How do employers know what social media updates they should be doing? How can they know what their audience thinks of these updates? What are the best-in-class employer brands doing on social?
To get some answers, I’ve spoken to everyone’s favorite Canadian in Sydney; David Brudenell.
Listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary of our conversation. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
Tell us about Universum and what you do there?
Universum is an employer branding research company and we’ve been around for 27 years now. We run the world’s largest talent preference survey where we talk to everyone from high school students all the way through to professionals. And we ask them who they want to work for, why? And we use a very key 40 attribute framework that we’ve been using for the past 25 years to be able to compare and contrast the preferences and why talent chooses one employer over the other. And what we do with this data is we release our, what we call our, rankings across the globe for the most attractive employers and then we use that data to help employers, what I like to say is be more sexy to talent. To really understand what motivates talent and how to get their attention and more importantly, how to keep it.
I have a pretty cool job. I lead two practice areas in the business. I’m responsible for new product development and the engineering functions of the business. So I like to sit with one foot into the future, where there’s hoverboards and time machines and all kinds of great stuff there, and the other part of my role is to focus on, what we call the activation part of our business. So with many of our customers they go through the data journey, an inside journey with us, and are quite inspired at what they’re able to find, but the next logical step is how do I communicate that? And the teams and great people that I lead help bring that insight to life, give it colour, give it a voice. And a principle that we have in our organisation is that we take the content and we make it data led, human, and purposeful. So I keep myself busy and it’s pretty fun these days.
Tell us about your new piece of research, Inside Social Media?
It’s been an exciting journey actually putting together this report. We’ve seen from our customers an incredible amount of demand for insight in understanding what’s going on from social media. So this report was really generated by the interests of our customers. Our researchers have gone out into the world and pulled in from third-party research. Tried to pull that together through the lens of the employer brand industry and also some snapshots into one of the new social media listing tool we employ, which is really talent’s perspective of social media.
So it’s really a unique view on what are the megatrends happening in the social media world. What to look out for and how to get invested in it and how to get started. Because what we’re finding is many of our customers are very new to social media so they’re very curious about how to really do the first, kind of, three to six steps really right so that they can be present and be meaningful. And then finally is, once they are started, is just to figure out what metrics matter, because there are a lot of metrics out there with digital, and it’s quite easy to get bamboozled by everything out there. So we really thought it was our opportunity to look across the measurement area and provide some key guidance for those employer brands out there.
The report states “we now have 31 hours in a day” – please elaborate?
It’s crazy, even more time than on Mars. So what’s happening, Jorgen, is it’s because of the proliferation of devices. We now, and I’ll testament to this, I have an iPhone sitting on my desk, I have two screens that I’m looking at, I have Amazon Kindle, I have an iPad, I have an Apple TV. We have all these devices in our world that are becoming more and more omnipresent for us. So what’s happening is that consumers, and vis-à-vis talent, are more often using both of these devices simultaneously. So because of multi-tasking, we’re able to increase the number of hours that we have in any one day.
Where is all this time spent on social and digital?
Well, what’s really interesting is as humans we’re makers of behavior, so we follow the same patterns again and again. We may all like to think that we are unique but in reality, when you start to look at us en masse, we have very similar behaviors. So what’s happening is that even though we are spending much more time on social media, on consumer and tech activity, in actuality of that 31 hours a day, 11 hours are spent on media consumption and consumer tech activity. More so than work, sleep, and housekeeping or non-work activities. But what’s happening is that even though we’re spending all this time, this 11 hours a day, it’s being spent on relatively few sites and few apps.
And what we discovered, and this was actually analysis presented at the Wall Street Journal Digital Conference, late last year is that when we think about our mobile phone, many people think about the proliferation of apps on your mobile phone. You have screens and screens and screens of apps but in actuality, the average user uses 27 of them per month but 80% of the time per month is only spent on five. So we’re a glutton for those apps which we love most. And the same thing goes for websites. Although there are billions of websites out there, in actuality we spend about just under 50% of our time on the same five websites, which we go to again and again.
So what this means for employers, is that we know where people are going. We know where talent is going but everyone else knows. So it’s going to become incredibly competitive in those five apps and in those five websites to be able to have meaningful content to cut through and to actually make an impact on, in the case of our conversation with our brands, to make your employer brand resonate and be remembered by talent.
What platforms perform best for employer branding?
We use all these platforms when we’re doing activation but I like to simplify them down into really if we made the employer brand an individual. So if they were just another human out there playing around on social media. It’s for me, Facebook is who we are as an employer brand, LinkedIn is what we do, Twitter is what we say and Instagram is what we want other people to believe we look like and how trendy we are.
Weibo, and some of the other country-specific platforms would follow those same areas. But I think from an employer branding perspective Facebook is still the 800-pound gorilla out there. An amazing stat that came through from Nielsen just earlier this year is that, with Facebook’s acquisitions over the past 24 months, one in three minutes spent on a mobile phone is spent on a Facebook property. So that’s Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp, which they purchased for $16 billion last year. So one in three minutes on a mobile phone really makes those purchases by Facebook seem like quite a deal that Mr. Zuckerberg bought.
For LinkedIn, really for employer brands, this is about showcasing your business. When we look at things from Universum, we apply our learning and our activation down this, what we call the talent funnel. We believe LinkedIn is very much for the initial education, kind of the corporate education of the company that I’m considering working for and as talent goes through the journey, their knowledge journey and goes through the acquisition funnel, we’re seeing LinkedIn as becoming increasingly a place to go to apply for jobs. So LinkedIn is making very, very good strides in competing with Indeed, Monster and some of the mega job boards out there.
With Instagram, they opened up their advertising engine in the summer of last year, and what’s really interesting about Instagram is that it’s about curation, less is more and really about showcasing the visual aspects of the employer brands. So we’re seeing with our customers, and we see through some of the measurement, that we have really amazing results with Instagram. It’s really cutting through some of the broadcast social media hang-ups that Facebook and LinkedIn have because Instagram is quite interesting. It’s not broadcast social media, like I said, like Facebook or LinkedIn but it’s not narrowcasting like Snapchat and, I would argue, some of the messaging services out there. So it’s a really interesting one to watch.
And when we look at Weibo and some of the more country specific. There’s obviously some in Germany, as well and even some in Brazil who offer that kind of micro-blogging service. China is an interesting marketplace and I don’t think any of the companies or social media platforms that I mentioned before have actually really cracked it. So those companies which are born out of Asia, like Weibo and also WeChat, are doing really great. So at the end of the day, talent uses these platforms to communicate in a bi-directional way with employer brands. But we are seeing the types and the usage of these platforms vary quite differently.
What about messaging apps, or narrowcast media?
So Snapchat’s all about sending private snaps to selected individuals that self-destruct, well let’s hope they all self-destruct, for the young generation. And WeChat and Messenger are the typical messaging apps. I think what’s really interesting about this is that it is this concept of narrowcast media. So it’s about talent in this case, in kind of the construct of this conversation, selecting a few employers to have deeper conversations with. Now that’s a really interesting concept because an employer brand has to go quite a long way to earn the trust of a private conversation. That either means that they’re far down the acquisition funnel, and the talent who they’re speaking to is really, really invested, or that they’ve done something great from their awareness perspective or kind of the desire of the employer brand that they’re getting these people in at the very top of the funnel and are able to then move them quickly through to the bottom.
So I think messaging looks to be faster growing than even social media. So, I think, in half the time that Facebook did, Whatsapp reached one billion active users. So there’s a real land rush happening when it comes to talent getting on to these platforms and I think, if I was to pick a winner out of Snapchat or some of the messaging services, I would certainly pick the messaging services. I think the behemoths that own them, Facebook and WeChat and Sina and Badoo and those companies are able to, and Facebook did this very successfully, shift almost their entire social media user base across these messaging platforms. So I think that, for me, messaging is going to be the next big thing.
What is the intention gap?
This is a Universum coined term, I think, in this report. And what’s really interesting that’s coming out of this, and why we created this concept of the intention gap, is that when we started to look at social media content and lots and lots of it. In actuality, we looked at over one million social media posts from thousands of employers. We saw that there’s this big gap between what an employer brand thinks they’re communicating, with what talent actually thinks that they are talking about. And we’re seeing this gap increasing over time.
And one of the things that we do with Iris, which is the social media listening tool we have, we actually get talent to look at those posts from employer brands and we use the same framework, that 40 attribute framework that we have at Universum, to allow talent to choose which one or more or those 40 attributes they believe that that employer in that post is trying to communicate. And what we’re seeing is that an employer may go out wanting to talk about corporate social responsibility in their content, but what happens is that when it hits talent, and talent has those few seconds in their very busy news feeds to look at that content, what they tell us that employer is talking about could be something very different. It could be about challenging work or it could be about inspiring management. So what we’re seeing is an increasing gap between what employers think they’re talking about with what talent actually thinks that they are communicating.
Social media is not about a one-hit wonder. It’s not where big Super Bowl style campaigns win. It’s about small, snackable and continuous content. So to win on social media it’s not about one post, it’s about the 100 or 200 posts that you are putting out across the year and hoping that you’re curating one, the right talent who are looking at it and they’re looking at it and engaging with it on a fairly regular basis. So I think that’s where, and there’s a lot of grey in social media, it’s very noisy and what we’re seeing over the past 10 years or so is further fragmentation of the reason why talent choose to be a part of the employer. You know, we didn’t always have 40 attributes that we use to measure. There were fewer when we first started and new things like work/life balance didn’t exist seven or eight years ago as something that is important to talent but as our research says, over the past couple of years it is, if not “the,” it is one of the most important attributes for talent when choosing an employer.
Great brands outpace good brands on social media. What does that mean?
To win on social media it’s all about continuity and it’s about being there, being present on a regular basis and building on the back of the content that you released yesterday or the day before. Now what’s happening, if we take a step back and we look at these social media platforms, their main function for users is to provide relevant content to us. Because, if you went into your Facebook feed today and the first 200 posts were ads, you probably wouldn’t stick around in Facebook very long. So it’s in Facebook’s best intentions to be able to give you the most relevant content.
Now Facebook knows you much better than I. It knows where you’ve been, it knows what you’ve looked at, what posts you’ve engaged with, with what friends you have engaged with and so on and so forth. And Facebook is trying to balance this with being a public company and their obligations to shareholders. So what they do is, they invest into more and more sophisticated algorithms to be able to make sure that you are getting the most relevant content. But Facebook’s a true network. They have their social graph so there are people who look like you and Facebook is going to use your data, and everyone else’s, all one billion daily users in Facebook, to be able to fine tune that algorithm. So what that means is that if you’re present as an employer brand, you’re continually putting out content, you’re going to be rewarded by growing your organic reach because the right people are actually interacting with your content.
And secondly, is that those employer brands who are active on social media platforms, and I gave that example of Facebook before but it’s applicable to all social media platforms, they all have algorithms and they’re all trying to get relevant content to their users. Is that those employers who are active and they realize that social media is not something you can just chuck an intern at and to post about random stuff, that there is a sophistication that goes behind it, they start to look at the economics of it. And there are really fantastic examples of employers who are turning these social media platforms into massive recruitment funnels into their business, where they can go out and spend a few hundred pounds or a few hundred dollars and get quite tremendous returns on the back of it.
I wrote an internal memo, and it was titled, “The Great are Outpacing the Good.” And what I meant by that is that it’s those companies who have gone into social media early, who are continually posting and now are starting to experiment with sponsored advertising, they are getting between 100 and in some instances, we saw 10,000 times higher engagement than the average. So now the average is being pulled down a bit, because there is a land rush into social media now by employers. Everyone and their dog is getting into it so that’s pulling down the average, or keeping it relatively flat because you have so many new entrants who are at amateur level and they’re leveling up. Is that what we are seeing is that there are a few brands out there who are up in the stratosphere with engagement and they are capturing the majority of the share of voice.
Again this is everybody, all talent, but we don’t have the ability today to look into subsets of talent, but I would imagine that some of those employers on social media are actually capturing the lion’s share of specific types of talent, like IT talents or people studying sales and marketing, and things like that.
What employer brands were social top performers last year?
The regular players are up there. Probably the company who works well across the most, was the most consistent across channels, we’re seeing L’Oreal and Unilever, who are sitting up there at the top. Some of Unilever’s programs, their future leaders programs they run in multiple countries have been really fantastically executed across social media channels and we can see some in the reports, some amazing results in the case studies that they have graciously allowed us to publish.
And also we see the non-traditional social media style employer brands, like ExxonMobil, really get into social media in a fast and meaningful way and really on a weighted basis they are getting quite fantastic returns. They are being able to get enormous engagement returns and what’s really interesting about ExxonMobil is the participation rate on their posts. They’re getting hundreds of what looks like engineers commenting, participating, asking questions. And it really feels like what one would assume is being a very reluctant company to get on social media, ExxonMobil has really embraced it and is really winning in this case.
And then you have other companies like IBM really taking, allowing talent to really see what it’s like to work inside IBM. They’ve done really amazing things such as kind of socially optimized videos. They use integrated social media very well, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and they integrate their channels very well. And I think that’s really giving their content a lot of pop at the beginning because one of the great things about social media is the viral opportunity that it presents. I think IBM is really using that in a meaningful way.
And then maybe a local call-out would be PWC in Brazil. Brazil, we see as one of the most competitive marketplaces when it comes to social media. There’s a great article I think it was published by Forbes, which said that the Internet was born in Brazil. So we’re seeing the Brazilian population, because of a whole bunch of different factors, socioeconomic, economic, that they went straight from no Internet to mobile Internet and everybody and their dog in Brazil has a mobile phone and participates on social media. So we’re seeing some really progressive stuff coming out of Brazil, and especially out of PWC. One of their campaigns on Instagram was just human, authentic, and fantastic.
What are the top data-driven recommendations for social recruiting in 2016?
Well I think we probably need to start with table stakes, right? And the first thing is to make sure you have your employer value proposition, or your EVP. If you don’t have something to really hold you to the shore, you’ll drift off into the seas of content and social media. And I think that one for me is probably, is the most important. To make sure you have an EVP that is true, it’s credible, it works inside, it works outside and that you can really hook onto and keep you grounded, or close to shore, to continue my analogy.
Another thing is to really appreciate that, the old saying is, “horses for courses” and to make sure that the way that talent and to appreciate that the way that talent interact with a platform like LinkedIn, the reasons why they go to LinkedIn are very, very different than the reasons that they would go and participate with an employer brand on Facebook. So it’s not about one piece of content just cross-posted, it’s what we’re seeing is that is the first sign of an early, or entry-level, employer brand on social media. They take one post, usually, that content has come from marketing or corporate relations that’s been approved by legal and they can get it up quickly, and what they do is they just post it across all channels. But that just gets lost in the torrent of content.
And to quote Facebook is brands and employer brands want to create thumb stoppers. So it’s those pieces of content as you’re whipping through with your thumb on your mobile phone, and let’s not forget the majority of social media content is consumed by mobile, almost than 75%, right? So it’s about creating thumb stoppers. So what we’re seeing is a big change in the traditional, linear process of ideation and content development. So the old way is very linear, right? Have your agency come in and pitch a humongous idea that costs a bundle of money, substantiate that with some user research, spend a bunch of money on design and things like that and then push it out and then repeat.
But with a more agile process, or an agile employer branding content production, what you are doing is you’re using micro strategies. So start small. Know that you don’t have the answers but you have a solid EVP. Push it out really quickly. I’m talking about anywhere as small as ffive-daycycle to one month and then iterate on the back of it. So I think that allows you to not be beholden to any one platform but rather choose the platform for the outcome that you want to achieve during that period. And we all know with employer brands and for recruitment marketing, there are cyclical ups and downs, valleys and peaks throughout the year and there are different stakeholders within the organisation that you have to serve. So let’s not try and jam all of those requests into one big campaign but rather just get them in when they’re needed.
And in my recommendations is to make sure that when you are producing content, to make sure that it’s data led, meaning that it is founded on the data. It doesn’t matter where it comes from but just start to use it because if you don’t have it you’re as good as guessing.
The second thing is human. So make sure that your content is about the employees within the organisation. On social media, these people go these platforms to socialise, right? It’s about people connecting to people. It’s not about people connecting to brands and things like that. So you need to appreciate that and our data suggests that more than 80% of talent, when they connect to an employer brand on a social media platform, do so to see what it’s like to work inside the company. So that means they want to see what it’s like for you and me as we work in our companies.
And finally purposeful, don’t just put up content for the sake of putting up content. It’s not going to be seen if it doesn’t have a purpose. And going back to the recognising why social media platforms are there for socialising is that if you have achieved the luxury of having a talent connect to you, give you the endorsement or the permission to go into their news feed, then let’s talk to them. Give your post purpose. Ask questions. Challenge them. Ask them questions and I think what we see in our results with our customers is that, not surprisingly, when you start to socialise as an employer brand, the audience socialises back with you.
What mistakes do you see companies making?
Well, there are two that really stick out. One is turning into an auto-posting robot, we see lots of that. I think that when a corporation starts its social media journey, they see all the platforms and they go, “How am I supposed to get content across all of these?” And they go to centralised posting tools, like Percolate or Hootsuite and stuff like that, and they go, “My problems are solved because now I can push out one piece of content across all of these platforms. And better yet, because I need to put up content all the time, I’m going to auto-populate my Twitter feed with the job posts that are coming from my ATS system.” And that’s one of the worse things they can do. I’ve seen Twitter feeds that are nothing but just job postings. Like boring, pardon my French, but boring as batshit as the saying goes is that who would ever want to participate in a Twitter feed that over 99% of the job posts are not relevant to talent? So that’s the first thing, don’t go on auto-post or robot mode.
And the second thing is what we’re seeing in our data is that it’s really noisy. Every employer brand and their dog wants to talk about how awesome their products and services are, according to talent. And I think as employer brands are rushing to social media, I mentioned this earlier, that they’re really being a bit paralysed by where they’re going to get content. And, you know, employer branding function in many organisations is still new and growing, so I’d imagine they don’t have limitless budgets or even comparable budgets to marketing departments, so they have to make really critical decisions.
So what they do naturally is instead of going out and using very much user generated content, going around with their mobile phone, recording people, asking them questions, putting up really authentic content, is what they’re doing is going to their current repositories. They’re going to marketing, they’re going to corporate relations and they’re just taking that content. You know, that really eye sucky, boring, corporate relations photo with some guy in a hardhat with earplugs, fixing some sort of oil well and putting it up for talent and expecting that that highly staged photo and link to a direct career site, just the front page of the career site, is just gonna be meaningful for talent. So I think, too, it’s about thinking a bit before you go out and having, like we talked about in the top recommendations, is having an EVP, which will drive your content strategy.
What is the ROI on social media for employers?
If you’re getting into social media, all of the social media sites have very easy and manageable ways to track the click-throughs coming from the sites. All of these platforms have very deep demographic and preference data on which traffic that’s engaging with your post. And you can spend money and you can quantify the organic content that you are creating with dollars and cents. And you can also invest in, when you do invest in small street advertising, that’s also very quantifiable.
So what I think is really sexy about these social media programs is that you can link them all the way to that ATS system and perhaps in the next 18 to 24 months we’ll go beyond to employee performance and things like that. But I think the ROI can be very clearly measured. I mean what we’re doing with some of our customers is we begin small with a pilot because it kind of still exists in the employer branding sphere. And I believe that many, many people in HR and recruitment marketing are able to communicate the value of having a good employer brand and what that means to the volume of talent coming into the business or interacting with that employer brand.
But also we’re seeing, once you have a social program up and running, now that can be multichannel, omnichannel, single channel, it doesn’t really matter. But because you are able to quantify it we are seeing some employers now shift some of the recruitment dollars into social media. So there is a way to look at your costs per hire and to put social media in that consideration set. So I think we’re getting very close and there are some of the top employer brands that I mentioned today who are certainly looking at the cost per hire and looking at social media as a viable channel for that. But again, to measure your everyday success you want to look to the most common type of measurement is engagement, which is a combination of not only, on Facebook it’s likes and shares and comments, on LinkedIn it’s shares, comments, and likes as well, is that it’s a combination of these. Because according to Facebook, and this came from their blog in the summer last year, they said that likes don’t matter any more. It’s about really how their algorithm picks up value is when people are commenting, when they’re sharing your content, and when they’re viewing your videos that you’re putting up and things like that.
What’s the best technology for employer branding on social?
Yeah, here’s the plug. Well, I think before I start with Iris, I think the first thing is that there are many, many tools out there. You know, when we were doing our research when we were going to be building Iris, we discovered that there is well over 250 social media listing tools. So there is a lot out there. And it really depends on where you are as an employer brand and getting started. I mentioned Hootsuite as one of those tools. A cautionary tale about Hootsuite, but a cautionary tale about where you can centralise and see all of the metrics coming into your social feed. That’s a great tool and there are a number of Hootsuite competitors that are out there. HubSpot, Percolate, those are other content publishing tools that go beyond just social media for a great way to really bake-in solid work flows into your business.
So if you work with agencies or you work with multiple internal stakeholders, you’re able to then go through an online tool as opposed to flinging emails back and forth with pictures and text all over the place. And they also have content calendars in it so they help you visualise when you should be publishing that content. In some cases, they help you automate that in a good way. In an authentic automation way, not the robo automation way.
And when we took a look at all these tools out there, there are many that are great but what we discovered is that much of these have been built for marketers and not HR. And so we saw that we had three key opportunities at Universum. One is we had this framework that when we know that if an employer focusses and uses the data we provide, they become more sexy and more talent goes there, want to work for them. The second thing is at Universum we touch, with our surveys, we have well over 1.5 million talent every single year interact with us. So we had this huge platform of real people, real talent who were volunteering and participating in giving us data. And the third thing, and this is the new technology that we’re bringing into Universum as we kind of transform into a technology company, is that we’re really been able to put this together with some cool tech and that’s really what Iris separates itself from the other social media listing tools. It does a lot of the same things but what separates Iris from the rest is that it’s a human powered content coding engine. So actual talent are looking at the posts from employer brands every single day and they’re using the same framework that we use for our research that’s been running for 25 years.
So we’re able to see the macro trends with our research but we’re able to zoom in at the micro moments for talent because what we learned in social media it’s a daily battle. It’s truly a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So being able to look at your competitors, see what they’re talking about and to see if it’s effective, right? If it’s resonating with talent. You can, if you have an EVP, you typically have between two and five core attributes that you want to focus on. But your number one attribute may not be the best one to choose for today or this week. It may be number five. And that’s what we’re seeing in the results with our customers who are using Iris is that it allows them to strategically look at what’s going on from a content perspective across platforms but then operationally zoom in on a daily basis go in and see what’s great. And we have a 1.2 million social media posts case study library that you can, is searchable by attribute, and country, and industry, and particular company.
What brands are doing it right in your opinion?
The first one is certainly Adidas. I think Adidas does some very, very cool stuff on employer brand but also as a consumer brand.
I think that when we look at, there may be many people who don’t like me out here, but I think when we look at the Kardashians and them as a brand. I certainly don’t agree with what they talk about, but the method and their techniques are truly astounding. So I think from a technical, or a technique perspective, the Kardashian family is very, very good. Talk about omnichannel, they’re in every channel. From GIFs to mobile games to twitter feeds.
And I think finally I would look to the military services in America. Air Force, Navy, Marines. They have always been so forward thinking in recruitment. I believe as a result of the type of work that those great people do and I think that they really push the boundaries with content. When I look to see what and how employers should be talking in the near future, I look to the military services. Obviously, I’ve obviously talked about America, but typically whether it’s the Secret Service here in Australia, where I’m in calling in from, to Canada, to Singaporean Army, they all do some very, very cool and progressive stuff.