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Big tech ads - Are they effective in recruitment?

about 3 years ago

Big tech ads - Are they effective in recruitment?

With Facebook and Google announcing 'surges in revenue' and after reading Elaine Moore’s excellent article in the Financial Times on the ineffectiveness of digital advertisement despite how much personal data that big tech has access to, it sparked discussion at ProTech about digital advertisement in recruitment. Especially also considering this recent BBC article on the lack of Facebook and Google taking action ‘against scam adverts’.

Elaine Moore laments that even though the likes of Facebook have access to so much of her personal data the end result of the targeted advertisement she actually receives is ‘random’ and ‘largely inaccurate’.

With Facebook we have had more success targeting specific local groups and posting vacancies directly ourselves rather than through the Facebook paid advertisement service. This is despite Facebook providing stats demonstrating that our paid advertisement had reached a large viewership in the targeted area. As Elaine references in the Financial Times, an internal memo written in 2016 by a Facebook product manager stated that ‘more than half of the time we are showing ads to someone other than the advertisers’ intended audience’.

Whereas the paid adverts tend to hit a wide range of individuals, the community aspect and the interactions the advert receives are often substantially reduced. A important point is that we can actually have more understanding of who our unpaid advertisements are reaching and who is interacting with them than we have by paying Facebook and placing trust in their algorithm.

It could be claimed that Facebook was not always the most appropriate platform for the types of roles we are advertising for, but it would demonstrate Elaine’s claim that the data held doesn’t necessarily always lead to specific and targeted advertisements like you would imagine it would and that the platform may claim.

To take another example, LinkedIn; when we post a job through our paid service, LinkedIn is supposed to filter it through only to relevant potential candidates but despite this ‘targeting’, we regularly receive applicants and followers from inappropriate locations and backgrounds. When it comes to feedback from LinkedIn these numbers are included in the number of people that we have ‘reached’ and as justification for LinkedIn’s performance and premium pricing. We may well have reached them, but if they weren’t relevant to our clients needs or had no chance of being converted, then I would argue that it is a totally irrelevant ‘reach’ for us. It’s simply a vanity metric that doesn’t translate into results for the client.

On Google we have targeted a few very specific keywords and job titles that we believe our target audience may be searching, however our admittedly limited experience on this platform has produced some very puzzling and irrelevant results so far. The Financial Times article highlighted how a decade ago, eBay stopped all search ads on Google for a period of three months, in a third of the USA. There was only a small difference in sales. The conclusion was that the people clicking on search ads were the ones already planning to buy something on the site.

As a tech curious company, we have tried many platforms at ProTech. We also find it useful to trial these job boards as if you were a job seeker to establish what the job seekers experience is like. One of our directors registered as a job seeker on GlassDoor to see what jobs it presented to him.

Here are the jobs that have been presented

Multi skilled maintenance technician   Birmingham UK

Bank Equipment Technician            Washington State USA

Apartment Maintenance Technician   Moscow, Russia

Biomedical Scientist                    Birmingham UK

Now we can ignore these jobs as not being relevant but the advertisers have paid to have these jobs presented to a ‘relevant’ user. So when GlassDoor call me and ask me to pay for advertising I don’t trust that they will do what they say they will do. But I suspect they may not be the only platform that overstates it’s reach to relevant user’s.

So what do we take from our experience? We can’t help but feel that the platforms are pulling the wool over the advertiser’s eyes and that there are not actually as many directly relevant people as they say there are. The adverts are ultimately presented to less relevant people to hit the target number of impressions. Or they are repeatedly presented to the same ‘relevant people’. If that is the case then some ‘targeted’ advertising is little different from general advertising on TV channels, billboards or newspapers. At least with the latter you know multiple people will see it and the user chooses if it is relevant or not rather than an algorithm force feeding you.

This isn’t to suggest that paid for digital marketing itself can’t be effective, but that establishing where you focus your energies and working out what works best for your company is vitally important. Right now, to us it certainly feels that for now you can get better results through being more targeted, specific and thorough and achieve more organic reach by doing so yourselves rather than simply running into the comfort-blanket and monetising arms of big tech.