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Recruiting for ag retail and cooperative jobs can be a painful process. With most rural areas experiencing low unemployment and tough competition for good employees, many cooperatives have ditched the local newspaper ads and are moving to Facebook as an “easy” place to advertise. But if Facebook isn’t working like you think it should, it's time to consider making a lookalike plan.

In this article, I'll go over two ways to set up a target audience inside your Account Manager to help garner more attention and, hopefully, more new employees.

Why the Old Way Isn’t Working Anymore

Gone are the days of simply creating a “help wanted” post and hoping your followers will “like” and share it. Many agri-businesses are using the Facebook Account Manager system to boost posts by setting aside dollars based on the number of days they want their campaign to run or their expected overall budget. Even this leaves many recruiters struggling to earn visibility as Facebook continues to tighten its content algorithms.

For example, if you categorize your ad as an "employment" post, Facebook may limit the types of audiences you can target with that ad. This limits the opportunity to sub-segment or closely narrow your ad's audience. Hiring managers are frustrated and HR leaders are scratching their heads asking themselves what is going on.

Facebook advertising algorithms continue to change, and the way you’ve been setting up your "help wanted" ads has to change, too.

While creating a Facebook advertisement in Account Manager can be done in just a few clicks, you may be missing out on key audiences. The good news is you don’t need to spend more money. If you're throwing $100 per week at Facebook ads, you could invest that same $5,200 annually in a planned, strategic campaign to improve your return on investment to fill those empty positions.

Select the Right Target Audience

Facebook offers targeting to “Lookalike Audiences.” A Lookalike Audience, in this case, would be a group of Facebook users who are similar to your current employees and will likely be interested in career opportunities at your company.

You probably have a general sense of the kinds of pages your employees follow and engage with on social media. It could be the high school sports fan page, a local band, a race car group, or a community advocacy group. You are looking for those who share your company’s values and get excited about the same things your employees get excited about.

Your employees are your greatest assets; why wouldn’t you want to clone them? With a Facebook Lookalike campaign, you’ll be targeting more of the same when it comes to those who will see your ads.

Two Ways to Build New Audiences

You can define a more targeted audience in one of two ways inside your Facebook Account Manager:

1. Compare personal email addresses of your current employees and applicants.

Current email addresses will be “cross-checked” against the email addresses used to register for Facebook. Facebook identifies the kinds of pages, posts and groups your prospective employees are engaged with and sets that group as an audience.

It is recommended you have about 1,000 email addresses for creating an audience this way. (Don’t have 1,000 applicant and employee email addresses? This might be a good tool for reaching prospective customers, too.)

Don’t worry, you are not sharing your list of employees’ personal email addresses. You are merely cross-checking your list against the email addresses used to register for Facebook.

2. Place a “pixel” on your Careers page.

This tracking code from Facebook is copied from the Business Manager page and pasted into the URL of your careers page by your web admin. The tracking code, known as a pixel, will identify the webpage visitor’s age, gender, geography and Facebook engagement. It then creates a group of people who share similar characteristics and shows them your Facebook ads.

Anyone who visits your Careers page will become a part of your Facebook audience and will be shown your "help wanted" ads.

This also works in reverse, as you can target people who have visited your Facebook page but have not navigated to your Careers page to apply.

In short, the best way to invest your Facebook spend is to create the most targeted audience possible based on behaviors and not just geography.

Value in Measurement

The great thing about Facebook advertisements is the measurement. There are a plethora of measurements and metrics available to help you tweak and adjust to help meet your goals. Facebook allows you to drill in deep to filter, track and save your detailed performance metrics so you can share regular reports with hiring managers.

The ag retail and cooperative industries will continue to face recruiting challenges in their rural geographies, but with a planned approach to your social media spending, you may win over some of the prospects your competition isn’t reaching online.