Recruiter Magazine: Soap Box - Don't Believe The Social Media Hype

31 March 2010: Online recruitment expert and chief executive of Recruitment Genius, Geoff Newman, was recently requested to comment in Recruiter Magazine about social media in recruitment.

The full article reads:

Forget Twitter & Facebook - it’s real relationships that count when it comes to doing business

What is the point of social media in recruitment? It's an important question to ask. What is the point of social media in recruitment? With the exception of LinkedIn, which is my electronic equivalent of a Roledex, I have tried what the 'experts' recommend and frankly want a few hours of my life back.

I don’t claim to be an expert, but nor am I a technophobe. Just someone genuinely wanting to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel. Can you make placements from social media that would be impossible via job boards and other traditional methods?

I can understand the attraction. A new phenomenon. A method of reaching a wider potential audience. A chance to demonstrate that we are recruitment savvy ‘Thought Leaders’. Evocative analogies such as ‘social media is like a tidal wave, either swim with it or get crushed!’.

But the reality I find is a lot of wasted time creating and monitoring over-glorified noise and creating an audience that is prepared to accept your interruption into their busy days.

Facebook is undoubtedly important for an entire generation. But despite its dominance a new trend is beginning where people are quietly leaving. Either deleting their accounts, never updating their status or not uploading photos. So it appears Facebook fatigue is setting in, a good indication it could be a fad.

In my quest to find the illusive return on investment I had the opportunity to speak with the MD of one of the UK’s largest job boards which provides a Twitter feed to thousands of followers. Despairingly he admitted Twitter was a disaster, with significantly lower engagement levels compared to e-mail job alerts. Furthermore his Facebook groups we’re more likely to share negativity and discontent whilst looking for a job, rather than constructive discussions. Hardly worth the investment.

Even one internal researcher I spoke to within a top five accountancy firm said he “Didn’t have the time to use social media. We used it last year but now we are too busy”.

All recruiters are under significant pressure to ‘add value’, demonstrate our sometimes questionable professionalism and strong understanding of market conditions. Social media is not the solution. Instead I would suggest a ‘back to basics’ approach is always better. As a manager I often see consultants struggle by overcomplicating a simple process. All clients really want is a fast response with the right applicant. Job boards already achieve this, so why change what works?

Equally social media is not a solution to achieving higher margins by pretending recruitment has just got more complex. A decade ago I regularly filled roles at 10 per cent because of simple economics - there were few jobs and many applicants. As employers struggled to find staff I could naturally raise prices. Now clients can dictate the terms. Yes we should intelligently negotiate prices instead of merely discounting, but if you don’t reduce your fees to match market conditions don’t be surprised if someone else does.

Finally I don’t believe social media leads to differentiation. Practically everyone has a social media account. You are probably unique if you don’t use twitter. Yes you may have more friends, followers, connections and tweets than other consultants. But so what? All paying clients care about is filling their job. I am yet to see a PSL where I have to specify my social media credentials.

One thing will certainly never change in the decade ahead - the importance of real business relationships. Therefore isn't it time we recognised the best way to build these relationships is to meet people or pick up the phone? And also understand those people following you are not really your friends. Indeed being a ‘friend’ has never been so meaningless.

Ironically I’d like you to share your examples of how social media can positively effect a social media recruitment revolution on Twitter (#recruitROI). You can also follow me on Twitter (@recruitgenius).

Now that my rant is over, I’ve got to continue writing on people’s walls, finding more Facebook friends, following back Twitter followers, understanding Google Buzz whilst finally creating a business network on Naymz!

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