Generally speaking, a social media team within a company’s marketing department will lead the organization’s social media strategy, but we’ve been seeing changes to this setup for a while now. Particularly, I am talking about the new partnership forming between marketing and talent acquisition.

This new partnership has given rise to a new role. It goes by many titles, but we’ll designate it “social media sourcer” here. This role carries a variety of unique attributes and a mix of hybrid responsibilities. It is part researcher, part social media strategist, part online relationship-builder, and part marketer, all integrated into one with the express goal of qualifying candidates for potential hires.

When my firm recently posted a job ad for a social media sourcer, we received more than 400 applications. We hired two internally, and for our clients, we’ve hired a total of seven social media sourcers. Demand for the role continues to grow.

Based on current trends, this emergent role is likely here to stay. Firms like Intuit, which takes a cutting edge approach to its talent-attraction strategies, have created a number of these specialized roles that blend the utilization of traditional sourcing tactics with a heavy emphasis on direct marketing and social media. A small team designed for lead-generation and reporting to a social media sourcer tends to generate more leads than traditional sourcing has in specific areas. Intuit is still refining its team and the role(s), but it provides a good illustration of how creative thinking and commitment to marketing and social media can lead to improvements in recruiting performance.

There are other firms doing this as well. We see staffing firms experimenting with the concept. A large manufacturing company on the east coast also just positioned a social media sourcer to be partnered at the hip with its marketing department. The intention is to open new doorways to candidates, and the company in question believes the role will provide brand exposure to candidates who would otherwise be unfamiliar with its name.

When we look at postings on Indeed, we see a small but growing pool of these hybrid positions at firms like Microsoft and other typical “first movers.” One interesting aspect of this development is that, when you look at job postings for sourcers, all mention social media as a necessary skill being sought. The social media sourcer role takes that requirement further, with more focus and emphasis on building relationships and pipelining.

What Exactly Is a Social Media Sourcer?

The major responsibilities of this role include:

  1. Management of corporate social media pages and career sites, including posting and tweeting for clients if needed.
  2. Responsibility for company updates, news postings, and job opportunities.
  3. Targeted identification and profiling of top talent for critical requirements.
  4. Thoughtful and personalized communication and candidate nurturing (targeted communication).
  5. Building candidate target lists, all to be customized (usually 15-50 profiles).
  6. Efficient use of campaigns for key demographics and job functions.

CoffeeAt first glance, updating social pages and posting jobs is pretty straightforward. Developing personalized communications is also something we recruiters are well-versed in, so that’s not new in itself. However, building customized lists of 15-50 profiles based on key demographic information is a newer function for the traditional sourcer supporting corporate roles.

In the social media sourcer role, the sourcer uses a combination of relationship-building, social and professional networking, and targeted list generation, with the end goal goal of generating warm leads – i.e., top-qualified candidate profiles.

These functions fall outside the realm of the traditional sourcer. Because of the unique elements of the role, it is intended to complement existing talent acquisition strategies, not replace them. Most sourcing roles require using social media, but that’s usually about searching and posting jobs. Traditional sourcing relies on LinkedIn, but in this new model, everything from Twitter to Snapchat to automation tools like Hootsuite is part of the sourcer’s toolkit. Writing and communication skills are critical. Developing personalized messages is key to success in this role.

It’s an interesting mix – one moment, you’re using Boolean search strings and sourcing on LinkedIn, and the next, you’re writing campaigns to target specific talent using all types of images and messaging

Why Are Social Media Sourcers Important?

A study from iCIMS found that, out of about 11.5 million applications submitted throughout Q3 of 2015, roughly 1.1 million applications were submitted with a social media profile. That’s almost 10 percent of all submissions.

To say that the future of sourcing is all about social media would be exaggerating, but the value and growth of it as a part of the recruiting process will only become more important. It is reported that only 4 percent of recruiters don’t use social media as part of their sourcing process.

Of all social media sources, LinkedIn appears to be the most heavily used. In a study from SHRM, 57 percent of respondents said they used the site to source at least one hire in 2015.

As LinkedIn saturates the market, other social media options become attractive, and knowing how to leverage these channels is a critical skill for today’s social media sourcers.

Authenticity and transparency are important qualities when using social media. An interesting feature we’ve seen with the social media sourcers is that they ask candidates to reach out to them to answer questions on the hiring process. While this itself isn’t new, the level of transparency is greater and much more genuine.

Is This the Future of Sourcing?

RocketWe don’t know yet. Many would argue that it’s not likely, but we do see it growing in importance. We’re seeing more searches being done for individuals with the necessary backgrounds to be social media sourcers.

Sourcing via social media is challenging. At times, it requires a level of detail comparable to detective work. On Facebook, there’s a lot of noise. The average user has 1,500 posts queued up in their feed each time they log in – and some especially well-connected users have up to 15,000! The number of businesses and the amount of content on Facebook has made it an incredibly noisy space. If you’re posting content, you’re fighting with other companies to reach the same talent audiences. The same challenges exist for Twitter and LinkedIn.

To address these and other challenges, companies will need to become more and more strategic and deliberate in their social media efforts in 2016. The content needs to be real, authentic, data-led, and purposeful. Employers must use data to maximize the ROI on their social recruiting.

How Do We Measure Success?

This role is still in its early stages. Yes, traditional TA metrics like quality of candidates and time-to-hire are being used, but more traditional marketing metrics are being evaluated as well. Furthermore, we know that an effective CRM is a must for this position.

It should be clear that it will take time to determine what success in this hybrid role looks like, but given the growth of social media, companies that aren’t exploring this option are running the risk of being yesterday’s top employers – not today’s.

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