On the Decline of Social Media in College Recruiting

Two years ago when I began to promote my ideas among college recruiters and college students I found it easy to reach hundreds of people within weeks using Facebook. At the time, I was a first time user of facebook.

I find now that as I message those contacts that it takes weeks to get a message replied, and that new friend requests find no reply. I find the same thing with LinkedIn and other social networks. Foursquare appears to be a new casualty as well.

Much like the original web 1.0 products, there has been a shakeout among social network systems. Despite the media’s continual hyping of Twitter and Facebook, the public goes wild for these services, then experiences burn-out. I know myself that I find facebook to be a burden, looking on the system for signs of light. More frequently than not, the discovery of old friends provides a brief flourish of activity which lasts over a few posts.

Mark Zuckerberg truly designed an interesting portal for personal news. The facebook product remains an interesting facet of pop culture. But I do believe that the product will fade from the public interest (at least for those born from X chromosones). I feel a pang of fear whenever I post photographs, messages and other efforts to use the product.

Recently when one of facebook’s major PR outlets, techcrunch heralded the death of gmail, as facebook rolled out its own enhanced message platform, the response from the public to the article was overwhelming refutive; readers could not fathom why a platform like facebook, with an executive with questionable character and sense of reality, would be entrusted with personal communications. Google has proven their ability to be trusted, as evinced by the number of government agencies who use corporate versions of gmail.

I no longer see facebook among my college students. They are not using the system. This trend flowed through academia like a virus, taking over all screens, and now is gone. I demand to know why, and my students, primarily male, all computer science students, disclaim they ever used it.

For folks like myself who are committed to social computing, the news from mainstream media, touting the powers of facebook do not agree with my own circle; facebook is an amusing distraction, which can absorb one evening per month as I follow links to look at photos. However, when news of 600 million users crosses my desk, I tend to believe that users do indeed join, begin to use it, then experience declining interest. Facebook will never release such statistics, instead claiming the participation of dead users — folks who create an account then go silent. For a privately owned company, they have no obligation to publish any real data.

But instead of bash facebook, which is an interesting tool for the discovery of individuals — it’s far more vital to discuss the status of social media designed to solve social problems. In the case of the Next Acropolis, it’s resolving how college students are influenced and integrated into the world post-degree. We know that college recruiters as early as 2008 were clamoring to use the system to facilitate creating pools of interested students, and mine the system for clues related to students.

But the public discovery of personality dimensions is not a facebook forte. One must rely on the extended social graph to do meaningful discovery work. For college recruiters, this is slightly more useful than their own natural methods involving campus visits, career development offices, and alumni employees. Online, one interested person could connect them to others, of like mind.

But altogether, the use of the dominant social media engine — facebook — is not an aggressive, business-like tool for locating students who deserve to be employed. There is no filtration needed to quickly sift through ineligible recruits. Businesses must be tough-minded in employee development and sourcing, and must mind the salaries and benefits they must pay new people. The more cut-throat, the better. New talen must be rigorously vetted, especially given the coddled character of so many recent graduates. (I personally feel that the recession has cleansed the environment of unprofessional Gen-Y grads, with their characteristic egotism, however, business people aren’t swayed easily once they’ve been burned once).

I am finding that people are less amenable to using dominant social media paradigms to get things done correctly. The cracks revealed during this landscape expansion/contraction will provide the market with impetus for change — much in the same vein as facebook eliminated the less-relevant social networks pre-2005 (myspace and the host of all others we no longer discuss).

I vividly recall the pull-back on the e-commerce sites we heralded in the late 90’s (pets.com, webvan, etoys, pink dot and such). These ventures captured our imagination, but failed to do much in reality. Their best contribution was to show the world how the importance of their core offering — online purchasing. And as this vital technique was distributed across many, many entities, by 2002, online purchasing had become de rigeur. Encrypting personal financial information could be done by any vendor, cheaply. Interesting new concepts do have the possibility of dying, while their core ideas remain and are magnified.

I see college students and recruiters as both highly motivated to use social media to drive career development. This group will always rest on the avant-garde of new technology. But if the innovation does not meet their expectations, they will leave the platform quickly. Evidence points to the continued focality of facebook among college students. However, in our limited endeavor of connecting this demographic to opportunities outside and beyond college, we still see a huge, untapped opportunity.

Update:
Apparently even TechCrunch is capable of turning on Facebook. Boy I fear this publication.

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About stefan bund

Founder of Next Acropolis. MS in Information Systems and Technology, Claremont Graduate University... Background in software engineering and teaching.
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