Following some recent conversations and having read some LinkedIn discussion threads lately I’ve been doing some pondering on the subject of employer branding. Then, because I couldn’t help myself, it got me thinking about the role social recruiting can play within it. If choosing between a combo of me + thinking vs. a combo served up at your local Colonel Sanders eatery you’d probably get more enjoyment out of the latter but here goes.
I don’t profess to being an expert in employer branding but one quote that always stands out for me is by Sir Terry Leahy (former CEO of Tesco) – “your employer brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what people tell you it is.”
For me, comparisons with consumer branding are needed. Word of mouth and referrals rule. If you build a “formal” employer brand and try to force it down people’s throats the chances are they’ll reject it. How do you feel when Company X broadcasts their message of, “use this toothpaste and your teeth will be whiter! Your breath will be fresher! You’ll be 100x more appealing to the opposite sex!”? However if you receive these messages about said toothpaste from friends / family / trusted peers the chances of you believing and acting upon them are significantly increased.
For me it’s the same with employer branding. If a company focusses too much of their efforts broadcasting a message to anyone who’ll listen of, ” Hey! We’re a GREAT place to work!” (*insert cheesy smile and a double thumbs up here*) the chances are the response will be along the lines of, “yeah right. You’re going to say that aren’t you.”
However, create a culture where your employees want to spread these positive vibes on your behalf because they want to (not because you’re telling them to) and those many-to-many word of mouth referrals flying around your audiences’ communication channels will be vastly more powerful, believable and trusted than a one-to-many message being transmitted from an employer down to its target population.
This is where social recruiting can be so powerful if done correctly (and why its a long term process not a quick win). Instead of just using social platforms to advertise your vacancies use them to subtly demonstrate what a great place you are to work. The former will mainly serve to attract active candidates who are already engaged with your perceived employer brand. What you’re doing is no different to advertising on a job board in the days of Web 1.0. If this is working for you and you’re happy with your yield then crack on but I would argue you’re missing one of the main points when it comes to social recruiting. You’re also probably neglecting a whole heap of great, passive candidates that are currently disengaged with the notion of your company as a future employer… And we all know about the common belief surrounding the increased quality of candidates sitting in the passive market don’t we.
I understand social recruiting has a part to play in the quick win, active candidate market but for me, true social recruiting is more about: a) connecting with passive candidates and / or groups that aren’t engaged with you as an employer; b) slowly building actively engaged communities; c) reinforcing your employer brand by subtly giving a transparent insight into your working culture. (I know there are d’s, e’s & f’s etc but I’ll focus on those at a later date).
Take a company like LinkedIn as an example. In my opinion they are very proficient at working their employer brand in the digital social space and building engaged, active “communities” around it. If you follow any of their employees watch how the majority of them, from senior business leaders to entry level sales reps, regularly update their statuses with interesting relevant content. Some of it is about “cool” stuff LinkedIn are up to but there is a good balance of content that has nothing to do with their company. This is critical. Over cook the former and it just becomes another campaign of self promotion, which your audience will tire of. Their employees talk to each other in the space as well – “liking” and commenting on each others’ status updates. Its all quite far from formal corporate speak also. Often you’ll witness colleagues sharing banter amongst themselves and their external communities. They post the odd vacancy but these are extremely rare. They focus a lot more of their time instigating and engaging in conversation and dialogue, and as a result build “relationships” with their communities on a deeper level.
They manage to achieve a constant but subtle content assault which gives off a positive transparency into what it might be like to work at LinkedIn. They “humanise” the company and provide a window into their culture. They don’t need to shout they’re an amazing place to work. People come to this conclusion themselves by observing the way employees communicate with each other and their wider connections. Yes, if you visit their careers pages you’ll find the video testimonials etc. They do a bit of the necessary self promotional broadcasting but in my opinion they’re masters at generating more positivity towards their employer brand via the cleverly crafted, carefully nurtured digital social communities, internal and external to the company, they regularly communicate with and who regularly communicate amongst themselves – Like a true “community” does. I’m not saying LinkedIn is a great place to work. I wouldn’t know if they are or not, but you sure do get that impression on the back of their employees’ voluntary activity in the digital social space. I’m sure this helps contribute to a healthy pipeline of active, passive-to-active and referred talent happy to be approached by them regarding employment opportunities at LinkedIn… And that’s employer branding the social recruiting way…. Or is it recruiting the digital social employer branding way… Oh you get my point.
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