Social media revolution

 

 By: Syed Zafar Mehdi

Earlier, companies used to advertise jobs in the newspapers, magazines, job boards or through word of mouth. Those traditional methods continue to exist, however with the advent of powerful social media tools, companies are increasingly adopting innovative social media strategies to survive in this highly competitive business environment. When Ford ran its 2011 Explorer launch on Facebook, it created flutter in the business circles, as it was the first time a major car company was opting for web unveiling. However, the gamble turned out to be extremely effective, prompting business leaders around the globe to stand up and take notice of the power and reach of social media. Howard Schlutz, CEO – Starbucks made pertinent remarks about the role of social media in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “Whether you are creating a brand, building one, or running a big one, you’d better understand social media, because there is a seismic shift in how people are gaining access to information and, as a result, how they are behaving,” he said.Social-media-for-public-relations1reduzido

The explosion of social media has been incredible. A paper Social Networks and their Impact on Records and Information Management by Arma International Educational Foundation states that social networks started as a means for people to have a social connection with other people with similar interests. “They were once considered a tool for youthful revolution, but over the course of the last seven years, social networks have been used both for social purposes as well as for conducting business by a variety of organisations and industries. Examples of industry sectors using social networks include private companies, non-profits, political organisations, government and education.”

It is a widely recognised fact that the future of recruiting is social, so both job providers and job seekers need to get social as well. In this globalised world, with great inter-connectivity, it has become critical to incorporate social media elements in HR function for myriad reasons. The interactive nature of social media allows HR professionals to reach out to prospective candidates and tap information about their background, experience and expectations. It helps in marketing and brand management and increases the opportunities for enterprises to understand the consumers and build instant connection with them. Wipro Limited conducted a seminal study Social Media: Impact and Relevance in Managing Human Resources in India to understand the impact and relevance of social media in Human Resources in year 2011–2012. “Majority of the organizations use social media in human resources. However, they also agree that it has not been tapped to the maximum. It is used disparately and inconsistently, however, organisations are confident that they will be using social media better in the future to be ahead of the competition,” said the report. It said the leadership in majority of the organisations has shown keen interest in usage of social media in the areas of internal branding, collaboration, communication, and hiring.

Two-thirds of the 21,000 companies who participated in a recent survey by Harvard Business Review Analytical Services said they are either currently using social media channels or have social media plans in the future. But many still say that it is an experiment, as they try to understand how to best use the different channels, gauge their effectiveness and integrate social media into their strategy. “While still searching for best practices and measurements, two-thirds of the companies surveyed are convinced their use of social media will grow, and many anticipate investing more in it next year, even as spending in traditional media declines,” says the report, The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action.

Generally, HR professionals are known to be late-adopters, but the world of possibilities thrown up by social media has led many HR professionals to it. However, HR is not the only function that is embracing social media, even marketing, operations and other functions in big companies are increasingly taking to it. Social media experts believe that it is high time for businesses to accept and recognise that social media is a positive tool they can use to their advantage, irrespective of whether or not the job deals with social media or the internet. According to a recent research report Social media and HR: how to stay ahead of curve by Sage by (UK) Limited, HR is lagging slightly behind other business functions such as sales and marketing in using social media to their advantage, however its value has started to be recognized. “It has a potentially game-changing role to play in recruitment and a significant role in creating a positive employer brand. It can also drive greater collaboration within organisations, and can help HR professionals to share best practices and learn from the experiences of their counterparts in other organisations,” reveals the report.

As the practice of social media picks up in HR function, there is still a disparity in different countries, as found out in a report Social Media and Resourcing: the impact of Social Media on Recruitment and HR in Asia Pacific by Australia-based Alexander Mann Solution and The Chapman Consulting Group. None of the Australian respondents say they used social media to vet or reject job applicants, while in Singapore, 17 per cent confess to have rejected a candidate based on information available on social media site and 29 per cent of recruiters in Hong Kong reveal they actively vet candidates online.

In big companies, social media plays important part in centralising the data sharing, by enabling employees at various locations to share information instantly. It also plays a crucial role in supporting and cultivating the corporate culture within an organisation by creatively engaging the employees to ensure higher productivity at work. Incorporating the engagement aspect in the social media strategy is important to create a corporate culture. In future, as the role and importance of social media becomes more defined in the business world, it is likely to extend to other aspects of business.Get-Hired-Fast-Social-Media-Job-Search-finger

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 200 active social networking sites, most prominent being LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and MySpace, besides Yahoo Groups, Google groups etc. Social networking has emerged as the preferred online activity of web users in India. According to a recent report by comScore – a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital business analytics – social networking accounts for 25.2 per cent of the total time spent online in the month of June 2012, marking an increase of 0.8 per cent from the previous year.

Social media has emerged as a powerful way to recruit fresh talent, generate publicity, keep the workforce in good humour, and to ensure greater productivity and growth. However, it is important for HR professionals to understand which social media strategies or tools will work to their advantage. Bruce Tulgan in his book Finding roles for social-media tools in HR suggests nine ways in which HR can connect with the business using new social media tools such as podcasts, wikis and blogs. Ray Ponter in his book The Handbook of Online Social Media Research: Tools and Techniques enlists some important social media tools for the public sector, which includes online communities, online research communities, twitter, social networks like Facebook, blogs and public discussion forums, virtual worlds etc.

The tools are aplenty. HR professionals may use Twitter to stay updated with industry events and happenings. They may do blogging to spell out their business methodologies and practices. More popular platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can help them engage with employees, both new and old. Staying in touch with the alumni network – an art perfected by many prominent consulting firms – can pay back when they recommened new hires. The effective use of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in recruiting people can eliminate the cost involved in hiring head-hunters, or paying consultancies or job sites.

The role of CEOs and top leadership is also critical. There is a growing trend of young CEOs upstaging older ones in many companies, and that means the disparity in terms of social media is also diminishing. Business leaders in the present scenario need to have firm grip over the intricacies of social media and its application to various aspects of business, be it recruiting, scouting, engaging, or brand building. A study by Wipro revealed that 63% of the CEOs’ use social media in their respective industries, though this is not indicative of the extent of usage and effectiveness. “Majority of the CEOs’ are in agreement with the fact that social media is relevant and the usage should be emphasized upon to gain maximum of it,” said the report.

As Arthur L Jue, Jackie Alcalde Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis write in their book Social Media at Work: Networking Tools Propel Organisational Performance, “the social media wildfire rages on, fed by high winds of at least three converging forces: the nature of the business environment, changing workforce demographics, and rapid advancements in software technology that enable social connection.”

 

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About Zafar Mehdi
Maverick journalist, irreverent rebel, travel freak, cricket junkie, reluctant fundamentalist, student of life, dreamer, believer.

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