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Will You Fit In? Conducting Company Research with Social Media

The Internet allows for a networking two-way street – just as recruiters can search for information about you as a potential applicant through social media, you can use social media to find out more about them, too. Company profiles and accounts are established to foster community connections and provide a place, and often a point of contact, for details about job opportunities, as well as workplace culture.

One of the most common tasks assigned by career advisors to students involved in career exploration and job search activities, is researching potential employers. Finding a good "fit" from your perspective can mean more than just focusing on skills and qualifications. It's also important to find out if your values align with those of the organization where you will be working. Learning more about a company's needs, as well as what it's like to work there is all part of company research. The process used to mean pouring over books like the Hoover's Guide in the library, and more recently company websites, but employers are developing their own online presence via social media.

"Go where recruiters go."

This advice is from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), helping us consider the possibilities in their post, How to Use Social Media to Find a Job. What networks are employers actively using and what should you be looking for when you explore their profiles? Job listings, yes, but you can also identify people you can talk to, examples of work taking place in your field, and evidence of workplace culture. Here are some of the most frequently used platforms and a few examples of the type of information you can find with each one.

  • LinkedIn: According to information provided by, "80% of employers who use social media for recruiting use LinkedIn." It's a widely accepted platform for professional networking and a great place to start your social media company research. Search LinkedIn Company Pages for details about company size, products and services, location, and links to connected employees that also have LinkedIn profiles. Take a look at employee profiles for descriptions of their work, education and experience, and group memberships. Each company has control of what type and amount of information is displayed, so some profiles will have more to work with than others.
  • Facebook: Businesses are also using social media platforms to connect with their customers and Facebook is a popular place for this kind of activity. You can learn a lot about an organization from the way it interacts with the public online. Company pages can include photos, links, updates, current events, and discussions with other Facebook users. Take a look at The New York Times, Starbucks, and Ford as examples of what types of information you might find available.
  • Twitter: Similar to Facebook, Twitter is used by companies to help them get the word out about what they do and engage with a larger community. Twitter is also used to disseminate information about job openings. Take a look at @JobHuntOrg‘s list of over 400 employer recruiting accounts that are sharing job information and an active online presence via Twitter.

There are of course additional avenues to consider, such as YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest, with more to follow as the existing platforms evolve and new ones emerge and gain popularity. Search these systems to find out if the specific companies you are interested in have a presence there as well.

Like, Follow, Join, Connect …

The "social" part of social media is all about making connections and these platforms allow you to do just that. The SHRM article includes Tim Tyrell-Smith's guidance to "pick 10 target companies" that you can focus on connecting with via social media. This list will likely change as you find new companies of interest and as your career exploration and job search needs change, but 10 is a good target number. After you've identified these companies, and added them to your network, it's time to take the next step. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Join the conversations. Depending on the features of each platform, this may mean contributing to discussion boards, using relevant hashtags, attending live events, and sharing updates. Being an active participant and offering professional input can draw positive attention to you and your profile, helping you make the most of your social network.
  • Ask questions. Using social media to connect with companies and others working in your field doesn't have to focus on job vacancies. Use the opportunities available to ask questions about the industry and the type of work you can expect after you graduate. I've been on the receiving side of these kinds of inquiries in LinkedIn and I think you'll find that once you are connected, others are willing to share their knowledge with you.
  • "Tap into the ‘new water cooler'." This advice from was directed toward companies, but it applies to job seekers, too. What are employees at your companies of interest talking about? What information and resources are they sharing via social media? Monitor what's being shared for overall tone and approach, level of formality, and consider how it all might reflect the work environment.

It's not just about students and career advisors getting involved in social media, you can also find out a lot about potential employers in these networks. Take the initiative to identify and connect with companies online, just make sure your profiles are in place and up-to-date before extending your virtual hand to employers.

Have you connected with an employer though social media? Tell us your story! And share your recommendations for our readers here.

Image credit: Gavin Llewellyn, Flickr, CC-BY