How To Source Using Digital Anthropology

The study of human anthropology is observing humankind and the social relationships of human beings. Naturally, with the onset of digital social networks, there is a new way to study human behavioral patterns: digital anthropology. After all, online social networks are our evolutionary reaction to the digital age and mimic real-life intercultural proclivities. Anthropology consists of studying people’s online social relationships, habits, and patterns. Because online life reflects real life there is much to learn by observing the activities and ‘bread crumb trails’ left by individuals via their social networking interactions.

Of course, with these new ways to observe people’s everyday lives, we are as sourcers also provided with new tools with which to study our prospects, develop profiles, and conduct outreach to potential candidates. Two such tools that have proven to be extremely useful for sourcing include event sites and location-based services.

Sourcing with Event Sites

Local events are a fantastic source of leads for prospects in fields where there is otherwise little online footprint. For example, in fields such as Accounting, Finance, Nursing, Law, and Medical, among others, you may find individuals who occasionally blog or participate in online communities, but such individuals are not as plentiful as in other industry sectors.

Many continuing education companies employ local experts to teach recertification courses. These courses can be found online but frequently behind dynamically generated content which makes it “deep web” content not picked up by regular search engines. However, the content of those sites can be easily found with just a little bit of digging around.


Finding Training Faculty and Instructors

Take, for example, Tax Accountants. is offering 98 local training events over the next three months in just about every state in the US and province in Canada. If you are looking for someone in Sales & Use Tax in Arizona, look no further than here. Each course lists a bio on the faculty presenting the course, and there are hundreds of people listed in these bios. Simply find the topic or city of interest, and look up the faculty. teaches another course as well, in areas such as Employment & Labor, Workers Compensation, Payroll, Benefits, Constructions, Environmental Services, Water Law, Public Works, Land Development, HV AC, Medical Records, Nursing, Insurance, Banking, Collections, Sales, Manufacturing, and a few others.


If instead, you seek Financial Attorneys specializing in Probate Law, check out this event and look at this faculty. Or maybe you are looking for Nurses? Or say you work for a Children’s Hospital and need Coders or Speech Pathologists like Julianne.


Finding Attendees

Sometimes you find not just the instructors but also participants, particularly when the training company publishes “testimonials.” Such as the dozens found on this HV AC training company’s page..

Yeah, it is just that easy.

But wait, it gets better!

This may come as a shock to you but conversations occasionally take place around in-person networking activities as well, such as what you can find in, for example. Say you seek Private Wealth Managers, you may find some participating in meetups focusing around wealth creation, or “wealth-building” groups like this one.

Though you can create your own Meetups, as a source it is best to just observe. For example, you can get alerts when a new MeetUp with specific keywords starts near you, and see who joins. Or you could search using unique specialized skills keywords in your target industry and locate people with that desired “tag” within your desired geography. When you are ready to reach out, do so though some other network. For example, in NYC a 20-member PHP MeetUp group shoots pool and drinks beer at a certain place every week. Grab those names and plug them into Facebook, search for their friends, then plug that data into LinkedIn… Yup! You’ve got it now 🙂

Can you think of other networking websites where discussions could move offline? How about LinkedIn Events for example?


Sourcing with Location-Based Services

What if you can locate your prospects based on the GPS on their phone? Does that sound too “007” to you? It isn’t. Enter Location Based Services like Foursquare (10 million people), Gowalla, Yelp, Brightkite, and Google Latitude for example. Most of them also integrate with Facebook Places or Twitter, and frequently with both.

When a “status update” or “check-in” is generated, these services report the geographic coordinates of your prospect. The most popular applications are Facebook Places, Twitter, Foursquare, and Yelp.


But, why does this even exist?

Uncle Sam requires cell carriers be able to pinpoint the whereabouts of any customer who calls 911. To comply, these upgrades cost wireless companies a ton of money. So now they are anxious to get a return on their investment by selling services that exploit these new capabilities for profit.

People use these modern-day “smoke signals” for a variety of reasons including letting their tribe know things like “Hey I’m over here working out of this Starbucks today in case you want to join me,” or “I’m hanging out at this bar/pub/restaurant/mall/theater/street; if you are nearby let’s hang out.” Others use it to learn about locations they would like to visit, to decide where to go, or to get special coupons, deals, discounts, and freebies available only to those who “check-in.”

Just in case you are asking yourself “So what?” think about your prospects and what places they visit before, during, and after work. The most popular check-in locations, in order, are restaurants, coffee shops, bars/clubs, homes (yup, they check in at HOME), stores, and sports venues. So, you can see if people from a particular company branch congregate at a local establishment for work lunches or happy hours.


How? Glad you asked.

CheckinMania makes it easy. Enter the address of your target company or branch location, and see who checks in nearby and why. Find the local coffee shop or watering hole your target audience frequents, and click on that location. From there you can see who checked in via Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, or Twitter.

Say you find ‘Evan T’ checks infrequently at the coffee adjacent to your target company. Click on his Foursquare profile from CheckinMania and notice the Facebook and Twitter icons on his profile. A click on the Facebook icon takes you to his page where you can see his last name, find out what school he attended, learn about his interests, see where he works, and even scan through his Facebook friends (or are they co-workers?).

Or from his Twitter bio, you’ll get a link to his blog or LinkedIn profile. From there you can read recent tweets about his job, check out what Twitter lists he follows (or that follow him) which reveals others like him. What exchanges has he had? Does the Tweet his co-workers, peers, supervisors, subordinates, customers?



The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding people based on their everyday patterns. We as humans tend toward predictability in most cases, and digital anthropology allows us to trace predictable online patterns. Whether it’s participation in industry-related activities or visiting familiar places within a small radius of where we live, work, and play. Of course, sourcing with these tools has the potential of mystifying prospects so it’s always good to clue them in on how you found them. Most people will be impressed with your abilities, however!

Check these resources out and see what gold you can come up with for your sourcing efforts. Be sure to share your findings in the comments below, too!

Shally Steckerl

One of the pioneers of the sourcing discipline, Shally is the Founder and former President of The Sourcing Institute, where he has helped numerous F500 and mid-market organizations train and develop their talent sourcing capabilities for nearly 20 years. When it comes to innovative approaches to candidate search, Shally literally wrote the book. He is the author of the industry-standard textbook “The Talent Sourcing and Recruitment Handbook” as well as “The Sourcing Method: Tactics to Find Unfindable Talent.”


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