Companies commonly use social media as a channel for maintaining their brands and marketing their wares to potential customers, but social platforms can also be a potent tool for recruiting new employees.

Here are five ways companies can ensure that social media helps and doesn't hurt their recruiting efforts.

Blog about substantive issues

In today's market, where individuals with digital skills frequently have ample opportunity to pick their employer, it's difficult to convince the most desirable candidates that your company is the one they want to come to work for.

A job posting isn't likely to do it, and building interest can be a slow process that happens over time. Blogging is one of the best social media tools for piquing the interest of prospective hires, but it must be used correctly.

Specifically, you have to blog about the right topics and focus on substance over sizzle.

For example, if you're looking to recruit top-notch engineers, having members of your technical staff periodically write about some of the engineering challenges you have faced and how you solved them can be a great way to demonstrate that you have interesting work to offer and a smart team of people to collaborate with.

Support employee sharing

For obvious reasons, social media can be a tricky subject for businesses. Employee use of social media can be a double-edged sword and companies have legitimate reasons to tread carefully. But social media policies should be reasonable.

Chances are your employees are going to use social media, and with an understanding of the types of content they love to share, your company can directly or indirectly encourage them to share work-related content that will make you more attractive to people who may never have known about you before or had reason to think of you as a desirable potential employer.

Address bad behavior

Personal social media posts by employees do have the potential to reflect negatively on their employers and a single post by a jerk can make a potential hire think twice about a company.

While businesses typically have limited control over employee use of social media outside of work and might have some difficulty addressing bad behavior depending on the local laws, this doesn't mean that employers should ignore bad social media behavior.

At a minimum, companies should do whatever they can to make their employees aware of the harm that bad behavior can inflict – not just to their employer but to their coworkers and themselves – and encourage them to engage in positive behavior.

Don't be afraid to be different

Conformity can be your enemy when it comes to recruiting. If your company appears to be entirely conventional (read: plain and boring), prospective employees will assume that it is. Obviously, a company shouldn't go to extremes to stand out, but it also shouldn't hide the things that make it different or that its executives believe strongly about.

Buffer is a good example of a company that isn't afraid to be different. It has attracted a lot of attention with its open salaries initiative, which involved publicly publishing the salaries of its employees.

While this is certainly going to be unappealing to some, Buffer's founders believe in this form of transparency and by demonstrating it, the company is effectively marketing itself to the prospective employees who are more likely to share the company's core philosophies.

Engage in real conversation

A lot of social media today isn't social at all. Instead of engaging in a real dialog, companies treat social like a one-way street, posting content to a social platform and considering it social for that reason alone. 

When it comes to finding and recruiting your next great hire, that isn't likely to work very well. Instead, companies should understand that conversations they have on social media that aren't related to employment can lead to conversations about employment.

At smaller companies in particular, the willingness of principals and executives to engage in meaningful dialog with the public can help convince individuals that the company is run by great people worth working for.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 March, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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