01 Jul, 2013

Social media sidelines

Will the strength of a company’s future workforce depend on its success in social media today? TARGETjobs Breakfast News speakers sent 200 graduate recruiters, universities and agencies away from the June early morning gathering with the thought that a few likes on Facebook and 500 followers on Twitter isn’t going to cut it when it comes to making an impact on the current crop of university students.  What their friends, peers, and indeed, total strangers say, who they say it about and the forums they use to deliver that message, all carry a great deal more weight and influence than parents’ thoughts and, in most cases, what a company or firm is saying about itself.

There are exceptions, of course – those who deliver social media campaigns to pack a punch and have a regular reach greater than the size of their organisation, or longer than the 140 characters available to get a point etched into the memory of a reader’s brain. How else can anyone explain why Innocent, the ethical smoothie maker set up by student friends following a skiing holiday (and now owned by Coca-Cola), gets 350,000 Facebook page likes? When The Guardian UK 300 employer survey asked more than 25,000 of last year’s soon-to-graduate students where they’d most like to work they ranked Innocent at number 10 on their wish list, yet there’s actually no graduate recruitment programme at the company. It’s all to do with the entertainment value of Innocent’s social media campaigns, Tristan Moakes, Work Group’s Head of Digital and Creative explained in one of a series of lectures delivered under the banner of ‘Being Social’. Inspire, educate and entertain, tap into students’ core values and you’ll start to reel in the followers.

Why does this all matter? Because, as GTI Media’s Breakfast News opening speaker Dennis Turner, the former HSBC Bank Chief Economist, says, we need the UK’s companies, big and small, to engage our brightest minds and help us deliver a national economic recovery; to stop us buying into the ‘German manufactured goods are best’ notion and to help us rediscover our own exporting and creative traditions.  Optimist he may be, but if he’s wrong, the light at the end of the tunnel is a Teutonic train, rather than the dawn of a new era of growth.

It’s no longer enough to sit on the social media sidelines, even if in the past your company’s long-held standing has been enough to carry you to the top of graduates’ lists of places they most want to work. Today’s graduates are engaging emotions, hearts AND minds, when they’re looking at who they want to start their careers with. Reputation, as well as rewards, is part of the inventory, mental or actual, of what companies and organisations must have on offer. Students are waking up to the power of LinkedIn to manage their careers and connect with possible employers, and they’re creating networks of their own.

Which is exactly why, in the words of another of the Breakfast News speakers, social media guru and Digital Project Leader Christer Holloman, it’s time for companies to galvanise their existing workforce into managing the social media output.  Get away from thinking it’s marketing’s job to ‘do’ Twitter and populate the Facebook feed.  Instead of students listening to total strangers when it comes to working out their first career move and using all kinds of social media – from Pinterest to Flickr, Tumblr to Glassdoor to get the information they need, HR should be taking a lead. Understand how talent makes decisions and deliver some of Christer’s best practice and you too could attract the best graduates to your organisation.

The latest TARGETjobs Breakfast News meeting, hosted in the Riverside Room at The Institution of Engineering & Technology in Savoy Place, London, provided the perfect backdrop to bid a fond farewell to familiar face Carl Gilleard, the outgoing Chief Executive of the Associate of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).  In a personal reflection he revealed he’d travelled the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back for business, visiting 86 universities in the process.  He too, sees reason for optimism in the recruitment market, with significant growth in the SME sector, particularly in the provinces.  Carl used part of his final speech to exhort recruiters to consider those graduates who don’t fit their narrow ‘employability’ template and to look at the risk-takers and oddballs who could, tomorrow, become the most successful people in businesses.  And just as Carl was signing off, AGR’s incoming Chief Executive Stephen Isherwood was welcomed to the forum.

UK-educated graduates and the workforces they’re about to enter, are the drivers of the future economy.  With its outlook across the Thames and its bustling bridges, from St Paul’s and The Gherkin to the Palace of Westminster, with its history as the birthplace of the BBC and its members’ reputation for brilliance in development, the IET seemed the perfect place from which to deliver a message about the power of social media of all kinds and a note of cautious optimism.
Credit: onrec.com

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