Organizations are increasingly turning to social media as a way to attract contract workers.
By Marta Chmielowicz
No matter the name—contractors, freelancers, consultants, or contingent workers—there is no denying that the gig economy workforce has seen a massive spike in recent years. According to Upwork’s 2017 Freelancing in America study, the contingent workforce in the U.S. now makes up 36 percent of the working population and is growing at a rate three times faster than the total workforce overall. At the current rate, the majority of workers in the U.S. will freelance within the next 10 years.
“As more and more businesses desire to be ‘agile’ in how they respond to dynamic market challenges, it increases the allure of on-demand talent, and, consequently, the continued rise of non-employee talent,” says Christopher Dwyer, vice president of research at Ardent Partners.
With freelancing becoming an even-bigger part of the labor mix, attracting and retaining contingent workers is increasingly critical to organizational growth. But how can companies convince contingent workers that they are an employer of choice? Social media platforms present a valuable opportunity.
“From sourcing on LinkedIn, using Twitter hashtags to locate candidates, to building talent brands via Instagram—social media has evolved into a never-ending resource for finding, engaging and landing top-quality talent,” says John Wilson, founder and CEO of WilsonHCG.
The New Norm: Social Media Branding
With 69 percent of the U.S. public using some type of social media platform and 74 percent of online Americans using Facebook daily, according to the Pew Research Center, social media’s broad reach makes it a key tool for sourcing and attracting both passive and active contingent workers.
“Social media enables HR leaders to act as hybrid marketers—to bring the conversation to candidates, amplify their employer brand, and attract job applicants,” says CareerArc’s Chief Marketing Officer, Yair Riemer. By performing these functions, social recruiting is able to drive applicant volume and quickly generate demand around a job or organization.
Because social media outlets allow potential contractors to engage with companies in real-time, “…social media has become the window used for candidates to see themselves in the brand they would be working for,” says Amy Grogan, global employer branding and communications director at Pontoon. “It’s a great platform for an employer and its employees to be authentic and to share content directly related to culture and values.”
These days, transparency about company culture is more important than ever. With the widespread popularity of online review sites, job candidates are extremely savvy when researching potential employers. “According to CareerArcs’ recently released Employer Branding Study, 91 percent of candidates seek out at least one online or offline resource to evaluate an employer’s brand before applying for a job—so employers need to remain vigilant and proactive about their online presence to attract top talent,” Riemer says.
This is doubly true when recruiting contingent workers who confer greater cost savings the more they are attracted to a brand. “As it pertains to bottom-line impact, employment brand’s value is magnified when it comes to the contract workforce. If an organization is more attractive to the contractor, the cost and time of recruiting shrinks exponentially. This value multiplies even further when organizations dip back into the same talent pool or re-up with the same candidates,” says Wilson.
Attracting Top Contingent Workers
In a job market that can be classified as fully employed, today’s contract workers are especially selective when choosing job opportunities. In order to establish themselves as employers of choice, organizations need to strategically manipulate their online presence to present themselves in an attractive light. For the best results, companies should consider the following social strategies:
- Present a unified brand. In order to attract high-quality contingent workers, it is more important than ever for organizations to present a unified employer brand that is attractive to both traditional and non-traditional talent. “There needs to be partnership between talent acquisition and marketing to ensure companies are aligned in terms of consumer brand and employment brand. This ensures messaging is precise, honest, and aligned with business objectives,” says Wilson.
“Maintaining a consistent voice in one’s recruitment marketing and employer branding initiatives is vital,” explains Riemer. “People want to work for companies—not job descriptions.” Companies that are able to create a cohesive candidate experience that extends across social media, ATS platforms, and their career website see the most success.
But how can this be done?
“The integration starts with short-term planning: Can talent acquisition influence upcoming marketing campaigns, or at least have a hand in the review process? Over the long-term, as these two functions begin to communicate better and more frequently, the overall company brand can be looked to as a source of new talent, not just a consumer-facing aspect of the business,” Dwyer says.
- Tell employee stories. One key strategy to winning over top contingent labor is brand storytelling. By developing consumer and employment brand stories that align with company values, provide insight into the culture of the organization, and leverage the experiences of current contractors, organizations can cement deeper connections with the talent they are engaging.
“Trust in companies is at an all-time low—as is trust in brands and leadership—and people want to know from their peers what it’s like to be part of a given company. Social media provides a unique platform to get a real and authentic peek behind the curtain and see whether the life inside is genuinely aligned with the mission and vision,” says Wilson.
If companies can effectively share employee perspectives on their culture, mission, leadership, and career paths, the business results could be significant.
- Demonstrate potential for growth. Today’s freelancers require more than just compensation—they want to feel like they are learning new skills and progressing in their careers. “For top-quality contract workers, in addition to compensation which will always be a driving factor, the ability to learn and progress is at the top of the ‘employer of choice’ list,” says Wilson. “Contract workers are seeking to advance their careers, whether by gaining another contract, building their resume and network, or skillset increases.”
By using language in their social media messaging that promotes learning and development opportunities and outlines specific career paths in the organization, companies can attract talent that wants to be challenged and given the opportunity to grow.
“Today’s independent workers are focused on culture, learning, development, and attributes of projects that can directly benefit them from a skillset-based perspective. Any content that speaks directly to how ‘work’ is interesting and challenging will make any project attractive,” says Dwyer.
- Build mutually-beneficial relationships. Top contingent talent knows what they are worth, and to win them over, businesses have to demonstrate that they can deliver benefits that are not merely self-serving.
“Businesses must ensure that they promote their brand in a positive light and communicate directly with potential candidates in such a way that is warm and welcoming. The ‘business-only’ sense of engagement is an era past; today, candidates want to feel like they are immersed in a company’s culture,” says Dwyer.
One way to provide this type of positive candidate experience is by building relationships on social media platforms that are based on sharing knowledge rather than filling open positions. “Engage talent in conversations about recent articles, market trends, and emerging technologies, as an example. Share links to content that will help a portion of the population expand their understanding of a topic. Make them aware of conferences and events which could contribute to helping them learn and grow in their area of expertise,” says Yoh’s Director of Operations, Mike Dachenhaus.
By frequently posting content that provides value to potential contractors, companies can improve their presence on social media, thereby increasing their impact. “HR leaders that post thoughtful content frequently will see it shared—and the power of the referral and social media share will one day lead it to end up in front of that passive candidate who can then further explore and research the company’s brand and career opportunities,” says Riemer from CareerArc.
According to Pontoon’s Grogan, “snackable” content is also extremely effective at generating candidate engagement while delivering valuable information. “Snackable content can consist of six-second videos, photos with grabbing headlines, or videos with subtitles so people can read along without having to play the sound,” she explains. “Social media is a great place to take a headline from your latest marketing campaign or your employer brand strapline and bring it to life with images, stories, and videos in a snackable format.”
By providing a place for talent to engage in meaningful learning and dialogue, HR professionals can improve their reputation as a thought leader and employer of choice among top contractors. “But, be mindful of the fact that you cannot serve every variable of the contingent workforce well at the same time,” warns Dachenhaus. “Define and focus on a narrow skillset or segment of the population that is aligned with your business goals and set forth to nurture them well.”
And nurture you must, for the management of social engagement is a daily task. “The more you are seen sharing relevant and meaningful information and sharing potential opportunities, the more share-of-voice you will gain to support your efforts,” says Grogan.
Shaping Strategy with Analytics
Organizations that wish to optimize their social recruiting strategies for contingent workers can begin by tracking and analyzing key social media and marketing metrics. This evaluation process can encompass recruiting efforts for both contractors and permanent full-time employees—but while the same metrics can be tracked for both, employers should use the data to derive specific insights that apply to each individual group. By utilizing social media metrics together with more traditional measures like time to fill or cost per hire, companies can get a clearer idea of what works.
Social media data can be used to identify where users are most engaged so that talent acquisition teams can more effectively target their messaging. “Social media networks provide a wealth of data for recruiters by way of impressions, engagement rates, click-through rates, and audience demographics,” says Grogan. “Companies can leverage the data collected by social media networks to design recruitment social media campaigns that put their vacancies in front of the most relevant audiences. They can conduct simple A/B testing to determine what message resonates best.”
According to Riemer, other engagement metrics organizations can track include “…the number of increased followers on a social media account, number of referrals and applicants, number of shares on a specific social media post, as well as the number of positive interactions on social media.”
A company’s marketing function can provide additional data to supplement these metrics. “Partner with your marketing organization to set up effective tracking mechanisms to measure how people are finding you, what content they are interacting with, and if they are converting to your recruiting platform,” says Dachenhaus. “Use this data to further tweak and enhance the type of content you are creating and sharing across your toolset.”
By partnering with the marketing function, HR teams can examine metrics like views, clicks, and conversions; but according to Dachenhaus, this is not sufficient for determining recruitment effectiveness. “A strategy could appear to be highly effective because it is garnering views and converting site visitors to applicants, but if these applicants do not result in a hire, you have actually introduced inefficiency into your recruitment process. You must figure out a way to tie together your media efforts and your placement data so you know clearly what spend is translating to revenue,” he explains.