Changing Eras for Recruiter Social NetworksSince my father got me a 14.4 baud modem, I’ve always been hooked on the Internet. But since I’m not a programmer, I actually started my real career in recruiting, which I still love to this day. However, when social media started getting traction back in 2006-07, my old love for the web hit me like a high school flame. I started building social networks in every bit of my spare time.

The social network that I really grew to love was the one dedicated to my own industry – recruiting. TalentBar was a Ning network for recruiters and HR folks. To give you an idea of how crazy people were about social networks, in 2008, TalentBar had something like 240,000 pageviews a month. The network grew by hundreds of people a day, and it went from zero to 20,000 members in a heartbeat. Someone I randomly met at a party knew me from the site. I met a client and they told me they had hired a recruiter based on a referral through my social network. It was, as they say, a trip.

TalentBar brought me into the world of online recruiting networks. I then started collaborating with Jason Davis, who was (and is) running RecruitingBlogs, a Ning network for recruiters. In 2010, I stopped my other projects and did some independent consulting through my company to help manage RecruitingBlogs. The site was growing rapidly and getting well known in the industry. Prospects were good, and for some time, I went to bed and woke up in the morning thinking about the network.

However, as John Zappe wrote correctly yesterday on ERE, our visions and philosophy didn’t mesh. Despite some premature announcements, we never ended up even forming a company and I stopped consulting there very soon after I started. Even so, I have mixed emotions about seeing that the site was recently put up on a no-reserve auction.

Social networks for recruiters were a big new thing back in 2008. A bunch started all around the same time (RecruitingBlogs, TalentBar, RecruiterEarth, to name some) and there was lots of interest. A couple of years later and all of them will soon have changed hands or become defunct (like TalentBar.) It’s a stretch to call social networks for recruiters an era, but if it was, if it’s not ending, it’s at least changing radically.

It will be fun to see who ends up buying RecruitingBlogs. It might be a professional trade publisher like ERE that could bring lots of great writing and their industry leading event to the site. It could be a recruiting technology vendor looking to advertise and access the membership. No one can guess what this will mean to the network, but one thing is for certain, Ning social networks have proven difficult to scale into sustainable businesses on their own. The online recruiting landscape has shifted once again, and when you think about the companies left in the business, it might be called a return to normal.

It will be interesting to see what the next five years has in store for us. Some people will get lucky. Some big businesses will get crushed. New technologies will bubble to the surface and some will pop. But for the first time in a long time, I’m not paying too much attention. I’ve seen easy growth through the first social network I built – but it’s not something you can pass down to your kids, which is what we all should be trying to do.

We’re not taking any shortcuts, so Recruiter.com is going to evolve over the course of years, not days. What makes it great for me is talking to all the people in the industry, so if we haven’t talked before, I would love to hear from you. Drop me a note anytime through Linkedin and be sure to let me know what we can do to make Recruiter.com more useful to you.

We could easily ask big, rather silly questions like: Are recruiter social networks dead? Are niche social networks dead? But trying to figure out trends does nothing to help your business. Trends make you lucky – TalentBar (although hard work) was more of a fluke than a business. Today with Recruiter.com, we’re not playing any trend. Although we built our site with the best parts of the social web, we’re not banking on anything but our own hard work. Recruiter.com is our take on everything a site for recruiters and job seekers should be.

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