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HK still shy of going on the radar

The founder of internet and digital-media forum Web Wednesday, Napoleon Biggs, was once hired solely due to his social media presence.

“I was blogging as a consultant, advising companies how to use the internet to make money and spread content,” he says. “I was using Facebook, Twitter, and my blog to talk about the industry, and that put me on the radar of a recruiter in the US who told me he solely used LinkedIn to source people globally.”

Biggs, who was recruited to a social media role for FleishmanHillard, says the experience gave him a deep interest in the concept of social recruiting. “I’ve since spoke to lots of multinationals who also have the luxury of having in-house HR people, and they seem to have migrated to social media – it is like their bible.”

But here in Hong Kong, Biggs says, people are more private than their American counterparts. “In the US, people are very outspoken; they tend to be very active on Twitter, very public. But here in Hong Kong, they tend to focus on WhatsApp and WeChat. They have these closed-circle conversations.”

Biggs has tried seeking candidates through Twitter but with little success. “I put a friendly post on my Twitter: ‘Reckon you can crack the social media nut, tweet me back.’ No response,” he says. “We then put some stuff on an online job board and shared that link. It got shared, a few people applied, including one from South Africa, but it wasn’t targeted very much.

“I think what I am realising from a recruitment perspective is that to advertise recruitment socially is quite hard. This is why JobsDB and Classified Post still have a big say because, in the digital industry, there is a lot of demand for people. Quality is the issue.”

The earlier days of social media saw blurred lines between candidates simply having a profile and actively looking for work. As Biggs says, when staff were building up their own profiles on social media, even back in 2009, it was generally in the hope that somebody would find their résumé – there was no element of professional development or thought-leadership about social presence.

In 2006, when Twitter looked like a low-budget community newsletter, Biggs advised his client CNN to allow staff to build their own Twitter feeds and social profiles. He says, however, that the concept was too bold back then.

“They said, ‘No, we can’t do that, it will undermine our brand.’ But now, six, seven years later, they’ve seen the value of the journalists having his or her own brand while being a proponent of the CNN brand.”

Indeed, successful news anchors such as CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout are brands in themselves, with CNN posting Stout’s Twitter, Facebook and Google+ details on its own profile page for the anchor.

This leaves HR with a conundrum. “If you are in HR, you are probably gnawing away on your nails,” Biggs says. “Your staff become very portable and a lot of HR people have an issue with that. They ask the question, ‘If I allow my staff to create their own brand off the back of us, am I helping them to become more valuable?’ The answer, if they are philosophical about it, is that they will ultimately help the company.”

Biggs says the irony of the technology is that it makes physical relationships even more precious. “Physical face-to-face networking has been dramatically enhanced by all these social networks,” he says. “When I started Web Wednesday, there were very few platforms to promote an event. You would build up an e-mail list and use word of mouth. Now you can use a whole range of tools. Social media has made it a lot easier to network, which from a job-hunting or recruitment perspective is perfect.”