
  • The influence of those that share and mention you.
  • Number of followers or connections.
  • Quality of followers (any spam accounts?). 

By signing up to the online service, recruitment agencies can see their Klout score, which is determined by their activities across all key social platforms. 

As cash isn't a direct reward for a strong online performance, agencies are required to look at the bigger picture in order to assess the potential returns.

Klout scores are out of 100; the more active (and influential) an agency is, the higher the score.

The average Klout score is 40, with scores above 50 being considered particularly influential. Only the top 5% of social media users have scores greater than 60. 

How influential are recruitment agencies on social media?

So, by using Klout, we can see how recruitment agencies stack up against the typical social media user.

Currently, the average Klout score across the recruitment agency market is 34. Not too shabby, but still sitting below mid-table.

Guess what though? Recruitment Klout scores are slowly on the rise - something that can't be ignored by the industry.
Over the course of 2016, the average agency Klout score grew from 30.8 to 34.1; a 10.7% increase. This is the highest level of growth since records began. 

In fact, if this rate of growth continues, the average score in 2017 will hit 37.7, and reach the 40 mark around 2018/2019. 

Is it worth getting involved now? Rather than have to play catch-up in the future?

The Social Recruiter Leaderboard

If agencies are interested in how their social media performance measures up against competitors', they can sign up to the Social Recruiter Leaderboard.

The Social Recruiter Leaderboard is a league table that ranks nearly 2,000 recruitment agencies based on their Klout scores. 

The 2016 winner was Ashley Kate HR, whose dedication to using social media saw them walk away with the trophy (that's right, there's even a trophy!).

It's all to play for in 2017 though, and Erin Associates have surged to the top of the table. Shaun O'Donnell, Director at Erin Associates, explained their reason for joining the Social Recruiter Leaderboard:

"Social media is a growing trend in recruitment and we were interested to see how our social media performance stacked up against other agencies. A little healthy competition is also a good thing and the Social Recruiter Leaderboard has encouraged us to up our efforts across the various channels we appear on. 

We quickly found out that it's not just about posting up our latest roles but to engage with our followers and to share the latest technology news"

Interested to see where your agency ranks? Why not sign up to the leaderboard?

The benefits of using social media for recruitment agencies

With so many agencies taking to LinkedIn et al, just what are the benefits to recruiters of using social media?

Attract young talent

Accessing emerging talent is a challenge for recruitment agencies, especially in industries that are experiencing skill shortages

But did you know that 99% of 16-24 year olds are on social media? 

Okay, so while this stat might not be altogether that shocking, the 2016 Communications Market Report (produced by Ofcom), has shown that social media is indeed ubiquitous amongst school and university leavers.

Social media, therefore, opens the door to a young talent pool - of which 578,000 are unemployed (and 403,000 are those are out of full time education!).  

Attract passive candidates

More than just attracting millennial job seekers, social media can also be used to engage with passive candidates.
"It's thought that around nine in ten recruiters appear on at least one social platform."

As the name suggests, passive candidates aren't actively looking for work, but would be interested in changing jobs if the right opportunity arose. This accounts for around 85% of the global workforce.

Attracting passive candidates often requires a more tactful approach, and thanks to social media, agencies are able to reach out to this tentative market. 

LinkedIn is the largest focussed pool of professionals and has 467 million members. Presuming that 85% of these are passive candidates, that would mean that more than 395 million are open to a career change. 

This has already been taken advantage of by recruiters, with 81% contacting passive candidates via LinkedIn InMail. 

Content marketing 

With around 20,000 recruitment agencies in the UK, standing out from the crowd can be tough.

All this competition has only further cemented the importance of brand building - a task where social media really comes into its own. Social media and content marketing is a growing industry and recruitment agencies are having to adapt their brand building practices to this age of digital connectivity. 

According to the Content Marketing Institute (graph courtesy of Statista), LinkedIn is considered the most effective platform for content marketing, while the influence of Facebook and Twitter fell between 2015 and 2016. 

The struggle is producing captivating content worth sharing ...

Social selling vs. cold calling

COLD CALLING IS DEAD well, kind of. 

Once a staple of any selling strategy, cold calling has lost its punch thanks to an intrusive reputation and a generation that would rather not pick up the phone. 

Step forward social media, which is able to take a softer approach towards communicating services to potential customers and help your agency get more leads.

Compared with cold calling, which only has a 1-3% success rate, social selling is thought to result in a conversion rate of around 15%. That makes social media around five times more effective than cold calling; you do the maths. 

Quick tips for getting the most from social

It can be tempting to dive straight into social media, but it pays to take a more measured approach.

Read our quick tips on how recruitment agencies can get the most from social media:

The nature of social media means that everything you do is immediately made public. As a result, recruitment agencies can't afford to get their strategies wrong. 

A few poorly thought out tweets or failing to develop a consistent presence, will only reflect badly on your brand and make it harder to land leads. 

Should you invest in social media?

So, I suppose the big question is 'should recruitment agencies invest in social media?'.


"In 2014, the UK spend on content marketing was £125 million, and by 2020, is expected to rise to nearly £350 million. Do you want to be left behind?"

I'm reluctant to put it so simply, but we believe it would be remiss of recruitment agencies to not explore the opportunities that social networking offers them. 

Should recruitment agencies outsource social media?

If you're new to social media or just don't have the in-house resources, then handing over the day-to-day management of your profile can be beneficial. 

Benefits of outsourcing social media

Saves time by allowing you to concentrate on what you do best.Prevents the cost of hiring full-time social media staff.Brings specialist expertise into the business. Increases frequency of posting. Can increase / decrease commitment as needed. 
Alan Astin, Director at Intro Recruitment, told us his reason for outsourcing the company's social media activities:

"We are expert recruiters and 100% of our time should be spent recruiting. We have attempted to do our own social media posting, without any planning and without any idea that it would work. 

Our posting was infrequent, we didn't know if we were posting the correct content and had no idea what we wanted to achieve - apart from getting lots of new business and lots of great candidates. With outsourcing, there is a structured plan with the same aim."

As Alan says, recruiters recruit. 

While they might dabble with social media in their personal lives, using it for business purposes may not be their forte.

Outsourcing hands this responsibility over to specialists who understand how to optimise social media activity for business-benefit. 

In closing ...

Social media is changing the way that recruitment agencies communicate with both employees and job seekers. 

Whether you're looking to give your brand a boost or increase your agency's talent pool, social networks are a valuable resource to businesses and professionals across the recruitment sector. 

The key to success though, is getting your social media strategy right. 

Do you outsource? Do you take on full time staff? Do you invest solely in one platform? Do you try and have a presence on all of them? 

Whatever approach you take, consider your objectives and the resources at your disposal.

One thing is for sure though, recruitment agencies will need to learn how to make the most of social media if they are hoping to thrive in an increasingly digital market. 

Written by Dan Whitelegg

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