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Employer Branding? Or Inbound Marketing?

The employer brand is becoming increasingly important and increasingly digital. It has become a sophisticated offering that aims to persuade and guide the talent that your business needs into your workforce, and keep them there. Employer branding partners both traditional and social recruiting and it should help to increase qualified applications both immediately and long term.

We are fast reaching a time where organisations need to make online employer branding and social recruiting part of their HR strategy to ensure they are not left behind. Those that do not will run the risk of leaving an ageing and increasingly less effective recruitment process to carry all the weight, meaning increased cost and time to hire and lower quality of candidate.

Modern inbound marketing techniques that play a key role in identifying, qualifying and nurturing B2B sales leads are now becoming an ever present part of the online employer brand and social recruitment idealogy. The goal of inbound or content marketing is to produce marketing content that provides a genuine, sales-free, problem solving/value adding piece of advice to the desired end user. This content can take many forms and is distributed through social channels, referrals and PR but also requires a level of SEO and copywriting understanding for effectiveness. The goal of this content is to gain exposure by solving a problem and adding value in your area of expertise. Ideally, interested individuals will share this with their peers which generates further exposure.  This long term strategy is designed to encourage return visits and promote affinity and trust with a brand. The content should also follow a path that allows a person to take their own route through the buying cycle and at their own pace.

Online employer branding should be doing the same, overcoming the communication obstacle whilst enhancing reputation and increasing chances of further contact and a buy-in. The first port of call is the employer value proposition. It must be of quality to justify anyone wanting to buy in to it, too many companies are jumping in to social recruiting and employer branding without a solid environment and offering to market to their candidates. Many organisations have different EVP’s for different business areas and roles depending on four main questions to provide the framework with which to plan:

  1. Who would be successful in this role?

  2. Why will this person be successful in this role?

  3. Why would they join us?

  4. Why would they stay with us?

The use of social channels for recruiting is not a new development but it is still evolving all the time as new social media trends are discovered. The content marketing theory is effective for a number of reasons, primarily it builds trust over time through transparency but can also have immediate impact with a call to action. The same needs to be applied to the social recruitment and employer branding.

Inbound marketing focuses on supplying prospects with the information they need and to keep them gently moving through the sales funnel by providing more and more personalised content. The same ethos can be applied to social recruiting by making use of a number of different channels and techniques to increase engagement and prompt candidates to determine that your organisation is an ‘employer of choice’. The main corporate website or social feeds are a good place to start, as are employment shows or on-campus recruitment events that drive people to the social recruitment channels of the business. Content, competitions, staff, social engagement, your corporate site and search engines will drive more potential candidates to your social channels. A little spend on promoted stories and tweets also helps get the ball rolling!

New and innovative methods of improving employer brand awareness and engagement with social channels are surfacing all the time. Twitter’s recent development of Twitter cards, for example, provide a great way of displaying videos and story snippets prior to re-directing through to the main site. Jobgram is another new and interesting tool which uses static infographic designs and video to advertise positions (thanks to Andy Headworth for showing me this). Expect these highly shareable and unique methods to do very well in attracting the socially savvy candidate.

Documenting the day to day working environment with video and pictures is an increasingly popular method of showcasing the benefits of a workplace and the engagement of staff within the business. This relatively simple practice has had some great effects on building and engaging with talent communities via social channels. Starbucks, for example, found success with an employer branding initiative using Instagram to document the day to day duties of their Baristas, including training and engaging with customers. LinkedIn’s new company pages are a great way to share company material, including pictures and video, to prospective candidates.

If an organisation has built a great working environment, it goes a long way to creating engaged employees, and engaged employees will talk about their work and share what they do online (more so as generation Y is an increasingly large workforce component). This is possibly the single most powerful method of reaching a network of prospective candidates who are likely to be similar in character and qualification to your current employees. If you look at a B2B website, you will regularly find testimonials from clients highlighting the good work of an organisation (unless they are rubbish!), and there is a reason for this, people are naturally more trusting of individuals than they are of corporate logos. The exact same is the case with social recruitment. Video interviews of staff, a company blog where employees are invited to contribute, Q and A sessions on Twitter or a Google+ hangout, all are powerful tools in social recruiting. Case studies of work translate directly into case studies of successful hires.

The beauty of social media recruitment is that it is not solely one-way traffic. There is value to be gained from listening to those who talk to you and about your organisation. By networking and engaging your followers in conversation a company stands to gain a lot of understanding into many factors affecting the recruitment process including helping people with applications, candidate experience and feedback as well and pretty much whatever else you want to discuss with them. Candidate experience is an area I think is often overlooked, and as Emma pointed out in her recent blog, poor communication in the recruitment process is often a cause of brand damage.

Building a talent pipeline, or database of candidates is an age old technique that can be further enhanced by social recruiting when applying some marketing principles to the process. Sift and refine this data with personalised content marketing distributed via email and you can soon establish who within the database is genuinely interested in and suitable for your organisation. You can filter prospects through your various social channels to deepen their affiliation with the brand before creating an online talent community (perhaps via a LinkedIn group or protected Twitter feed) to further engage with these potential candidates. Not only do you increase the chances of a swift hire (at a much reduced cost) when the right role becomes available but the continued engagement with them will mean they are invested and up to speed with the business by the time they apply, meaning a more efficient onboarding and faster time to reach optimal productivity. This could be considered the ‘lead generation’ (to borrow another marketing term) of the social recruiting and employer branding efforts. Cosmetics brand Sephora appear to have done this particularly well, even incorporating a friendly suitability test into their social recruiting strategy.

Inbound marketing is a primary focus of many B2B marketers at the moment because it is effective. Outbound techniques such as advertising and cold calling are continually providing smaller return on investment and the same can be said for recruiting with job board effectiveness declining and the supposed ‘talent war’ pushing up wages. To make social recruiting a success for your business, you need to consider the positioning of your brand and target who you want to find you. A culture and environment that is custom designed to cater for the needs of your current workforce as well as the one you want to hire is becoming ever more important. Showcase your business with transparency and have the confidence to allow staff and candidates to see and share it and your organisation’s recruitment process will prosper.