I clicked over that holy grail of social media targets this week when my Linked In network exceeded the 500+ mark. I was quite chuffed with myself. Social media is a key part of my marketing and branding strategy and, particularly as a recruiter, Linked In is a critical tool in networking with professionals and sourcing candidates for roles with my clients.
Or so I thought.
But having reached this milestone of the digital networking space I thought I would do an audit of my Linked In network and try and assess exactly how effective mine was. After all, my approach to Facebook and Twitter are at odds to my hunger for connection-building on Linked In. With Twitter I try and keep the list of people I am following as small and targeted as possible. Most are involved in the recruitment industry in some way, then there’s a smattering of Arsenal-related tweeps and a couple of other amusing social media types. But if I am “Followed” by some online hotshot with thousands of Followers of their own and a daily splurge of online diatribe, I won’t automatically “Follow” them back unless I am actually interested in what they have to say. With Facebook, which I rarely even use these days, my approach is even more at odds with Linked In. I have always actively sought to keep my network of “Friends” below the 100 mark (which I think it just crept over again recently). I just think that it is highly unusual you would really have a real-life network of more than 100 friends, so I don’t see the point of treating this differently in the online space.
So how effective is my Linked In network? Well I am currently up to 506 connections and I was surprised to discover that exactly 100 of these connections are not in any way related to recruitment, which if you’re not aware, is the niche area I recruit for. I wondered if these 100 people were my Facebook Friends, jumping across to my Linked In realm to try and get noticed by me, because I certainly wasn’t on Facebook! In fact half of them probably are friends from school, University, football etc, with the rest being made up of pre-recruitment work colleagues, and about 4 or 5 who I have to say I have no idea who they are…!
Still, that means over 80% of my network is directly related to, and mostly currently working within, recruitment. Which pleases me greatly, as this is the kind of network I am seeking to build, from a professional standpoint. So okay, I know that if I write a Status Update, or post a link to The Whiteboard, or mention a role I am recruiting for, then lots of recruiters, mostly in the Asia-Pac region, will see it. Great. But how do you measure the effectiveness of this? When all is said and done, the ultimate aim of my business is to place recruiters into roles within the recruitment industry. So how many of my placements for 2010 can I directly attribute to my Linked In network?
What’s that I hear you say? Yes…I said…One. Hmmm. I joined Linked In in 2007 and have worked hard building my online brand and network. Many hours would have gone into it over the years. But was it all really worth it? Just for one guy to say he had found me on Linked In and me then taking him through to eventual offer and acceptance stage with one of my clients.
As a comparison exactly 50% of my placements for 2010 came via online advertising, mostly on job boards, in particular Seek. Now I am also happy with this number in comparison to previous years as it used to be a much higher percentage. Watching the percentage of applicants being placed as a result of online advertising reduce means that a larger proportion are coming to me through word of mouth and referrals.
And I think this is where the intangible benefits of a strong, engaged, Linked In network can really be found. All of those candidates are connections of mine on Linked In. Many could have seen my updates and decided it was time to make a move, but applied through my website, for example. Others were referred to me by colleagues at work, who might have been connected to me on Linked In, but rather than directing them to my Linked In profile took the easier route of just giving them my phone number.
So I have to say I am happy with my Linked In network, with its strength and relevance to my specialist sector, and with my Return on Investment for the hours put into it. But it seems impossible to scientifically assess its effectiveness in monetary terms. Okay I can say I have made one placement in one year as a direct approach to me on Linked In. But my gut feel, my instinct, is that my efforts in the social media space have generated many more word of mouth referrals. Just don’t ask me exactly how many!
I will leave you today with one final thought that my analysis threw up. 17 of my connections have surnames beginning with “Mc” or “Mac” and all of them, bar one, are in the middle of highly successful recruitment careers, most of them occupying senior positions within the industry. So if you’re ever unsure about whether to bring someone of Celtic origin into your recruitment team, chances are you should just go for it, they look like they’re made of good stuff!