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One of the biggest social media challenges of the day is determining where to invest your time. What’s worse, the ever-changing social ecosystem means that the right strategy 12 months ago may no longer be right today.

A particular challenge for people wanting to connect and build a brand for business or recruiting purposes is weighing up time invested in Google+ vs. LinkedIn. Here I’ll share my experiences and insights, in the hope they’ll help you figure out your own strategy for the coming year. I’ve also added a fun poll below so we can see where you are all planning on investing your time…

We’ll take it as a given that you are being socially astute rather than spammy in your use of these sites – ie. you’re sharing good content and engaging with people rather than pumping out a stream of pure promotional messages.

Here are some of the things you may be striving to achieve with your social networking activities – and my score for whether Google+ or LinkedIn is coming out on top in that area…

Immediate Traffic To Your Careers Pages or Blog or Website

Assuming you’re not one of the earliest adopters of Google+ – and so aren’t in the Circles of tens of thousands of Google+ users – my experience is that you’re most likely to see significant web traffic to the links you share from being active on LinkedIn.

By joining and contributing to relevant LinkedIn Groups, it’s possible to be seen by thousands of your target candidate audience. Should your links start being shared by other members of the community, some may be featured as trending items and so get much wider exposure across the site. Plus – in case you hadn’t noticed – LinkedIn has been going to great lengths to ensure that users spend increasing amounts of time on the platform – so links you share will be seen on the site.

The same is not yet true on Google+. Communities (the Google equivalent of Groups) are in their infancy and in most sectors I think recruiters will find it hard to discover communities where there is anything like the same membership as in comparable LinkedIn Groups.

Generating several thousand monthly visits to your site from active participation on LinkedIn is wholly achievable in my experience. If you have a recruiting team of several people, multiply up and that could start to be a significant chunk of your total career page / blog traffic that’s there to be generated (for free) via LinkedIn. Google+, by comparison, is more time-intensive to be active on and in my experience yields only a fraction of the same web traffic as LinkedIn.

Google+ vs. LinkedIn – the point goes to LinkedIn

Long-term Traffic Boost Through SEO Improvements

In the search engine marketing world, it’s the accepted wisdom that search engines are increasingly taking social media shares into consideration when ranking websites in their search results. That’s to say the more social shares your content is getting, the more likely it is to be boosted in the search engine rankings.

Now traffic from other search engines is nice to have, but be under no illusions that Google is the main game in town here. If there’s something you can do that will boost how Google perceives the content on your careers site / blog / company website, that has the potential to translate into significant long-term advantage for you or your business.

Since Google isn’t in the habit of divulging its search algorithm, I can’t tell you definitively which social shares are going to carry the most weight in future search engine ranking performance. But given Google’s investment in its Google+ product, I wouldn’t want to bet against Google+ shares becoming an increasing determinant of website ranking on Google search results pages. Would you?

Now let me share a social media secret with you. When you read content on the web, you’ll tend to see that content is shared most widely on the social networks where the author or business owner themselves has the strongest presence. That makes sense right? If you have lots of Twitter followers, for example, but haven’t done much on LinkedIn, then the people most likely to see your content are Twitter users and the sharing that is easiest for those people to do is to continue sharing it on Twitter.

I’ve seen this in practice on Social-Hire, where we’ve invested in having a strong Twitter and LinkedIn presence, but put far less effort into Facebook. Our sharing stats are a mirror image of this. I could give you countless other examples, LinkedIn networkers whose content is mostly shared on LinkedIn and so on.

The obvious conclusion is that if you want to be well positioned to be getting social shares of your content via Google+ – and therefore raising the profile of your content in the Google ecosystem – then a key component for achieving this is becoming more active on Google+ yourself.

Google+ vs. LinkedIn – the point goes to Google+

Ultimate Candidate Reach

This point can be made pretty succinctly. LinkedIn has taken a decade – give or take – to get to the point where it has 200m profiles on the site (and that’s before we discount all the profiles that are out of date or not being actively used). In a fraction of this time, Google+ surpassed double that figure and continues to grow strongly. Its routes to reach people are far more extensive than LinkedIn’s, so I don’t expect any change in this trend. Also Google’s ability to bring people back to Google+ is pervasive. Every day people use the Google search engine, Gmail and the like – and so see their notifications alert for Google+ without having had to consciously return to the site. LinkedIn doesn’t have anything like the same daily visibility unless you actually choose to return to the site (or use their apps).

So in terms of sheer reach Google+ wins hands down. Add in the fact that LinkedIn increasingly requires you to buy a subscription to access the lion’s share of its network, whereas Google+ is free. Your potential to reach out to people for free is unquestionably greater on Google+. If you have a corporate account on LinkedIn and can reach the whole network and send targeted mails to candidates of interest, this undoubtedly gives you the edge in terms of reaching lots of relevant people for a particular role quickly and effectively. But in terms of who will be better positioned to succeed in the future, I’d bet my money on a recruiter who’s built up a sizeable Google+ presence rather than a similar time invested in LinkedIn.

Google+ vs. LinkedIn – the point goes to Google+

Wading Through Spam

This point is even more succinct. LinkedIn users are drowning in spam. I’ve read that LinkedIn are taking steps to try and counter this, but as things currently stand lots of Groups have been destroyed by the all-pervasive product spammers you find there. So considerable time has to be invested in choosing the right groups to join and in hand-selecting the connection requests to accept (as every profile has to be thoroughly vetted, so prevalent are the numbers of professional-looking spam profiles springing up on the site). It’s also not easy to see which profiles are guilty of spamming until you’ve actually connected with that person, so time is also lost cleaning up those who choose to waste your time.

The Google+ experience, by contrast, is a most pleasant one. What users are doing on the platform is far more transparent, so you can see in a flash whether someone is a value-contributor on the network or not. For Communities, Google+ also has a spam detection system – where people posting potentially spammy content are flagged to the moderator and this content only appears in the community once approved. This is such a revelation compared to LinkedIn, a real blessing for any recruiter thinking of creating a Group or Community for their business.

Google+ vs. LinkedIn – the point goes to Google+

Targeted Approaches and Community Building

LinkedIn’s trump card is, without doubt, the structured data it’s collected on its 200m+ accounts. If you’re looking to target candidates from a particular company in a particular location with a particular skillset, LinkedIn can generate a target shortlist for you in a way that Google+ cannot emulate. If you’ve got access to their premium services, you can also fire off messages to your target candidates in an ultra-efficient way.

That’s what’s needed to deliver on your immediate hiring needs. For the longer term success of the company, building a community of fans and potential employees is also an important consideration. With its Company Pages, geographic tailoring and the ability for users to follow these, LinkedIn has a strong offering here too. But Google+ is no slouch either. However, its focus isn’t purely on the needs of the corporate market and so I imagine the ability to build a community of advocates and potential employees will remain a stronghold for LinkedIn – albeit one that Google+ may erode as its userbase continues to grow.

Google+ vs. LinkedIn – 2 points go to LinkedIn (but it’s a close call on the 2nd point)

Concluding Remarks

So there you have it, final score:

Google+   3   –   3   LinkedIn

As of right now, I’d have to rate it a score draw as to where you should be investing your time as a recruiter. However, the above suggests LinkedIn is where I think you’d get the most short-term upside from your investment in social media. So if you need traffic to your careers site today and shortlist candidates in for interview later this month, LinkedIn is where to invest your time.

But if you’re a recruitment business owner, or a corporate recruiting team mapping out your recruitment strategy for the next years, it’s hard to argue that the biggest benefits aren’t going to be had by investing more of your time in your Google+ presence. So the question is, are you playing the short-term game or the long game?

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