As with every other communication and marketing discipline, employer branding strategy is being redefined by the advent and meteoric rise of social media.

Our agency has invested significant resources into the development of a social recruiting model that establishes employer presence and reputation while managing risk. That journey has seen us take a hard look at standard employer branding models and how they need to change to be effective on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s start by acknowledging that the majority of current and future employees of any sizeable business are using social media – definitely Facebook and, depending on the industry, potentially Twitter. Secondly, let’s remember that – at any given time – only 10% of the population is actively looking for alternative employment. The other 90% has to be reached indirectly, using the channels and themes of communication they (not you) use and respond to. Finally, let’s agree that attracting talent – real talent – is not going to get any easier. Good people are always in demand.

We’re not throwing out the rulebook on employer branding  – rather, adapting to the new environment.

The key elements in effective employer branding include:

  • A targeted, long-term and multi-channel strategy will manage the awareness and perceptions of employees, potential employees, and related stakeholders with regards to a particular firm. The strategy must be flexible, re-directed to drive recruitment, retention, and productivity management efforts where need is identified.
  • Branding is about the emotional attachment a person has with a company – its name, its image, it’s messaging. Make emotion central to the message.
  • As Maslow described so clearly, people draw reward from employment in different ways – and no two people are the same. A brand needs a range of dimensions that appeal to the broadest interests of the right candidates.
  • The ultimate goal is that current and potential employees, and referrers in and outside your industry, all think your company is the best place to work. Key objectives are rapid attraction of quality applicants, in the volume required.
  • PR is critical. If no one knows you are doing a great job, they’re not telling their friends. Advertising won’t cut it – it’s word of mouth you need. Every major business magazine now features its list of ‘dream employers’ and the coverage is highly influential in getting noticed by candidates and referrers.
  • The message needs to mirror reality. New employees won’t hang around if they’ve been sold a lemon. And that means double the cost of recruitment and disruption of your employee and customer relationships as you head to market again. If you can’t hold staff, don’t hire them. It’s too damaging to your reputation.
  • To credibly claim leadership you need to demonstrate it: share enough IP and cultural insight to get people talking and take the practice forward. Your leaders need to be visible at conferences and in the press. The foundation of a good employer brand is a  management team that encourages and rewards the development and sharing of knowledge.
  • All employer branding activity must be focused on outcomes – branding activity must not compromise productivity. All communication activities need to be linked to HR processes and reporting.
  • Employer branding is as much about attracting staff as keeping them. Employees need to be telling the story – if they’re not, the promise is hollow. The cost of hiring recruiters and advertisers is very high so the more employees use their networks to attract new people and the longer they hang around, the more you’ll save.
  • Metrics are critical to refining and improving your strategy. Every application needs to be understood – how did the person come to find the company, did they stay employed, what was the cost of hire? Consider participation in major benchmarking studies in order to set targets, improve and then celebrate progress.You can’t improve what you don’t measure. What you measure, talk about, and reward sends a clear message to everyone about what’s really important.

So, do the rules change in the new context of social media discourse?

…or has social media provided new ways to achieve the same objectives?

  • The standard language of communication companies have got far too used to using will absolutely work against your brand using social media. Key messaging is critical to determine what the company is comfortable saying and the tone being employed. It sounds like common sense but the first steps are challenging and we can show you statistics that demonstrate, as soon as the language becomes directorial and non-conversational, trust and engagement plummet. To an employee the word ‘best practice’ is meaningless – it’s sneaky corporate speak. Stories, real-life connections matter.
  • Employees are now your most important employer branding focus. Via a careers blog and social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, let them tell the company’s story. Identify champions and give them the time and technological resources (smartphone will do) to lead your peer to peer engagement. Ensure senior management contribute to the company feeds sharing useful insight. Give the social media presence a visual identity that accurately reflects your brand associations.
  • Metrics are now abundant, insights deep and the capacity to catapult productivity forward astounding using social media. We’re integrating careers portals with social media apps so the application process becomes seamless. Employers can focus on communication, getting real time data on how effectively campaigns are progressing.
  • Branding theory doesn’t change: the process of determining key competencies, employer outcomes and context will deliver the right brand essence and associations. But how you implement the strategy has shifted. Social media is an internal and external conduit to brand advocates: employees, former employees, alumni networks and industry networks.
  • Monitoring user interaction is important in a company established space (e.g. a company Facebook careers page). If someone says something negative be ready to engage and consult. Turn a negative into a positive.
  • Significant preparation is required before you kick off a proactive social media campaign. Develop messaging, imagery and videos that embody the brand. Develop a risk register: the themes representing low, medium or high reputation risk – and those you won’t go near. Confidently establishing your brand requires well defined parameters of engagement.
  • Beware the rules of engagement – not just community expectations but those of the platform you are using (for e.g. Facebook’s promotions guidelines).
I believe cultural change began before social media: dress requirements in the workplace, less hierarchical workforces, the move to open plan office spaces with break out rooms for privacy, and now language. Social media has simply accelerated the move to informality. That poses new challenges for HR managers who need to establish control and ensure compliance. And that’s why communicators are so important to the HR function – much more so, than before.
Ellis Jones is leading (no boast – fact) the development of social recruiting techniques, online employer branding and social media models and mixed media internal communications campaigns.

We’re happy to share what we’ve learned so give us a call.

Click here to read more on employer branding.