HR and social media: 7 Ways HR needs to act like marketing

hr and social media

By Mark Schaefer

I wrote awhile back that digital transformation would not necessarily be led by marketers. Success may not come through a brilliant strategy or new technology. It’s going to require a culture change, and that might have to be led by an HR team.

On the flip side of things, maybe success in HR will be led by marketing, or at least HR professionals who think like marketers. The competition for the best talent is fast and furious and, in many cases, that battleground is the social web.

Here are some ways a marketing mindset can lead to HR transformation.

1. Talent competition

Today there is intense competition for the very best talent. When a high-potential employee checks out a company, where do they go? Increasingly, it’s social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn … perhaps review sites like Glassdoor.

Who owns the company presence on these sites? Probably marketing or PR? Through a recent project, I have been reviewing a company’s Internet presence from a recruiting perspective and I find that most companies take an extremely sales-oriented approach to their web presence.

But in many industries, finding the best employees might be as important as finding the best customers. Why wouldn’t we take a more balanced, recruiting-centric approach to our web presence?

2. User interface

As part of this project, I also kicked the tires on the process for people seeking to apply for jobs at these companies.

What I found across the board was a cumbersome, clunky process designed to feed information into an algorithm. The process is not human-oriented, it’s computer-oriented.

I would like to fill in a few fields and then have access to a live person through chat or maybe even a live person via video. This is a common practice in customer service. Why wouldn’t we provide the same kind of attention to people who want to work for us and lead us into the future?

3. Be. More. Human.

At the end of many of my talks and articles I emphasize that in the digital age, the most human companies will win. We have fantastic opportunities to use technology to tear down barriers between people instead of erecting them.

And yet, on nearly every HR-oriented site I viewed, these opportunities were lost. If you have applied for a job lately, perhaps you’ve seen …

  • Stock photo images of perfectly diverse people jumping for joy instead of real faces and real smiles.
  • Text-heavy descriptions of what the company does instead of stories (especially videos) of how the company feels to people who work there.
  • A lack of the use of video as a medium to communicate the culture and values of the company.

Have you seen this cool promotion by the country of Sweden? Sweden has a phone number. You can call a toll-free number and talk to a random Swede who has volunteered to be an ambassador for the nation. Why wouldn’t we do this at a large company? If I was conflicted between an offer from Acme Pharmaceuticals and MegaSource Software, the chance to talk to a real employee might make the difference.

4. Personal brand-building that leads to amplification

On the marketing side, we frequently dream about networks of employees who post stories about our products, leading to massive new views to our content.

Does that happen? Not too much, really. Employee networks look good on paper but in reality, there has been mixed success. Who wants to post company fodder on Twitter or their personal Facebook page?

But talking about the culture at work, commenting about the pride they have in an organization, or posting photos from a company picnic … well that’s easy to do. Shouldn’t we give employees the training and tools to do their very best job when creating content about the employment culture of the company?

I was recently working with a huge global tech giant and met a young lady who had started a blog on her own about how to use her company’s technology for social good. Nobody in her department even knew she had done it. Wow! How do we support a person like that, encourage her, and reward her? How could that young woman start a movement?

Why wouldn’t the company amplify HER content instead of the other way around?

5. Contextual advertising

Today any kind of marketing usually has a paid promotional component. If we are trying to attract employees instead of customers, why wouldn’t we do the same thing?

There are people talking online about their job hunting experiences all the time. Would it make sense to show people targeted ads that can help them with their questions and problems?

6. Content and touchpoints

The buyer’s decision is a tangled mess. What are the touchpoints a person considers before buying a product? They may see ads, search online for information, and talk to friends. Marketers try to have some kind of content waiting customers at each point in the fragmented journey.

Obviously there is also a similar winding path to the employment journey. Why not consider populating those touchpoints with helpful information like we do on the marketing side?

7. Influencer marketing for HR

We are rapidly moving toward an ad-free world but people still love to receive information from the online personalities they love and trust.

I’ve never heard of HR using influencer marketing, but why not? When people seek information about a company, who are they most likely to listen to? How do we connect with those important people in a meaningful way so that they become advocates for our company? A wide open opportunity.

So those are a few ideas. What would you like to add to the conversation? Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below.

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Raging Rocket Run

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