The Major Do's and Don'ts Of Using Social Media To Reach Gen Z Candidates
Do: Stay true to your brand.
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The digital natives of Generation Z are beginning to enter the professional workforce and many employers are unsure of how to best reach potential candidates within this age group. Studies indicate that Gen Z-ers spend a majority of their time on social media channels – such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook – so it is not unusual to see companies contemplate or even attempt reaching out to candidates through these newer channels rather than through a typical email or LinkedIn message.
However, despite spending a significant amount of their lives on social media, the time spent by Gen Z-ers on social media isn’t necessarily extending into their professional lives. Data collected by RippleMatch shows that for Gen Z candidates, the primary means of researching a company is not social media – it’s a company’s website, followed by the company’s Glassdoor page. Excluding LinkedIn, employers should tread with caution when attempting to market to Gen Z candidates through social media so they don’t risk harming, rather than helping, their brand.
According to Justina Sharp, a 21-year-old content creator and Gen Z brand consultant, “Often it feels like brands get caught in the weeds when it comes to social media, especially when they try to capture a younger audience, and they do things that don’t fit their image at all. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and as a potential job candidate, is very off-putting.”
While authenticity in interaction is crucial for consumer brands to understand and follow, it takes on a new meaning when social media becomes a potential channel for candidate outreach or recruitment marketing.
Public relations expert and best-selling author, Peter Shankman, compares the inauthentic social media presence of a company to “the Steve Buscemi bit where he comes down the stairs with a skateboard and says "Hello, fellow kids", noting that Gen Z candidates “want real interaction - and they're willing to share their lives for it - but it can't be fake.”
So what does that authenticity look like? It’s really as simple as staying true to your brand and letting your mission and values shine through.
That means for employers whose images and identities don’t particularly align with an active social media presence, there’s no need to force it. Instead of trying to incorporate Internet memes or popular hashtags into your social media strategy as a particular appeal to young people, stay true to what your company does. Gen Z candidates much prefer a profile with useful information to an inauthentic one. If you have dedicated social channels for company news and company life, share content in a way that’s consistent with your brand voice. And if you do want to frame your messaging to Gen Z, focus on spotlighting the things they value at work – like company culture, opportunities for professional development – rather than altering your tone.
For direct outreach on social media – as opposed to just posting content – the same rules apply.
Justina Sharp explains that many initial messages from brands or recruiters through social media have “a tone of forced casual-ness that I see a lot of people adopt when they’re trying to reach ‘the young people’, and while I sometimes choose to overlook it, it’s always a bit of a turn-off for me.” On top of that, Sharp adds that reaching out on social media can be a detriment to companies, as they “run the risk of a candidate simply missing an invitation or offer by reaching out on social media, because the majority of us don’t open unsolicited messages or even check those filters.”
As privacy becomes a greater concern across the social media space, more and more Gen Z candidates are deleting accounts, deactivating them, or at least privatizing them. That means that many offers or messages will be lost in filtered messages and ignored because they’re considered spam – even if the offer is valid – just because many Gen Z-ers do not expect companies to be reaching out to them primarily on social media platforms.
For most industries where outreach through social media may not be well-received or appropriate, it can still serve as a tool for organizations to do research on potential Gen Z candidates. For many Gen Z-ers, social media accounts are where their personal brands are represented and where they interact and engage with their peers, and that says a lot about who they are and how they could serve your brand or contribute to your company’s culture. Sharp encourages this use of social platforms, stating that “Social media is a phenomenal way to locate people specializing in the skills you’re hoping to acquire for your team” while also acknowledging that most of the time, it “should be an information-gathering stage, not the moment of outreach.”
However, there are certain industries and instances where outreach through social media works well and is appropriate. One of those cases, as emphasized by IT and social media specialist Craig Caruso, is utilizing Twitter “for candidates to showcase their work and portfolios.” Within the creative space, it is crucial, as Caruso points out, to see projects “they have worked on, art…, websites, and how they interact with others,” as those are influential factors in whether a company decides to work with a candidate.
For visual jobs, Instagram may also be a source of reference or outreach, as many graphic artists, photographers, illustrators, or other creative Gen Z-ers utilize the platform as their portfolio and encourage connecting and making commissions in that space. Jobs within the social media and digital media space is another area where outreach through social platforms may make sense. Those candidates will already approach their own social media platforms with a more serious, networking-centered approach, making outreach there more appropriate and understandable.
Every company will have different goals for their social strategies, but there are some general do’s and don’ts that remain relevant regardless of what your company does. Here are six summarized Do’s and Don'ts for using social media to reach Gen Z candidates:
Stay authentic to the brand voice. Changing up the brand voice just to attract young people will likely have the opposite effect, so be sure to stay true to what your company does and let your mission and values shine through on social media.
Utilize social media to get background on candidates. Doing quality research on candidates is important. Young people display their true selves and personal brands online, so companies should utilize that information for their decision-making.
Reach out through social media for creative and media jobs, with discretion. Certain jobs require candidates to utilize social media platforms to further their personal brands and showcase their work, and in those cases, it is appropriate to use social media to connect.
Dumb down the tone of outreach messages to attempt to reach the Gen Z audience. Gen Z candidates know when a company is trying to pander to them, and doing so will only push them away in the end.
Direct message Gen Z candidates when other alternatives, like email or LinkedIn, are readily accessible. Only utilize social media – especially private messages – as a form of candidate outreach when it is unquestionably appropriate to do so.
Reach out without providing a personal point of contact, like a name and an email, within the company. Without giving a real connection, private messaging with a brand for a potential job may seem very unusual to Gen Z-ers, and prevent them from moving forward with a professional relationship.
With the prominence of social media in the lives of Generation Z, it might be tempting to invest heavily in a social strategy in order to recruit top Gen Z talent. However, aligning your messaging across platforms – like the company website, Glassdoor Page, and other public profiles – and staying true to your brand is the most effective way to build meaningful relationships with Gen Z candidates.
Want a cheat sheet to Generation Z? Download our infographic on "5 Fast Facts Every Employer Should Know About Generation Z" here.