An Old-fashioned Friday Rant on Social Networking

I was thinking about the time I put into a couple ning-things when they came out and several others that I didn’t even join and I happened across a suggestion by one of the founders of one of the networks that ‘friends’ be limited to 150. Then some guy said that was way too few and this is what resulted. For sure, these things do no harm but I’d sure like to hear more about what value they are providing.

The comment:

“150 would be too limiting” is exactly what’s wrong with the world. Anyone treating even 150 people (in their own field) like friends can’t be billing much…but then…’billing’ might be a term many do not have to worry about. Maybe those 100 base-players Google is letting go. How can people be RECRUITING if they are interacting with that many others who are also supposed to be doing something other than interacting with each other (RECRUITING maybe)?

God help me, I LOVE recruitingblogs and fordycenetwork is ok too but most of the time spent there is in handling random requests from strangers who want to be my “friend” and never contact me again if I accept.

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I consider Jason a friend because I have met him and we sometimes have interesting things to discuss. Dennis Smith is another guy I actually met and enjoyed talking with. Animal, I hardly know, but he puts out a lot of value for free. I guess, if I try to find SOME value in all this I can point to meeting Dennis on …but wait.. that came from Dennis commenting on a Bill Vick video who then told me about Animal and I met Jason at a Pinnacle meeting.

There HAS to be value in these networks somewhere…If there weren’t then former phonebook brokers wouldn’t steal them. I guess value for me is to give me something to complain about (but then, I can complain about 80% of everything. I like them. I am glad they are here but I need some help with the value. At least I got a blog post out of it…but wait. This came from a comment on Animal’s site 🙂

Dave Staats places top executives as well as implementation consultants with software companies. He also has made more placements in Artificial Intelligence than any other headhunter. His career began during the SDI (Star Wars) years and included placement of scientists in laser, stealth, and other high-tech fields. During a short hiatus from the recruiting industry in 1994 he obtained a Private Investigator's license which he keeps as a constant reminder that a headhunter is what he really is. Dave is on the Board of Directors of The Pinnacle Society and a founder of The Tennessee Recruiters Association. He has a BA from Western Illinois University. Dave also blogs at Truth, Justice & the American Way of Headhunting


17 Comments on “An Old-fashioned Friday Rant on Social Networking

  1. Great post. I enjoy TFLNetwork, but that’s about the extent of involvement for me. Every email that requires an answer is one less telephone call into a market which today requires focus, diligence…and call volume. “Friends” will understand that when you do not respond to their networking requests.

  2. I probably could have said all that more carefully but part of the point is I don’t have time…

    What frustrates me is that I really admire what you (Jason) are doing and what you have done and I know there must be a big pearl there somewhere but the shell is stuck shut for me. 🙂

  3. Howdy Friend. (Can I call you that?) I hope Tennessee is treating you well.

    Just like you – I also look at the vast array of social networks, friend requests, blogs etc. with the same degree of skepticism. Just how could one person truly engage that many people in a real way?

    There are far too many choices to distract us from our day to day mission of providing our services to our clients. The problem as I see it – or one of the main problems – is that many of todays recruiters have grown up in this “shiny new toy” era. There appears to be a new “must use” tool every month. When we got our starts in the 80s it was often years between each technical advance so we were not as distracted I guess.

    It gets down to how you decide to capture the good things and avoid the bad. You get out what you put in I think.

    As of this morning – due to RELATIONSHIPS made directly from spending time on I am providing service to 4 different (all new) clients in partnership with recruiters I have met there.

    There are thousands – tens of thousands – of “us” out “here”. Working from our cozy little offices. Many of them – like mine – are home offices. So where is our “water cooler”? Where can we get that 2nd opinion on the issues we’re facing with a new client or difficult offer to close?

    It’s all right here. Or there.

  4. Hey Dave,

    Never a Twitterer or a Twitteree be. Who has time (or interest in) all this crap. It’s mostly about people promoting themselves – which is great when you are just starting out and trying to convince people to give you some work to do. It’s also helpful if you are switching recruiting specialties and need to attract some attention. But, for those of us who have been successfully working the same niches for ages, we are just too busy doing it to have the need or the time to constantly promote ourselves or tell other people (potential competitors) how we are doing it. Just my (never humble) opinion.

    Tom Keoughan

  5. @Tom –

    I think its pretty evident that a lot of people have interest in all of this, but it’s not for everyone.

    I think that it would have been easy to dismiss the job boards or Internet as a whole as a frivolous fad 12 years ago – I remember how difficult it was convincing people to learn about them. Today, every recruiter I know uses these tools.

    Will social networking reach that status one day? I don’t know, but it sure feels like the early days of something big, so I would not dismiss it out of hand.

  6. I like this thread. but it’s funny…While I agree with David about accepting that there ought to be some kind of future value realized…and have said so when I do the complaining, I do not use any job boards 🙂 I have tried some and for what we do they are not only worthless,they are counter-productive and make us look bad…

  7. A lot of these social medial tools are interesting and I think that LinkedIn is a great tool although it has its problems. There are ways around those problems if you don’t use it the way it was intended. Unlike Dave, I do use job boards but only to find posted jobs that I can turn into search assignments. I’ll even give you that Facebook could have some value.

    That said, when we get to Twitter, Digg, Ning, Xing, Ping, etc. they tend to fall under the heading of “wow, cool technology”. The problem is that when you evaluate them they have little or no utility or little or no current utility.

    Granted you can use some of them but they really only accomplish things that existing tools already do better. Do you really want to tweet your job openings and have hundreds of “followers” pestering you about jobs they’re not qualified for OR would you rather send an old fashioned targeted email blast and then start phoning (eegad, what’s that?) down the list.

    So, yes evaluate new tools as they come out but remember that new is not necessarily improved. Some will have no or low utility. Some will have negative utility and can actually hurt your business and some will accomplish tasks that are better accomplished using an already existing tool. A few, but only a few, will have any real value.

    There’s a lot of people our there scrambling to create “the next big thing” and they want everybody to think that their thing is “the next big thing”. That don’t make it so. Too many of them turn into weapons of mass distraction.

    Tom Keoughan

  8. Tom,

    You’re absolutely right. Most of the time spent on these sites is wasted, and you can tell immediately who is wasting time and who is just recruiting.

    Some people use the sites to socialize because they’re virtual recruiters. Others use it to get out of recruiting and into something else. But you should beware of the ones who don’t self-promote and use social networks like a big cat stalking in the high grass.

    Don’t assume that the people getting real value out of these networks are sharing their secrets. They’re acting like recruiters, and that means not spilling the secrets.

    For those toiling in niches, it may seem like a lifetime of relationships and rolodexes is built with experience. Online, that timeline is reduced to months, if not weeks. Data is now almost completely free if you know where to look, and if you’re not involved in these networks, some enterprising young (or simply new) recruiter will brand themselves the Toy expert.

    And once they’ve done that, it gets really hard to gain that title back for yourself. And let’s not forget that candidates have access to the same tools. Recruiters need to be in social networks where their candidates spend time, if only to know what’s going on.

    What would you do if a competitor set up a Ning network for your niche, built it to several thousand strong, and used it to build a database of current, engaged candidates? What if a client does so?

    Beware false prophets of social media who themselves make no profit, but be careful of dismissing the value. It’s there, and the experienced recruiters focused on the deal are the ones that find the greatest value.

  9. Hi Jim,

    I like your term “virtual recruiters”. There are plenty of those out there. Due to the current economic climate, I suspect there will be a lot less of them by the end of the year.

    I think you are underestimating both candidates and clients when you talk about somebody just branding themselves an industry expert. The key is, are they able to perform or are they just full of crap? People will be able to tell the difference pretty quickly. If someone brands themselves an expert and then can’t perform, they are in worse shape then when they started. Never try to sell something that you can’t deliver. You won’t get a second chance. Also, building a network of names and quick email banter is very different than having worked together and built relationships with people over years.

    As far as your Ning example goes – that’s a great example that is better accomplished with an already existing tool. People are already very engaged with LinkedIn and in the current economic climate its growth is accelerating. There are a lot of groups there (including lots of Toy Industry Groups). Those groups have first mover’s status and are too large and autonomous for any recruiter or client to take over. Many, if not most, people will not move onto Ning and anybody so enamored with social media that they feel compelled to will already be on LinkedIn.

    That said, I’m sure that you have other, better examples, I just don’t agree with the ones you gave here. I’m not arguing with either your premise or your conclusion. Everyone should evaluate new tools for themselves and keep an eye out for what others are doing. Sometimes you will find something worthwhile just not as often as people seem to think. There’s an awful lot of energy and excitement being spent by people running in circles chasing their tails.

    Tom Keoughan

  10. Tom,

    Some groups in LinkedIn offer value, but a lot of them are already controlled by horrible marketers and pushy recruiters looking for someone else to do their job.

    It’s an evolution. Ning networks are specialized and offer a degree of control and search engine optimization not available to the LinkedIn Group manager.

    Two examples are right in front of us – the Fordyce Forum and Recruiting Blogs (and HRM Today, and JobsInSocialMedia). Each of these platforms brings something to the table the LinkedIn Groups do not – and with LinkedIn’s growth, the danger of the tragedy of the commons grows. Not to mention that using LinkedIn gives the value to LinkedIn, while using your own network gives the value to the owners and the members.

    Don’t confuse early and mass adoption with the eventual growth of a community under the right leadership.

    A lot of time is wasted, and yes, so-called experts are sometimes unmasked. Even if they aren’t, they lose interest when they can’t pay the bills anymore. Hiring however, is transactional. Candidates cannot have more loyalty to their recruiter than they can themselves or their careers. A poor recruiter with a good social network is not helpful, but a good recruiter with a good social network is competitive with the Big Biller with a lifetime rolodex who does not engage online.

    And I might even say that a good social network can make you a better recruiter. Done right (and there are people doing it right), it gives you information faster, quicker, and with more accuracy through sheer volume than direct relationships. I take everything we read online with a grain of salt, but if you get enough salt, you quickly gather expertise that is of tremendous value to the candidates, which allows you to gain their trust in mass, as opposed to individually. Word of Mouth Online is as effective as personal contact when it comes to hiring. It might even be superior.

    I would say the problem is not social media, but bad recruiters. As I said – don’t worry about them, but don’t think that just because some people publicly show off their lack of knowledge, everyone involved in social media is wasting their time.

  11. This little experiment in social media is becoming a waste of time. You seem to continue to paint me as a social media naysayer when I’m not. I advocate sipping from the social media cup discerningly. Feel free to chug the Kool-Aid if you want to. Also, since you specialize in recruiting for the social media business, you may just want to consider that social media might just be a little more effective for your recruiting efforts than it is for some of the rest of us. Gotta go – real work to do.

    Tom Keoughan

  12. It might make sense to make a distinction here between “social networking” and “professional networking”. I have found “social networking” sites to be nearly worthless. Facebook, for example, doesn’t allow the casual observer enough G2 to make a decision about whether to message or email the person (unless you happen to have determined elsewhere that this person has the skills you need), so it’s a good bet that most of your approaches to these people is going to turn into a time waster. Over the years I have found that phone calls are ALWAYS necessary in candidate evaluation, but since none of them ever takes less than 15 minutes it is critical to make sure you engage the right people.
    LinkedIn, on the other hand, offers you a good enough glimpse of most candidates that you (particularly if you have good industry knowledge) can typically determine whether or not they are worth pursuing, even if they don’t include keywords, because you can see how long they have been in the industry and the companies they have worked at. If they aren’t open to receving InMail you can just call them at their place of employment and do it old school. If it does come down to making a cold call, I have found that there is nothing wrong with saying you found them on LinkedIn, while also taking advantage of the opportunity to point out that you are already LinkedIn with 2 or 3 or 7 of that person’s friends. Just like any tool, endless surfing without decisive action is a prescription for failure, but it’s easy to make the calls when you know that you have an 80% chance of finding a good candidate.
    In my opinion, LinkedIn is the best of breed professional networking tool in existence right now and, as such, if you decide to be the guy walking around as a recruiter with only 20 or 40 connections then you are likely to be seen as an intruder, even if you happen to be “The Toy King”. Candidates these days have little time to sit through the detailed and extended sales pitch, so if you can send them a quick link that instantly tells them you are an active player in the industry, it is far more likely they will engage in a follow up call.
    Likewise, if you happen to be a player in your space, but you find tht someone else has beat you to the punch WRT setting up a group, just try setting up one a little more specific than your opponents, and then highlight your differentiators. Be careful about who else you let join, i.e. keep it pure, and you will see word of mouth advance your group ahead of the guy that “blanket accepts” anyone who applies.



  13. People sure are funny. Jared is basically “testifying” to the positive aspects of LinkedIn and I agree with almost everything he says yet he feels the need to throw in a little dig (“even if you happen to be The Toy King”). That seems strange because I have had very positive things to say about LinkedIn and think that of the social networking tools out there, it’s one of (if not the) best. It just goes to show the amount of hostility out there for anyone who is not 100% gung ho about social media/networking. I chalk it all up to the binary thinking – yes-no, left-right, Democrat-Republican, Coke-Pepsi. The world I live in is far more complex.

    I also just did a quick LinkedIn search for Jared Margolis and there were two. One is President of an apparel company and has 0 connections. The other is a partner in a real estate firm with only 27 connections. That makes me wonder who this guy is. Will the real Jared Margolis please stand up?! One of the problems with social media/networking is that you end up with all manner of beards, lurkers, stalkers, self promoters, etc. Garbage in – Garbage out.

    Tom Keoughan

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