A new survey shows that companies are investing more and more of their recruitment resources in social media networks and seeing it pay off.

For a majority of recruiters, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and employee referrals have officially surpassed online job boards as the preferred way to acquire talent. In 2011, increasingly more companies boosted their recruiting efforts by investing in social media to reach job candidates, according to Jobvite, a recruiting platform for the social web.

"The data show that recruiting departments, like marketing departments, are reaching and engaging their targets in multiple social networks," says Dan Finnigan, president and CEO of Jobvite. "The fastest moving companies increasingly use the richness of profiles in LinkedIn, the power of online connections in Facebook, and the instant reach of Twitter to develop valuable talent pools and make new hires."

According to a recent Jobvite survey of more than 800 U.S.-based HR professionals, more than half (55 percent) plan to increase their budgets for social recruiting, followed by employee referrals (30 percent), while only 16 percent plan to spend more on job boards.

Companies are increasingly seeing their social recruiting efforts pay off. Nearly two-thirds of employers surveyed now have successfully recruited employees through social networks, with 64 percent stating that they made successful hires through a social network in 2011 compared with 58 percent in 2010. And many are using at least two social networking sites.

LinkedIn is on the list for 87 percent of companies, up from 78 percent in 2010; 55 percent use Facebook and 47 percent are using Twitter. According to Jobvite, in the first six months of 2011, 73 percent of social hires came from LinkedIn, 20 percent from Facebook, and 7 percent from Twitter.

As for the source that has proved to yield the highest quality hires, survey respondents ranked employee referrals number one. According to Jobvite, one out of every 10 referral candidates are hired compared with one in 100 applicants who have not been referred.

Using social media for recruiting purposes is advantageous for employers for several reasons, according to Shelley Gorman, director of career management at the UNC-Kenan-Flager Business School. She says that social media expands the applicant pool and allows employers to reach global candidates; it allows employees to alert their personal networks about possible job openings in their organizations; and the technologies are cost effective. The downsides? Keeping up with the pace of the growth in social media.

"One of the challenges HR professionals face when entering the social media market is that it is growing at seemingly exponential rates with new players regularly entering the arena," notes Gorman, author of the report The Recruiting Revolution: How Technology Is Transforming Talent Acquisition.

Keeping up also is a challenge for those looking for jobs. She adds, "The same is true for recruiting professionals but added to that the concern is whether they will be using the right application for their talent acquisition needs as these platforms develop." Only time will tell which application will be the leader, she says.

In the meantime, Gorman advises talent management professionals to be strategic in their social media investments. "When selecting which social media application to use, HR and talent management professionals should not only consider the resources they have available to maintain them, but should also consider which ones will best align with their organizations strategic HR plan. "