Social Media - Is anyone listening?

This post is mainly aimed at Recruiters although there is some relevance to social media users in other business to business marketplaces.

WARNING - Twitter & Facebook could be a disastrous waste of your valuable time!

TruLondon 3 is fast approaching, I can't believe it's been a year since TruLondon 2, so much has happened in that time!

Reflecting on the time since the last TruLondon has got me thinking - Bill Boorman's 'unconferences' are a fantastic environment in which to discuss, debate and most importantly learn new ideas and techniques in social recruiting.

Last year I enjoyed a fantastic couple of days, listened to some fascinating insights from some impressive people and came away with some very clear objectives;

- Create a fan page on Facebook and explore this medium to promote my business

- Expand on my use of Twitter

- Blog more...a lot more!

Well, I can't claim to have fully met these objectives (especially the bit about blogging!) but I have learnt some very important things over the year and here are my Conclusions;

Blogging

This should be the centre piece of any social media strategy BUT for most normal people it is time consuming and very hard to maintain on a consistent basis. This has been true for me and many others I have spoken to. You ought to blog but finding the time to do so on a regular basis is seriously challenging.

Facebook (for business) is a complete waste of space!

This does depend on your market but my conclusion is that the vast majority of Facebook users (and there are stacks of them) use Facebook to interact with mates and their family. Talking business in Facebook is just plain boring and no-one wants to hear it! It may be big in the States but then so is the superbowl!

LinkedIn

Highly relevant audience and a great place to build relationships, it can work as place to broadcast vacancies but if that is all you are doing you are probably losing more friends (and credibility) than you are gaining. LinkedIn is at it's most powerful when you engage with people (more about engagement later).

Twitter - everyone is talking but too few are listening!

I love twitter and use it on a regular basis but I have to admit that there is a real danger of it turning out to be a place where vendors talk to vendors and customers (or candidates) only listen in small numbers. The real question to ask is 'Who is actually listening and are they commercially of interest to me?'

As usual with recruitment, it all depends on your market. If you are recruiting Marketing or IT professionals then I doubt there is a problem. If however you recruit Sales, Accountancy, Legal, HR, Production, Logistics, Purchasing or many other white collar professions at middle to senior management then I question whether Twitter is really worth the effort.

To give you some idea of the problem, LinkedIn have over 5 million users in the UK and 95 million worldwide and yet less than 3% of them have linked a Twitter account which either means;

  • They don't have one
  • They have an account but don't tweet
  • They don't relate Twitter to business.

When I looked at my LinkedIn connections, the figure was still disappointingly low at 15% and many of my connections are really into social media!

This is backed up by the fact that I get 80% more 'likes' to LinkedIn status updates than RT's on Twitter (all updates go to Twitter). Yes, I have more connections than followers but not to that degree!

The worrying conclusion is that decision makers in business may not be interested in Twitter - I agree they should be...but at least for now, they do not seem to be!

I believe that good social recruiting  and good social business should be about engagement - a 2 way conversation that leads to respect, influence and commercial success. The way I see it is the difference between social networking (engagement) and social media (broadcasting). Twitter is essential a broadcast tool, people do engage sometimes but if you tweet be honest with yourself - Are you engaging with customers & candidates or mainly with other broadcasters?

Based on my experiences over the last year my advice to Recruiters is as follows;

1) Ask your candidates and clients (for recruitment consultancies) what social platforms they use. For candidates the best way to do this is via an application or registration form. A recruitment agency recently did this and found that 72% of their candidates were on LinkedIn (although few of them knew their url!) but only 8% had a Twitter account. If you keep monitoring this you will know when it pays to increase your Twitter activity.

2) If your audience is not really using Twitter don't ignore it. Keep or create an account, link it to your LinkedIn account and ensure that all status updates go to Twitter, this way it will take none of your time but will compliment your social media (broadcasting) activities & will keep you 'in the game' for when your audience start using Twitter.

3) If you already have a decent number of Twitter followers take some time to analyse who they are and ask yourself whether they are commercially of interest to you.

This may all seem a bit negative, I hope and actually believe Twitter will eventually become a more mainstream business tool (unlike Facebook) but I just don't see any evidence of it being an effective social networking tool yet, social media maybe but not social networking.

Twitter can be very useful in other ways (i.e. Knowledge acquisition) but in recruiting, real ROI (return on investment)  comes in the form of more suitable candidates or more clients and in many markets, Twitter is just not delivering.

I look forward to hearing a robust defence of Twitter and Facebook from many respected thought leaders at TruLondon 3 this week....bring it on, I can't wait!