Once more, with feeling…
By Mike Hoffman
After 10 years and around 70,000 tweets, last week I deactivated my Twitter account. For someone who has averaged 20 tweets every single day since 2008, that was quite a big step and one I had considered many times but then stepped back from. This blog isn’t a navel gazing attempt to rationalise this decision but, rather, a meditation on the limits of social and content-driven engagement as, ultimately, a successful tool for recruitment.
There are two areas where I think Twitter has lost space it once owned and where recruiters need to consider the wider context and the limitations of content to engage with users. And, by implication, social media in general.
One of the biggest disappointments with the state of Twitter, for me, is the loss of the opportunity to engage with people in debate before Godwin’s Law kicks in, or a Twitter thread descends into whataboutery or personal abuse. I still believe the truism that Facebook is where you tell lies to your friends and Twitter is where you tell the truth to strangers. Except where once I felt a network of open communities existed, now there is residual mistrust and suspicion over intent and agency.
Astroturfing, burner accounts, pile-ons and bots have effectively eradicated the possibility of genuine mind-changing debate and reduced everything to an entrenched position without the possibility of de-escalation. And I mean EVERYTHING; until I joined Twitter, I never realised the possibility of a prom dress denying someone’s cultural identity or the anger that can be generated by the most innocuous everyday events. If you’re only trying to use content to drive traction with an audience, you’re just as likely to start a bin fire as a debate, and generate the sort of headlines that trash reputations instead of making them.
The second point is the extent to which Boomers/Gen X’ers think Millennials and Gen Zs are on screen and, therefore, missing out on ‘real’ life connections. As though screen relationships are inherently fake and totally detached from the external world. This leads some recruiters to still think they are just a hot meme away from a healthy pipeline of candidates, like it’s 2010.
In my subjective experience, a large proportion of online engagement is in support of offline pursuits. FOMO is real and the growth of budget invested in experiential marketing is testament to the fact that people like to do things because they are good/fun/exciting and not just to create content to share online. There is a symbiosis in the uses of IG and Snapchat to validate young people’s life events, but without the event, the content doesn’t exist. The Premier League wouldn’t exist without the Sky Sports investment, but the product wouldn’t be real without the crowd experiencing the event and creating the content.
As a researcher here at SMRS, I’ve spent more time than most actually talking with graduates about how they like to engage with brands. And the thing that strikes me most is that the power of face-to-face has not lost its impact. The primacy of that first personal interaction, the interest and care shown by the business, goes far deeper in terms of impression and personal recall even months after the event. This cuts both ways – rather memorably, a high-flying finalist told me of his intention to apply for a Big Four graduate employer right up to the point at which he actually met the company representative at a graduate event.
Telling people what makes you unique is unlikely to cut through completely. You need to make it real. Actually take your audience to the place that shows them the value of the work they would do for you. Because the candidate journey doesn’t end at the offer, it ends at the exit interview. And if you’re not doing all you can to ensure candidates feel what it is like to work for you, that will come sooner rather than later.