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The Power of Non-Commercial Social Media

Commercial social media sites are all the rage these days. It's hard to find a recruiting conference or publication which isn't breathlessly touting the power of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Ryze, BranchOut and others. They're all useful recruiting venues, to be sure, but they are not the only social sites we recruiters should be using. Where else should we be going on the Web to meet high caliber talent? Non-commercial social media sites or what most people call association Web-sites.

According to the American Society of Association Executives, there are over 90,000 professional societies and trade associations in the United States. The former represents individuals in a specific career field, while the latter represents employers in a specific industry. Wikipedia puts the number of trade associations at 7,600, which means that there are approximately 82,400 professional societies now in operation.

These organizations chop and dice today's occupations and workforce into very fine gradations. For example, there are professional societies for:

  • IT workers (IEEE Computer Society) and for women in IT (Association for Women in Computing);
  • human resource practitioners (Society for Human Resource Management) and for Hispanic-American HR managers (Society for Hispanic Human Resource Executives);
  • scientists (the American Association for the Advancement of Science) and for Native Americans in science (Society for the Advancement of Chicano & Native Americans in the Sciences);


  • journalists (Society for Professional Journalists) and for gay and lesbian members of that field (National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association).

In short, there's probably not an occupation, occupational specialty or cohort of the workforce that isn't represented by one or more professional societies.

Equally as important, the people who join these organizations have character traits that make them very attractive prospective employees. They tend to be especially dedicated to their field and to keeping their professional knowledge up-to-date. They are often well connected with their peers and actively interact with them on a regular basis. And, whether they are in transition or not, they never ever look for a job, but are almost always on the lookout for a career advancement opportunity. In essence, the members of professional societies are the quintessential "high caliber candidate" we are all trying to recruit.

Connecting With the Talent of Professional Societies

As detailed in WEDDLE's Guide to Association Web Sites, there are several ways to connect with professional society members online. Just as with commercial social media sites, however, the two best ways are to:

Advertise your openings on the sites.
Many employers now post jobs on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and, of course, you can do the same on the job boards operated by many professional societies. These job boards have the distinct advantage of being integrated into a larger site that is almost always replete with latest news and information about a particular career field. For that reason, they attract people who aren't looking for a new position, as well as those who are.

The key to writing an effective job posting on a non-commercial social media site is to change your perspective. Don't focus on what you need - the requirements and responsibilities of a job - but instead emphasize what's in it for the candidate - what will they get to do, what will they get to learn, what will they get to accomplish, with whom will they get to work and how will their work be recognized and rewarded.

Network on their discussion forums.
These venues attract people who are passionate about their work and committed to sharing their ideas and insights, opportunities and challenges with their peers. They aren't trying to build up a huge address book of connections or friends, but instead, are working to build up their professional expertise and brand.

The key to networking effectively on such sites is to adhere to the Golden Rule of Networking: you have to give as good as you get. If you want a discussion forum's participants to help you fill your opening (by considering it themselves or referring you to someone who might), you must first be helpful to them (by sharing your knowledge of the job market and emerging trends in their field).

Commercial social media sites are a powerful new addition to the recruitment toolbox. It's also important, however, not to overlook the non-commercial social media sites that have been around for a long time. They are a credible and efficient way to reach some of the best talent in the workplace today.

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

June 2012
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