by Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR
I recently read a great article that talked about social media being here to stay and that it’s not really necessary to make a distinction when talking about “social media” versus online activity in general – since everything we do online is essentially “social”. It’s true, any thought that social media was a “fad” and would die a quick death has been recently forgotten. Social networking and using social sites to connect with others globally is as ingrained into our normal daily activities as picking up a phone or getting an email. So now what?
While the revolution may be over, the evolution continues. Social media is constantly growing, increasing in membership and reinventing itself. It’s embedded itself in all things we do, business or otherwise. And although not a “new” medium by any definition, there are varying degrees to which people understand and use these tools. Attend any social media class and you will find experts, average users and late adopters all in the same room. The nature of social media is such that there is always something new to learn, regardless of how experienced you are.
So what’s an HR professional to do now that it’s apparent we must somehow use social media to move our businesses forward? To make things simple, let’s focus on Linked In, but you could actually substitute your social media of choice (FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) for most of this conversation.
LinkedIn is by far the most recognized and respected social media tool related to business – and is the oldest of all the recognized social network sites. There are over 150 million users worldwide (58.5 million from the US alone) that generate over 300,000,000 hits per month. LinkedIn users grew by about 45% over the last year with the 18-24 year age group growing the most significantly. The most prolific users are men (representing 57% of all users) and those between the ages of 25-54 (67% of all users). College graduates account for 49% of LinkedIn users with another 23% having graduate degrees. Members from the U.S. comprise 40% of all LinkedIn users.
The membership statistics are impressive, but what do we do with all this information? It’s one thing to be “linked in”, but it’s another to actually use LinkedIn as a business tool. Give some thought to how you might use LinkedIn to further the needs of your company. LinkedIn is used to source for talent by 75% of fortune 500 companies. They know that 83% of the fully-employed professionals on LinkedIn would consider themselves “passive” candidates and are often open to job opportunities. With this in mind it seems obvious that LinkedIn is a great source of talent for those seeking to fill job openings. But aside from finding recruits (by sourcing for candidates or posting jobs), what else can HR use LinkedIn for:
- Gaining candidate information for use in interviewing (recruitment)
- Obtaining reference information for candidates (background checks)
- Networking with thought leaders to share information (best practices)
- Gauging the health of a particular industry or company (manpower planning)
- Scoping out the competition (competitive intelligence)
- Sharing information about employment brand (visibility and recruitment)
- Creating talent communities via Groups or Company Page (talent pipeline)
- Learning about or advertising online classes or events (training and development)
- Researching anything and everything you need to know (education and development)
- Searching for ideas for your HR blog/newsletter (see Research above)
- Engaging with current employees and alumni (networking)
LinkedIn is a treasure trove of people engaged and willing to interact socially, albeit primarily online. It is a free resource that includes professionals, associated groups, and companies that are available to us with a simple touch of a key and an online connection. The ways in which we can use LinkedIn, and other social networking tools, are limitless and constantly changing and will continue to transform how we interact with and engage others across the globe for some time to come.
Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR is the Talent Strategy Manager and a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have questions or comments about this article, you can contact Debbie at Debbie@strategicHRinc.com.
NOTE: the stats available online are a bit sketchy but a decent source of LinkedIn data comes from http://bit.ly/SNSstats.