Talent acquisition professionals regularly say, “I don’t want more applications, I want better applications.” When they look for marketing solutions, they don’t want yet another solution that simply generates more resumes and paperwork. Those are a dime a dozen. What they really want is help drawing more of the right candidates without opening themselves up to the fire hose of less-qualified resumes. It’s a waste of their time and energy.
The irony of that thinking (with which I agree), is that when the tables are turned, when it comes to their social media marketing efforts, they forget that very same objective.
Look at your own social media reports. What’s the first number on the report? I bet you $10 that it’s the number of fans or followers. By putting that number at the top of these reports, what we’re saying is that the sheer numbers of followers and fans is more important than what happens beyond that. We get a big warm fuzzy seeing 20 or 50 or 100 new fans this week, regardless of who they are, their value to the company or their likelihood of ever applying. We like knowing we can defend the entire social media project to our boss because of that big number at the top of the report.
But what good is a hundred new fans from Russia or Indonesia if you’re a regional Midwest healthcare system? None at all.
At the same time, we are building content designed to draw people in and engage with us. Some of us have entire teams dedicated to creating far-seeing editorial calendars filled to the brim with found, owned and earned media. Think of all that time and money spent on that next amazing blog post or white paper, filled with hopes that they will spark conversations with qualified candidates who will soon fall in love with us. We create great content with the highest of hopes. But while you are perfecting your content with one hand, you are filling your social media fan base with people who really don’t care about you.
That sounds like a recipe for a whole lot of nothing.
So let’s re-think this whole strategy from the ground up and figure out how you can build a talent acquisition social media and content strategy that actually leads to applications you really want.
Creating the Content Strategy Based On Your Audiences
Here are the assumptions about your audience we’re going to work with:
- People will be willing read things that interest them.
- People will create positive associations with people or organizations that give them content that’s useful or valuable to them.
- People don’t like to have their time wasted.
Nothing in this list is remotely shocking or earth shattering, so we shouldn’t have any problem starting from this position.
On the other side, we have your content. It’s very nice. But since you didn’t hire James Patterson to write it (though I bet he’s available for a price), it’s not going to appeal to everyone. In fact, it’s probably going to interest only a few people. For example, your riveting blog post on how an IT position at your Midwest regional healthcare system is only going to interest people in IT who live in the Midwest. Compared to the seven billion people in the world, that’s a very small slice of the pie. But it will still appeal to a few thousand people, many of whom you’d like to apply for a job.
Now, if you are like most companies and have been building up your brand-centric social media accounts, how many of your brand fans will be IT professionals in the Midwest? 1%? 2%? Sending out a tweet to your corporate fan base about a post that will only appeal to (at best) 2% of your fan base is a great way to alienate your fan base. If they all signed up for coupons and special consumer offers, your blog post will just be noise.
Of course, yours could be one of those smart companies that have built out a careers-focused social media channel to stand along side the corporate brand channel. But the problem still exists. Your fan base might be looking for a job in the Midwest, but how many of them are IT professionals? 5%? Still not a great way to keep 95% of your audience engaged.
What if you had a social media channel just for people in IT looking for a job connected to your brand? Those people joining the channel would know that the subject matter would be primarily IT-related content, focused on a very specific geographic area. Because you were able to tightly focus on a very specific group, you could quickly learn and understand their problems. Your job as a talent acquisition marketer would be to deliver solutions to those problems, the more specific, the better. Suddenly, instead of engaging 5% of 1,000 with vague posts, you’re engaging 100% of 50 with specific solutions.
Now, mathematically, that looks like the same number: 50. But over time, if you’re only engaging 5% at a time, people leave. Suddenly, you’re not engaging 5% of 1,000, you’re engaging 5% of 800. Or 600.
Conversely, as you focus your channel on those very specific 50, you will end up creating real fans, the kind who will draw more people interested in that very specific content. The 50 become 100, then 200.
This makes the strategy crystal clear: Instead of one channel trying to appeal to ten types of users, you need ten channels that have far more focused appeal.
Can we prove that this strategy works? Indeed, we can. Let’s look a big name Twitter channel: Mashable.
Mashable is the Newsweek for the digital community. They see more than 4 million visits a month to their website. They have a very popular Twitter channel that echoes the news stories on their site. This channel may post a few dozen tweets a day on a variety of subjects, from self-driving cars to data security, to Bitcoin, to pictures of cute animals. In the same way that a large brand’s career channel might try to communicate to IT, sales, marketing, project management, administration, manufacturing, executive and business intelligence – all at the same time – Mashable is communicating to networking geeks, web geeks, data geeks, open source geeks, designer geeks, Apple geeks, Google geeks, pop culture geeks and those who consider themselves “digerati.” As a geek myself, I use all those terms with respect. But the issue is the same: Android geeks have next to no interest in what Apple geeks are talking about and vice versa. Just as your sales prospects aren’t interested in manufacturing or IT. Too many audiences in the same channel equals no resonance.
So Mashable created a bunch of sub-channels, one for every major audience. Mashable Tech is for tech geeks, Mashable Lifestyle is for family and health geeks, and Mashable Entertain is for movie and TV geeks.
Here’s the amazing part. If you look at the broad Mashable channel, it has a lot of followers. But so what? Those followers aren’t very engaged with the channel. We can see in the table that despite tweeting 68 times a day, on an average day there are only 8 engagements per 100 followers (engagements being defined as a retweet or favorite). Sure, with so many followers, that can be a decent amount of engagement, but what happen would happen if they segmented their audiences?
Here are 7 segmented Mashable channels, all of which get more engagements per thousand. In some cases, quite a bit more. Mashable Entertainment sees 15 engagements per hundred followers. That’s roughly double the engagement rate. The Mashable US & World channel sees 32 engagements per hundred followers, four times the base rate. And here’s the capper: The smallest segment, Mashable Watercooler, has the highest level of engagement. For every hundred followers, this channel sees 74 engagements.
All of the content in these segmented channels is also on the broader Mashable channel. By doing nothing more than segmenting the audiences, the rate of engagement dramatically increased. The table below is the proof.
Why does this happen? There are probably a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest one is that we are eliminating content that doesn’t apply—content that doesn’t resonate. By segmenting the audiences, we are creating pools of people with a shared interest so that we can give them more content they really want and send them less noise. It is the amount of noise from a channel that affects how engaged the audience is and how likely they are to leave.
Making A Lot More Out Of Less
So, if this strategy sounds attractive, how do you go about making it happen? Let’s break it down.
Step One: Determine your audiences
Should you split your audiences in two or in ten? There’s no “right answer” in terms of a number, but there is a way to figure it out. If only 1 in 20 posts is useful to a group of people in the broad channel, you want to get that number closer to 1 in 4, or even 1 in 2.
So do a “best guess” first pass at segmenting your audiences. Then, look at each one and ask, “Would a given post appeal to at least a quarter of the people here?” If the answer is yes, you’re golden. If the answer is no, you need to refine your audiences some more. Remember, the goal is to reduce the amount of noise to that audience.
Step Two: Make some new accounts
While this seems like an obvious thing to do, barely requiring a step in this process, let’s note that what you name your account matters. There is some evidence that calling your new account BrandJobs or BrandCareers is somewhat limiting in its ability to grow and engage. By using Careers or Jobs in your account name you are focusing solely on job seekers. But people only search for jobs for a short period of time. You want to draw people in for the long haul, not just for a month or two while they job hunt.
Also, naming your channel BrandJobs may dissuade certain people from following, simply because they don’t want other people to think they are looking for a new job. Instead, we suggest an account name like BrandInterest or BrandAudience. This tells potential followers exactly what to expect from your channel. That expectation, like MashableMobile, sets the stage for heightened engagement.
Step Three: Get some help
It takes a lot of work to keep a single social media project going. If you divvy your audiences into six different segments, you will end up increasing the workload significantly. The smart play is to plan your content (more on that in the next step) and find a tool that will help you manage all those channels.
You can spend a lot of money if you want, but to start off, there are plenty of low-cost tools that will get your team used to thinking in multi-channel, multi-audience models for your social media.
No matter what tool you select, you’ll be leaning on it heavily to help you keep track of all the audiences and content choices, as well as how effective this strategy has been in engaging your audiences.
Step Four: Your Content Shift
By segmenting audiences, you aren’t just breaking them into smaller groups so you can dump the same old junk at them. The purpose is to increase the ratio of valuable and useful content to your targets significantly. That means that you only select content that you know these people will likely love, and not send content you know won’t mean anything to them.
Don’t assume that you need to make six to ten times more content to fill all these new channels. This is simply not true. At the beginning of this process, take the content you would normally push to everyone and pick what segment would love to see it. Don’t add any extra content, just distribute what you would normally post on your broad channel to the different segments. This will allow you to manage all those new channels without any more effort than when you were just managing one.
And while a given segment may only see one interesting post a week, having that one great post a week will draw more and better followers than three generic posts a day.
Shifting the ratio means not trying to fill the channel for the sake of filling the channel.
As you get better at collecting content, you can send each channel more content, but the primary motivation remains, “Will this audience love this?” As long as this basic mantra is followed, you’ll learn that it’s not how many (or how few) things you publish that creates fans, but the overall quality of the material.
Step Five: Measure
As a kind of insurance policy, I suggest you continue to post everything to your broad social channel, even if no one piece of content resonates with much of the audience. But after a while, you can do the same kind of analysis with your new channels that we did with Mashable, and confirm that your strategy is working. Once you and your leadership are satisfied, you can make some higher-level decisions on the direction of your broad social channel. Maybe it becomes a place to tell more employee-centric stories. Or where you promote your career site.
We’re pretty sure you’ll quickly see the power of segmenting your audiences and only sending great content to them. It’s the noise that drives people away, so do everything you can to reduce the amount of noise your audience hears. That’s how you convert vaguely interested people into fans who will tell their friends about you.