Not too long ago, targeting a specific group of people might mean picking a neighborhood to mass mail from the post office. These days, location-based targeting on the internet is more powerful and is executed with far more precision.
These techniques are useful for more than just your basic product advertising and service offers. It’s powerful for recruiting as well, allowing you to target specific neighborhoods, universities, companies, hospitals, and any other location that might be valuable for your talent search.
Two such techniques are geotargeting and geofencing. Though the terms are similar, they function differently and serve different purposes.
Let’s dig into the differences between these two, how they work, and how you might use them for recruiting.
What is Geotargeting?
Geotargeting uses the data from user’s computers and cell phones to find their approximate location from their IP address. This allows you to filter your search to individuals in a certain geographic area. Simple geotargeting is very similar to the example above; picking a neighborhood and mass-mailing everyone within that neighborhood. Replace mass mailing with web advertising, and you have the right idea.
As an example, you are exposed to geotargeted ads every day, and just about every one of those ads is geotargeted (whether it’s targeted to specific countries, states, or cities). If you aren’t using geotargeting on your ads, then people that are of little value to you in other locations could potentially see your ads and click them which would drain your ad budget. Any time you see an ad for a local business, that ad is targeted to a specific area around that business; people within 20 miles, people within city limits, or another definition allowed by the ad network.
Complex geotargeting adds additional advertising targeting options to the mix. You’re not just broad-spectrum targeting everyone within the geographic area; you’re targeting all the people who are in that area who also meet other criteria, such as demographics, income levels, education levels, or interests. Essentially, it’s a set of layered filters where your ads show to everyone in the city who is a young professional in IT with an interest in Windows administration – to use an example.
Complex geotargeting is all about precision in reaching specific people within an area. There’s no outward indication to the recipient that they’re the target of geolocated ads, other than the reasonable expectation that a local business is probably not advertising to people who aren’t likely to stop in. It does little good for a restaurant in Kansas City to advertise to people in Los Angeles, after all.
Geotargeting is nothing new. Even television and radio ads are geotargeted, to an extent. A local affiliate of a national station runs local ads and national programming, so everyone sees the same shows but different commercials between them. The internet simply makes advanced, complex geotargeting much more plausible and useful.
A modern example is Hyundai, the automobile company. Hyundai was facing a sales problem and identified the geographic locations around Toyota and Mazda dealerships.
Using those locations, they could identify people in the market for a vehicle by targeting people within those areas, drawing in an additional 41,000 leads.
You can start to form a picture of how this might be useful to recruiters by targeting specific areas, companies, and universities that have candidates matching your requirements.
What is Geofencing?
Geofencing might seem like basically the same thing, but it’s different in a functional way. Geofencing essentially establishes a “fence” around a given geographic area. It identifies people within that area based on IP address, RFID, and sometimes their connection to cell service towers and other location-based data like social network check-ins and maps usage.
The fenced-in area is your geofenced location. You then run ads targeting only people who pass through the boundary around your targeted area. This area can be as large as a city or as small as a neighborhood or even an individual business area of operation and can be used on a large scale to draw people to a major event, or a small scale to draw people to an individual business.
Geofencing is very similar to simple geotargeting, except it’s more active. Ads trigger as soon as someone traveling enters the fence, though there’s no pop-up, push notification, or email to signify it. To the user, it’s simply a different set of ads they see while they’re inside the fence.
Geotargeting’s additional complexity can make it a more specific tool for reaching a subset of people in an area. Geofencing, however, tends to record more data about the users entering and leaving the fence, with correlations of when and where to allow for habit tracking and other data you might find useful.
Neither option is strictly better or worse than the other. One is just more temporal while the other allows for ongoing regional targeting.
A recent example of geofencing in action is this healthcare provider, who used geofencing across a marathon’s pathway to target specifically athletes prone to running injuries so that they could offer their services.
How to Use Geotargeting for Recruiting
One of the biggest challenges of modern recruitment is the proportion of candidates who are mostly or entirely passive. They’re satisfied with the roles they have, so recruiting them requires finding them and reaching out to them. As Adam Godson of Cielo says:
“There aren’t enough people looking for jobs, so you’ve got to use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google, ad networks – all the things that consumers are using – to be able to find the right candidates at the right time.”
Seek out local passive candidates. Where active candidates may be primed and willing to relocate for a job, passive candidates are typically much more entrenched. Thus, it can be very useful to seek out passive candidates around your location, so you don’t need to convince them to overcome that additional hurdle of distance.
To properly use geotargeting for recruiting, you need two things: an idea of the geographic zone where your candidates may live, and an idea of what the candidates look like in terms of demographics and interests.
Build up a candidate profile. You want to put together a picture of the demographics, interests, existing income levels, and other bits of data that narrow down the group of “everyone in the area” to “the people suitable for the open role”.
You want to specify as much data as possible, because you’ll be using different ad networks like Google and Facebook, and they don’t all offer the same range of user data. Facebook has a lot of interest and demographic targeting, while Google tends to have more location and activity data, though of course there’s a lot of overlap.
While you’re developing this candidate profile, think about the value proposition you’re offering the potential candidates. The primary benefit of a geo-targeted ad campaign is being able to promote a short commute and proximity to amenities and local services in the area, though the candidates may already have access to many of them. Using income level targeting, you can also filter for candidates for whom your intended pay range is a raise, making the role more enticing.
As in the Hyundai example above, you can also target the campuses and offices of specific entities. For example, if you want to reach impending college graduates, you can use geo-targeting to reach the area surrounding a university campus, including dorms and the student apartment regions nearby.
Reach out to candidates currently employed by competitors. Alternatively, if you want to poach talent from your competitors, you could target their office location to see if anyone bites on targeted advertising. If one of those employees happens to be looking for a new employer, there’s a strong chance that they will reach out and apply to your open position.
Enhance office and team diversity with geographic targeting. Geotargeting can also be useful for diversity hiring. Modern cities tend to be somewhat segregated, due to a variety of historic and modern pressures. While this isn’t ideal, it does form a great opportunity to use geotargeting explicitly to reach out to diverse neighborhoods. You can’t exactly filter applications by specific protected classes, but by advertising a job opportunity in a diverse neighborhood, you’re able to increase the proportion of minority applicants, giving you a broader and more diverse candidate pool.
This kind of marketing is valuable, but must be used with caution to ensure that you’re not violating laws and regulations relating to equal opportunity and discriminatory hiring practices. Remember: use it to broaden your applicant base, not narrow it.
How to Use Geofencing for Recruiting
Where geotargeting reaches everyone who meets your criteria within a specified area, geofencing allows you to target people as they enter or leave a given area. Moreover, you can build a list of those people, as their device data usually lasts for 30 days before expiring and being removed from the target audience.
So how can you take advantage of this fence and trigger setup for recruiting? There are a lot of possible options.
Use geofencing as remote recruitment. For example, maybe you want to recruit college grads who attended Harvard, but you can’t send a recruiter directly to the university, and you don’t have a relationship with the administration so you can’t advertise on campus directly. Geofencing allows you to set up a virtual ad campaign around the campus to reach students and visitors with your messaging.
Use geofencing to enhance a local event. While you can use geo-targeting to target people near a job fair or industry event passively, geofencing allows you to reach out and engage with the people who enter the immediate area of the event when they enter the area. Someone who might be interested, and who is entering the area for other reasons, will suddenly see your ads promoting the event happening now. They may divert their attention and visit, allowing you to engage with them directly.
While the pandemic is making it more difficult to host events like job fairs and industry conferences, geofencing can enhance what events are allowed to happen. Once events are back, as well, it’s a valuable strategy to implement. Geofenced advertising can build an implicit list of people who attended an event, even if those people didn’t visit your booth. You can build up a contact list from people who missed you in person and still attract them. This is also a great way to make up for a poor position in a conference center; after all, not everyone can afford the prime real estate front and center.
Capture active candidates from closing companies. Speaking of the pandemic, it has presented you with an opportunity. Thousands of businesses are closing their doors, and people who formerly had stable work are being forced to look for new jobs suddenly while unprepared. If you can identify a competitor who is closing or laying off large parts of their staff, you can geofence their location to capture people in the area and pick them up when they’re desperate.
Emphasize a “grass is greener” campaign. Identify a location that competes with your own, and geofence it. Employees of that area who may be disengaged, bored, or disappointed with their position, see your advertising, allowing you to attract them at a time when they’re at their most receptive.
The state of Montana did this with their skiing tourism. They geofenced ski slopes in the Midwest, to reach skiers when they’re actively disappointed by their current experience. Advertising a better experience in their own resorts, they spent $25,000 and ended up with nearly $7 million in revenue. While recruitment isn’t quite the same value proposition, the principle is the same: reach people when they’re disappointed and give them a glimpse of greener grass (or better ski slopes) on the other side of the fence.
Johns Hopkins did something similar to recruit neonatal nurses. They geofenced hospital systems that handled pediatrics and used targeted advertising to promote their own workplace for neonatal nurses. This took them from less than a single application per week to 3-4 per week from qualified nurses.
Geographically-based advertising is extremely useful for timely, targeted, and specific audience selection. While there is a wide range of possible uses, they can all help filter the applications you receive to allow you to reach highly qualified passive and active candidates in a given area. Make use of both geotargeting and geofencing in both local spaces and locations further afield.
Has your company had a positive experience with using geotargeting or geofencing? Have you used either in a novel way and successfully recruited high-quality candidates? If so, tell us your story in the comments below. We’re always open to success stories!
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.