Using Social Network Activity Data to Identify and Target Job Seekers

48 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2018 Last revised: 17 Jul 2018

See all articles by Peter Ebbes

Peter Ebbes

HEC Paris - Marketing

Oded Netzer

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing

Date Written: June 1, 2018


An important challenge for many firms is to identify the life transitions of its customers, such as job searching, being pregnant, or purchasing a home. Inferring such transitions, which are generally unobserved to the firm, can offer the firm opportunities to be more relevant to its customers. In this paper, we demonstrate how a social network platform can leverage its longitudinal user data to identify which of its users are likely job seekers. Identifying job seekers is at the heart of the business model of professional social network platforms. Our proposed approach builds on the hidden Markov model (HMM) framework to recover the latent state of job search from noisy signals obtained from social network activity data. Specifically, our modeling approach combines cross-sectional survey responses to a job seeking status question with longitudinal user activity data. Thus, in some time periods, and for some users, we observe the “true” job seeking status. We fuse the observed state information into the HMM likelihood, resulting in a partially HMM. We demonstrate that the proposed model can not only predict which users are likely to be job seeking at any point in time, but also what activities on the platform are associated with job search, and how long the users have been job seeking. Furthermore, we find that targeting job seekers based on our proposed approach can lead to a 42% increase in profits of a targeting campaign relative to the approach that was used at the time of the data collection.

Keywords: Hidden Markov Models, Data Fusion, Targeting, Customer Analytics

JEL Classification: C1, J2, J4, M3

Suggested Citation

Ebbes, Peter and Netzer, Oded, Using Social Network Activity Data to Identify and Target Job Seekers (June 1, 2018). HEC Paris Research Paper No. MKG-2018-1284, Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 18-56, Available at SSRN: or

Peter Ebbes

HEC Paris - Marketing ( email )


Oded Netzer (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

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