How to Use Instagram for Employer Branding

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

You may have used Instagram on a personal level, but have you ever thought of using it as a recruitment, branding or networking tool? I spoke to Angela Bortolussi, who is a partner at Recruiting Social, and just happens to be a dab hand at tapping into Instagram for professional use. She revealed the secrets behind using Instagram for sourcing candidates, building her professional network and developing her personal and employer brand.

Listen to the interview below, keep reading for a transcript and don’t forget to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

Why Instagram and not LinkedIn or Facebook?

I think that’s a great question because I do often get that with a lot of candidates about presenting themselves and their job search. Whether that they should be Facebook, whether they should be on LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Instagram. So I think that the main focus here is really just understanding who your audience is, and who you’re trying to attract.

My audience could be completely different from someone that is in engineering, or someone that is in marketing, or someone that’s in communications. So I think that the key, I guess recommendation, I would say is know your audience, find out who you want to attract and then find out what the purposes for it.

Do you want to create brand awareness? Do you want to have a presence on these platforms? Or maybe your audience isn’t on Instagram, but they’re only on Twitter. So you really need to narrow down which social media platform is going to be right for you and your company.

Can you find technical and product people on Instagram?

I do, I do and I know sometimes people are always puzzled about how I go about doing this, and I think when I talk about Instagram and being such a powerful networking tool, it really is, just the fact that when you go to networking events so for example, if I was at a Hackathon, or if I was at a meet up. What would happen is, is  I could check into that location and then I could search that location to find out who has been at that location as well.

And then any type of popular hashtag that the event is putting on, I could search that as well, find out who used that hashtag, when they were there and then reach out to them. Just to even build that connection, because even though that connection just in terms of reaching out to potential hires might not happen right then and there for a potential job, it could happen six months down the road.

And I think that’s always key when we talk about being a social recruiter, is that you can’t just expect to fill a job right away, or have that candidate want that job right away. It might take some time. So you can really foster that relationship through these social media channels.

Should you separate business and personal?

No, I definitely don’t and that’s a great question, because I often have job seekers asking that question, whether they should separate their personal versus “their business”, essentially it could be just them as a job seeker, or them as say for example UX designer and they’re showcasing their portfolio on Instagram. So again it really does depend on your audience.

I create awareness for Recruiting Social, and create awareness for me as a recruiter and being a technical recruiter in L.A. and Vancouver. So everything is across the board when it comes to just my account, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should use it in that way. Usually what I recommend is you can have a private Instagram account, and you can also have a “business” Instagram account.

Just make sure that everything is locked down, and if you do have friends that are going to be tagging you in posts, make sure that their account is on private as well, because if it isn’t then I can also see their Instagram account. And that’s where we put on some of that Nancy Drew hat when it comes to recruiters, because we can really find out a lot of information about people, and who they’re associated with as well.

What’s the key to success on Instagram?

I think really it comes down to good content, and a lot of people even ask me, “What does that even mean?” It really does come down to the quality of pictures. And it doesn’t mean that you have to go and buy a professional camera to take these pictures. I use my iPhone. So that is key and I think to a moment that can capture who you are, and what you’re doing. So usually saying good content comes with quality pictures but also a theme.

If you look at my Instagram account, you can see that the theme is coffee, computers, networking, branding, and Recruiting Social. It’s very through and through, so I usually say if you are going to use it to build any type of brand awareness, make sure that you follow a theme. And the next thing too, is about using hashtags, owning that hashtag. At Recruiting Social we use #RecruitingLife as our main go-to hashtag, so that’s always key as well. And then when it comes to posting photos, you did mention about the whole personal, versus keeping it very professional. I’d say if you do have something public, just make sure that whatever you are posting, it’s not like it could be critiqued in a bad form so to speak. I think that’s always key. If you ever doubt yourself and the picture that you’re posting, it’s probably best that you don’t post it.

How do you get more engagement on your content?

Yeah, and I think that’s great when it comes to engagement, and maybe growing your followers. And I think it depends on the community that you’re in, so for example, mine would be like the tech community and the HR community, so usually what I say is the engagement component can liking photos, it could be commenting on photos.

Having even a small conversation. I always say Instagram has been, I would say, a more productive networking tool than LinkedIn, because essentially you are capturing a moment with someone, because we always say Instagram is within the moment, it’s very authentic. You get to see someone’s life essentially, so that is one that’s your comments back and forth.

Another one is if you’ve got followers on, for example, Twitter, or on Facebook, encourage them to follow you back on Instagram as well and create that sense of community within your Instagram plot.

How do you get more followers?

Yeah, so one I guess, tactic that I’ve seen a lot of companies taking part in is IG takeovers. So you have someone that’s an influencer in your industry take over the account for the day, it could be for the week, usually if they say a day is successful enough to build those followers. We’ve done it at Recruiting Social as well. We’ve had people in the HR industry, the tech industry take over our account for the day, and just shows people the life of someone else that you might want to be associated with as well, so that’s big.

Tagging other people and your photos is an important one. I know the subject lines in caption lines are key to building your followers. I think if you are more authentic when you’re writing your captions, and telling people how you feel in somewhere from, again keeping it professional if you do have it public is key, and then, of course, leveraging trending hashtags is always a big one.

And I know sometimes people are a bit hesitant about how many hashtags they do. I usually say cram in a bunch of hashtags, it doesn’t hurt. After an hour usually, they do often expire, meaning your pictures are no longer at the top of the explore page you’re usually at the bottom, and so you can delete them after as well.

How do you get someone to think creatively on Instagram?

Yeah, it is definitely tough and I know even coming up with the caption component on a picture can be tough. Sometimes I even struggle at what should I even say, and sometimes it can be just as simple as Saturday vibes right. Sometimes I think we think too much into it. I think usually when I discuss and then I do take over with someone, I usually ask them to knock out a plan about the things that they want to share about their day.

So it could be if they start off with yoga in the morning, capturing that moment. If they’re on the computer like us recruiters we’re on our computer pretty much all day, every day and sourcing candidates, showcase that. Really you’re showcasing your lifestyle, right? For me, it’s the recruiting lifestyle, so that would be something that I would demonstrate through an IG takeover, and that’s what I usually say to anyone that’s doing at it.

And just map out your day and it doesn’t have to be very tactical, or strategical. Again, it’s very authentic of what you do consistently week after week right? So it’s just showcasing that, and then showcasing your personality. That is a huge thing for Instagram, given that it is a visual platform. People want to see that personality in who you are as well, and it’s funny, I often get comments on my Instagram account that I need to smile more. And given my personality how bubbly I am, you’d think that would be portrayed in my pictures, but usually, I have the downward face.

How often should you post content?

I definitely would recommend at least once a day, and the reason why that is, is because you would come up in people’s feeds more often. And so I think once a day is suitable, even twice a day. I think is great as well, if it’s an IG takeover it’s dependent on if it’s going to be throughout the week, or if it’s just for the day. Usually, if it’s just for the day I would say about six photos is sufficient. Again a few in the morning, a few in the afternoon, some in the mid, late evening and then maybe one just to tie it off and to basically thank everyone for following their engagement on Instagram as well.

How do you find people to attract or recruit?

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the main thing here is before you can even go out on your search, you definitely have to build up your bio. So you can see on even with Recruiting Social’s Instagram account, my Instagram account, we all have a little bio about what we do and who we are. So if we are going to be potentially reaching out to people or engaging with people, they know who we are essentially and maybe why we would be reaching out to them, so that’s key then you can simply do searching hashtags. So if I was searching a hashtag on UX designer, or if I was searching a hashtag in regards to places, #YVRTech would be one, so that’s the Vancouver tech scene that’s a common hashtag that they use.

I would start there because then you can see who is using that particular hashtag, where they’ve checked in. Again going back to if I went to an event like Tech Fest here in Vancouver. They create their own hashtags for that event. So when I do a quick search, I can see all the attendees and those could be potential job seekers as well. The nice thing and I guess new item that Instagram has implemented, is the direct messenger.

So before you’d have to send a message through a picture to get someone’s attention through a message, but now you can actually just send them a direct message without having to do that on Instagram. So that changes the way we communicate with people as well.

Does this tie into using Instagram as a networking tool?

Yeah, and that’s a great leeway I think in regards to the direct messenger. It does make it easier to reach out to people for opportunities. And I always make it very transparent as to why I’m reaching out to them. So for example, if it was a UX designer or someone in the tech industry, usually I give a quick intro to who I am, why I’m reaching out to them, and why I think maybe they might be a good fit for a role, or why maybe we want to network with them in the future as well.

So being very transparent is my one recommendation for people that are reaching out to people because you have to remember, not everyone is using Instagram for a networking tool, or building some brand awareness. They could just have an Instagram account that they’re using for personal use, and they’re just showcasing their pictures for their friends.

So being very transparent and why you’re reaching out, is definitely key.

What’s the deal on using others’ images, do you regram?

Yeah, definitely. I prefer not use regrams, so what I use is I basically give them photo credit in my comment, so I just use a little emoji with the camera, and say who the photo is by. At least, that does give that person credit and I know sometimes many of us might use pictures from people that have millions and millions of followers, but you have to think that’s still their picture and they do own that picture as well. So I feel like giving them a shout out is just out of respect.

I would just do a screenshot, and then you can post it on Instagram. Another way that you can go about capturing someone else’s photos is actually again just sending them a direct message. I’ve had other companies reach out to me via direct message on Instagram and ask if they can use my photo, or if they would mind sharing their photo and then I can send them directly, and then they will promote me on their page.

That’s another tactic that I know a lot of companies are using as well.

Do memes belong on Instagram?

I’m not opposed to them. Again it depends on what your theme is, right, and who your audience is, that’s key. So yeah I wouldn’t say I’m opposed to them. I wouldn’t use them in particular in terms of my content and my page, but I’m not opposed to them for other companies that use them, however it doesn’t go with my theme. You have to think too, sometimes those memes can be showcasing something that you’re feeling, or again some brand awareness that showcases something of a part of your company. So like I say I’m not opposed to them but they’re definitely something that I wouldn’t showcase on my own personal page.

What are the Instagram pitfalls to avoid?

Well, we always say bad lighting. If you’re in a dark space, it’s probably best to avoid that. I think one of the major pitfalls when it comes to Instagram, because really again you can use it any way that you feel fit for your brand, or for your personal brand, is I think just in terms of its users so if you’re a company that is trying to build some brand awareness within Instagram. We know that usually, the users of Instagram are usually between 18 to 29, in comparison to maybe the 30 to 49 age bracket. The users are a little bit less engaged. So I would say it’s very youthful, Instagram, but I know that there are later adopters that are using Instagram. It’s just I think Instagram is still known as a younger social media channel.

What’s the return on investment of using Instagram?

I think that’s a great question, just because there are over 400 million users that use Instagram, and like 70 million photos per day. So how do you even capture that moment and capture people’s attention? I think the best way you can track ROI is by posting a picture on behalf of your company and then having a call to action. What I mean, call to action meaning, have a trackable link attached to that picture. At least, that kind of measure, whether that photo was engaging with people.

You can also measure it by the likes and the comments. That’s always a big one. But the call to action, having a transferable link posted. And even though users can’t click on that link, when it comes to comments, you can actually just get them to navigate back to your bio and have the link posted in there. At least, it will go directly to their browser on their phone.

That’s just another pitfall when it comes to Instagram. The links don’t work in the comments page, but they do in the bio page. You do have to actually have to change them quite often if you are changing over your pictures. But that would be the only way in terms of just measuring the ROI, besides how many followers you gain per picture and how many likes you are gaining per picture as well.

What tools and apps should you use?

Yeah, I think my biggest recommendation when it comes to using apps that are connected with Instagram. One being FaceTune. If you don’t have it, you should definitely download it. FaceTune’s a great tool to use just to fix any imperfections on pictures or even enhance them. For example, if you have a table with maybe a white coffee mug on it, and you just want to make it more a crisp white, you can do that within FaceTune. A lot of people associate FaceTune with just your face, but actually, you can enhance your images with that as well. That would be my one little secret.

Another one that is gaining more popularity is Boomerang. You can attach that with Instagram as well. And again, it’s just that visual content, I guess, on Instagram, which I think is getting more popular since Snapchat has come out. And it’s been gaining a lot of popularity as well. Even though Instagram has been such a great visual platform for many of us, Snapchat is an up and coming app that’s been around for a long time, but I think it’s getting more traction now with companies and users as well.

People want to see that, again, there’s that interaction with their audience, right. I always say that Snapchat is like having your own reality show. You know, you’re talking constantly into a camera and then having these people view your images and your videos and things like that. That’s another one that I would probably recommend using is Boomerang. I think a lot of people are adapting to that one.

Who inspires you on Instagram?

Well, there are two particular individuals, and there are two companies that I would say have a great page. Obviously, I give a little shout out to Recruiting Social, one is just the fact that you can showcase who we are as recruiters and what our day looks like. And we also do the IG takeover. So we work with some of our clients as well.

Bench Marketing. I think they’re on a great start of creating something very cool just in terms of their content. They stuck to a very particular color theme, which is great. I think it captures the eye.

Airbnb has an amazing social media platform when it comes to Instagram. There, again, the palette theme in terms of the color is really engaging. The pictures and the captions that they have is really engaging. Those are three companies that are definitely ones to look out for.

When it comes to individual ones. Now you can see on my Instagram I’m really into either tech or into fashion. So two individuals that I’ve been following that are really engaging too with their followers, one being Christie Lohr. She runs a company called Style Nine to Five. She has amazing followers, but she’s really engaging with her audience. It really is very authentic when she’s taking her pictures and capturing those moments about how she feels and just her day-to-day work. Another one is @CodeGirlCode. You follow her path on becoming a programmer and learning Ruby, and I think she really definitely captures what it’s like to be a woman in tech as well. Those would be my go-to’s.

This off-the-grid home, nestled into the canopy of local flora, invites you to come in and be one with nature. Host @kristiemaewolfe and her mom built the detailed bamboo structure by hand. Kristie's been interested in the tiny home movement for awhile, trying out the lifestyle in Idaho, where she built her first little home from the ground up. She says, “The forced simplicity of living small made me realize I wanted to live like this permanently.” That experience lead her to build a tiny vacation home on Hawaii’s Big Island, where she hosts guests looking for an eco-friendly experience. The up-in-the-air home features a wrap-around lanai, huge windows where sunlight streams in, and a partially open air shower that sustainably uses Hawaiian rainwater collected from the tin roof. If all that isn’t enough of a fantasy, there’s a hanging bed below the treehouse – the perfect spot for daydreaming. Which is exactly what Kristie continues to do as she plots her next project: Lord of the Rings style Hobbit Holes in the Northwest. See more of Kristie's handiwork by clicking the link in our bio.

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What’s the next big thing for Instagram?

It’s tough now to say because things change so often, but one is that now that you can buy ads on Instagram. Any time that you’ve been scrolling through your homepage or looking through pictures, now you can see these ads pop up. You can either dismiss them, or you can keep getting these ads from companies. That seems like one that is going to get pushed a little heavier this coming year. We know that Hootsuite now offers compatibility with Instagram and posting, so that’s a big one. I think there’s probably pros and cons with using Hootsuite.

I know some people were opposed to it because it’s not that authentic moment that you’re capturing, that Instagram is known for. But when it comes to branding and marketing, it can be a successful platform to use, in the sense that you don’t have to worry about posting images throughout the day and it interrupting your day-to-day work. You can have those sort of images already rolling out throughout the day without having to be worried about that.

Follow Angela on Instagram: @abortolusssi.


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