I’ll admit that I joined Twitter somewhat reluctantly; unlike, say, Facebook, which is instantly intuitive and almost universally acceptable, Twitter seemed, in the halcyon days of social media, something akin to the online version of the AV Club. It was more or less a bunch of nerds, fanboys and techies flinging back and forth seemingly indecipherable messages with their own syntax and style. Remember when # used to be called a “pound sign?”
Yeah, back in those days, when it was me and a few hundred thousand of my nerdiest friends tweeting almost exclusively articles about how to use Twitter, as even in 2008, being meta about social media was second only to automated Mashable feeds in terms of most “professional” Twitter feeds (the only ones I paid attention to in a time when I couldn’t GAF about anything other than gaining followers, getting paid and occasionally, making myself laugh (and mostly no one else) with some bit of snark.
I hadn’t heard the word ‘snark,’ by the way, until a review of my Monster account (@Monster_Works, for all you OGs out there #PourOneOut) by Laurie Ruettimann, who used it in a recommendation to follow the account in some article about “companies getting social right.” I didn’t really know, or care, about most HR bloggers out there at the time other than feigned interest for PR purposes, but LFR was, and is, my favorite HR blogger and a very big deal.
I figured I was doing something right – at least, that shout out earned me a bunch of internal kudos, thank you very much, Laurie. So I’ve stuck with snark every since. It’s paid mixed dividends, although I can’t say I have any regrets as to the way I’ve played the game.
But it comes time, of course, to acknowledge that the game has changed somewhat. Which is to say, now that we pretty much know Twitter for recruiting doesn’t work, that’s not seeming to stop people from continually getting high on hashtags as part of their recruiting strategy, which is really too bad considering, my friends, this trip isn’t going to end well – and the come down is really going to suck for most of you who are doubling down your investments in the shady, suspect and spurious scam of social recruiting.
Far Out, Man: Reevaluating Social Recruiting.
That’s why instead of dismiss Twitter as a giant drain of time and energy for minimal recruiting ROI, a sourcing money pit whose trendiness has always far outweighed its actual utility, I’m going to acknowledge that in the approximately 8 years or so recruiters have been talking about using Twitter, fully 91% of employers recently reported to having used this platform for recruiting over the last year. That’s pretty much a near universal adoption of a network that used to be seen by myself and many others in the HR and recruiting industries with a mixture of disbelief and disdain at Twitter being leveraged as a TA tool. A fool and his money, as they say, spend on growth metrics like followers, reach and “influence” (a nebulous concept at best, much less a statistically valid reporting capability) – the rest of recruiters, it seems, are still plugging away and tweeting at the windmill, so to speak.
You need to go no further than to Google “recruiters on Twitter” to see that somehow, 43 million unique pieces of content have been created about a topic that’s specious at best, snake oil at worst, the Toyota truck of source of hire – after the apocalypse, automated job feeds are going to be one of the only technologies that somehow still works. Karma’s a bitch like that. Recruiters, similarly, have stopped being content at being good at filling reqs, advancing their business and bottom line and ensuring their hiring managers and candidates are happy. Everyone now wants to be a “thought leader,” or an “influencer,” or an “expert,” and Twitter, of course, is the default platform for this sort of douchebaggery. And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Dan Schwabel’s newest book today at a Kinko’s near you…
Here’s the thing. Since we’re not going to shut up about Twitter, I thought I’d actually share some tips and tricks that might make it suck less – I’m not promising anything here other than you all seem dead set on using this platform as a recruiting channel, and if like 8 years of friggin’ articles about how asinine and specious it all is keep falling on deaf ears, screw it. I’ll pass along some things I’ve found that have worked on my journey to figure this whole social thing out, one that’s been around about as long as the concept of “social recruiting” itself.
Up In Smoke: 3 Easy Twitter Tips for Sucking Less at Social Recruiting.
Remember, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all advice for any social network, except for this: the only way to figure it out is to do it and see what works for you. All other advice is either trying to sell you product or some sort of consulting service. The below list should not be construed as advice, only things you should probably keep in mind before continuing to tweet out total crap as a matter of course (and under the misconception that somehow this is a “best practice,” which it is not.
1. Nice Dreams: Twitter Analytics Are BS. Seriously. They were made up to give what’s pretty much a basic SMS service some sort of pseudo-scientific “credibility,” as well as some number, any number, to justify associated spend and advertising dollars. Almost any business case for using Twitter throws in stats about “fishing where the fish are,” touting its huge number of global users – about 310 million active accounts in Q1 2016 – and that users send 500 million tweets a day, or that 45% of Twitter users are in the coveted 18-29 “Gen Y” demographic.
These sound impressive, but while recruiting spend and presence increases YoY on Twitter, that trend and the rosy social recruiting headlines are selective, out of context and almost always omit some of the reasons Twitter’s stock has remained in the shitter after its much ballyhooed IPO. Try to build a business case for increased spend based on these less publicized Twitter usage statistics, ones that kind of prove that any long term benefits of a successful Twitter recruiting strategy, while minimal, would likely be fleeting. Twitter, sadly, is already dying off.
Consider that while over 80% of workers report looking for new jobs online during regular working hours, only around 9% of those same workers report to using Twitter while on the job – a pretty wide disconnect between potential candidates and employers trying to reach professional or exempt talent on this network. Supply and demand must work for a source of hire to be successful, and oddly, this might be one channel where there are more recruiters than job seekers. Of course, a Pew study found around 16% of American salaried workers were still blocked from accessing Twitter on their company networks, which might stymie efficacy – and underscore the fact that recruiters might love Twitter, but HR’s still suspicious – suspicions which, conversely, impact their departmental outcomes. Of course, the theatre of the absurd is a SHRM competency, I think.
Some more stats that might surprise you: only 38% of Millennials even have a Twitter account, according to an eMarketer survey, meaning that the utility of this tool to reach this coveted workforce demographic is really a Quixotic task. They might actually dislike it as much as your standard HRBP; only around 1 in 4 Millennials rank it as their preferred social network, a pretty dismal number for a platform that’s seen by TA as “cutting edge” (of course, color TV falls into that category for many, so there’s that). Twitter has long had fairly stagnant user numbers, likely because while people continue to sign up for the service, many promptly abandon it – in fact, 44% of MAUs reportedly have never actually sent a tweet out from their account. Someone’s listening to something, but most of the conversation is marketing, trolling or links to Business Insider articles.
Before you commit to tweeting and have any expectation of this being an effective recruiting channel either for sourcing or engagement (or just plain old brand awareness), then stop what you’re doing, take a step back and figure out if the people you’re trying to recruit are actually on Twitter. Unless you’re looking for mostly Caucasian, mid-career creative types, salesmen or content marketers, this probably isn’t the most fertile hunting grounds. But that’s not going to stop most recruiters. Just know that it’s not the utopia of potential pipeline prospects everyone seems to think it is. Survey says: that’s a lie.
If your targeted candidates largely avoid Twitter (like most people who aren’t also eating Early Bird Specials at Luby’s or binge watching Murder She Wrote), then you don’t actually need to make it a part of your recruiting processes or programs. It’s like paying for ads targeting veterans in Mother Jones or Global HR Leaders in Wired or Crunchbase; it’s not going to work, and if you don’t recognize that targeting is key to scalable, sustainable sourcing, slating and selection strategies, then you’re never going to find a fit, because there’s probably no way in hell they’re going to find you.
I’d bet that even if you’re the world’s most proficient social recruiter, and headline every conference dedicated to selling this idea that social media is the future of talent, you’d still be better served spending your time and money elsewhere. Seriously, it’d be hard to find a platform with either worse ROI or meaningful metrics to support associated spend – well, that is outside of a career fair or radio ad. Which, by the way, both kicked Twitter’s ass as a source of hire last year #JustSaying.
2, Far Out Man: No One Wants to Hear About Your Stupid Employer Brand.
The worst thing any recruiter on Twitter can do is use some automated tool for scheduling and synch up all their networks with the same automated feed, so that every time their company posts a job, there’s some shit tweet that’s put out there automatically letting the exactly zero qualified people who might be looking at what some company career handle is tweeting during a workday for a job they’d want in a location that’s viable.
Seriously, if you like those odds, then you are incredibly lucky or know absolutely nothing about how math works. Recruiters, we can assume, are about evenly split between these two scenarios, meaning that those obnoxious “job alerts” with unnecessary #Hashtags, requisition codes and misformatted content aren’t going away anytime soon.
Don’t worry. 77% of all people who have ever sent a tweet only send one tweet ever from their account – it’s the ultimate hit it and quit it. So at least you’re owning share of voice with that god awful “social recruiting” integration your ATS vendor is selling and your 3 followers could give two shits about…
Well, in over a year of tweeting, the world’s most profitable company, Exxon Mobil, and one of its largest multinational employers, to boot (instigating regime change in developing nations takes headcount, you know), somehow has only amassed a paltry 638 followers. This is out of 84,000 current employees, by the way – and if you can’t get your employees to follow your careers account, how do you expect passive talent to do so? Even if you’re capable of propping up warlords and robbing the planet and future generations of renewable energy, you still can’t power your way to anyone giving a crap about your social recruiting. I use this as an example only to show that you’re probably fighting an uphill battle, even if you have a huge chunk of the world’s strategic petroleum reserve. Given you probably don’t, you should probably realize you’ve got better shit to do.
But I’m probably still not fully discouraging your social recruiting shenanigans, so let’s talk about how you present yourself as a person, not as a douchey brand. Social media is about people engaging with people, not consumers “joining the conversation” with brands or taking lemming like leaps into your talent pool just because you bought some point solution that has a built in Twitter integration. No one wants to talk to an avatar, but people are willing to engage with someone who knows their shit, shares valuable content and mixes a little personality and voice into their updates instead of just blasting CTAs all day.
So if you’re building a brand on Twitter, make yourself the center of the campaign. Your employer brand is a road to nowhere, at least as far as Twitter activation is concerned. Don’t believe me, ask @WalMartCareers, who represent the nation’s largest private sector employer and maintain a ubiquitous domestic brand presence, yet in over 6 years of social recruiting somehow have only managed just north of 25k followers, many of which appear to be bots or fake accounts designed to talk shit on Wal-Mart’s employment policies, worker treatment and the sort of baseless redneckery you could expect from anyone who’d engage with WalMart on Twitter. Insert Forrest Gump reference here.
I throw these examples in there as proof that if you don’t have a huge presence or the desire to try to make even the slightest noise in the din that is social media as a recruiter, then it’s OK. Neither do Fortune 5 employers, and somehow, it’s working out for their P&L and return on shareholder value, those benchmarks of conscious capitalism. Hell, even Twitter can’t make money on Twitter, but the companies out there doing case studies and extolling their social sourcing strategies and stuff have so much cash they can throw it away for nothing more than the illusion of goodwill and “candidate experience.” And so recruiters can look cooler than the phone monkey prescreen bots they are in most enterprise organizations – hey, you can search job board databases AND share inspirational quotes via branded hashtag? Let me guess. Wharton?
3. After Hours: No Chill, No Candidates.
In the years I’ve been interacting with recruiters on Twitter, I’ve seen a pretty wide range of styles, but most are just as bad as those of their employers’ B2B accounts – and similarly, are obviously somewhere between an implied obligation and a half-hearted attempt to look like a badass. If you try, it never works, you know, which is why I’d caution recruiters to be much more selective about how they position themselves on Twitter.
First off, you have to actually put some thought into your photo so you don’t creep people out – you know who I’m talking about, we all have one of those Mr. Harvey looking mofos lurking in the cornfield of our online communities waiting for Chris Hansen to pour him Lemonade. Or the HR Gal who clearly is using a picture from 1986, since you can see the fold down the middle, she’s busting an all LA Gear ensemble and has those crimped bangs that make the boys go wild. They did, back in the Reagan days, I’m sure, but for now, stop billing yourself as a “Gen Y” expert and go fight some crime with your rock band of holograms or something. Or, you know, payroll.
And there’s always the guy who is singlehandedly keeping Glamour Shots in business with some posed vaseline lens and a bunch of over the top stage makeup that looks like a community theatre production of the Mikado, but with slightly more pensive expressions and holding one’s chin while looking while looking wistfully off camera. Who are you people and where do you come from? Do you seriously as a recruiter think that someone wants to do business with an obvious sociopath, shady businessperson or someone with a headshot featuring a glittered background?
I mean, no candidate you want to hire is going to ever, ever give you the time of day if you look like a total tool. Which you probably already do to most, considering you talk about recruiting somewhere in your bio or use phrases like “performance and learning guru.” Give that picture some thought, and if you have a face that even a Conde Nast photo retoucher or Leeza Gibbons’ plastic surgeon couldn’t salvage, than just leave up the damn egg they give you when you open the Twitter account as a default. An egg is innocuous. This guy? Not so much.
Unless, you know, you’d like to catch a women’s volleyball game after church with this guy sometime. Sorry to randomly pick on you, but since you’re a “recruitment and migration expert,” you’re pretty much fair game, Professor Creeper.
Speaking of, you only get 140 characters for your bio – and you should probably make them count if you’re using this for recruiting purposes instead of wasting real estate in the hopes that this mention of some quote from Leviticus will finally convince people to accept salvation (#Christian #Blessed) or telling the world about being a “proud husband” or “loving wife” to @SomeOtherDBOnTwitter, or throwing in a bunch of specious hashtags, cringeworthy descriptors like “ninja,” “guru,” “rock star” or “thought leader” or any of the extra stuff that you might think makes you stand out, but really doesn’t do you much for recruiting, particularly if all that comes up on a Google search of your name is a LinkedIn profile, a list of Facebook accounts from people with your same name, and that creepy ass picture of you next to a bio in which you describe your interest in the art of clowning and #EmployeeEngagement #HRChat #CATSOFTWITTER.
Not only is that not going to generate candidates, it’s probably going to get the ones who do actually see your profile to avoid you like the plague, a Cybercoders account manager or an InMail originating somewhere in the subcontinent.
Getting a response is never easy, but you can easily shoot yourself in the foot before you even type your first tweet. When composing a bio as a recruiter, remember that this is an elevator pitch, and while you want to stand out (include some interesting personal stuff, like if you climb mountains or played D1 Lacrosse or have a black belt in Krav Maga, all of which I’ve seen recently), you also want to get your message heard loud and clear: you’re a recruiter, you work for this company and you hire this type of person. That’s 160 characters right there. You need every one of them.
Social Recruiting: Still Smoking or Completely Cashed Out?
No one probably wants another recruiter in their network, spamming their feed with “job alerts” and links to employer brand content with the same production value as an AngelFire page written at the same reading level as Highlights for Children or HR Magazine – so don’t be just another recruiter. Be you, and be real, and you might just be OK on Twitter. Remember, if you have a personality, then let it show through in your tweets – you never have a second chance to make a first impression, and someone wants to connect and follow people who are going to add more value than the occasional job tweet, article from LinkedIn Pulse or an inspirational quote cribbed from an old episode of Super Soul Sunday.
Look, we’ve already discussed that volume metrics are complete and utter BS, which means if you’re in this social recruiting thing with the expectation of ROI, then you should stop worrying about how many followers you have and how many tweets you send (and reach, impressions and Klout, among the myriad of made up math. You’re only as good as your last tweet, so treat every update like it’s going to be seen by that purple squirrel passive candidate who is going to be your next hire, and you should be OK. Just don’t sell your jobs. Sell yourself.
Twitter works for building relationships at scale, or facilitating interactions and connections. It augments sourcing and pipelining efforts, but will never replace in-person conversations, 1:1 interactions and the other social stuff that’s always been a part of recruiting, even before “social recruiting” became a thing. Recruiting has always been about building relationships, which is why Twitter works when you focus on the interaction instead of the information, but never the other way around. This takes a ton of time, has no guarantee of ROI and requires you wanting to be on this platform not because it’s the thing to do, but because you have something to say. If you don’t, well, then the last thing anyone needs is another recruiter on Twitter who has no idea how the hell this social media thing works.
Because most of the time, it doesn’t, really. But if we’re going to keep playing pretend, at least know that everyone’s going to probably ignore your recruiting related Twitter account in the first place, so at least have some fun with the damn thing before your boss tells you to put down the phone and get back to work. #TrueStory
By Matt Charney
Matt serves as Chief Content Officer and Global Thought Leadership Head for Allegis Global Solutions and is a partner for RecruitingDaily the industry leading online publication for Recruiting and HR Tech. With a unique background that includes HR, blogging and social media, Matt Charney is a key influencer in recruiting and a self-described “kick-butt marketing and communications professional.”
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