Facebook’s Shiny New Job Board!

Jul 13, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

With the announcement that Facebook is going to offer a job board, we are witnessing the company’s inevitable capitulation to pressure to deliver financial results after a disappointing IPO.Despite a well-deserved reputation for doing things the Zuckerberg way, Facebook is a public company now and must bow to investor pressure in order to justify its (still-high) valuation. Starting a job board is comparatively low-hanging fruit, and we should expect more such offerings in the future as it strives to develop new revenue streams.As job boards go, Facebook’s strength lies in numbers. With hundreds of millions of users, some ads are bound to hit targets. By the way, this is how we know this effort is a cave-in to financial pressure. If it weren’t caving, it would offer something new. Instead, it’s producing a rehash of existing business models.

Facebook hasn’t invented better targeting, improved matching, or even a prettier display. It claims to be able to deliver masses of eyeballs to advertisers and little else — a claim that many have not found to be true given the low click-through rates on ads. Eventually, it may develop better targeting and better matching, but to do so, it’ll need more information from you. And, despite outcries for privacy, you will continue to hand it your private information in exchange for this “free” platform, complaining all the while. This is Facebook’s business model. Get used to it or get off of Facebook.

There are some challenges to be dealt with, things that job boards haven’t had to address. For example, consumers tend to use each social media site differently. The popular perception is that Facebook is the barbecue, LinkedIn is your workplace, and MySpace is (was) the bar. For Facebook to succeed in expanding participation to the professional realm, it will have to do so without threatening the barbecue, which is its basis for success.

We tend to think of Facebook as an interaction between ourselves and our friends. We know this is an illusion, as the tension over privacy demonstrates, but we behave as if the illusion is reality. So, consider the nuance required to integrate both personal and professional lives on one site. Our work-lives are important, but most of us (multilevel marketers excepted?) have some compartmentalization between professional and social lives. When the two come together, the results can be jarring — as occasionally happens on LinkedIn when someone posts a highly personal update. The reaction for most people is: “Whoa! that doesn’t belong here.”

Consider seeing a message informing you that “Mary just applied for a job at XYZ Company. Write on her wall congratulating her!”

If Mary is a co-worker, or worse, an employee, she may want to keep this quiet. Facebook is notoriously unreliable in keeping things private, or even managing simple privacy settings. Succeeding here would require a larger mind-shift in Facebook’s approach to social media. Don’t hold your breath.LinkedIn is another challenge. While Facebook does not need to address this directly, things would go a lot better for it if LinkedIn users somehow decided Facebook had a better deal. These folks have the biggest commitment to the recruiting business and control the advertising (read: job board) budgets. If Facebook were able to offer a better solution, LinkedIn users could hasten success. But nothing in Facebook’s initial offering hints at success in converting them.

In the near term, there is still a splendid opportunity to use Facebook as a recruiting platform — not due to any offering specific to recruiting, mind you, but the sheer number of users does present a unique opportunity to develop talent communities. I’m not referring to the common (and useless) company pages on Facebook. These ludicrous substitutions for original thought display our vast inability to grasp the potential offered by new tools while we attempt to replicate old processes on each innovation that comes down the pike. But, I digress.

On Facebook the opportunity exists to use a free site to amass a group of like-minded individuals (and skills). An enterprising recruiter could bring them together engaging conversations around topics specific to their interests while positioning an organization’s brand to advantage. This approach to recruiting rare skillsets can be very cost-effective over time. But few companies are pursuing this avenue today.

In the long run, job boards will likely evolve to eclipse this space. This will enable them to continue a relatively high margin business at the expense of short-sighted corporate recruiting executives. No surprise there; our industry, and the larger HR function, have avoided things like planning, accountability, and forward-thinking for generations.So, will Facebook’s job board succeed? Yes – unless everyone jumps ship. But in that case the whole enterprise fails. Realistically, Facebook can offer this at a very low cost without requiring a return for a long time. If they want to, they can acquire other job boards and absorb them (a la Careerbuilder). Although they are muddling their way into the space, they have plenty of time to get it right. With a steady effort, Facebook has the capacity to reinvent and dominate the space. We’ll see if they actually do. But, in keeping with their recent IPO, this new job board offering is remarkably uninspired.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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