by Brian Westfall
Market Research Associate, Software Advice
When it comes to recruiting through Twitter, it seems that many companies are doing something wrong:
- More job openings are posted to Twitter than any other social media site.
- Twitter has more job seekers than even the more professionally minded LinkedIn.
- Yet, only 15 percent of recruiters have actually hired someone through Twitter.
To explore this issue, Software Advice surveyed job seekers about their Twitter habits and their perceptions of how companies are using the platform. We also looked at the recruiting-specific Twitter handles of Fortune 500 companies. Using this information, recruiters can learn best practices to refine their strategies so they can better engage job seekers and hire more talent.
- Fifty-eight percent of job seekers use Twitter in their job search, most commonly to look at company profiles for opportunities (76 percent).
- Nearly half of respondents say companies are “ineffective” at using Twitter to post frequent job openings (47 percent) and communicate with job seekers (43 percent).
- Besides job openings, tweets from Fortune 500 company recruiting handles often highlight specific employees (19 percent) or promote company events (17 percent).
- Seventy-eight percent of Fortune 500 recruiting tweets contain hashtags—most commonly with branded terms related to job opportunities (46 percent).
- Thirty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies have a recruiting-specific Twitter handle, which they use to tweet one to three times per day (64 percent).
When it comes to using social media for finding potential hires, recruiters often rely on the big three: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Many have had success on Facebook and LinkedIn, with 26 and 89 percent of recruiters, respectively, saying they have hired someone through these sites. But Twitter has proved less fruitful.
However, the opportunity is there if recruiters use Twitter effectively. According to an annual study by the Pew Research Center, the number of adults on Twitter grew 28 percent from 2013 to 2014—more than both LinkedIn (27 percent) and Facebook (not at all).
More importantly, the growth is coming from the right areas for recruiters: college graduates, urbanites and those with an annual household income over $50,000. These users typically live near business centers, and represent both young professionals that can fill entry-level roles and more experienced workers.
That’s why many Fortune 500 companies, such as Walmart and AT&T, have created separate, recruiting-specific Twitter handles (e.g., @WalmartCareers and @attJOBS). Recruiters use these handles to engage with job seekers instead of customers: posting job listings and career events, but also marketing the company to those looking for a great place to work.
Software Advice looked at nearly 50 of these handles to see how Fortune 500 companies are using Twitter for recruiting. Paired with a survey of current job seekers, recruiters can learn best practices to effectively engage talent.
Job Seekers Mainly Use Twitter to Look at Company Profiles
We first asked respondents if they have used Twitter for job-seeking purposes in the last six months. A majority say they have (58 percent), while 42 percent have not.
Twitter Use in Job Search, Past Six Months
We also asked those who use Twitter how they use it in their job search. Seventy-six percent look at company profiles, while 55 percent follow companies they want to work for.
Most Common Ways Job Seekers Use Twitter
Given that job seekers are inclined to go straight to a company’s profile, companies would be wise to make these profiles appealing to encourage more job seekers to follow them.
According to Adam Heagy, president of Interactive Recruiting Consultants and a vocal Twitter advocate, this means making Twitter profiles “concise and direct” in describing their business and the actions they want potential applicants to take next, such as visiting a careers page.
This is where companies need to decide if they are going to recruit through their primary Twitter handle, or create a separate one for recruiting purposes. Jim Milton, vice president of product marketing for recruiting software platform SmartRecruiters, says that in some cases, it may not make sense to start a new Twitter handle.
“If retail company XYZ has a million followers, perhaps the followers of that retail brand are the appropriate demographic where they may also want to go work behind the counter,” Milton explains. “You’ve established a brand and a following, so why reinvent the wheel?”
Job Seekers Split On Effectiveness of Companies Using Twitter for Recruiting
Next, we asked job seekers how effectively they think companies are using Twitter for recruiting. A combined 35 percent of respondents who use Twitter in their job hunt say companies are “somewhat” or “extremely ineffective” at marketing themselves as a great place to work. A total of 43 percent answer this way about companies’ ability to communicate with job seekers, while 47 percent say companies are “ineffective” at frequently posting job openings.
Perceived Effectiveness of Companies’ Twitter Recruiting Efforts
These results show that balance in tweet content is key. If companies focus too much on marketing themselves and not enough on open positions, interested job seekers may find a job somewhere else. And if companies only post job listings, they’re missing out on what Heagy calls the “social aspect” of engaging job seekers.
Of course, recruiters should make sure to stay in communication with curious Twitter users. Social media management platforms (e.g., Hootsuite) make it easy to not only respond to all incoming messages, but to track certain words or phrases for proactive outreach on hot leads. For example, companies looking to fill an engineer position can track all tweets with the words “engineering job” to find any users who tweeted about looking for such a job and respond with a link to their careers page.
Besides responding to tweets and messages, companies should personalize their recruiting profiles to make job seekers feel like they’re talking to individuals instead of faceless organizations. For example, IBM lists the personal handles of the recruiters that maintain @IBMUSJobs in its profile description so job seekers can see who they’re interacting with.
In fact, Heagy says he has amassed 1,100 followers on his individual account, @ircstaff, through a blended approach of tweeting about job listings and local technology conferences, as well as general posts to “share and educate anyone [who] chooses to follow me on the job and technology marketplace,” he explains.
Fortune 500 Companies Tweet Job Openings, Highlight Employees
To find out more about how companies should be using Twitter, we turned to our sample of tweets from recruiting-specific handles of Fortune 500 companies. Job openings do make up the largest percentage of these tweets, at 38 percent, but that’s not all companies are tweeting about. They also use Twitter to highlight specific employees (19 percent) and share information about company events (17 percent).
Most Common Subjects of Fortune 500 Tweets
Highlighting individual employees is a great way to personalize a business on Twitter. For example, using the #LifeAtATT hashtag, AT&T employees describe their job responsibilities, recommend qualities that candidates should have to succeed and explain some of the reasons they like working there.
Twitter is also a great medium for alerting followers of upcoming in-person recruiting events, or for live-tweeting company events that prospective job candidates might be interested in, such as conference presentations. Recruiters can also take advantage of Periscope, a mobile app Twitter recently acquired, for event marketing purposes. The app allows users to broadcast live video of events to Twitter followers with an iOS device (support for Android is coming soon).
The main takeaway? Companies should treat Twitter more like a content marketing platform than a job board. As Milton explains, companies should be using Twitter to keep themselves fresh in the minds of potential talent when they do decide to look for work.
“It’s less about posting a job and hoping for an application today,” Milton says. “It’s more about getting that group of followers, whether they’re college students or a passive candidate ready to make a move, and then using content to engage them over time. The hope is that at some point down the road the timing will be right [and the candidate will actually apply for a job].”
Because Twitter users don’t often make the direct path from follower to applicant, companies can use applicant tracking systems (ATSs) with Twitter integration to track the number of people who actually apply this way. Then, Milton explains, they can easily compare Twitter hires to the number of hires from other recruiting sources.
Hashtags Dominate Fortune 500 Tweets, Primarily With Branded Terms
Looking at the composition of tweets from Fortune 500 companies, one element appears most frequently: hashtags. Seventy-eight percent of tweets in our sample have a hashtag in them, making these more common than hyperlinks (63 percent), images (50 percent) and videos (4 percent).
Most Common Elements in Fortune 500 Tweets
Digging deeper, the tweets with hashtags in our sample most commonly use a branded term (46 percent), such as #GEJobs, or a general term related to job-searching (35 percent), such as #job.
Most Common Fortune 500 Hashtags
Even though only 34 percent of job seekers say they use Twitter to search for job-related hashtags (per our findings above), companies are wise to include them. In a previous Software Advice study, we learned that marketers consider using hashtags among the most important tactics for optimizing content on social media, second only to using images. Including hashtags in tweets requires no extra effort, and can help expand a company’s reach beyond its dedicated followers.
For example, Twitter users might search for generic hashtags, such as “#marketingjobs,” or peruse tweets featuring a trending topic, such as “#IWD2015” for International Women’s Day. Upon finding tweets from a company that include one of these hashtags, users might decide to follow that company.
Indeed, Heagy says that hashtags can help companies “cast as wide of a net as possible to get the message out to that many more people.”
One-Third of Fortune 500 Companies Have a Recruiting Handle on Twitter
As previously mentioned, creating a recruiting-specific Twitter handle is a common practice for companies. Overall, 174 of the 500 companies on Fortune’s list (35 percent) have an active company-level Twitter account dedicated to recruiting.
Fortune 500 Companies With Dedicated Recruiting Handle
Whether recruiters use personal or departmental Twitter accounts to attract talent or work with the marketing department to, as Milton describes it, “slip tweets in the stream” of the customer-facing Twitter handle, they must stay socially active to keep their desired audience engaged.
But how active should they be? Looking at our sample of Fortune 500 handles, 64 percent of them tweet one to three times each day.
Fortune 500 Companies: Average Number of Tweets per Day
However, this is a flexible guideline. If companies have a lot of interesting content to offer, are live-tweeting an event or have an urgent job opening, they should feel free to tweet as much as necessary to engage their audience.
Because different Twitter users log on at different times of the day, “reposting of jobs and news is important,” Heagy says. Otherwise, for example, a user logging on in the afternoon might miss a tweet sent out that morning, since only the most recent tweets show up in their feed.
However, recruiters and hiring managers don’t have to wholly rely on real-time tweeting. Using social media management software, companies can create engaging content and schedule it to be tweeted out at a later date. According to Software Advice’s previously referenced study, marketers most often schedule social media posts several days to one week ahead of time.
Twitter can be an effective medium for recruiting—once companies and recruiters realize how to properly use it. Here’s what we’ve learned:
The audience is there, so make yourself known. A majority of job seekers use Twitter in their search, but many think companies are ineffective at using the platform for recruiting. Whether a company uses its primary Twitter handle or creates one specifically for recruiting, it should clearly state on its profile what type of company it is, the jobs that are available and the kind of people it’s looking to hire. Having individual recruiters grow their Twitter followings can also give social media recruiting the “social” aspect job seekers crave.
Treat Twitter as a platform for content marketing, not job distribution. Recruiters should not expect to receive applications immediately upon posting job listings. As Fortune 500 companies show, mixing in interesting content about recruiting events, employee stories and job perks along with job listings will keep followers tuned in so they apply when the fit is right. Using hashtags is an easy way to grow, focus and engage an audience.
Use software to manage Twitter and track its effectiveness. As Milton admits, the value of Twitter in recruiting is “hard to measure.” Luckily, many ATS platforms include Twitter integration, and can track anyone who applies through a tweeted job listing. Companies can also use a social media management platform to better manage interactions and do proactive outreach.
By following these best practices, companies can turn their Twitter accounts from ancillary job boards into a crucial platform in engaging today’s talent.
In terms of gender, two-thirds of our survey respondents are male and one-third are female.
Respondent Demographics by Gender
Eighty-eight percent of survey respondents were between the ages of 18 and 35. According to the study by Pew Research Center cited above, a majority of Twitter users come from this age group.
Respondent Demographics by Age
To find the data in this report, we went through the 2014 Fortune 500 list and identified those companies that actively run a Twitter handle specifically for recruiting purposes. We then collected 1,122 tweets over one week from 41 of these companies.
Additionally, we conducted a 20-day online survey of six questions, and gathered 160 responses from a random sample of job seekers within North America. Software Advice performed and funded this research independently.
Results are representative of our survey sample, not necessarily the population as a whole. Sources attributed and products referenced in this article may or may not represent client vendors of Software Advice, but vendor status is never used as a basis for selection. Expert commentary solely represents the views of the individual. Chart values are rounded to the nearest whole number.
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