Twitter and The Long Tail of Recruitment

Giles Guest of Enhance Media nicely teed up a Long Tail framework for thinking about recruitment. Here are some of my quick thoughts on how they might apply specifically to the recruitment advertising market. The Long Tail can be a problematic framework for setting corporate strategy but it provides a useful heuristic for looking at markets.

Quickly, in music and movies, it was thought that they only way to make money at entertainment retail was to focus on the hits. Blockbuster and HMV would set aside disproportionate floor space, and marketing spend to focus on merchandising their top 25 titles. The insight of Chris Anderson, author of the Long Tail, is that with eCommerce platforms, the cost of holding, storing, and distributing media drops, the potential audience is widened, and tools for finding and discovering less popular titles means that there might be more money to make from the millions of unpopular titles than the hundreds of popular ones. This notion is often debated (Anita Elberse of Harvard Business School takes it on here Should You Invest in the Long Tail? For those who enjoy this stuff, I offer a rebuttal here.)

To simplify, let’s try and isolate the Social Media (twitter, facebook, ning, linkedin) impact.

This is how I like think about the UK recruitment marketplace. There are 30mm individuals in the workforce. 2.5mm registered companies. Social media provides an easy and free publishing and distribution platform with tremendous reach. This could put some downward pricing pressure on the cost of posting a job.

But, since social media is reliant upon the social graphs of its participants. My belief is that for easy to fill positions, social media could pose a real threat to job sites but for other posts the social graph will be too limited and the reach of job sites will be required.

But the social graph isn’t the only limiting factor for platforms like Twitter to play a role in recruitment. At present, search tools are not sophisticated enough to make social networks usable platforms for finding employment. Hashtags and status-update search tools aren’t sufficient. As part of our mission to make sense of the world’s recruitment data, we’re building tools to mine this data.


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Comment by Mike Temkin on February 11, 2009 at 4:24pm
Recruitment is of course important, but let's not ignore retention, motivation and recognition. I believe Twitter and other social media will prove to offer some long-term value to securing and pipelining new candidates, but the real value, at least with the platforms currently available, will be communicating in real time with customized correspondence to specific individuals as well as consolidated messages to multiple recipients within your current workforce.


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