Not that long ago, if you had said you would be fishing for potential recruitment candidates on Facebook you’d have been laughed out of town. Well, that’s all changed. Today, finding skilled, talented candidates using social media sites is as viable as using more traditional methods, such as jobs boards, advertising, networking, word-of-mouth or cold-calling. In fact, arguably, social media has helped improve the quality of placements. It certainly allows recruiters to tap into talent on a more personal level as well as speeding up communication and in the case of, say, LinkedIn even enabling you to target specific jobseekers. You can also actively winkle out candidates who are not specifically looking for a new job and would otherwise never have been found. And, perhaps best of all in this beleaguered economy, it’s free. But what are the facts? The lowdown Let’s face it, the under-30s are glued to their tablets and smartphones and the rest of us are semi-glued, so it’s no surprise that 40% of people socialise more online than they do face-to-face. This means you stand an excellent chance of getting your vacancy and/or your company in front of hot, new talent using social media. According to online marketing company Creotivo, across the world there are 552 million daily users of Facebook; 6.9 million using Twitter; 75 million using Google+ and 25 million using Linkedin… So, as our American cousins say: “Do the math”. No wonder, then, that employers and recruiters alike have been busy launching profile pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to reach out to prospective candidates, post jobs and even to raise their own company profile. The changing face of recruitment As social media sites have gathered a more professional following, they’ve added services. For instance, Facebook now offers business profile pages and there are all sorts of online recruitment tools that allow recruiters to gather automated referrals for candidates from employees within their social networks. Meanwhile, recruiters are increasingly thinking laterally. One recent initiative is to make use of apps designed for mobile phones, for instance, tapping into the databases of location-based apps such as Four Square. Text messaging has been shown in a number of studies to have a much swifter communication rate than email when it comes to jobs postings. A study by IDC Research shows that 79% of people aged 18-44 have their smartphones with them 22 hours a day. Therefore, 98% of messages that are received are opened, and 90% are read within three minutes. Increased competition As a sign of these digital times, recruiters are also paying specialists such as Jobvite to mine social networks and collect information on potential candidates across social media platforms as well as to match jobs to talent on the web. TheSocialCV is a global internet search tool that builds profiles of candidates based on information posted on social networks, blogs and other public data sources. International recruiters are making more use of dedicated professional networks outside the UK, such as Viadeo and XING. Be aware As we all know from our social usage, an online profile is not always accurate. It makes sense, then, to use social media recruitment in tandem with traditional methods and ethical processes. That’s good news for recruitment consultants, who might otherwise fear becoming obsolete. Research has also shown that social media sites don’t represent a fair cross-section of jobseekers. A study by Quantcast in 2010 found that just over 80% of LinkedIn users are Caucasian and only 30% are at director or manager level, for instance. Other studies have shown that only a small percentage of social media users have post-graduate degrees and earners of over £100,000 are in a minority. Nevertheless, it is here to stay and recruiters need to master it to stay ahead of the increasing competition in this field. Certainly, social media has improved the recruitment process by increasing the talent pool from which you engage and recruit as well as helping to spread the word on vacancies. And it has got to be much less stressful than cold-calling.