Become the Mayor of Recruiting

About a year ago, a colleague — someone I admire and respect a great deal — introduced me to Brightkite.com. I can’t resist a new tool, so I immediately checked it out.

Essentially, Brightkite, like its competitors in the location-based social networking space, allows users to tell others where they are, using real-time geolocating technology. Why, I wondered, would I want to know where my online (or even real-life) friends were at every minute of the day?

Turns out my colleague was a year ahead of his time.

Like a half million other users, I am addicted to Foursquare. I check-in everywhere I go. I accumulate points and badges. I want to become mayor of something. My Foursquare updates are pushed out to my Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Why, my friends want to know. Why share such minutia?

And what is the hoopla around location-based apps like Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, and Whrll? Why are we suddenly hearing about stalwarts of the web — Google, Facebook, and Yelp–– rushing to include check-in ability to their services? Why is this important? And how does it relate to recruiting?

Why am I so enthusiastic? Right now, primarily, because it’s fun. It’s like a game, getting more points than my friends (there is a leader board, updated weekly), collecting badges, becoming mayor or toppling the mayor of an establishment. There are also tangible benefits. Mayors sometimes get free stuff; checking in sometimes activates special coupons for Foursquare users. Then there are the networking possibilities. More than once, I have checked in somewhere, to learn that a friend or colleague was nearby, leading to an impromptu meeting.

Why all the hoopla? What’s new about this? To marketers, location-based social networking represents a new way to reach customers, right at the point of purchase or action. Consider these examples of how location-based services are creeping into our digital lives to become indispensible tools:

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  • Municipalities have opened transportation data to support new apps that track bus and train services, real-time
  • Real estate apps make it easy to instantly determine what properties are for sale in the area and direct buyers to open houses, real time
  • Big consumer brands have launched campaigns that allow users to check-in at grocery aisles to receive product discounts or contribute to charitable organizations, real-time

To application developers, location-based social networking provides a layer of very compelling data. Time-stamped location-based data has the potential to reveal very specific, predictive information about actionable patterns and behavior. For example, think about ice cream retailers. What if they were able to offer coupons to customers based on location/temperature and behavioral patterns? More specifically, if an ice creamery knew that customers purchase less ice cream when temperatures fall five degrees, they could distribute coupons just as temperatures dip, just as customers walk past the ice cream shop, thus increasing sales, just-in-time.

Predictive pattern recognition, hyper-local promotions, real-time response. What does this have to do with recruiting? Truth is, I don’t quite know yet. I do know that it is important, and a precursor to new recruiting technologies. As the advertising industry goes, so goes recruiting (think of the move from print to online, search engine marketing, and the use of video). Certainly there will be creative applications of location-based marketing in college recruiting and event recruiting.

Location-based social networking is yet another sign that we have entered the mobile age.

It’s likely that these tools will soon be integrated into prominent social networking applications, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Checking in will become second nature, like following or linking. For many, the benefits of participation will outweigh the concerns about privacy, and creative employers will think of ways of using these services to attract and impress jobseekers. The question is, who will be the first to incorporate location-based technologies into the recruiting process? Who will be the mayor of talent acquisition?

Carmen Hudson wears several hats. She is currently Engagement Manager, Sourcing and Social Media Strategy for Recruiting Toolbox and Founder and CEO of Tweetajob, Inc. Carmen draws from over 15 years of recruiting experience, with a strong focus on helping organizations attract, source and recruit top talent. Carmen's expertise is in helping clients build the right sourcing and recruiting strategies, and then implementing them in the real world of limited budgets, competing priorities, and highly competitive recruiting environments. She consults and trains companies to help them leverage high ROI solutions for big sourcing, social media, and technology implementation initiatives.

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10 Comments on “Become the Mayor of Recruiting

  1. “Checking in will become second nature, like following or linking.”

    Maybe. It could be the one app though that just reaches too far. Though maybe people will increasingly not mind the broader implications – but my question is – are they thinking about them? Think about this one. It’s pretty spooky.

    This technology will probably get huge governmental support.

    But you ask about how this will impact recruiting. It’s huge. I wrote about this here:
    http://tinyurl.com/yc6l6z7

  2. I for one am less enthusiastic about this. Enabling businesses to track consumers in realtime might reduce waste and promote efficiency, but I can’t help thinking there are better ways to do this. Having frequent updates on position is a bit scary for the reasons laid out by pleaserobme.com as well as plenty of others. If the purpose is competing against friends, there are many other ways of doing so.

  3. There was lots of discussion about Foursquare, Gowalla, and other location-based apps at SxSW Interactive in Austin last month. Usually SxSW is a crowd of early adopters, but Dennis Crowley (@dens and a founder of Foursquare) talked about their vision of Foursquare becoming fairly mainstream over the next few years as progressive retailers are beginning to leverage the tools already. He also directly addressed a question about the “spookiness” of people knowing where you are at all time (does this open people up for attacks, robbery, etc.). He made a point that the same questions were asked only a few years ago of tools like Facebook and Twitter.
    How to leverage this for recruiting will be an interesting nut to crack, but one that will likely be cracked soon by innovators in our space. Foursquare has close to 600,000 users and is growing by tens of thousands weekly. I’m excited to see who figures this one out first!

  4. Paul-
    I’m not impressed with the argument that “the same things were said about Facebook and Twitter”. Facebook is easily configured so that you’re only updating your friends, and not the entire world (in fact, not locking down your Facebook is bad practice, akin to leaving a door open when you go on vacation).

    In addition, while there’s an issue with people reporting their location in Twitter, it’s not geo-tagged the way Foursquare is. Shrugging off these sorts of concerns based on such a comparison assumes a greater degree of similarity than exists.

  5. Tyler,

    To Paul’s point and based on what Dennis Crowley shared at SxSW, the degree of risk is often times over emphasized.

    While it is possible for an ill-intentioned person to utilize these services in an effort to hurt others, Dennis shared that they have not received any significant reports of this happening. Of course, it will probably only take a couple small examples being sensationalized in the national media for everyone to fear this technology… but, I don’t think we should.

    I’m fascinated with the future of this topic. Imagine 10 years from now when we can look back at the rich historical data and capture moments in time. What was going on a decade ago? What restaurants used to be here? Have the burgers actually improved? 😉

    In terms of recruiting, I think we will have to work diligently to understand the patterns of behavior of our talent pools. Where do they hang out? What do they like to do? How can our career opportunities tie in to the candidate’s personal life?

    While the “strategy” we employ must be targeted, it also must be general enough to capture the larger pool.

    Perhaps a good start would be to survey internal talent to figure out where they frequent (if they are willing to tell us). Based on that information, I’m sure that TA groups could partner up with targeted establishments and make enticing offers. Free appetizer on XYZ Company for taking a survey… which, of course, includes a compelling appeal to the candidates to evaluate XYZ Company for current opportunities.

    Just some thoughts… who knows where it will actually go???

    It is interesting though. Thanks for your contribution Carmen!

    Michael

  6. There are good arguments for privacy surrounding these tools, however I think it’s important to remember that every single one of these tools is opt-in. You don’t have to use them. In addition to that, once you register for an account you have the option NOT to send updates to Twitter or Facebook, and you always have the option not to connect to other people and let them know what you’re doing. Of course, if you’re on Foursquare and so is your girlfriend and all of a sudden you unfollow her, she’s gonna wonder 🙂 The thing that needs to happen here is that we need to educate people on responsible networking. These apps are much more personal than LinkedIn and therefore we should not just be accepting connection requests because someone follows us on Twitter. But I think in the end it is really important to keep in mind that our hands are not being forced when it comes to any of these geotagging tools. We always have the option not to connect, not to share, and not to use.

    My two cents!

  7. Thanks, Carmen. I LOVE these things! Corps essentially bribe/pay/incentivize regular folks (or at least Early Adopters) to give up parts of their privacy. Here’s a scenario (which for all I know is real RIGHT NOW): a company offers you a Frequent Flyer Mile (or some other thing like that) for each minute you allow them to collect and have the rights to total information on you- where you are, what you’re doing, buying, watching. listening to, etc. You can tune it off/opt out any time you like, but if you quit before the contract (like cell phone providers) there are substantial penalties like: “you lose all you FFMs and we still keep your info”. (I believe John Sumser may have alluded to something like this recently.)

    Here’s something a little further down the road (3-10+ years): you know how companies do background checks and many require drug tests? Well, imagine that as a condition of initially employment but gradually of application for employment, companies require access to this information. In effect: “NO ‘OPT-OUTERS’ NEED APPLY.” BTW, I suspect that much of this type of thing may be severely restricted for corporate purposes in the EU, with its privacy laws.

    I also wonder how much of this information if any will be publicly accessible for free to add to each person’s “Public Digital Dossier” which we’ll start as soon as some information about us goes online.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  8. Tech innovations are great. Need to have recruiting innovation married to each tech innovation in order to be practical. I can see this used at FMI or other large conferences to connect with candidates or potential clients for impromtu meetings or interviews.

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