In February, the business, tech, and social media industries were abuzz with the results of a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, during which it was revealed that in America, “droves of users” were taking breaks from Facebook. In the days that followed, the headlines worried about the fact that 27 percent of people were planning on taking a break from the world’s largest and supposedly most popular networking site.
It’s true that the Pew study revealed that a majority of people have admitted to taking a break from Facebook “at one time or another in the past.” If you’re a Facebook user, you might even count yourself among that number. Yet a majority of the people who participated in the survey also suggested that, despite taking vacations, they considered Facebook to be at least as (if not more) important to them now as it was last year.
The importance of Facebook to its users matters, as do the findings of this study — but perhaps for reasons different than the headlines would have you think. In an email published online in The New York Times’ Bits blog Feb. 5, Lee Rainie, director of the Internet & American Life Project, said people are “adding up the pluses and minuses on a kind of networking balance sheet, and they are trying to figure out how much they get out of connectivity versus how much they put into it.”
And in terms of getting more out of this connectivity, I see social recruiting as one of the answers. To me, Facebook remains an incredibly viable and exciting platform on which companies and organizations globally can build strong, lasting relationships with potential candidates, current employees, and fans of a brand. The real question is not whether users will stay on or come back to the platform, but rather: Can your company culture and talent community provide the value that prompts a return?
A full two-thirds of American adults with Internet access are on the network (which translates to roughly 189 million prospective passive or active candidates *), and, according to the Pew study, this means you potentially have access to the almost 70 percent of those people who log onto their social networks at least once per day (and even more so to the 41 percent who log onto their networks several times per day).
Moreover, of the 1.06 billion monthly active users who make up Facebook’s international network, there are 618 million daily active users. And with a larger number of users than ever before, it makes sense that the number of people not using the platform would seem to inflate, as well. Even with those who take vacations accounted for, out of all of the social platforms, Facebook still accounts for 83 percent of all time spent on social networking sites. This means that recruiters still have access to a huge number of potential candidates with their eyes on their News Feeds, waiting for good content.
I believe that the fact that some users take Facebook vacations is a sign that users are in need of novel ways to connect online. This is a perfect opportunity to establish a social recruiting strategy, because an engaging company career page and talent community has the potential to fill that need. The brilliance of Facebook is that it already brings together millions of people and companies on a daily basis. Social recruiting helps take that to the next level by giving users added value to the connections users and companies — their potential employers — make through the brand page. When done well, social recruiting is targeted and engaging, just like good employer branding, and it is meant to build a relationship with talent whose interests and background mesh with the company culture.
If users take a break from being connected (and goodness knows that sometimes, it’s warranted!), they come back knowing that they have an online home to which to return.
Building this home also means furnishing and decorating it in such a way that appeals to your target audience. In this case, that means creating a strong employer brand and using your brand message to help you attract and retain candidates. What separates a good talent community from a great one is the ability to not just broadcast a message, but also spark conversations that get your candidates, current employees, and fans talking and sharing with you, as well as with one another (and with their friends). A great talent community is a repository of relevant information and a place for interaction with other fans, potential candidates, and employees. And, most important, your potential candidates come to see it as a place to potentially gain employment with a company that excites and engages them.
I look at the concept of “Facebook vacations” as a challenge — how can companies turn their Facebook pages into talent communities? With the right execution, I think social recruiting has a huge potential to be the “plus” on Rainie’s “networking balance sheet.” It’s all a matter of providing value now — and the talent will know which home to return to once the vacation is over.
* Four out of five of Americans use the Internet, according to this study, and there are currently approximately 230 million Americans over the age of 19 in the U.S. as of 2010, per the U.S. Census Bureau.