My employer, Jobsite, picked up the Candidate Service Award at the onrec Awards 2010. One of the cited services that we launched over the last year towards this was Jobs By Twitter. In my capacity as Lead Software Engineer I performed the construction, based on the vision of Gary Robinson.
My interest in the web, hypermedia, security and so on also gives me an affinity towards the buzzword-heavy realm of social media. It has been interesting following its development but those with a background in electronic communications, especially those from the pre-Internet days of modems and bulletin board systems, will have a natural grasp of the social concepts and etiquette that apply. When your content downloading was restricted to a 1200/75 baud modem (on a good day) you quickly learned to follow the tenet of the time: “Do not excessively annoy. Do not be too easily excessively annoyed”. This is a great guideline to follow even today.
This brings us neatly to Twitter. Its broadcasting model makes it so easy to do so many very annoying things but it is far more beneficial to take a step back and think: “SHOULD we do this? What is actually the best, and definitely not annoying, thing to do?”.
The trend right now is to just spam Twitter to death with jobs. It is completely missing the point of social media and engaging with people. You don’t just wander into a room at a party and start reading a script, ignoring everyone. You have conversations. This is to startlingly simple that it amazes me that some STILL just don’t get it.
I get several Follow requests a day from accounts which are nothing more than just streams of jobs. If I am looking for a job I will be proactively hitting a job board or networking by actually talking to people. Social media definitely comes into play with this latter point but that doesn’t include reading a static list of jobs on a feed. I’ll be using powerful search tools on a dedicated site. Key point: Use the best tools for the job. Twitter is not a panacea. “It adds SEO” is a weak argument.
Laziness comes into the above. It is EASY to spam content into Twitter. Plus it ticks the social media checkboxes that those in management may be obsessed about. It is quick and easy to do the wrong thing that (just about) gives a good impression to those holding the clipboards. You may even be able to sell it to other companies as an amazing Internet service using the ‘wooo, wavey hands, social media!’ sales tactic.
Our design at Jobsite was to embrace how Twitter is actually used: People choose who they follow. They unfollow them again if they find them uninteresting. These choices can change over time. Any service provider must respect the wishes of the user at all times.
With our service, the user opts to follow us and we then let them set up their search criteria. Thus the feed we provide them is fully customised. The eligible jobs are sent by Direct Message (privacy concerns – job hunters are quite likely to not want their desires made public). The user decides how often they get jobs. The user can change any of these settings at any time.
Another feature is that the user does not need an existing Jobsite account. This makes it very quick to be up and running and this is very important with the speed of getting things done on the web nowadays. Add too many hoops to jump through and the user’s initial interest will have gone and they will be distracted by something else shiny on their Twitter feed. We are intending to perform tighter integration with our site and others but making the ride a smooth one is very important.
We have a form of engagement in the above but it is not conversational in scope. That’s an area that there is so much potential in and we have plenty of ideas. We do have to tread carefully, however: The recruiters pay our wages! We can never stop (nor should we) candidates discussing jobs and recruiters but if we are the ones offering them the service and it becomes heated…well, you can see the conflict of interest that suddenly arises. This crosses over into communities, however, and more on that in a future posting.
From an engineering perspective, there have been a few challenges. Firstly, the Twitter API is a little twitchy. I ended up having to put several levels of cross-checking as I ultimately couldn’t always trust what it was telling me. It is also a shame that there is no ‘callback’ system where Twitter can inform you that a new follower has popped up. That would be preferable than having to always determine this by checking an account’s entire Follower list. We also had to balance Twitter’s request throttling with ensuring users got a quick response. We think we have got it right.
I would love to hear your comments on our service and approach plus any other examples of use of Twitter in this area… good or bad!