Can Your Business Afford Social Recruiting, Even If It's 'Free'? / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The trouble with the rush to social recruiting is that the time investment rarely gets mentioned, but the time commitment is significant...

Recruiting via social media comes at a considerable cost. In the clamor to jump on board the "free" social recruiting bandwagon, the actual investment is something that is often overlooked. Whilst it's true that you pay nothing to use many of the features of Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, it's also true that the time investment needed to generate results is significant. Here I'll try to quantify the amount of time an SMB (small to medium-sized business) would need to invest, so your team can embark on its social recruiting adventure with eyes wide open!

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History Repeating Itself

When I remember back to the early years of the dot com boom, I'm reminded of a lesson that's relevant to us today. Countless job boards launched with the "lure" of free advertising as the hook to get recruiters on board. Except that proved not to be much of a lure at all. "My time's precious. It's more of a constraint than advertising budget. I'm not interested in whether a site's free, just whether it can deliver." Job boards would hear this message again and again.

Recruiting on Social Media Isn't Free Either

The trouble with the rush to social recruiting is that the time investment rarely gets a mention. Yet the time commitment is significant, especially for an SMB where a person's time could be put to so many other uses that would in all likelihood produce immediate returns.

Let's try to quantify this cost below. But as headline figures, let's start by saying you'll probably need someone full-time engaged in social recruiting for the first 6 months. That might reduce to 50% dedication to social recruiting thereafter, depending on how effective that person is. In all likelihood, these figures will be higher if you are keen to both advertise your vacancies and pro-actively approach candidates. They will also be higher if you don't get the training necessary to become an expert user on each platform you decide to use.

Related: Get help finding top talent by outsourcing your recruiting efforts.

The reason so much time is needed is simple. The results you get from social recruiting are directly linked to the effort you've put into it. Skimp on your time investment and the results will suffer accordingly. Worse still, this is a recruiting approach where the time investment is front loaded. That's why it's very common to find social profiles that have been abandoned. Recruiters started off on the right tracks, but then gave up when the payback wasn't immediately forthcoming.

Let's think about some of the things you might want to see as fruits of your social recruiting investment:

  • A following (or readership) who are either candidates in their own right, or whose extended networks are comprised of your target audience.
  • An engaged network of influencers in your sector, people who can help expand the reach of your messages significantly.
  • A proactive pool of followers who are actively engaged in sharing your vacancies and generating social referral hires.
  • An understanding of - and competence in using - a variety of social profile databases and people aggregating tools.

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Each of these can be a significant long term asset to your business, but to get to this point you will need to:

  • Collate sources of great content, advice, tools and data that are going to be valuable to the audience you want to attract.
  • Find, follow and engage with talent and influencers in your niche. Initiate conversations, respond to all contact, raise your profile through group, community and chat interactions.
  • Build and educate an employer fanbase, to the point that they will want to be involved in helping your job adverts circulate to an appropriate audience.
  • Research and experiment with the different social platforms, people aggregators and the effectiveness of different ways of reaching out to target candidates.

Now I'm a great believer in recruiting with social media, so the above isn't intended to deter you - just to ensure you embark on your social recruiting adventure with the right expectations and a realistic allocation of resources to produce results. For whilst social media is often free to use, you still need to ask yourself whether your business can afford the time needed to do social recruiting well.

About the Author: Tony Restell is the Founder of and a respected commentator in the online recruitment and social media sectors. A published author and Cambridge graduate, Tony spent his early career in strategy consulting before going on to build and sell an online recruitment business. Follow Tony on Twitter: @tonyrestell

(Image: SOMMAI via

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