Coming from me, this blog post might come as a bit of a surprise. I’m well-known for having had great success in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and other channels. I’m always looking for other places for my clients to recruit. Fishing in ponds where no one else is gives you the pick of the fish, but no matter what recruiting plan we put together, there is always space in there for LinkedIn. It is top of every recruiters list, even if it is not the most social of places. LinkedIn doesn’t need to be social, for where it’s going in my opinion. If there was only the option to choose one channel, recruiters would choose LinkedIn every time. It’s more than just habit, and here’s why:

Last week Oracle acquired Taleo to integrate in to their range of enterprise HR and recruiting products. This is a move to position Oracles HR suite ahead of competitors like Workday, and the recently acquired Success Factors and Jobs2Web by S.A.P.  It’s been a busy time in the market. In June Taleo announced a close integration with LinkedIn which added new features that took LinkedIn’s biggest asset, the volume of professional profiles, to job seekers and to recruiters. The acquisition of Taleo brings LinkedIn in to the heart of Oracle, and it will be very interesting to see how this evolves on a global scale. The more technology moves to the cloud and goes mobile, the greater the need for an easily accessible, up to date professional profile.

My feeling is that 2012 is going to be the year of collaborative technologies. Technologies that work in harmony to put all the data in one place, and provides analytics to understand what the data is saying. This is LinkedIn’s biggest asset, and they control their position aggressively. 2 days ago, a tweet  from LinkedIn software developer Yevgeniy Brickman came across my time line, announcing 150Mn Users.

Thats 150 million global users of LinkedIn, and however out of date some of those profiles may be, it is the biggest source of professional data in one place. If you want to build any type of recruiting product, from social referrals to job sharing, you need access to the LinkedIn A.P.I. Products like BeKnown from Monster, and BranchOut learnt this the hard way. If you compete with LinkedIn for the professional network space, then they close off access. Any recruiting product needs to collaborate with LinkedIn, and that positions the business in the ascendancy.

A few weeks ago I blogged how LinkedIn wasn’t social, and why the channel didn’t need to be. It generated a lot of traffic and mostly agreement. The more I think about it, the more I see LinkedIn in a different position to where we see it now, and the what the channel represents.

1: Open Sign In/Apply

One click sign in to an ATS, or pretty much any social site is becoming standard. People want to give as little data as possible, and take as little time as possible. It is what LinkedIn was built for, a single source for professional data. I don’t need to provide my data, I just need to link to it. The more intelligent technology does not export data, but the location of the data, and searches in this way. Profiles are tagged, but the information is kept in real-time. With a traditional database, the data is stored requiring server space and security. What is the need to keep the data as long as you have a location and permission to access? Every time a profile gets updated in the old tech, the data gets more out of date, this way it stays current forever. The sign in is the permission, the access and the location. Theres also no need to scrape data and risk breaching LinkedIn’s terms of use.

2: Sourcing:

Using the channel as the reference source, and InMail for messaging is still the most succesful use of LinkedIn by recruiters. The research I conducted with hiring companies who quote LinkedIn as their principal source of hire showed that 45% of hires came from direct sourcing, and nearly all of them had a Recruiter Account. This won’t change any time soon. Most recruiters don’t get engagement. They either don’t have the time or need to talk to people outside of when they have a requirement, and LinkedIn gives them a channel they can learn quite easily. All of the job board research and data is showing that hiring companies are spending more and more time in the C.V. data-bases, in many cases seeing this as being more valuable than job posting. Taking this in context, LinkedIn is the ultimate C.V. database, so it stands to reason that the channel is featuring at the start of any source, either using LinkedIn’s own search engine, or via Google or another search engine. The reference source is still LinkedIn. While Facebook might have many more users and profiles, there’s less professional data, and it’s harder to search. Facebook requires a different approach, based on fan pages, engagement and targeting by interest. It’s more of a community platform, where as LinkedIn is the direct sourcing/finding channel.

3: PPC

I think this is a grossly under used area of LinkedIn. From the companies surveyed, 19% hired through PPC advertising. The data on the profiles makes targeting the right people easy by location, skills, employers, job titles, any of the profile fields or key-words used. Much like the principle and pricing behind Facebook advertising, it pays to place multiple ads aimed at smaller audiences. This reduces cost, and means you can target and images specific to the target group. A sniper approach brings real results. I’ve also been surprised by the success of the “picture yourself here” ad’s that use your LinkedIn picture and data to produce an ad featuring your face.

The only downside of this is that users have less and less reason to visit the channel. Updates, groups etc are mostly accessed from outside the channel, typically via e-mail. Users can even e-mail back without the need to log in, and this presents a challenge to the effectiveness of advertising, though targeted messaging from within the channel could provide the solution. Although time spent in the channel is reduced year on year, use of the features are increasing, and social sharing features highly. Could be an opportunity to locate on LinkedIn and message via another channel or source.

4:Mobile

Mobile is the major consideration in social recruiting. 55% of social content is posted via mobile. People spend their down time on trains, in ques etc browsing their mobile, and this includes jobs. Access to the major job boards via mobile is currently running at 18% of all access and rising each month. The biggest frustration and barrier at the moment is the inability to apply for jobs by mobile. Mostly this means e-mailing or bookmarking the job and hopefully picking it up later when they are back at a PC.

Peter Gold of HireStrategies ran a track at #trulondon on applying by mobile. The conclusion of  the assembled masses was that actually, people don’t want to apply by mobile but they do want to register their interest and come up on the radar of recruiters. Connect with LinkedIn gives the perfect opportunity to do this. Results are showing that when you ask people to connect rather than apply, the results go up considerably. The commitment is much less. Once a recruiter gets access to the LinkedIn profile, they can make an informed decision as to how they want to proceed, and it’s one click on the mobile for the potential candidate, and one click back (or call), by the recruiter. This is why I favour LinkedIn connect over LinkedIn apply, (it’s less commitment on either side). A connect button and mobile will make a major difference to future recruiting campaigns.

5: Reference Anywhere.

LinkedIn is the reference site for looking at professional profiles governing work history, skills etc, and for seeing how you are connected within an organisation. When I’m teaching sourcing in twitter or any other channel, it’s a case of locate the name, check the LinkedIn profile. With the channel recognised as the source for professional information at a glance, I don’t think it will be too long before we will be able to see profiles and connection information outside of the channel. it could be that we can see the profile and connections on a Facebook profile or from a tweet. this would require some collaboration between the channels, but I don’t think it is too far away.

6: Predictive Internet Behaviours.

LinkedIn has the most structured data on professional backgrounds. It’s also the place that gets most updated when things change. I’ve blogged in the past about how the radar function in Bullhorn Reach monitors changes to LinkedIn profiles to identify who is moving in to job seeker mode. It is frighteningly accurate. Consider how profiles and changes in user data can be used to predict the future, and make informed decisions now. You could identify a course of study based on the profiles of people in roles you want to take up in the future. You could identify employers where employees could be most likely to be open to your approaches. You can identify traits in organisations, and job seekers can identify the companies most likely to hire them. These are just a few thoughts on how data mining within the channel can assist decision-making and influence planning for anyone. The challenge for LinkedIn is to develop the tools to do this, and they have a very active lab doing this, as well as a history of acquiring third-party applications. They have the data, recruiters will pay for access and the tools to understand it. I’m expecting predictive tools to feature heavily in LinkedIn’s offerings during the coming year. If you can combine LinkedIn’s professional data, and Facebook’s social and personal data, imagine the possibilities.

7: Talent Networks.

I’m a fan of the talent network approach. I think that many companies can sustain this approach over a talent community. A talent network is dependent on simple sign up and being able to segment professional data to ensure relevance of . LinkedIn sign up makes this simple, and combined with CV upload and parsing, very relevent for messaging. It’s why I like products like Tribepad and Find.Ly. Talent networks are fast becoming a reality for smart hiring organisations, and will grow in importance during 2012, and access to the LinkedIn A.P.I. is essential to making this approach work.

8: Social Referrals

More and more organisations are recognising the importance of harnessing the social connections of their employees for referrals. Applications like Work4Labs, TalentBin and Bullhorn Reach make this easy and effective, but are dependent on gaining access to employees LinkedIn networks, as well as the other social channels. The average LinkedIn network consists of an average of 220 connections, and my research with client organisations show a relevance of about 70%. The potential here is huge, either through one of these applications or LinkedIn’s own referral engine. As social referrals increase in importance within hiring strategy, so more organisations will actively encourage their employees to build their networks. It’s the one channel that is rarely barred by HR or other departments, and because of the obvious business benefits, not seen as a time suck.

Increasingly I’m also hearing of businesses adopting these technologies in areas outside of recruiting, in particular sales and marketing functions. As other departments switch in to the social referral methodology, user numbers will continue to grow significantly, as will network size. The twitter factor has resulted in the growth of personal networks and our openness to connecting. It would not surprise me to see the average network size having doubled to 440 by the year-end, as more businesses adopt referral networks throughout the organisation.

Given these applications, a detailed professional profile on LinkedIn is a necessity, and users will pay more attention to getting the detail on their profile right. They have a unique and dominant position in the market, and one that is well protected. Access to the LinkedIn API is increasingly critical for recruiting technology companies, and this is where I see the main revenue streams coming. There will be less and less access and interaction in the channel, but more use of the data. Expect to see companies paying for access and use, and a real change in how the channel works. LinkedIn is not a job board as some would allude, but it is the biggest and most accurate professional data source, and we are going to see this becoming more and more important during 2012.

Just my thoughts, what do you think?

Bill