Last week was #truLondon, so I didn’t get much of a chance to blog. More on that later in the week. There was plenty of talk about Pinterest, and how this new channel could impact on recruiting. Max Hayward ran a track on it, has blogged and even pinned it.He is so excited about the new channel and the prospect for recruiting that he is having babies about it.

I don’t need to share more how this channel “could” or “should” be used for recruiting. There’s been enough blogs, webinars and tweets about it.The reality is that any channel, on-line or off-line social place can be used for recruiting. Where you can connect with people, you can hire people, and that’s pretty much down to LinkedIn.We can find people anywhere, and reference LinkedIn to see what they are, and what their background is. The more channels, the more places to connect and come up on the radar. Pinterest is no different to this, with some simple but effective means of sharing infographics as job descriptions. It’s also a good way to attract new people from a niche sector by setting up a dedicated board in a niche.
It’s also looks a great channel for sourcing specialist people, in much the same way as YouTube is most effective for sourcing specialists. The benefits of using YouTube to broadcast job or employer brand content is obvious, but the wise sourcers spend more time searching for people. If you want to reach Java programmers, then the place to look is at specialist videos on Java that contains geek content. The people who like the video or post comments, or follow the channel are probably Java specialists. It’s another community of type.Apply the same principle to Pinterest. Followers of specialist content are probably going to work in the discipline. The people following, posting, liking or sharing are probably in that discipline. You want to find a Java programmer, go find Java images, video and infographics.

I can see the possibility, especially when you start pinning video, I’m just waiting to see what the users determine is going to be the reality.
This is what is at the heart of how social channels evolve. The designers build and imagine a channel operating in one way, then the users take a look, break the rules and decide to do something completely different with it. Anywhere there are collections of people, there are recruiters looking for low hanging fruit. Looking for another way to connect. Another channel or social place that might give access to new people.Google+ did a great job of launching, crowd-sourcing the users and changing the features and functions quickly to fit what the users wanted to use, rather than what they wanted to provide.

Another great example of this is photo-sharing channel Flikkr.Flikkr was built as a game playing platform, much like Farmville  or Cityville. The founders wanted to create a community element around the games, so that the players could share content, pictures, news etc. What resulted was that the picture sharing element exploded, while the other features including the games never really took off. The users determined that they wanted Flikkr to be a photo sharing channel, and that’s what it became.

Each month at Facebook headquarters, the staff at Facebook meet for a hack day. They meet to design and build new user functions, and the only rule is that they can’t work on anything that is related to their job. Employees are encouraged to think like users, and to work in small teams to build new changes. It is this creative thinking that has brought about most of the changes users have experienced and come to love, after first hating them. Richard Cho, head of resourcing at Facebook told me just before #truAus, that the success of features are measured by how much people complain about the change. Facebook changes all the time, as does Google+, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, and the changes are driven by user behavior. Use something a lot, and it gets built on, don’t use it at all and it disappears. Users vote for features with clicks, and although there is loud protest every time there is a change to what is a free channel, the user base for all the channels keep growing at a rate that far outstrips expectation.

Much of the reason that Facebook has grown at the exponential rate it has is that Zukerburg and gang have constantly introduced new user features, dropping those that don’t get adopted, making changes by use and developing those that prove popular. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn describes it best as as being in a state of permanent beta. The product or channel is never quite the finished article. Users always want more. It’s similar to my adage for social recruiting: “Theres no failure, only research.” If it doesn’t work, drop it, and drop it quickly. If it kind of works, get in to the data and crowd source for feedback, then make changes. If it works, build on it, and build on it quickly. I think that you also need to understand that the social attention span is as long as a goldfish memory, and that users fall in and out of love with products, thought leaders, channels and influencers just as quickly.

Today’s darling can just as easily be a turnip tomorrow, unless there is constant change in response to user behaviour and habits. You want an example of this? Search for blogs on Empire Avenue for recruiting, then see when the blogger was last active in that channel, that is if you can remember your password. At this stage, Pinterest could go the same way. The time to judge it is a year from now. If we are all still frantically pinning, then it could prove valuable.  That said, it is worth exploring every new channel from the start, because there is a big advantage to being an early adopter and figuring things out.

For recruiters and job seekers, the novelty factor of doing something different and grabbing attention this way can not be under estimated, but different doesn’t last very long, you need to offer more. For recruiters in Pinterest now, this could be by being first to invite people to a network, then building from there. If you were the first recruiter to post a job on LinkedIn, or make an approach by in-mail, I bet you were seen as a real innovator, do it now and you are almost a spammer. I’m very excited by the prospect for Paul Jacobs jobgram, that turns job specs in to infographics, and the potential they offer when combined with Pinterest and a pin me badge. I’m underwhelmed by the infographic C.V.’s I’ve seen so far. With the odd exception, I think that they have limited value beyond novelty, and that will be short-lived. Put an infographic in to an ATS and see what happens!

This week Mashable published another interesting infographic. It has been pinned lots of times, probably because the post compares the difference between Pinterest users in the U.S. and the U.K, and the topics they are Pinning about. This is an interesting look at how this channel, or platform, or whatever you want to call it, is evolving. I think this is quite interesting given that the women in the US were the early adopters, swapping recipes, shoe pictures etc, which formed the majority of the early day sharing.

It is well documented that Pinterest has grown to 13million users in just 10 months, and the average user is very different in what they are posting. In the US there are 12Mn users, where as there are only 200,000 in the UK, so it is still real niche, compared with the 30Million+ Facebook users. It is also very early days, but the difference in user demographic and use is remarkably different.

In the US, 83% of Pinterest users are female, compared with 44% in the UK. In the US 3% of users are in the higher income bracket, where as in the UK it is 29% of users that earn over $150,000 a year. 42% of UK users are in the 25 – 34 age band, whilst the biggest grouping in the US are 35 – 44 with only 28%.

The most interesting variation comes from topics pinned, which is vastly different.

In the US it’s:

> Crafts

> Gifts and Special Event Items

>Hobbies and Crafts

>Interior Designers

>Fashion Designers and Collections

>Blogging Resources and Services

In the UK, it’s a bit different:

> Venture Capital

>Blogging Resources and Services

>Crafts Design

>Web Stats and Analytics

>SEO and Marketing

>Content Management

>Public Relations

I think this illustrates how social channels evolve. They start as truely social places and then evolve in to something quite different as the people gather and get involved. Pinterest in the US grew quickly because it was leisure and hobby based social. I’m guessing that this was the way Facebook grew in the beginning. Students could connect with other students, share and just hang out. Everyone wanted to be a part, but it took a few years before businesses and brands got involved, and it took even longer for recruiters to decide that they might be able to hire via the channel, though the difference is that this is still largely geared around fan pages, opt in applications and job postings in to the stream, by way of social shares (although this is least effective), and referral networks.

What I’m seeing from the Mashable infographic is that as the channel has reached these shores it has become largely a business channel, around venture capital and the digital arena. What I’m considering is that without the non-business social audience, as built in the states, will this become just an advertising channel? Recruiters here have been quick to jump in and try to work out how this might work for them. There’s 200,000 users in the U.K, and I’m guessing that recruiters will form one of the largest groups of users. What my concern is at the moment is that if Pinterest does not build a base of social (leisure) users, before it becomes a predominantly  business channel, will growth in the UK mirror growth in the U.S? Users dictate the evolution and functionality of any social channel, and if all the users in the UK are business users looking to sell or recruit, what will the channel become? Pinterest needs people before it becomes an effective sourcing channel, and recruiters will have a part to play in not dominating the content.