acquisition_hp_banner_0_1Bullhorn recently released their fourth annual Global Social Recruiting Activity Report, detailing the activity of both candidates and recruiters across social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This report provides an interesting read, and even more interesting insights, into social recruiting trends, particularly around usage of these “Big 3” social networks supported by Bullhorn Reach.

The study also looks at how the activity and usage of these three social networks differs across the many different markets where Bullhorn Reach registered users recruit, from Canada to China, providing a holistic look at the global social recruiting picture.

Although, statistically speaking, the sample size was relatively small, the findings of the report reiterate what many recruiters – myself included – already implicitly suspected when it comes to social media; the trends identified by the Bullhorn report seem to just feel right. To give you a sense of the scope of the study, Bullhorn Reach claims to have over 260,000 registered users. While that’s a lot by staffing standards, compared to LinkedIn’s 313 million or Twitter’s 271 million registered users – and Facebook’s whopping 1.3 billion – this study’s scope has to be taken at face value, although granted, unlike these other networks, those 260,000 users are all recruiters. More important than sample size, however, taking a deeper dive into the data reveals some interesting insights about social recruiting.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 takeaways from the 2014 Bullhorn Reach Social Recruiting Activity Report:

1. Mobile Recruiting Is All The Rage (Well, Some of It):

Finally, after years of theoretical discussion and basic business cases, mobile recruiting is finally getting its day in the sun. Mobile seems to be truly emerging as a key engagement tool, with smart companies leveraging smart phones to reach potential candidates, both active and passive.  Which is an interesting trend, but, let’s be real here.  Recruiting has always been predicated on “fishing where the fish are,” and proactively engaging qualified talent wherever they might be. It just so happens – with our cell phones now being something of an extension of our upper limbs – that ‘going where the candidates are’ has become exponentially easier.

Potential candidates, like the rest of us, spend most of their time on their phone, an appendage always at the ready. This has given rise to the recent social recruiting trend highlighted in the report, which suggests a strong correlation between ease of process and candidate engagement. In other words, the simpler employers can make mobile recruiting for candidates, the more likely recruiters will be to actually engage them, and ultimately convert them into candidates.

This trend’s emergence, of course, has spawned a cottage industry of companies, from startup point solutions to feature sets from established enterprise players, all focused on mobile optimization for career sites and online recruiting. But with only 20% of companies currently claiming mobile-optimized career sites as yet, one has to wonder why such a disconnect actually exists. And when you consider the report’s claims that  that 45% of candidates apply for a job via a mobile device, this 20% seems extraordinarily low.

If mobile recruiting truly is the wave of the future, why aren’t more companies adopting this technology more rapidly? When you look at the collective jump in mobile applications generated by all three social networks outlined in the report (representing fully a fifth of all applications generated through social recruiting), the growth of mobile is clear as can be. It stands to reason that companies providing multiple avenues for candidate access are reaping the rewards – and recruiting ROI – in the form of more traffic to their career sites and, ultimately, more applicants.

The bottom line is, as far as mobile is concerned, recruiting still seems to be working out the kinks. It’s a technology that’s still scary to some recruiters, but the early resistance seems similar to what we’ve seen before in terms of adopting and adapting new tools to the recruitment process. Remember the early days of career sites? It’s not all that different. Expect to see more growth as mobile recruiting moves from the margins to the mainstream – in fact, you can count on it.

2. Twitter Has Potential, But Will Users Have the Patience? 

Twitter Network Size by Country
Twitter Network Size by Country

Once again, the report’s findings should come as no surprise in suggesting that a significant number of recruiters are still looking for a quick-fix solution rather than a long term social recruiting strategy.

The results are that, on a network like Twitter, adoption hasn’t necessarily led to engagement; the report finds that   64% of U.S. based recruiters on Twitter still had less than 50 followers (see chart onr right).

Which ain’t great, but…wait. Not so fast.

Astonishing though this may seem, this baseline has actually jumped 50% year-over-year, raising an interesting social recruiting question.

Are users simply not taking the time to build up their network on Twitter, or is the increased adoption of the network simply showing that most are still in the early stages of building out a following? This trend will be interesting to watch over the coming years; ideally, Bullhorn can pair this data in future reports with some usage and average activity statistics to make all things relative in social recruiting and Twitter to definitively answer this question.

Side note: Another interesting finding missing from the report is the number of users recruiters on Twitter actually follow. From a sourcing perspective, that’s likely a much more telling metric than the absolute number of users following them.

3. We Really Need To Define What “Social” Recruiting Really Means

Job posting activity and the relative size of a recruiters’ network don’t really fully explain the full spectrum of social recruiting. For instance, if a recruiter does nothing more than simply post jobs through an automated feed to Twitter or Facebook, does that really constitute “social” recruiting? The graffiti artist who tags a freeway overpass isn’t expecting to get chatted up (and probably wants to avoid it), but that still doesn’t mean they don’t want their message to be seen. Social recruiting seems to be doing essentially the same thing.

While the law of averages dictates the inevitability that eventually, you’ll have a measure of success with any given tool, social recruiting seems to really be, at the moment at least, the old “post and pray” methodology with some extra makeup on. What’s more important than simply having a social recruiting presence is creating content that engages the audience and endears them to your brand. Building an emotional attachment between consumers and brand is key to B2C marketing, and that same emotion-based engagement should form the core focus for recruitment marketing, too.

Meaningful content isn’t a trend, but rather, a recruiting reality; content will remain king, to quote the old cliche, continuing to hold its throne. That means for social recruiting, posts with little or no content – or, substance, for that matter – are likely to be lost with the continued “rise of the machines” in recruitment. Consider Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, which uses engagement (in the form of likes and comments) to determine the shelf life of an individual post. That means that the more likes and comments a post has, the more viewers, and visibility, the post will have, meaning for recruiting, engaging content directly correlates with the number of candidates your message will reach.

And it’s not just Facebook that’s putting a premium on engagement; Twitter, for example, is considering implementing a similar filtering algorithm, to the great dismay of what appears to be many members of The Flock. Couple this with the competition for organic reach with the rise in sponsored or “promoted posts, and this means that getting seen on social won’t be getting any easier. But even with all the automation and algorithms, here’s the rub: social shouldn’t mean inhuman. In fact, just the opposite – this is one medium where personalization continues to trump automation almost every time.

4. Is Social Recruiting Poised To Explode in China?

Percentage of Recruiters Connected by Country
Percentage of Recruiters Connected by Country

The Bullhorn report reveals that LinkedIn retains its sizeable margin as by far and away the most popular social recruiting channel in China (see chart). Good news for LinkedIn, since domination of the recruiting market in the largest job market in the world seems like a key to the company’s continued growth.

But that’s also dependent on the continued restrictions of the Great Firewall, where networks like Twitter aren’t even allowed to operate.

Should those restrictions ease up, we’re likely to see an OBSCENE amount of new users flooding the market on Facebook and Twitter, significantly eroding LinkedIn’s market share and leveling the playing field for social recruiting while increasing its overall reach and efficacy in this booming economy.

I wouldn’t expect any immediate action here, but times are constantly changing, and China seems to represent a bellwether for the future of global social recruiting. Keep an eye on the East.

5. Blackberry. WTF?

The most surprising finding of the Bullhorn report that really shocked me is the fact that Blackberry users still makes up 39% of mobile applications coming from social networks. When you consider the fact that not only are most developers designing their mobile recruiting platforms and processes around iOS and Android, but also the fact that the users of the latter seem much more likely to serve as early adopters and active users of mobile recruiting apps, this number seems simply astonishing.

Think about it: who the hell has a Blackberry anymore? Do you know one single person still busting out this device which has only 1% of overall mobile market share – a percentage that’s still plummeting? I’m rounding this up, by the way – I’d really love to see the data on this one.

Although maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, like in everything else in social and mobile, recruiting is way behind the times in technology – and the lag of consumer usage to social recruiting seems likely to only continue costing employers the talent they need to succeed in the new world of work.

Click here for a full copy of Bullhorn’s 2014 Global Social Recruiting Activity Report.

radloffAbout the Author: Pete Radloff has over 13 years of recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments, and has worked with such companies as Comscore, National Public Radio and Living Social.

With experience and expertise in using technology and social media to enhance the candidate experience and promote strong employer brands, Radloff also serves as lead consultant for Exaqueo, a high-end workforce consulting firm.  An active member of the Washington area recruiting community, Radloff is currently a VP and sits on the Board of Directors of RecruitDC.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PJRadloff or connect with him on LinkedIn.

By Pete Radloff

Pete Radloff is a veteran recruiter, sourcer and consultant, who has been in the industry since 2000, with experience in both agency and corporate settings. Pete’s passion stretches across several areas of talent acquisition, including recruitment and sourcing, social media, employment branding, recruitment operations and the training and mentoring of recruiters. Currently the Principal Technical Recruiter for comScore, and a Lead Consultant with exaqueo, Pete has previously worked for high-growth organizations such as NPR and LivingSocial. In addition to recruiting top talent both in the U.S. and abroad for these companies, Pete has developed successful recruitment and sourcing frameworks, recruitment processes and procedures, and enhancements to the candidate experience to enhance employer brand. Being part of the local recruiting community in Washington, D.C. has always been important to Pete. He was a member of Board of Directors for recruitDC since for six (6) years, and has also been a speaker at several recruitDC events. He's also a contributing writer at RecruitingDaily and SourceCon. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter, or at his site, RecruitingIn3D