Regardless of how you feel 2016 went, its time to get ready for 2017. To attract and persuade talent to join your organization, you need to not only invest in your employer brand, you need to establish a smart strategy to maximize that investment.
Based on our research, research from other sources, and examples spanning many different companies, here are our recommendations for how to get the most value from your employer brand and recruitment marketing spend.
1: Quality, Not Quantity
In 2016, we have used that phrase dozens of times with our clients. Fewer blog posts. Fewer Facebook posts. Fewer tweets. Less publishing, but using that energy to build better materials.
This isn’t just our opinion. In a survey of more than 1,000 content professionals released last week, Andy Crestodina and Orbit Media found that the trend across the board is less output while focusing on telling the best story or delivering maximum value. This is clearly in reaction to the tsunami of content being published every minute, where spamming Google and one’s users leads to penalization and lower engagement rates.
Did you know that in October, Starbucks posted only eight times on Facebook? Deep into another pumpkin spice latte frenzy (go look at #psl on your social network of choice for confirmation), this massive retail brand — one you’d expect to be publishing every minute — published only twice a week. And they say they ended up with more engagement overall. [Source: Social Media Week Chicago, 2016]
Remember: no one ever unfollowed someone for not publishing enough. But they will leave in droves for receiving too much stuff that isn’t useful to them (some people call that “spam”).
2: Say Something
Quality isn’t measured in level of production quality. It isn’t measured in the polished nature of words or video, but in saying something that the audience can use. The millionth pretty picture of your building isn’t quality. Describing how that building meets LEED standards isn’t quality. Having the lead architect and green engineer talk to each other about some of the unusual choices that were made in that building is interesting, thus it is quality.
If you think an interview between an architect and civil engineer isn’t going to support your employer brand, ask yourself: is “conversation and ecology” part of your employer brand? Is “caring about the extended family?” Or “Quality of detail?” If it is, that level of detail, getting into the real-world nitty-gritty of the development of that building is what will attract and engage your prospects.
Saying something, and saying something meaningful, is a form of differentiation. Trying to appeal to everyone and thus watering down your message isn’t saying something. It’s filling blank space on your page and social channels. You might be worried about driving people away by taking a stand, but those are people who wouldn’t have fit anyway. Taking a clear stand and saying something true about your organization or teams helps people self-select in or out.
2a: Who’s the Hero?
On almost everyone’s career site is a nice big pretty image, usually of some people who work for you. That image is often called the “hero image.” The goal is to make this person, all glossy and pretty, to look like the hero of a story that involves a growing career and personal satisfaction. That way a prospect can look at the image and think, “that could be me!” It’s a great marketing and communication strategy.
However, if you read a lot of career sites like we do, you know that most companies are building stories that make themselves the hero. Big pretty buildings, logos and product shots put the building, logo and product as the hero, not the people who made them. Worse yet, people coming by the site can’t see themselves in these situations. They aren’t the hero of your story.
Brands that talk at their audience and only push out self-serving content, are fighting an uphill battle. A video about your specific volunteer policy will not go viral but a video about the benefits of volunteering could. Find out what your audience is interested in and create content that provides them value beyond selling the job. Yes, the goal is still to get them to apply but that’s not going to happen the first time they interact with your brand. Instead, give jobseekers something visceral they can connect to right away and want to share with their network.
We recommend creating content that aligns with your audience’s values. For example, if you have a great parental leave benefits package, why not put it into perspective to make the benefit that much more powerful. Create content using data and images to tell the history of parental benefits in America and why it’s more important than ever that parents have more time to spend with their kids. It makes the reader the hero, someone who spends more time with their family. Then at the end, include a CTA that ties back to your brand.
3: Get Visual
You all know the power of infographics. They have long shelf lives, they are attractive, they can be shared easily, they are perfectly branded, and can really support any number of recruitment campaigns. But what’s beyond that?
We recommend starting with visuals that have impact. Rather than leaning on over-polished stock images or using the same image the 12th time, build images that grab people’s attention.
For example, have you played with Prisma yet? Unlike Photoshop or Instagram filters, which serve to change the emotional tenor of an image by playing with subtle things like contrast and light, Prisma can turn any picture into a painting, a drawing or a mosaic. If you haven’t tried it, download it to your phone and I guarantee you will be impressed by the results. These images are interesting and arresting. You should work with your creative director to see which (if any) of the filters go against your brand standards, and then test to see if these images drive more engagement on your social channels.
Beyond filters, this is a world awash in animated gifs. Since your legal team probably won’t let you take a clip from The Walking Dead and add your clever text on top of it, making your own animated images has been difficult. But a number of tools that make well-branded animated gifs easy to make have landed in your phone store of choice. We’ve been playing with Ripl and love how it takes even the most boring and overused image and gives it new life.
And here is where you say, “Okay, so now that I’ve got great stories that are well illustrated, now what? What should I do with those stories?” Excellent segue, thank you.
4: Yes, You Need to Promote
A tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it may or may not make a sound, but there’s no question no one will care. A great story hidden on your career site is almost as bad as no content at all. So you need to distribute and promote it. The next steps will focus on getting your message out to new and existing audiences in ways that will engage them and drive them one step closer to your jobs.
5: Get Creative With Distribution
Chances are, all of you link to your new story from Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you also link from LinkedIn and Glassdoor. A handful might even use Instagram. Great. But it’s 2017 and you need to do something more.
We have been living in a model of digital marketing where the Facebook post was a commercial for the content. That is, you posted a link and Facebook grabbed a description and image from the metadata. Maybe you annotated it with a comment, and threw on a headline, but the goal was to use that post to pique interest and have the user click the link, driving them to another site.
This model has been true for years, but it is starting to show its age. Instead of a hub-and-spoke approach, where every post drives directly to the center hub of your career site, trends show that people want more content where they are, not to be moved to another place.
To that end, we suggest republishing great stories on Medium and tagging them to attract attention of prospects. (Don’t worry about Google punishing you for reusing content on multiple sources — Google’s gotten pretty good at understanding that the content on your career site is canonical and that other copies are just ways of reaching out to new audiences.) If you’ve got a story worth reading and sharing, there are millions of people waiting to read what you have to say.
Places like Buzzfeed and LinkedIn have robust blogging tools. Buzzfeed even has Buzzfeedy things like quiz-builders that let you augment your story easily. And don’t forget Quora, though for that platform, you need to reform your story into the shape of an answer to a question. The trick is to find the question your story answers.
Or you could re-build the page inside a Facebook Canvas. Canvas is a mobile-only way of building content on the Facebook platform. This is still relatively new and we’re unsure how effective this will be in the long run, but re-publishing your content on a platform with 1.6 billion people is an idea worth testing on your specific audience.
All these platforms make it easy and free to distribute your content to people who likely wouldn’t find it otherwise, extending your employer brand to audiences who don’t know much about you yet.
6: Change the Format
Beyond reposting that content in pretty much its entirety, you can get a lot of mileage out of that information and stories by redelivering it in a different format. For example, if you go back to that green building example, have either of the subjects take their camera around the building and hold a Facebook Live event. They can point out specific features of the building in real time, describing their process and the outcome. And since this has already been written as an article, the subject knows what points to make without having to do any deeper research. And if lots of images of your brand appear in the background, all the better.
The best part of Facebook Live is that video can be saved and downloaded and embedded onto the original article to give it even more value for almost no extra investment.
As an aside, Facebook just launched a jobs tool. While you shouldn’t build on rented property (You don’t own your material on Facebook, Facebook does, and they are happy to change the rules when it suits them), leveraging the channel to drive interest and connect to jobs is a strategy worth considering. That said, it’s too new for us to have a solid strategy around it yet.
Beyond video, have you thought about audio? Podcasting has exploded in the last two years to the point where almost everyone has a show they follow. The problem is that the development of a podcast can be labor intensive. That is no longer the case. We’ve been playing with a tool called Cast for a few weeks and it works like a treat. It is an all-in-one system to record the audio between as many as four remote people, edit the recording and insert brand messages and the like, and publish the podcast to the world. They have instructions on how to get the podcast into iTunes and Google Play networks, but if you just want to take the audio and host it on an embedded frame that you put on your career site, that works, too. And like Facebook Live, you can take people who have already written about something and have them talk about it on their computer wherever they are to expand your audience.
7: Is It Time to Take Snapchat Seriously?
Yes. Until recently, Snapchat was a fringe player, primarily because they didn’t make it easy to promote a message to a wide audience. They had huge engagement and market penetration for the under-30 set, but the tools with which to access and reach that audience were hard to leverage.
But between the self-serve, geo-fence filter tool and the brand new sharing feature (you can now share any image with any or all Snapchat friends), it is time to get serious about this tool.
Start with a simple strategy. Pick one day a week as a Snapchat story day. Whether its what lunch you like or an event or some other visual aspect of work, take 5-10 pictures throughout the day, interspersed with Snapchat codes to make it easy for people to connect with you. A hiring event or campus event would be a perfect way to start.
Once you have a regular publishing cadence, promote the channel on your other social channels using the Snapchat code. That will build a starter audience.
The next step is to buy a geo-fence filter. Be judicious about how you apply it, as you are paying by the territory size and duration of availability. You could fence the hiring event, the campus, or even a competitor’s office. The filter overlay itself should be creative and interesting, that is, something worth sharing. Make sure to remind your audience to share their images with you and others. You can reshare those images on your channel (and other channels) to establish social proof. Every once in a while, let them know about a hiring campaign or specific need and ask them to tell their friends.
Eventually, you can bring the Snapchat experience into the office. For example, take advantage of things like the “Mannequin Challenge” sweeping the Internet right now. Show your followers that even if you take your work seriously, you might not take yourselves seriously (if that’s your employer brand). Get creative and share access to the channel to remote workers you trust (this is a 100 percent live tool with almost no safety net) to show what their day is really like.
For a deep dive on Snapchat as a recruiting tool, go listen to our podcast on that very subject.
8: Don’t Forget Google
After you have published your content on your career site, you shouldn’t treat it like a message in a bottle thrown into the ocean. Change it. Edit it. Add to it. From an ROI standpoint, one of the most effective ways to increase traffic to your content’s value is to look at it 2-6 months after it was published and give it an SEO tweak. Change the title, the headline, refocus the content on your keywords, update a little info and republish it. Your SEO expert can help you figure out what terms your content is ranking for and what minor adjustments can help you get from page 3 of Google search results onto the promised land of page 1.
9: Pay to Play
The best content distributed 17 ways will get you only so far. Every channel has a monetization strategy you need to work within. That shouldn’t come as a shock as job boards expect you to pay to put your jobs at the top of the listings.
For the most part, what gets promoted is jobs rather than stories, something that doesn’t necessarily support the employer brand. Job ads are effective for certain roles and certain people, and because you can automate and optimize much of that process, companies focus on doing only that. This is the year you need to get serious about promoting your stories.
The good thing is that you can use many of the same channels on which you promote jobs to promote stories. You simply need to replace the link to the job with the link to stories surrounding that job. Back to the green building story, push that story to the same people you would target for technical jobs. Obviously engineering roles would be a perfect match, but any technical role where concern for details would work as well.
The better you connect your content strategy to your promotion strategy, the more you can maximize your investment. For example, in the case of the green building story, the core story might be focused towards engineers, but the Facebook Live reformatting of the material might focus more on how those decisions impacted everyone who works in the building, including the compliance division. The ad you build might have a headline like “Compliance pros have never worked in a building this well-thought-out.” You can see how minor changes to the content and promotion can align better to a hard-to-reach target.
On top of that, native advertising which treats content like an ad is going to be a very important element of your strategy this year. If you haven’t picked a network or partner to share your content to people already reading related stories, this is the time to dive in.
Promotion can be its own reward. As your story is pushed to new audiences, a small fraction will share the interesting story on their social networks, adding social proof and authenticity to the message and spreading that message to even more people.
Talk to your PPC team about taking a small part of the budget, perhaps as little as 5 percent, and focus it on stories that connect more to the employer brand than the job.
10: Employer Brand Isn’t an Island
Your employer brand is what people say about you when you aren’t paying them. People far from your team express it in dozens and hundreds of ways every day. Rather than treat employer brand as a stand-alone idea, integrate employer brand thinking into the life of every employee. What does that mean? Do you have a company picnic? Sure, you could take pictures and share them on Facebook, or you could claim a part of the space and make it a designated interview booth. Don’t invest in anything beyond a camera and maybe a microphone, just find a quiet corner and plant your flag, so to speak. In fact, occasional bursts of cheering and laughter in the background helps your message rather than interrupts it.
Take this time to grab people for three to five minutes at a time and ask them to tell you a story about the year. Given the nature of the event, people’s minds will be in very positive states, and you’ll get great stories. Even if you don’t use the video or audio, you now know where the stories are, and you can follow up with short phone interviews to get enough material to tell a story.
Design a social media guide and deliver it to your staff. This will tell them that you really do want them to share your stories and even comment on them. Projects like these often fail because of uncertainty: employees don’t understand what is being asked of them or what the value is, or what’s in-bounds and what isn’t. That uncertainty causes people to balk or second-guess themselves into doing nothing. Establishing clear rules and even a “what’s in it for me?” will significantly increase the volume of engagement to all your employer brand projects.
So there it is: how you are going to develop an employer brand and recruitment marketing strategy for 2017 that takes advantages of all the new trends and tools coming on line. Remember, that we are all always changing, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Just try them with intention (don’t go throwing them against the wall to see what sticks) and integrate them into what you’re already doing to see their value increase significantly.