How to Live Stream Your Employer Branding

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

How can you use live broadcasting tool Periscope for a social HR campaign? We have interviewed Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify Talent and employer brand strategist at Hootsuite to find out more. You can listen to the conversation on iTunes and Soundcloud, questions by me and answers by Lars.

What is Hootsuite Open Source HR?

Yes, so Open Source HR, or “HootHROS” if you want to put that in hashtag form, was really a campaign that we put together. Ambrosia Vertesi, Hootsuite’s VP of Talent, is a good friend and she’s the person that brought me in. Her and I have a very similar ethos around the world of work and particularly around social HR, and trying to share and help people understand some of the value and advantages of bringing Social into HR operations. Really being a leader in social HR is one of Hootsuite’s talent groups’ objectives. And so they really want to be able to lead the way, but also show people the way. So, it’s one thing to lead the way, it’s another to do that and bring everybody along with you. And that’s really been engrained in their culture, including their organisational culture, for years. But when I came in, we started having a conversation around how we might bring the idea of Open Source inside of HR. And ultimately where we landed is the concept of Open Source HR. And the idea is that we want to start working out loud on some of the projects that we’re doing, where really the whole HR team is empowered to share some of the things that they’re working on, what they’re learning, where’s they’re finding inspiration.
And what we’ll also be doing is we’re going to be creating a series of case studies that will really go into a lot of detail on particular HR projects or recruiting projects that we’ve developed within Hootsuite. Things like “Follow the Sun” that you had mentioned. But beyond just saying, “Hey, here’s a thing we did,” and really breaking it down to say things like, “Here’s where the idea came from. Here’s how we pitched it internally. These are what the expected outcomes are. This is how we executed it. This is what the actual outcomes were,” and then ultimately even, “Here’s what we got wrong.” Because we want to really be open about that, especially around social HR. There’s a degree of risk-taking that I think takes place, which is a good thing, but it also means you are going to fail and you are going to get some things wrong. And we think it’s important to be able to share that too. So, it’s not all unicorns and roses. You’re able to say, “Yeah, we thought this was going to be how this would turn out and some of these things were right but actually some of these things were wrong.” So, that’s going to be a key part of each case study we do.

Are you showcasing best social HR practice to inspire Hootsuite’s clients?

Yeah I think the clients and then the HR community as a whole. I hear you say, “best practice.” A quote Bill Boorman uses all the time is, “Test practice, not best practice,” which I think particularly when you’re kind of at the leading edge of trying to do some things that haven’t been done before and experiment in certain ways, it takes a track record of success before I think things really get to become best practice. Much of what we’re doing in the space tends to be test practice because there isn’t really a precedent. You’re just trying to figure out. You have hunch, you’re not just blindly saying, “Let’s just do this.” You have a feeling what the outcome may be. But until you actually do it, there’s no way to really know.

What is the difference between social HR and social recruiting?

To me, social recruiting is kind of a subset of social HR. Even within recruiting you’ve got different subsets. You have social sourcing which is kind of how you’re using social media to find talent. You have employer branding which one might argue kind of sits either in recruiting or in HR, so that could kind of be linked to either. I think social HR is really the idea of having your entire team being open to sharing on HR, sharing best practices, and even interacting within your organisation. One of the things that’s really unique about Hootsuite’s HR team, and this is a testament to Ambrosia’s leadership within that group, is that HR within Hootsuite is actually looked at as an innovation-driving function within the team. It’s very kind of well-established and well-respected as one of leading teams that takes risks and tries new things. And I haven’t really encountered that in many organisations where HR has that rep, that earned rep, of being a den of innovation within an organisation. Particularly like Hootsuite. So, Ambrosia and her team have really done a tremendous job I think, of positioning by taking risks, by really embracing social HR, and also getting the rest of the organisation to adopt some of their approaches that I think you don’t typically find.

What was Operation Follow the Sun and where did you get the name from?

Yeah, so the story of Follow the Sun started at South by Southwest. Ambrosia and I were at Craig Fisher‘s TalentNet conference and we were having a conversation, Meerkat just launched. And we were using Meerkat to live stream a live podcast that we were doing. We were talking about the employer branding kind of possibilities of live-streaming in general. So about a few weeks later, Periscope came out and that was right around the time that I came on to Hootsuite. So Ambrosia and I were having a conversation around how we could use Periscope to really convey the global scope of Hootsuite. We were operating in nine different offices. We wanted to make sure we could help prospects get a sense of that global footprint. And then also, the unique culture within Hootsuite. We thought live streaming would be an interest way to do that. So, the idea of Follow the Sun, actually Ambrosia had the great name for that. The idea was we wanted to start in Singapore and actually work our way East, around the globe throughout the day, showcasing a different office every hour on the hour. So we started in Singapore, we moved to Bucharest, moved to London, to Boston, to São Paulo. All the way over to the headquarters in Vancouver. And the idea of Follow the Sun was we wanted to literally Follow the Sun as it turned around the earth. Using that same approach to showcase different offices, and some of our peeps from office to office throughout the day.

What were the objectives with this campaign?

I think it was something that was still fairly new. Obviously Periscope had just come out. So we wanted to develop some proficiency in Periscope. We wanted to go from a branding standpoint but also we wanted to get some of the team involved in using it. We wanted, from an employee branding standpoint, we wanted to raise awareness for our global operations, and also some of the unique culture that we have. And obviously showcasing our talent within some of the offices around the world. I think outside of that, we really wanted to kind of get people to start understanding that we’re going to start using the Hootsuite Life channel on Periscope to kind of do these kind of things.
Other than that, really to not screw up. We kind of listed that as an actual outcome. We were really hoping we weren’t going to screw up. And again, this hadn’t been done before. I think this is actually the first branding campaign that ever happened on Periscope, particularly of a global nature like this. So it was a pretty complex operation, with lots of different people using it. We used LastPass to actually allow all of the broadcasters to log into Periscope using the Hootsuite Life account. So, we’re doing this complex, global, choreographed effort with people who, many times, had not used Periscope before, also using an account that was not their own and kind of getting access to that through LastPass. So, there’s a lot that could have gone wrong. But I think we were pretty pleased that it went relatively smoothly.

You started talking about Meerkat and then switched to Periscope?

Yeah, we never really activated. At least within Hootsuite, we never really activated anything on Meerkat. I think when both came out, the organisation kind of got together and we decided that Periscope would be something that we would be focusing our efforts on. And Meerkat, surprisingly, actually they weathered that storm, in terms of the API being cut off, fairly well. I think they’ve tried to establish more of a niche with musicians and live music. So, I know Madonna debuted one of her new tracks on Meerkat. So, Meerkat’s demise is not quite there yet. But, I think organisationally, it would make more sense, it would be easier for our community to follow along with us if we went with one and focused on that, and that was Periscope.

When you did this global campaign, how many people were Periscoping?

There were nine people. So every office had one point person that was actually the broadcaster. And most offices, outside of Singapore which was already kind of late in the evening there when we started, everybody else was actually in an office and kind of walking around that office. So viewers were actually able to get a physical look at the office space, see some of the people; even though there’s one broadcaster, many times there would be other people who would kind of come into play and answer questions from the audience. What they did, the format, was kind of like an AMA on Reddit. So the broadcaster would be taking people around but they’d also be answering questions, coming in on Periscope as the tour was taking place.

In terms of results, can you kind of share what you’ve achieved?

Yeah. Kind of looking across all the broadcasts, we had over 5,000 viewers of the live broadcast. Which, you know, was pretty good. It’s kind of hard to tell, “Is that a lot?” “Is that a little?” We had that broken down actually by office. If you’re familiar with Periscope, you can “heart” something if you like it. So if you tap the screen it pops a little heart up. We had a little over 11,000 hearts across the nine broadcasts. Our Periscope Hootsuite Life channel gained about 230 followers. Not much lift on Twitter, on the Hootsuite Life account on Twitter. We thought we’d get a little bit more, and we also saw a slight lift in career site visits and applications immediately after the broadcast.
What’s interesting about apps like Meerkat and Periscope, I mean, live broadcasting isn’t new. There were apps like Socialcam and lots of other apps that allowed you to do that even years ago. But I think the market wasn’t necessarily ready for them. But then where the timing I think is right now, where you’re starting to see broader adoption, and because it’s so easy to just share a live broadcast, when Periscope came out I was reading an interview with one of their founders [Kayvon Beykpour], and somebody was asking him about what Periscope is and he said, “It’s not a live broadcast tool, it’s a teleportation device.” I thought that was a really interesting way of framing it. Because, really, I mean like you said you’ve done on Fridays, you can so easily take people in to wherever you are and let them experience that and interact with them. And so I think it really makes it very easy to connect with fans and audience and ultimately, people you’re trying to potentially hire.

What did you learn and were there any HR takeaways?

Yeah. We definitely got some things wrong in the broadcast. We didn’t know at the time that once you show a live broadcast on Periscope, it can then be watched within 24 hours. So if somebody misses the live broadcast but they’re there within 24 hours they can still see the video. After 24 hours, it’s gone. And we didn’t know that. So we kind of positioned, and our intent was that we were going to save the tweets that people sent out when the broadcast went live and compile them in a blog post. So then, we thought those videos would be accessible, and people could watch them. Well they weren’t, and so we were putting together the blog post, we were clicking the links, and it was saying, “Broadcast not found.” Then we realised, you know what? It’s not available. When you’re doing a Periscope broadcast, you can also save the video to your phone and your camera roll, which we had people do as a backup. The problem with that is, it doesn’t show the chat window coming up and it doesn’t show the hearts.
So most importantly, since it was kind of an AMA format, the broadcaster was answering questions that were coming in from the chat window. So if you had that video saved to a camera roll, you can’t see those questions. So it’s kind of a weird experience to watch that video after the fact, and we weren’t really able to use that. So that was something we got wrong, we didn’t realise that. I think another thing that we learned, certainly from an HR standpoint, is that we could have done a better job at directing the broadcasters to have a stronger call to action around hiring. Specifically sharing some of the open positions they had in each local market. I think that would’ve been a great opportunity from a recruiting perspective, because as you have local fans watching the local broadcast and they get excited about the Singapore office or the São Paulo office and say, “Hey I might wanna work there,” we didn’t really give them any guidance on the kind of positions we were hiring, or how they could apply and I think, particularly from an HR standpoint, a recruiting standpoint, that was a missed opportunity.

Tell us about the Twitter handle @HootsuiteLife and the hashtag #HootsuiteLife?

Yes, so @HootsuiteLife, the Twitter handle, is the primary recruiting and employer branding handle for the HR team. So, that was launched by Ambrosia initially, now several people kind of manage that. But that’s our primary, what I would consider to be, HR/recruiting/employer branding handle on Twitter. We use that to interact with fans. We use that to promote the HR and recruiting team. We use that to participate in chats and Periscopes and things like this. So, that’s what that means. HootsuiteLife is really kind of the anchor employer branding asset, if you will, for Hootsuite. They’ve been using it pretty actively for years now. It’s one of the earlier company life hashtags that has become fairly common now.
But all employees are empowered to use that, whether they’re periscoping, tweeting, posting stuff on Instagram, or even Facebook. The volume of that hashtag is massive. And it’s all, for the most part, employee-generated content. So, again, from a recruiting perspective, it’s really easy for us to showcase and show people what the culture at Hootsuite is all about. We can share that hashtag and we have a link to Hootsuite campaigns URL that actually aggregates all of the content on that hashtag into a branded page. It allows us to actually show prospects or applicants what it’s like to work here. And the kind of people they’ll be working with. So that becomes a really authentic and powerful recruiting tool. I think Hootsuite’s probably one of the better examples of using that successfully and also doing it in a way that really all of the employees are truly empowered to contribute.

What are other company life hashtags to check out?

#NPRLife is one that still has a lot of traction. #AdobeLife is another one of the early pioneers. Then you start to see other things like TripAdvisor, has #GoTripAdvisor. So you’re starting to see other versions of it. has #dreamjob. Well the dream job’s a little trickier because other people will just randomly use the hashtag #dreamjob. So, the volume is a little misleading. It’s not all Salesforce content, but I think most major companies these days that are active on social have a #(whatever)life or some variation of that to empower their employees to show their culture.
Let’s face it. I mean, recruiters are biased. We’re trying to bring people into our organisation. So, I can tele-prospect about what our culture is, but it’s much more effective, I think, if I can show them an unfiltered view. Because the reality is, that’s going to attract some people, it’s also going to repel some people. Some people are going to see that and say, “You know what? That’s not for me.” And both of those outcomes are good.

What other companies are doing interesting things in the social HR space?

Yeah. You know, one of the companies that I’ve been following for the last, you know, year or so that I think is doing some really innovative stuff is L’Oréal, actually. I saw a live stream presentation that they did at Talent Connect London last year and actually going to be doing one on of the keynotes now at Talent Connect in the US this year. Some of the work and campaigns they were doing was just really interesting. I hadn’t seen that before. Things like, geotagging and putting some sensors near their headquarters and asking prospects to put in an app, so as you’re walking, or commuting towards the building, you’re getting notifications about the company or about some of the people you may be meeting with. And just some really innovative things. So that’s an organisation that I certainly track and follow some of the stuff that they do.
SAP continues to innovate. They’ve had kind of a “who’s who” of people around employer branding involved in their efforts, like Matthew Jeffery who’s still there, Will Staney who was. Aaron’s doing great work, Aaron Rector. So they continue to do some interesting stuff.
And then TripAdvisor, who I mentioned, I think they’re doing some different campaigns that I think are really interesting that also are very employee empowered-focused. And even Oracle, Celinda Appleby recently came in as their global head of employer branding. I’m watching her with a keen eye, because she’s very talented, and I think she’s going to be bringing some interesting things there.

What will happen in the social HR space over the next three years?

I’m curious to see how virtual reality continues to mature. Oculus is obviously getting a lot of buzz. There will be more platforms coming on the market soon. I think if virtual does become fairly mainstream, I think that there could be some really interesting implications for recruiting and hiring with that. I think we’re also starting to see, this is something I’m really happy about, a shift in approach around job descriptions, because job descriptions I think are…  As much as I think recruiting has evolved over the last couple years, and particularly in recruiting technology, job descriptions, for the most part, haven’t. They’re probably one of the least evolved tools we have in recruiting, so I’m starting to see more visual job descriptions, more dynamic job descriptions, more video job descriptions, and most importantly, mobile-optimised job descriptions as well. I think that we’re still somewhat limited by our ATSs in that evolution. So hopefully their capabilities will start to evolve more rapidly to allow for this. But I think job descriptions in three years, my hope is that they’ll look pretty different than they do today.
Connect with Lars on on Twitter @Lars.


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