Although 82 percent of staffing firms are using social media to source active and passive candidates, early adopters claim that recruiting is only the tip of the social media iceberg. Savvy firms are boosting contingent worker engagement and impressing prospective clients by weaving social media into every facet of their staffing operations.

“We initially used Facebook just for recruiting, but things quickly evolved,” explains Jerry Wimer, vice president of global operations and staffing center of excellence for Staff Management | SMX. “Social media gives contingent workers the opportunity to connect with each other and our staff in ways that weren’t possible before.”

Engagement and Retention Opportunities

Engagement wasn’t an objective when Staff Management conducted research and decided that Facebook was a viable social networking platform for recruiting contingent workers to support cyclical clients in manufacturing, distribution and logistics. But the firm scored an unexpected benefit when it discovered that active workers were logging in to read about the employee of the month, discuss workplace challenges or update their assignment status.

In a bold move, the firm hired a coordinator to push contingent requests — for everything from tax forms to background check updates — to an appropriate member of the staff. Now, a core group of Staff Management’s contingents regularly visit the firm’s Facebook page to participate in raffles, interact with peers and post questions on its wall.

The opportunities to orient, train and motivate contingent workers are endless, according to Wimer, especially when staffing firms offer performance incentives, tips and links to safety or other educational videos posted on YouTube. The key is selecting the right venue and not treating social media like a stand-alone tool but immersing it into every phase of the staffing lifecycle.

“You might think that LinkedIn would be the best social media platform to connect with professional contractors, but registered nurses prefer Facebook,” says Brad Smith, director of social media and marketing for Haley Marketing Group. “Search job titles and review the site’s demographics and advertising tools to see which social media platform provides the best opportunity to connect with your target audience.”

Wimer also credits his firm’s fearless content management practices for engaging contingents and yielding more unexpected benefits. Instead of deleting negative comments, the Staff Management team views them as constructive criticism and tries to make adjustments. Surprisingly, contingents started jumping into the discussion and occasionally respond on the firm’s behalf. Further, they’re turning to each other for solutions to workplace problems or assignment leads instead of relying solely on recruiters.

“You have to monitor what’s being said about your firm on the Internet by setting up an alert,” Smith notes. “But you should regard negative comments as a call to action, because you won’t be viewed as genuine if you get defensive or start deleting threads on social media.”

Marketing Opportunities

Don’t underestimate the marketing prowess of social media or its ability to elevate your brand. More than 50 million business and customer connections are made on Facebook every day, and according to Pew Research, 58 percent of Americans research a company online before purchasing a product or service.

“Staffing firms that don’t use social media to attract new customers are making a big mistake, because cold calling is no longer effective,” says Smith. “It used to take eight to 10 impressions to get a prospective customer to call, but now, it takes at least 15 to 20 positive impressions before they’re willing to try a new firm.”

Use social media to create positive impressions by authoring a compelling, keyword optimized company profile, summary and opening statement on a demographically favorable site like LinkedIn. Then, foster an emotional connection by posting company photos and videos and allowing the sales staff to engage prospective clients in in-depth conversations.

Account managers can capitalize on social media by hosting discussion forums and connecting with relevant professional groups like engineering and alumni associations and cham- bers of commerce. Strike while the iron is hot by following prospective clients on Twitter and use its advanced search function to identify companies that are actively hiring.

Staffing firms won’t be successful if they engage in self-promotion or use sales rhetoric to respond to client inquiries. An effective social media campaign compels prospects by showcasing your firm’s staffing expertise and validating your capabilities through client recommendations.

Post links to articles and blogs that address the needs of your audience — like tips for hiring or reducing contingent worker costs — then utilize cross-media optimization by announcing the arrival of new content on Twitter.

“Clients are sick of sales pitches,” says Tony Popowski, manager of public relations for Grass Roots Marketing. “Social media isn’t about you and it’s not a billboard, it should be used to build relationships and credibility by sharing relevant information and driving prospective customers back to  your [search engine]-optimized website.”

According to a recent study by HubSpot, companies that have a blog receive 55 percent more website traffic on average than companies without one, yet the American Staffing Association recently reported that only 18 percent of its surveyed members are blogging directly on their websites or on platforms that are easy to find through search engines.

Smith says that a staffing firm increased traffic to its website by 350 percent in the first year by using social media to leverage its  blog, while another increased its  page views from 10,000 to 80,000 over the course of a year by adding just one optimized blog post to  its  website each week.

Finally, complete the circle by  posting social media icons on the bottom of your website so  visitors are prompted to  visit your Facebook page or follow your firm on Twitter. Adding icons to your website is a simple but overlooked opportunity, according to  Advertising Age, which reported that only 44 percent of the Fortune 50 companies had social media icons on their home- pages, and 60 percent hid their Twitter streams based upon a study of companies’ homepages.

Measure ROO, Not ROI

Popowski insists that return on objective (ROO) is the best way to measure the impact of social media because it’s only one piece in a puzzle that eventually leads to more filled orders or new customers. Rather than tracking activity and costs on a spreadsheet and painstakingly calculating the ROI, he  recommends training your staff, communicating your policy and objectives, turning them loose and comparing the results to  your goals.

“It’s hard to  assign a cost to the various activities, so staffing owners need to take a leap of faith and devote the necessary resources to  get their social media program off the ground,” advises Joe Salvucci Jr., manager of corporate development for Peak Technical Staffing USA.

Nevertheless, experts concede that owners need a few tangible measures like these to gauge the effectiveness of their social media campaign:

  • Monitor the growth of connections and followers on your social media page especially if you’re offering a bonus or incentive to boost participation.
  • Track the number of people posting on your wall along with the number of quality conversations to assess the effectiveness of your content and the responsiveness of your staff.
  • Scrutinize the number of click-throughs to your company website, blog and e-newsletter along with the number of shared job postings, as a rise in activity proves that followers like your content and want more information about your services and firm.
  • Tag new subscribers coming from social media by putting a widget on a social media or sharing page for subscribers who sign up for something like a newsletter.
  • Use Google Analytics to analyze your website traffic and initiate improvements because having a compelling, navigable site is a critical component of a comprehensive social media strategy.

Finally, be patient and use basic staffing performance metrics like time-to-fill, cost-of-hire and customer growth to measure your progress, because if they improve, then chances are your social media strategy is working.

“A lot of staffing firms are struggling with social media,” says Koleen Singerline, senior vice president for Grass Roots Marketing. “But the good news is that no one’s an expert at this point, and there’s still plenty of time to  get it right.”