By Daniel Hunter

70% of recruiters now actively use and support the use of social media, and trust has grown significantly over the past two years, according to a research study from Penna Plc, a global HR Services Group.

An initial survey carried out in 2010 found that recruiters were largely suspicious of the benefits of social media, with 51% seeing it as ‘dangerous’ and feeling ‘uncomfortable’ using it.

Two years later, this number has dropped to just 5%, and there are now an emerging group of ‘early adopters’ who are actively encouraging the use of social media to their peers. 45% of recruiters even classify themselves as ‘experts’, up from 23% in 2010.

“It’s no surprise to hear that social media usage has increased among recruiters and HR professionals, but what’s interesting is the shift in attitudes towards it, from a general reticence or fear, to embracing and recommending," Graeme Wright, Head of Strategy at Penna said.

"It’s clear that having a social media strategy is now considered ‘the norm’ within the industry.”

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the three most used social media channels among HR professionals and recruiters, with occasional use of blogs and videos. The research shows that whilst engagement with social media is increasing, recruitment and HR professionals have no plans to experiment with other forms of social media, which Graeme says “Suggests they would rather realise the full potential of the channels they are already using.” Conversely, 26% of employers are still trying to restrict Facebook access at work. This presents obvious practical challenges as Graeme explains, “ Employers are risking a disconnect with Generation Z, who do not see the need to separate work and social life - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided any policy is clear enough for the entire team to understand.”

The same applies to using social channels to access candidates. The report highlights an ongoing debate, with only 23% having a policy in place, which leads to confusion and a reluctance to use Facebook to research a candidate background for example, in case it constitutes gross misconduct. As a result over 60% say it is a “a concern that candidate information available online could get in the way of a fair recruitment process if used injudiciously”.

When it comes to making direct hires via social media, LinkedIn is highly regarded (12% say they have used it as a direct replacement for a consultant) and finding great talent. However there is still some confusion as to just how much this, along with other channels, can enhance recruitment practices and provide access to hard-to-reach groups. Graeme said, “Many respondents said they didn’t feel it helped them to reach anyone other than graduates, and the research showed it’s not used widely as an internal communication, or knowledge sharing, tool either. However, what is clearly understood is the link between social media presence and profile.”

In addition to using social media as a means of communicating directly to candidates and building profile, employers are also showing they place real importance on monitoring, as a means of understanding the landscape, competitor activity and what people are saying about their brand online. The research showed that monitoring employer reputation in social media is done most effectively by those in HR roles but that those using an external agency report very good results (91% said they monitor well). However, Graeme says monitoring rarely works well in isolation and that managing by actively getting involved in conversations and shaping discussions is the only way to build a solid reputation. “96% of respondents said that managing their reputation online is important, and 85% believe it would have a direct impact on the perception of them as an employer of choice. What presents a challenge is having the time to do both well, which is why external agencies are perceived positively by those we surveyed,” he said.

Overall, the research has shown that whilst social media usage is most certainly increasing, there are still areas of untapped potential, particularly when it comes to advertising, gathering insight, and knowledge sharing. Graeme adds, “Whilst the research shows recruiters are confident in their use of social media, their feedback shows they value external insight and support too. Sometimes, it can be a challenge finding the time to develop and implement a social media strategy, but companies like Penna can help. Social media, used wisely can actively improve your organisation and we’re committed to making this happen for our clients.”

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