Social Recruiting 3.0 – Fast Forward to the Era of Leveraging Conversation and Social Interaction

Social Recruiting.  Oh, no, not another Social Recruiting post, right?!  Not so fast. As I begin today’s post, I’d like to make you 2 promises in true FOT style:

  1. This isn’t a post about your Grandparent’s version of Social Recruiting.
  2. This will be unlike anything that’s been written as it pertains to Social Recruiting to date.

Let’s start with a foundational premise: Social Recruiting 3.0 will be all about conversation and leveraging social interaction.

Before I begin, let me suggest that if you believe #SocialRecruiting is about finding Candidates through searching Twitter Bios’, Facebook profiles that actually list current
Employer, etc., you’re not pushing the envelope, and you’re no different than the leagues of other Recruiters and Sourcers looking at the same pool of Candidates.  If you’re ok with simply following the crowd and not digging deeper for insights that can enhance your performance, feel free to move on because this post isn’t for you.  Conversely, if you’re an innovator, a questioner of accepted Recruiting dogma, a Recruiter or Sourcer looking for a performance breakthrough, keep reading . . .

It all started with the realization that Social Media is more than a series of online destinations, communities, or Facebook fan pages, etc.  I’d suggest that Social Media manufactures a product . . . and that product is called “Word of Mouth” (WOM).  If we consider what WOM really is, meaning at a more granular level, we see that it’s conversation.  If WOM were an onion, each layer or slice of the onion would be some form of dialogue.  Some of the conversation is short-lived (i.e. last night’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, etc.), some of it longer lasting (BP’s oil spill, etc.).  Some conversation involves only a few people, sometimes many.  Sometimes conversation doesn’t expand or flow through a network; sometimes it explodes.  It all depends, right?

Earlier today, I decided to look into who was tweeting about the Entel Summit, a technology and innovation conference aimed at “revolutionizing business” in Chile and around the world (“Tecnologia + Innovacion_claves para revolucionar los negocios”).  The term I searched for was #EntelSummit and the time period searched was the 5-day period leading up to 12:55pm EST yesterday (marking the first day of the conference).  I chose to track Twitter conversation around the Entel Summit for a few reasons:

  • #EntelSummit was the top trending hashtag at the time of my search.
  • Searching Twitter involves searching an ‘Open System’, meaning the network around #EntelSummit is a completely fluid and self-organizing system (for example, like nature itself.)
  • All tweets are not in English, so this eliminates any content bias.
  • The conference is a big deal.  Earlier this year, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile, displacing over 2 Million people.  Put simply, rebuilding is a priority.
  • Jack Dorsey (Creator and Co-Founder of Twitter) just completed his Entel Summit keynote presentation ~2 hours prior to the initial search.  Tracking Tweet data shortly after he completed his speech offered a wrinkle of irony.

EntelSummit_EdgeWt_Final The following visual shows what I found.  Notice what appear to be a large number of 2 person conversations (along the bottom).  There are several 3-way conversations, a few 4-way conversations, less 5-way, etc.  On the far right, you’ll see one 9-way conversation and one 10-way conversation, and without doubt, you’ll see the 38-way conversation.  Actually, that’s the Entel Summit’s Twitter handle itself, @EntelSummit.  Are there any insights yet?   Perhaps.  How about the fact that most conversations are between two people?  How about how most conversations have one central Twitter handle at the center (appearing as a radial shape)?
EntelSummit_SortedByInDegree Without getting into too much detail on this visual, the following is slightly more fun to look at since we can see each Twitter handle’s image file attached (note that the size of the arrow indicates frequency of interaction around #EntelSummit.  Stronger “ties” have darker arrows.)

Due to gathering data in real-time, literally (in some cases) as the conversation was occurring, I reconstructed the graph ~6 hours later, at 7pm EST.
EntelaSummit_7pm After some tweaking and filtering, I constructed the following visual (this took a while — trust me that you don’t want to know!)  Here’s where it got interesting: The far right ‘cluster’ still has @EntelSummit at the center, however a new entity emerged.  See the node with all the expanding branches and emanating radials?  This social behavior emerged within the 6 hour period between my Twitter searches.  The central player to this newly emergent cluster probably sticks out like a sore thumb to you — it’s the one slightly to the right with all the radial nodes coming out from it.  If we were visually analyzing how many nodes this player is connected to at the “first degree”, we can easily count 14.  Here’s where it gets good, though: Of the 14 this player connects to, only 3 connect to others.  Those 3 are powerful, however, due to the way they branch out and seed further conversation.
ScreenHunter_11 Jul. 14 20.05 They create branches that reach 40 other people.  Conversation is exploding and rapidly expanding.  You might say the conversation “tipped” on reaching 3 of the 14 nodes (~20%).  Immediately to the right, you should see this cluster more closely focused in on, and this time, I’ve used Twitter image files (sorry that the shape
isn’t the same; slight technical issue on my end.)  [Note: I limited the number of results of Twitter handles returned to 500, just as I did with the search at 12:55pm EST.  Each search returned 500, indicating to me that the buzz around #EntelSummit is enormous at this point.]

So, who is this player (or Twitter handle) that trumped @EntelSummit as the major influencer, hub, and catalyst of conversation regarding the hashtag #EntelSummit?  It’s none other than @randudog, “Comunicador Multimedia, con internet en mi ADN. Informado, 2.0, hiperultramegaconectado, emprendedor” (Multimedia Communicator. Informed, 2.0, HyperUltraMegaConnector, Enterpriser.)  He’s the gentleman with the largest picture above, and he’s sporting sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt.  You can find @randudog, or Christian Chamorro, on LinkedIn here.

You’re likely asking, so what, right?  Good, because it’s time to get to what we can do with this information.  Given how the nodes in the image on the right are sized by ‘betweeness’ (the level of ‘betweeness’ is a mathematical centrality measure that indicates the influence/ability to control what flows, or doesn’t flow, through a network), it would stand to reason that if we can reach these moderately connected Influencers (hat tip: Duncan Watts,
ScreenHunter_11 Jul. 14 20.05 SNA Rockstar and Principal Research Scientist & Human Social Dynamics Group at Yahoo), and they buy into propagating our message, we have the highest probability of reaching the entire network, which may perhaps include a series of otherwise hidden Talent Pools/Clusters (or Customers, Potential Partners, etc., depending on your goals.)  Why might they be “otherwise hidden”?  Because not everyone on Twitter has a bio that identifies them as a potential candidate, and at 750 tweets per-second on average, we’re definitely missing out on potential recruiting opportunities!  [Note: If you evaluate the image, you may see larger Twitter images that don’t seem to connect to many others.  This is because they are nodes that are connected to the right people; they are connected to others who are well connected, thereby strengthening their position.  This is an important SNA (Social Network Analysis) insight.  If you were a Recruiter who showed up at the Entel Summit and were able to reach these individuals with a high level of ‘betweeness’, your time would be very well spent as your probability of penetrating their personal network (at least their 1st degree), or sub-cluster (emanating out to their 2nd degree), for recruiting purposes would be significantly increased.  You’d be connecting to the right people in targeted fashion, which is a much different proposition than standing behind a booth and hoping for resumes.]  Ranked by betweeness in the above example, a smart Recruiter would make a point of meeting the following 10 people: @randudog, @nelissh, @donclick, @ichstudios, @crazyfaceman, @gonzalocelis, @exhuevo, @paolo_cid, @sebarod, @jretamal.

This is big . . . real big.  Here’s why:  We’re now looking at recruiting opportunities based on live Twitter conversation that is forming, in real-time, a self-organizing, completely open (“Open Web”), highly fluid conversation/social interaction network.  In the example above, the topic we picked was #EntelSummit, which by definition, will be finite and ephemeral in nature due to the fact that it’s an event.  I’ll be posting soon to expand upon some of these topics here at FOT, but the most important take-away is to keep in mind that Social Recruiting 3.0 is all about conversation and social interaction . . . how we can listen in, leverage, and in some cases, catalyze it to our recruiting advantage.

P.S. What kind of message might we propagate to the moderately connected Influencers?  Well, the simple answer would be a job posting or element of Employer Branding . . . but that would be too status-quo, ‘follow-the-crowd’, thinking, right?  How about if we did something truly innovative, such as launch a contest or leveraged an insight or two from Nike’s “Write the Future” campaign that led it to win the World Cup buzz battle despite the fact that Adidas had purchased all Television ad space? (Did I forget to mention that not only was the soccer ball Adidas-branded, but that all Players and Referees wore Adidas-branded clothing and shoes?)  If Nike could win against those odds, then have no doubt that your digital strategy can help you win the game of consistently recruiting better talent than your competition.

FOT Background Check

Josh Letourneau is the owner of Knight & Bishop, an Executive Search and Human Capital Intelligence firm, with an emerging focus on Social Network Analysis (SNA). Nope, not like MySpace, but more like who is connected to whom in organizations and how does that impact their influence on decision making and P.O.V.s. And you can learn more about all of this on his new blog .


  1. KD says:

    Hey Josh –
    Great post – I shut down the rest of my world to really read it and try to understand it… and it’s a pretty moving case. With your view of this conference and hashtag in mind, how would you approach recruiting a talent pool that’s very specific – say tapping into HR Directors and VPs that might be interested in a leadership role you have open?
    Don’t want you to take another 10 hours, but what would be the first 5 steps you would take to influence this type of talent pool through what you’ve learned in the SNA world?
    Good stuff – keep it coming!

  2. Josh,
    I have to say this is the best, most riveting blog post I have read in some time – Period.
    chris 🙂

  3. Steve says:

    That’s quite a bit of work – did your fiancée approve of you being away so long? (“Josh, we’ve talked about this time and again – can you please put your social nodal anal thingy project away and come to bed already?”)
    I can tell that you’ve never spent time at a Jewish hairdresser during a weekday, Jewish mothers prattling on about this or that; if you were to analyze the communication patterns, I’m confident they would have looked like your great graphs from above.
    In the end, very few, if any of these yentas were going to solve the mystery of life. There were many (quantity) radial, 2W, 3W, etc. conversations taking place while tin foil strips were applied to the ladies’ hairs but most – if not all – lacked substance (quality). And as my Jewish mother always liked to say – around mixed company – “It’s like I always told your father, it’s quality over quantity…isn’t that right, Charlie?”
    I love this stuff – cluster, factor and nodal analyses always make me quiver with statistical anticipation. But without quality measures, it’s still just people who are better at engaging others.
    You’ve given us a great picture but I want to smell and taste the beef… 😉
    But this is really great stuff!

  4. Jerry says:

    I’ll borrow this video from my dear fried Julie:
    Is this you Josh?

  5. KD, great question 🙂 Let’s dive into that on another post. This is a new field, so we have to put our minds together.
    Chris Havrilla, thanks for the positive comment. I wish I could hold a candle to you and what you’ve accomplished 🙂
    Steve Levy, excellent points. We have to find a way to inject more meaning into what we’re seeing . . . let’s you and I dive in together. I’m sure you have great insights, because every time I speak with you, I feel like I’ve learned something new.
    Jerry Albright, no comment. You and I will discuss offline.

  6. Okay. Let’s pretend I’m a candidate. Am I really gonna get a job? That’s all I care about. Gerry Crispin’s annual report (still) tells me that a majority of people find work through career websites and job boards. When does that shift to conversations & whatnot via social tools? 2010? 2011?

  7. Laurie, great point – you’re right that Candidates just want a shot at the job! 🙂
    This angle I’m describing here is for us, meaning Recruiters and Recruiting Organizations, looking for deeper insights on a couple things:
    1. Specifically, what is happening when we tweet our jobs (or link back to an article about our employment brand, or converse with job seekers on Twitter)?
    {Note: What we’re looking for in the data is how far, or how near, our job posts and conversation is expanding. Can we do things to help, for example like leverage insights from the Old Spice Guy campaign? Probably).}
    2. Understanding “Influence” from the specific standpoint of Social Interaction around our jobs and employment brand. Who is influencing, who isn’t? Who is bridging gaps to talent pools we might not otherwise have contact with, etc.?
    {Note: The thing to keep in mind is that we’re looking beyond # of Tweets and Followers, and looking at specific interaction around our jobs.}
    P.S. I know that many say there is no room for Science from a Recruiting perspective, but I think there may be some areas for exploration. This same kind of analysis is used for identification and collapse of Terror Cells . . . so if it can work in the War on Terror, there are insights for us as well.

  8. You are an American hero.
    Also, I totally support the science/research. As long as you don’t give me a sports angle and talk about the Miami Heat, I’m cool with this.
    You’re educating recruiters. Someone needs to educate job seekers on the tools of the future. Who’s gonna do that? Me? I’m too busy with my cats.

  9. catching up on comments here…
    if you’re a candidate, are you going to get a job through social media? sure but it’s as a passive candidate, likely.
    i think part of what a recruiter has to realize is that if he or she is going to effectively use social media to recruit, most of the candidates are passive – and it’s a place to mine data on candidates if not source candidates directly. it’s about building up a community of talent to pull from later on. it’s not somewhere to put a job out there on the interwebs and then expect that people will apply.
    most people i’ve recruited via social media tools never thought they’d be recruited from there… and they are classically passive candidates just like they might have been on linkedin 5 or 6 years ago. they’re the same folks you’d source from other websites or through other web research. so it makes me i kinda wonder where passive candidates might factor into the reports laurie mentions… not sure i ever hear too many about stats around those folks…

  10. Jlanghan206 says:

    i <3 JL's
    and i <3 this post
    although it seems more like Social Web Sourcing 2.0 vs Social Recruiting 3.0
    although there are 3 JL's in this um...yah

  11. Josh:
    This is cool stuff. Great work. You can take this concept outside the recruiting arena and make it Social Networking 3.0. Trying to progate an idea.. get to the connectors. Trying to develop a theme, sell a book, get business, etc. all could make use of the type of analysis you have done. Just want to be connected to the BIG connectors… works there too. I am looking forward to how you develop this, write a paper, ebook, etc. and become #1 on some list some place.
    Thanks, Mike Haberman

  12. Margo Rose says:

    Josh, I wanted to stop and read this a second time. I read it when you first posted it. I digested it. I came back to this post again to understand your in depth social network analysis. It’s pure genius.
    I think the people who are flip, and poke fun here are maybe just a little jealous that they aren’t bright enough to come up with a brilliant think piece like this. Josh, here’s the rub, the hours of empirical analysis that went into this post is astonishing. Very few people have the intellectual capital to even begin to write a post like this.
    Yes, I love the funny posts by Tim Sackett. I really get a kick out of everything Kris Dunn writes. When you write, I stop, think, and listen to my inner mind. Your writing is not fluffy fun world. Thank goodness it isn’t. There’s enough of that in our space.
    What Fistful Of Talent has in you is substance, powerful critical analysis, and courageous strength to go where no one in our industry has gone before.
    I’d like to see you do a presentation about your theory at a national conference.
    You are a trail blazer. It is what I respect about you most!

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