It's 8:42pm Sunday night as I begin this post. I admit it's an extremely odd time to have an epiphany. Yet that's exactly what I'm saying . . . and it's exactly why I'm writing this post. I now get the importance of the Social Graph as it relates to Recruiting in the 21st century.
This morning, I read a Wall Street Journal article ("Marketers Watch as Friends Interact Online"), which spoke to monitoring patterns of interaction among shoppers or people who simply browsed a given site like eBay. For example, if an eBay shopper was to comment about a common interest to an acquaintance, a cookie is then placed on the acquaintance's browser for "relevant ad targeting" in the future.
Sure, privacy advocates are going to rail into an uproar, but the bottom line is that this is where marketing is going — the future is less about massive print and tv ads, and more about machine-learning and behavior pattern identification. To clarify, the future of marketing isn't about Social Media — rather, it's about machine-learning and behavior pattern identification. Sure, we need ground-zeros to monitor (such as Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), but the real 'spice' is in the patterns we can identify and move on faster than our competition. Which is why this statement from the WSJ article is profound:
"A lot of what goes into a purchase comes from a general conversation
between you and people in your group," Mr. Migliozzi says. "We're
identifying the links between people."
Links are a big deal as they speak to relationships, ties, interactions, and most importantly, trust. The stronger the link, the greater the trust. That's how we Humans work, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. How can we begin to identify these links and relationships? Social Graphs.
Just as we've begun to see beyond the limitations of Human Capital (a candidate's individual ability or talent) and now understand the magnitude of Social Capital (what's between candidates, such as the level of trust), it may be time to embrace the notion that the newest breakthrough in Recruiting may not be a given node (person) in a talent pool, yet moreover a node's pattern of connections and interactions within the pool.
In other words, it's not the person or where they 'hang out', congregate, or lurk on the web that matters – rather, it's their pattern of connections, and more importantly, how and who they connect with online.
Consider the following: We know that A-players like to associate with other A-players. However, let's be honest that not everyone an A-player connects with is an A-player themselves. There have to be some B-players in there (and perhaps a few C-players). Yet it stands to reason that A-players have their strongest (professional) relationships with other A-players.
That being the case, there is value if we can identify who our targeted A-player (our "Agent Zero") is interacting with, how frequently, how intensely, etc. so that we may determine strength of relationship. Why? Because it's likely they have much in common.
So if I can identify that John Doe is a top-performer in my organization (and/or appears to be a top-performer based on their social brand), and he is connected to Bill Jones on LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook (4 out of 4 potential connection destinations), it's safe to assume that their relationship is one of a strong-tie. If I can further identify that they're not just 'connected', and actually interact frequently through comments, suggestions, online conversation, etc., then I can be certain John and Bill are extremely strong-ties.
Given this link, it behooves me (as a Recruiter or Talent Acquisition Professional) to begin investing in that relationship with Bill Jones as well. Why? Because he is probably connected to other A-players whom we've been insulated from; connecting with Bill Jones increases not only my reach, but my critical path to A-level talent within a given talent pool.
Now, I'm not suggesting that passive identification of other A-players through the strength of their ties is a fool-proof magic-bullet to solve all of Recruiting's woes. However, I will go on record to say that this technique is much more offensively aggressive than hoping A-players make employee referrals on their own. After all, if this leveraging of Math & Science works in the War on Terror, it can sure work for identifying some A-players who would have otherwise gone under the radar!
P.S. As a quick project, take a look at my TouchGraph put together using Facebook (I limited it to 500 nodes). Who is in each cluster? Why? Do the clusters have anything in common? Assuming I was an A-player, would there be value in identifying who I'm connected to? Could you further penetrate the talent pool with this knowledge? You bet . . .
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 .