How Cisco Uses Snapchat for Talent Branding

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Cisco is the largest networking company in the world with over 70,000 employees. How does it use Snapchat for employer branding? I’ve spoken to Carmen Collins, Sr. Social Media & Talent Brand Lead, to find out.

Have a listen to the podcast interview embedded below and make sure you subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

What do you do at Cisco?

I have the best job in the world. And some people may argue with me, but I’m gonna win. I have the best job in the world. I am the social media lead for our talent brand team at Cisco. So rather than sitting in the marketing department, my team sits in the HR department. And my job is to use social media, which I’m super passionate about. I’ve been doing social media for way longer than I want to tell anybody because they’ll know how old I am. But I use social media to make people want to work here. And I get to do that by amplifying what our employees already say. So it’s a fun job because I get to connect with the employees and I get to use social media. So that’s what I do. Best job ever.

How does Cisco use Snapchat for talent branding?

The talent brand team has been thinking for about a year now, how could we use Snapchat, because Snapchat is the new shiny social media tool and it’s different to all other social media tools, which made it a little challenging as we thought about how we were going to use it. And it’s also very age specific. It’s very very young; millennials, Gen Z and they don’t use it exactly for branding. It’s not a marketing tool, right? It’s not like Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram where you can have a little control as a brand and market. So we thought about it and thought about it. And I had this thought, I had to take some time off from work to have surgery and maybe it was a drug-induced idea, I don’t know, but I came back and said, “You know, I think I know how we should use Snapchat. I think we should hand the keys over to our employees because I don’t think anyone on Snapchat particularly cares what, you know, a marketing team or, you know, what marketers want to say on Snapchat.”

I think that what made it enticing and what made it viable as a platform for us was to use our employees. So we launched I think it’s been a little over two months ago. We were the first Snapchat account at Cisco. And we’ve had great success with it. And we’re having just a really great time doing it and I think people are having a really great time watching it, because our employees get to be themselves and talk about working here. So it’s a really fun project.

What are the steps to get started with Snapchat?

Well, the challenges for Snapchat is that it’s about the quality of your followers. And while follower count has always been sort of this… I call it a little bit of a vanity metric, or a C-suite metric. The C-suite wants to see that you’re growing your account, that people are following you, but they also want to see that people are engaging with you. And so Snapchat has made this an industry norm. Snapchat does not give you a follower count. Snapchat gives you a score, and you can tell how much and engagement you’re getting, but the idea of followers goes out the window. So that was one of the challenges, is how are we going to measure success with Snapchat because it’s not a traditional channel? And another challenge, which for me as a social media manager, was the scariest thing, is how are we going to roll this out to an employee base that is 70,000 people strong?

So, you know, we have a global company, we have offices around the globe and how are we going to make this work because we’re giving the username and password, you know, to our employees. And we had concerns about our account getting hacked. Not that our employees would do anything untoward with the username and password, but, you know, the more you share it, the more vulnerable you become as a channel. So what we did is we started by setting up the Rainbow Kitten Unicorns. That’s because they are so awesome.

So in our social listening over the past year, we’ve been able to identify certain employees that are super ambassadors. They’re always talking about how much fun it is to work at Cisco, they come up with the neatest photos. Our former CEO John Chambers, who’s now our executive chairman, had our communications centre named after him. And so there’s a bronze bust of his head outside of that communication centre. And the employees loved it, and they started this whole social media campaign called hashtag selfies with John. And they would go and they would take their photo with the statue, ad it became this big fun thing. And John Chambers saw it and loved it.

So they’re just super ambassadors anyway. And so we got them all in a room using our wonderful technology because we have employees in San Jose, we have employees in Raleigh, North Carolina, we have some in the U.K. And when I say we got them all in a room, somewhere in a room, somewhere on WebEx. And we just asked them if they would be our pilot group. So we did approach this as a pilot to start, because it was new, we weren’t sure how we were going to do this. But what’s great about my team and my manager, who is the director of culture for the talent brand team, her name is Macy Andrews. She has really given our team freedom. She says, “You’re the experts. I want you to go and Cisco is about innovating. And if it fails. Okay, what did we learn? And if it succeeds, well then we have this great Snapchat channel and, you know, we get to talk about it on podcasts like this.”

So we started with this pilot group of about 30 employees and we asked them first, we said, “Is this something that you would be interested in?” And of course, we already knew they were our talent brand ambassadors, and they said, “Absolutely. We would be interested.” And so the next step we did, we created a content calendar. So we have a shared document that looks like a calendar and each of these employees has access to that calendar. It’s a closed access document, so only the people in the Snapchat group have access. And they go in and they say, “Okay, it’s July third, and I’m going to post about this. And I’m going to be in this location.” And so they sort of choose the days they want to snap for us. And we make sure as the social media team, that the calendar’s filled out, that there’s, you know, someone on each day. If we know there is an event, like our all-employee meeting, we try to put that on the calendar and say, “Does anybody want to be the Snapchatter for this event?” But that’s how we manage the team.

How do you organise a Snapchat team of 30?

Well, this is what’s great about our Kitten Rainbow Unicorns. They sort of came together and self-organised. So if one person said, “I have a few snaps that I’m on the East Coast of the U.S., and I know that I’ll be done at 11 o’clock, but that’s just about the time that San Jose is waking up, does anybody want to take over that day?” And they email each other back and forth, and they send cute little memes back to each other, back and forth to each other, and so they really self-organise. Usually, it’s one person per day, but we have had times where for example, our CEO, Chuck Robbins, has been on our Snapchat account, and that’s because one of our Snapchatters was working with him on a project to film a video. And the two Snapchatters, the one that had that day originally and then the one that was with our CEO just emailed back and forth and said, “Hey, is it okay if I cut in the middle of your day because hey, our CEO wants to say hi?” And so they just talk amongst them… I mean they’re such a great group of employees, that I can’t say enough good things about them.

What type of content normally gets posted on WeAreCisco on Snapchat?

Well, Cisconians, that’s what we call our Cisco folks, Cisconians really like food. So you’ll see a lot of food. They love the cafes, they love the chefs, they love their snacks. So you’ll see a lot of food. But one of the things that we’ve really tried to do is tell our employees to be them. We have a social media policy at Cisco for all of our employees to sign that gives them, you know, general guidelines. I like to call it, “Would you show it to your mom guidelines,” right? Just keep it clean, keep it smart and other than that, we don’t over architect it. We sometimes make suggestions, like if the social media team sees that Snapchat has made an update. For example, recently they allowed you to put one of the stickers into a video and to anchor it within the video. And so that new technology came along, we let the Snapchatters know that this was now an option, but mostly, we let them be them. And I think that’s what you’ll see on the Snapchat account, is our employees being themselves. Sometimes they’re goofy and they love the lenses. I think the most popular one is the dog, where the tongue comes out when you open your mouth, I think they really like that one a lot. But you’ll also see them, you know, working and going to conferences, and learning, and attending meetings. But you’ll see them being them, which is what I think makes it a great channel.

Do you keep Snapchat content on that platform only?

No, actually we do cross-populate the content. It depends on the content. So if we get a really great Snapchat photo, we’ll put that on Instagram. When our CEO, Chuck Robbins, appeared, he was so magnanimous and he actually thanked our followers. He said, “Thank you for following WeAreCisco.” And so, of course, we took that video and we put it on Twitter and put it on Instagram. So it really depends on the content, but I would say, for the most part, the content on Snapchat is not exclusive to Snapchat, but best viewed there because of the format, because of the lenses and the filters that they can use. So it’s not exclusive content, but I think it’s more Snapchatty, if that’s a word.

How many Cisco employees use Snapchat as a percentage?

I’m actually really surprised by the response we’ve had from employees. Now, admittedly, it is going to skew to probably early in career folks at Cisco or interns. Our interns came in this summer and they were like, “Holy cow, Cisco’s on Snapchat, this is the best thing ever.” And so it does skew a little younger, but I will say that the enthusiasm about Snapchat has encouraged some of us, who I can say this because I am one of them, some of the olds, that’s what we call ourselves. Some of the olds have started to look at Snapchat and adopted and a lot of them joined just to follow along the way our Cisco story. Some of our employees have said, “It’s really great to see employees in different parts of the world, what they’re doing, how they interpret things.” But I would say, I don’t know, 10% to 15% of our Cisco employees are on Snapchat. And that number is growing fast because we’re doing some fun stuff and people wanna be a part of it.

How do you calculate ROI on Snapchat?

Ah, yes, the ROI question. Well, here’s the great thing, we’ve partnered with a company called Delmondo. And Nick Cicero is a friend of mine, it’s his company, and he is a social media person too, and so that’s how we’ve connected with our social media tribe. But he has a company that works with Snapchat influencers. And if you work with Snapchat influencers, you have to be able to show Snapchat metrics. He and his company help us with our metrics. And so what we do know is that since we’ve started two months ago, we’ve grown our follower base by about 600% per week, which is huge because on Snapchat as you know, you can’t discover new accounts as easily as you can, say on Twitter or Facebook. You have to know the username or the snapcode to follow someone. We’re really proud of that metric, that we’ve grown as much as we have so quickly.

And then one of the other stats that we know, is the rate of engagement. So when someone starts watching our Snapchat story, 70% to 80% of them finish watching the Snapchat story. So they are engaged and they’re interested in what’s going on, and we keep growing our reach each week as we grow our percentage of followers. So we do have the metrics behind it, but I think that especially for new channels and when you do innovate and do something differently, that’s the great thing about Cisco, like I said before, is sometimes the failure is just not doing it. And I think that our CEO and our leadership would have, you know, looked at that as a failure if we didn’t showcase our employees on Snapchat, rather than how are we looking at the metrics. But as Snapchat grows and matures, and as we as a channel grow and mature, then we can go back and say, “Yes, it was a great risk and here’s why.” And we’re watching that very carefully.

What brands inspire you on Snapchat?

I think GE, I do follow them as a brand. I think they are a good inspiration source for a lot of brands that are thinking about doing Snapchat because I think they do it the right way. I don’t think they’re trying to market to anyone in a traditional sense, I think they’re just showing you how cool their technology is and how cool their employees are, which is what we try to do in a different way with our employee takeovers.

And I think HubSpot. I like what HubSpot does on Snapchat. I think they’ve got a weird quirky sense of humour that I like in their snaps. But mostly I follow, you know, as I’ve gone into social media, I use different channels for different things. So Twitter is the channel where I look at thought leadership and presenting myself as a brand, but some of these channels like Snapchat and Instagram, have become my personal space, which is what Facebook was five or six years ago when it started, right? So some of them I keep to my personal network, but I do pay attention very closely to what brands are doing because I think we can inspire each other, and I think, in a way, it challenges us, like, what can I do or what can the team to do that will take us to the next level, so people will be talking about us as Cisco, as WeAreCisco on Snapchat? And in a year from now looking at us as a thought leader or an inspiration for somebody else to do an account on Snapchat. That’s my hope anyway. I think that our employees are a really good example of how to do it the right way.

What is the next big thing for Snapchat and Cisco?

Well, I hope they’ll be writing about how awesome our employees are. I get a little emotional sometimes when I talk about it because I’m so proud of them. I’m like this mama bear. We’re all the same age, so it makes no sense, but, you know, since my team is kind of the back end of this machine and how we make it work, I’m so proud of them. But you know, I think we’re gonna get a lot more innovative. I think Snapchat…they just surpassed Twitter in the number of followers. It’s just amazing to watch, and I think it’s just gonna make every other social media channel have to turn to more authenticity when brands are representing themselves, which is how they should probably be doing it anyway, but we all know that marketers are marketers and, you know, they broke Facebook, and now they’re trying to break Instagram, but I think Snapchat is going to push us all in the direction of how can we be authentic in our message. So I’m really looking forward to seeing that.

Follow Carmen on Twitter @CShirkeyCollins and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


Play Video

Recent Articles

Attracting Entry-level Talent in China

Attracting and retaining highly talented young professionals is an important issue for multinational companies (MNCs) in China. Seventeen years ago, 41% of high-skilled Chinese professionals preferred foreign MNCs as their first choice of employment, while only 9% chose domestic firms...

How to Make the Case for Employer Branding to Stakeholders

We talk to a lot of businesses on the Employer Branding Podcast that each face their own talent challenges. But might take the cake for how specific the skill sets can get for the roles they’re trying to fill....

How to Build a Global Employer Branding Team from Scratch

You might be familiar with Siemens from their washing machines or mobile phones, but that’s one small part of the picture. This German industrial conglomerate does business on a global scale, helping organizations implement digital industry, mobility, and smart infrastructure...