Sourcing wizard Glen Cathey posted an excellent article on his Boolean Black Belt blog titled “Searching Facebook For Sourcing And Recruiting.” Without going in to too much detail (you should read the post yourself.) the upshot of the post was that it is extremely difficult to extract any meaningful data from Facebook for the purpose of sourcing. In the post Glen published the results of a number of searches he had conducted, including:
> Searching for friends by company and co-worker. This gives you a default return to the standard search bar.
> Find friends from different parts of your life, hitting the find friends and co-workers tab then the “enter another employer” tab. This returned the best results when you added a location for specific results, though as Glen pointed out, this is dependent on the data entered by users being accurate, and it often isn’t.
> Searching the people search bar with a combination of employer and job title. This returned some results but required you to hit the “see more results” twice. Some results were there, but were well hidden.
> Using the “add another filter” under people search which gives you a whole list of other options. This sometimes worked for Glen, but also returned some baffling results of no relevance.
> Searching Facebook using boolean operators – This doesn’t work. Facebook doesn’t support Boolean.
Glen is one of the worlds best sourcers, whilst I’m really a novice by comparison. All the same, I ran each of these
searches and could only draw the same conclusions. The most successful way I have found of searching the channel is to search the friends of an employee of a target company using the people filters. This brings results provided you have a name at the target company. It works, but is cumbersome and time-consuming.
A few weeks ago I was involved in hosting a hack day to automate Facebook search. There were some sharp guys there, but we kept coming back to the same problem in that what you can automate in search is seriously restricted. This, combined with Glens post and my own tests lead me to one conclusion, Facebook just don’t want you to be able to search beyond your own friends or brand pages. They don’t want to support Boolean because this would bring the people sourcers. The only way they want you to be able to reach your targets is through advertising, and they protect this position by scrambling results, hiding filters and returning searches to the people bar.
Whilst there is an obvious commercial benefit to Facebook in this, it’s not all about the dollars. I believe that this also has a lot to do with what they want for users, they want commercial messaging to be determined by user choice and opt in, hence the advertising approach where users are invited to connect by opting in. Whilst the numbers on Facebook make it an appealing hunting ground, the architecture behind the channel and the structure of the data makes it a bit of a barren land for sourcers searching in channel. As Glen concludes in his post, you can get better results by x-ray searching Facebook profiles via Bing or Google to identify people by job title and location provided they have left their profile open. The challenge then is effectively messaging in the channel without any previous connection, and this gets a very mixed reaction.
This highlights again that Facebook strategy is really about creating fan pages, targeted advertising to reach people (using the ad filters in the same way as you would search), engagement and making it easy to search for and apply for jobs in channel.