Social Recruiting around the world – Part 4: A “conversation” from the UK

When I started this blog series I really struggled to find any decent UK Social Recruiting case studies worthy of inclusion.  I was therefore delighted when yet another of my former colleagues, Mark Beavan, agreed to write a guest post about his recent campaign for The National Trust. I really liked working with Mark when he was doing his “apprenticeship’ and I really like this case study for a number of reasons. First of all because it’s public sector (take note commercial recruiters!), secondly because it was successful with a hard to fill vacancy being filled and finally because it is brilliantly simple. No complex platform integrations just transparency, conversation and above all proper active listening. Well done to Mark, ThirtyThree and The National Trust!

About Mark

Mark Beavan has worked in digital recruitment for the past 11 years, having served his apprenticeship at TMP and then continuing his development in the digital team of ThirtyThree. Mark is currently the Head of Digital for the Bristol agency, a role that seen him design and implement large scale digital advertising campaigns for a wide range of clients, from SME clients, blue-chip companies and high volume recruiters, through to large public sector organisations. He has also managed the design, development and launch of some key, award-winning website development projects for LV=, Davis Langdon, Virgin Mobile, the Audit Commission, Claire’s and NFU Mutual.

“Is it sad that I should find the potential that social media offers recruiters quite so interesting? As a human being possibly. But as a digital recruitment adviser there is little doubt that social media offers the huge amount of attraction, engagement and branding opportunities. Opportunities that frankly weren’t available two years ago.

I too get frustrated that the practical applications of social media aren’t moving quite as fast as the theoretical applications – and I too am constantly searching for the case studies that we all feel reassured by. But they simply don’t seem to be there – be sure if they were the recruitment teams (and any associated agencies) would be shouting about them.

But examples of a strategic approach to social recruitment are increasing, with some excellent examples of content generation, platform building and online reputation management. But developing strategic recruitment plans is only part of the job of an advertising agency (or recruitment communications business) does and often clients are interested in how social media can help them on a tactical, job-by-job level.

It wasn’t until we entered the National Trust’s campaign to recruit their Head of Digital Media into this years RAD awards that we learned how few examples of tactical social recruiting there were out there. But fundamentally the strategy is the same:

•    Find your audience (identify the key influencers)
•    Listen (and if no-one’s talking, drive the conversation)
•    Take on board the comments (and use it to produce useful and interesting content)
•    Go back and engage with audience

But enough with the theory, this is what the National Trust actually did …

The goal of the campaign was of course to attract and engage the best possible digital media talent for The National Trust. It wasn’t easy as their first approach had resulted in a high drop-off rate of candidates invited to interview. The challenge was to find out why this had happened and put in place a strategy that would be more suited (and appealing) to the target audience.

So they went to their target market to find out why the initial approach hadn’t been successful. They asked the applicants and short-listed candidates, as well as members of appropriate LinkedIn groups and digital forums, for answers. The ‘crowd’ highlighted that the initial campaign didn’t reassure them of the Trust’s commitment to digital and also that the location of the role wasn’t particularly attractive. And it was quickly realised that to engage their target audience of digital experts they needed to build a significant presence online – particularly within the social media space.

To address the concerns about the Trust’s digital investment the ‘Director of Marketing’ and outgoing ‘Head of Digital Media’ were interviewed highlighting how important this investment was to the future of the organisation. To provide an insight into the working environment we made a short film highlighting the uniqueness of the Trust’s state-of-the-art office. These were then streamed using the National Trust’s Vimeo channel – the video sharing site of choice amongst the creative community.
Then to pull this content together and introduce a strong creative concept they launched a micro-site carrying a (popular) retro-digital design, www.hungryfordigitalchange.org.uk. The site was launched essentially only as a platform for delivering the video and written content that was produced. With the content in place we went back to the digital community and this time the Trust were able to address the major concerns by directing interested candidates to the micro-site and the videos.

The Trust also made a conscious decision not to advertise the vacancy heavily, but mainly to ‘push’ this opportunity out to the digital community using social media – LinkedIn groups, Facebook, digital forums and on Twitter via the Trust’s account, the outgoing Head of Digital Media’s own account and the ThirtyThree Digital team. The videos and the micro-site were shared using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter … then we then sat back and watched it propagate across the different social media platforms.

How effective the campaign was can be seen in the results. The two week campaign generated over 120 conversations or references in discussion forums, blogs or Tweets. This activity combined with a small job board and search engine presence saw over 1,800 visitors arrive at the micro-site to find out more, of these 77% came from the seeded conversations originated by the Trust and ThirtyThree, 20% from job board and search engine activity and 3% from other (unspecified) conversations. All this activity resulted in over 120 applications, 3 high-calibre candidates interviewed and 1 hire. A hire who saw the opportunity discussed in a LinkedIn forum.

What I like about this example  – besides the fact that it filled the vacancy – was the way that the digital community reacted to this approach. The original Tweet from the Trust was re-Tweeted over and over again, the comments were incredibly complimentary and the feedback the Trust received was very positive. But that’s because the approach was right – the Trust listened to what the target audience had to say, they addressed their concerns by building content on platforms best suited to deliver their message and then communicated it out to the market using social media that we knew they would be using.”

17 responses to “Social Recruiting around the world – Part 4: A “conversation” from the UK

  1. This a great example, but of course represents the tip of the iceberg, that is the desire for social media to burgeon into everyday volume recruitment. I am sure there will be countless more examples in the coming months, and each will be encouraged by the reported success of their predecessors.
    There are vested interests that will resist change, but that inertia will loosen gradually. The blank canvass that is social media, really means freedom of expression, unbound by convention, and that is a very difficult concept for some.
    Recruitment by social media is no nirvana, and will shortly be flooded with commercialism on an olympic scale. For a short period, I believe it will indeed be the shortest distance between two points (candidate and job), and it will be the early adopters who have the chance to frame it in such a way that will resist the “re-intermediation” by big business.
    Let’s see how this plays out.

  2. Interesting case study. The Social Recruiting cynics would (will?) say “of course it worked, it’s for a digital role after all”. It’s going to be more fascinating to see what happens when this type of approach eventually gains a momentum in mainstream commercial recruitment for non-digital roles.

  3. Have to lean towards andsomepeople here, but am prone to be a little bit less diplomatic.

    This is a success story that is basically about how a cute advert was created and distributed within social media channels. Would be interested in understanding…

    1. What was the initial attempt?
    2. Who created the brief, using what parameters for profiling?
    3. Where was the ad originally placed?
    4. What alternative channels were used?
    5. Who managed the process (weird for such a role such a drop off)?

    If the example was for a cash and carry clerk who responded to a tweet from a mate about a job they saw from the Morrisons Facebook group they were a fan of. Then yes. Great case study, good use of effective social media for little cost for a group that is not naturally considered engaged with all social media forms.

    As it is, I’m sorry, but it seems to me to be another example of a recruitment ad agency creating work for their own back slapping and award portfolio.

    I’m just saying that surely an effective multi platform campaign with relevant social media activity would have been enough without £1000s on creating a micro site?

  4. I agree with the naysayers here. I buy that it will work for the IT crowd and for grads and students, but I need to see this work for any other industry before I become a believer.

  5. all migration on to different platforms starts with early adopters (digital professionals, techies etc) then sector by sector until it becomes the norm. So its a nice example of very specialist role that the client were happy to spend a lot of money to recruit – which perhaps isnt the norm – but hey its a start! Thanks Mark and Matt for sharing.

  6. Thanks for comments, I’m with Dom on this one (I think that is twice in two weeks as well!).

    Apologies I wasn’t able to find an example of someone using Audioboo as a voice enabled chat room to recruit Postmen in the Outer Hebrides who were interviewed via Twitter crowdsourcing and then told that they got the job via a viral campaign targeted at their Facebook friends. Social Recruiting is what it is at the moment and only time will tell us how much adoption there will be and how quickly.

    You’ll notice that as ever I’m not making any bold statements about the end of recruiting / Job Boards / Advertising / 6Music as we know it, I’m just giving Mark the opportunity to share a great case study. Also two weeks ago someone told me confidently that the public sector wouldn’t use social channels for recruiting under any circumstances ever. This was a great opportunity to prove them wrong.

    Yes the creative microsite does seem a bit like overkill but who knows it may have had an influence on the successful candidate. Who says you can’t mix and match approaches to get a result.

    All that aside, I actually think my favourite part of all of it is the video. It seems very genuine and as a candidate you get to see the office, your potential team, hear from your potential boss and also get the views of the incumbent. Social stuff aside I think that this transparent approach is the future

  7. Call me old fashioned (‘you’re old-fashioned’) but I thought the whole point of this social media/networking mullarkey was that it was set to bring down the cost of recruiting?

    For all the talk of ROI, this is an example of a realtively unsexy organisation that was doubtless initially perceived as a bit staid, a bit dyed in the wool to the outsider having to spend a relative fortune to find someone doing the very job that you would think was ripe for shoving out on a few inexpensive soc med outlets and waiting for the response to roll in.

    To me it’s not really proved anything, other than the fact that you have to throw a hell of a lot of money at a problem if you go the social media route, unless you’re a blue-chip/high street name, even for senior roles in digital.

  8. Surely the key question is how much that would have ended spending if they didn’t solicit the feedback? Also with digital seeming to be such a core part of the strategy how much would it cost them to have no one or the wrong person in the job. Experienced Heads of Digital are very very difficult to recruit and most companies use head hunters

  9. So to clarify the case study you want me to find……Postmen, Outer Hebrides, Audioboo, Twitter, Facebook etc etc and now all done for free

    Ok I’ll get on it………..

  10. If you could dear chap.

  11. For once it’s a case study that has substance on that it extended conversation to reach the type of people it was trying to attract with a tangible result. Social media has opened up the communication channels to different audiences in different ways. It also presented a route to the video which provided a real insight into the organisation and what potential candidates could expect. Addressing some of the misperceptions was a key challenge and ultimately one of its successes.

    It’s far too easy to be cynical. Digital recruiting as part of the mix is still evolving and we should all welcome case studies such as these.

    Thanks Mark and Matt for sharing.

  12. Mark, well done on a successful campaign. Its easy to be a critic and highlight what to us converted types seems glaringly obvious that your campaign was only a success because of the target audience. I’m sure it contributed, but I do beg to differ!

    I think more people then we give credit to have a presence within social media, even if they don’t realize it yet. Especially if we are talking mainstream platforms like you used with this campaign.

    The challenge here, as with any other campaign is to really know your objectives, know your target audience, and locate the social destinations in which they reside. Online solutions must be targeted, strategic, and continually monitored.

    Matt, keep encouraging shared knowledge!

  13. I realise I’m biased here, but I’m absolutely with Matt, Dom etc here – and it’s not just because it’s a ThirtyThree case study.

    It’s very easy to sit and criticise – but it just feels like you’re missing the point of this post.

    Yes, the target audience naturally lends itself to this platform. That’s why we recommended it. And yes, the client did have to spend some money on creating a bespoke microsite, but all in all the cost came in way under what might have been spent on a full-on media campaign.

    I suddenly see why poor Dave Coombes used to get so frustrated at all the negative feedback to his ‘pioneering’ work (although, I have to say, I was one of the criticisers… did I make that word up?).

    Good case studies are still hard to find in this sector, and I’m really pleased that Matt chose to share this on his blog. I don’t see it as a promotion for ThirtyThree – it certainly doesn’t come across as that – instead I see it as a good example that can be used to reinforce other parties in justifying ‘taking a chance’ with this (perceived) new mystical platform – and give an example of ‘how’ it was done – based on fact and actual activity.

    As Matt discussed previously, this is just like the good old days of job boards and advertising – everyone is the expert, but has nothing positive to say about examples of projects that have been successful. It’s easy to pick fault with this – as it probably is with a lot of examples at the moment – but not just because it was the right approach for the right audience – an audience that is an early adopter. Would we have recommended this approach for your postman in the outer hebredies? No. Because we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly. Were there good reasons why the additional elements were required? Yes, because there was a perception issue.

    Like I say, irrespective of whether I work for ThirtyThree or not, I think it’s just great to see an example, backed up with stats and hard facts, that shows this platform can work – effectively – rather than a lot of theory.

    Matt, thanks for posting it. Mark, thanks for writing it – it’s an interesting one, and nice to see out in the public domain.

    Better get back to work now.

  14. Matt,
    Thanks for this case study. I’m not a digital media expert though I know a bit about recruitment. For me, this is great. It’s a senior position paying a good wage. The investment made will be at worst equal to an agency fee so I would think money well spent.
    I think this would work for all kinds of positions. Change the video with a flipcam and a bit of copy and you could recruit for anything from shop staff to support staff to accounting. As a framework, the site is transferable and has a good feel about it. Once you scale up, now you know the look and feel of it, then it will greatly reduce cost.
    The nay-sayers may well point out that candidates for these posts are not on-line. I’d beg to differ, you can find most types of employees somewhere if you look hard enough. A good sourcer will find where you need to be posting however weird and wonderful the post is. That is what they do.
    Don’t look on this as a one off exercise. They have proven that it works and knits together because an un-trendy employer brand managed to attract so many people, and ultimately hired one. That is exactly why Deloitte’s in New Zealand (who you previously featured) launched the live video/facebook initiative, to change the image of the employer brand. Why wouldn’t this work in other areas of the business for The National Trust?
    I think they have balanced an attractive site with personal, amateur video that is not too slick. That works for me. I would guess that is a flipcam at work rather than a film crew which again reduces cost.
    Thanks for this Matt. I hope we can see many more simple examples that actually, most employers could do.
    Bill

  15. Where did all the concern about ROI come from? As Ben said this route was more cost effective than say a Press campaign – and would reach wider audience than that would ever have done.
    It is for a ‘one-off’ position though – and the sooner more wider-focused clients realise the benefits of using Social Recruiting in this way (and others) as part of an overall employer brand the better.
    PS. I realise you “don’t see it as a promotion for ThirtyThree” Ben but LOL at the number of times you mention “ThirtyThree” in your comment.
    Who did this work again?

  16. Sorry, wasn’t sure i’d made that clear… 😉

    I was just frustrated at people trying to interpret it as something it wasn’t. At the end of the day it is a good clear case study of using social networks and the activity of ‘listening and learning’ to gert the job done.

    I’m off now to try and work out who I work for… any help gratefully received…

    Oh, and in answer to you question, only three of the thirtythree possible times… 🙂

  17. Oh, and apologies for my poor typing there. Clumsy thumbs small keypad not checking my post before clicking publish = poor spelling…

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