Recruiting with Instagram

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If we told you that we were going to talk about a global social network with more than 400 million daily active users, 1 billion monthly active users, and one of the most sophisticated advertising platforms across all social media networks, which platform would you guess we were talking about? If you said Instagram, congratulations! You’ve got a real handle on one of the most intriguing platforms on the web right now. Though it sometimes flies under the radar compared to behemoths like Twitter and Facebook (which now actually owns Instagram), Instagram has been showing rapid growth since its 2011 founding. Not only that, but it boasts an audience that’s 90% users under 35, making it one of the best platforms available for reaching a younger demographic.


In all likelihood, a good number of recruiters’ ears perked up at that last sentence—and with good reason. Instagram represents an exciting new frontier in recruitment marketing, offering the chance to reach niche communities that might be hard to engage with on other sites. The question now is, how do recruiters dive into the world of candidate attraction and employer branding on Instagram?


What Is Instagram? 

To begin with, let’s take a quick look at what Instagram actually is and how it functions as a platform. Unlike other social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, both of which at least initially put their focus on text updates, Instagram was centered around visual content from the outset. As such, it remains a place where users can post and engage with images, either by following friends, acquaintances, celebrities, etc. or by searching for photos marked with a particular hashtag. Part of the network’s allure is that it gives users a variety of filter options for their photos, which can make their images look more attractive and professional.


Right now, the platform doesn’t have the same level of saturation with regard to corporate posts and advertisement seen on, say, Facebook. Likewise, because its content is so image-driven, it hasn’t become politically fraught in the same that Facebook and Twitter are for some users. As a result, it remains a destination venue for the kind of low-key, lifestyle-oriented posts that don’t always rise to the top of other social media feeds.


How Do I Promote My Employer Brand There?


Instagram’s focus on visual content makes it an ideal place for promoting your employer brand and conveying your EVP to potential future applicants. By consistently posting high-quality, valuable content, you can develop a strong following for your corporate page that can then be translated into increased job applications and a stronger talent pipeline. That said, it’s important to remember that unlike, say, LinkedIn, Instagram isn’t a professional network, and users won’t engage with companies that treat it like one. To fit in on your employee personas’ feeds, you’ll need to play by the platform’s unwritten rules—this means providing attractive visual content that passive job seekers will be excited to interact with. While many passive job seekers (a group that comprises 80% of the work force) would consider switching jobs if the right offer came around, many of them don’t want to be targeted for overt recruitment pitches right away. 


Speaking of employee personas: these semi-fictionalized versions of your ideal hires are the first things you should consider as you develop your Instagram strategy. Specifically, you should identify which personas in particular you’re likely to reach on Instagram. Because it’s a younger crowd overall, you may not want to rely on it for hiring more senior positions. So, let’s say you’re a small tech startup: you’ve determined that the persona you’re most likely to reach on this platform is a relatively junior UX designer, whom you expect to be motivated by the opportunity to learn in a fast-paced work environment and experiment with new things. Your visual content should reflect the character of that persona in meaningful ways. For instance, you might post photos of employees brainstorming in front of a whiteboard In your office. Conversely, if your persona is more focused on making an impact in the lives of others, you might show off some tangible good that your company provides—a product that’s designed to help people, for instance, or part of your team out on a charity trip. Remember, the goal here is authenticity, so you shouldn’t worry about professional quality photography. Sometimes, a simple cell phone picture can speak volumes about your work environment and your team.  


Of course, nowadays Instagram is more than just images. Rather, it offers a host of different options for visual storytelling. How do recruiters use these options to their advantage? Simple: use it like Facebook. Or like Snapchat. Or like any number of social networking platforms whose functionality Instagram can mimic. Snapchat, for example, long had a monopoly on the so-called “Story,” a series of posts that vanish after a set period of time, but Instagram Stories are quickly gaining in popularity. As a result, they present an intriguing employer branding option. If you’re already on board with creating high quality visual content centering around your team (highlighting its hopes, aspirations, challenges, etc.), then the obvious next step is to turn some of that content into a coherent narrative that plays out over several photos. In this way, you can give your audience a glimpse into what life is like at your company. As your target personas see your team at work (and your EVP in action), they’ll be able to envision themselves in a new role at your company—whether they had been planning to change jobs or not.


Of course, Stories aren’t your only option. There are also Boomerangs (brief looping videos), as well as a host of other formats that give you a new vocabulary with which to tell the world what it is that’s unique about your business as a place of employment. Rather than suggesting that you use one in particular, we’re telling you to take full advantage of these options—see which ones best fit with the narrative that you’re trying to present to your potential future applicants. And remember, if you can do it on another social platform, there’s a good chance that you can do it on Instagram, meaning that it’s a great place to repurpose or recycle content that may have originated elsewhere.


What Are Instagram Ads?


A strong employer brand on Instagram can be a powerful thing. To really maximize the impact of your efforts, however, you’re likely going to want to do a little paid advertising, either for particular job openings with your company or just for general brand awareness. This way, you can supplement your organic reach with paid impressions that lead more directly into your recruitment funnel.


In keeping with Instagram’s general principles, your ads will be largely visual, generally consisting of an image, a caption, and a call-to-action. If your first thought is that these ads sound almost identical to normal Instagram posts, you’re exactly right—and that’s exactly what makes them so valuable. Except for the call-to-action (more on that in a second), these ads aren’t designed to stand out from Instagram’s overall feel and tone. On many social media platforms, paid ads stick out like a sore thumb, and users have learned to ignore them. By integrating the look and feel of these ads into the look and feel of the platform more broadly, Instagram mitigates this issue, offering you the chance to more effectively keep your audience engaged.


So, when it comes time to construct your ad, think back to your target personas. Pick an image and a caption that will appeal to them, and then include a call-to-action that leads to a landing page for the particular job you’re hiring for. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you’ll actually place the ad via Facebook, which means that you can use the extremely granular targeting options available for Facebook ads (which let you narrow down your audience by region, likes, previous social interactions with your company, etc.; and which you can read more about here). In this way, you can further spread your employer brand and set yourself up for continued recruiting success on this unique platform.


Targeting Your Ads 

Okay, so you’ve got a great content strategy in place designed to turn your Instagram followers into job applicants. How do you make sure that your content is being seen by the right people? Naturally, your posts will have more or less organic reach depending on your number of Instagram followers and the engagement rates that your posts garner. But if you want to be certain that you’re getting the most out of your content, we recommend utilizing paid ad campaigns. Instagram shares Facebook’s ad platform, which means that you’ll get a robust array of targeting options, from remarketing (which shows your content only to users who have already interacted with your website) to negative remarketing (which does the opposite—ideal for a first-touch campaign aimed at those who have never encountered your brand before).


Interestingly, the only thing that obviously differentiates ads from normal posts on Instagram is the presence of a call-to-action. On the one hand, this means that users might be more receptive to your messaging, and you should behave accordingly (i.e. don’t be afraid to get a little creative, or even a little sassy, if it befits your brand). On the other, it also means that you don’t have too much real-estate to work with for the purpose of optimizing conversions. For this reason, you should make certain that your CTAs all reroute to clean, easy-to-use landing pages that are specific to the action you want users to take, whether that’s applying for a particular job or signing up for a recruitment-focused e-mail newsletter.  


Tracking the Right Metrics


With great power comes great responsibility; with Facebook’s ad targeting options, comes Facebook’s metrics and KPI tracking. Tracking your success is just as vital on Instagram as it is on other platforms, but it’s especially crucial to be sure that you’re tracking the right metrics. If, for instance, you’re actively using Instagram Stories to attract talent, you can and should track not just views, but completion rates (i.e. how many more people saw the first post than the last) and direct message rates (since Stories can’t be liked or shared, the only real engagement method is how many users send a direct message to your page after enjoying your story). In this way, you’ll get a sense of how effectively you were able to captivate your audience.


In general, the metrics that matter to you will depend on your recruitment goals for each individual campaign. If your primary concern is conversions, then you might want to use UTM parameters to track your referral traffic. If you’re trying to refine your employer brand and grow awareness, you might be better off tracking your increase in followers and engagement over time. Regardless of what metrics you deem to be important, by tracking them over time you can refine your approach, steadily improving your recruitment ROI on Instagram over time.


Maximizing Conversions 


Now, if you’re a recruiter using Instagram as part of your recruitment marketing strategy, it’s time to ask yourself a big question: what is the goal of your Instagram page? There are a range of acceptable answers. You might be trying to increase employer brand awareness, in which case your goal will be to maximize impressions and follows from the right people. You might, on the other hand, be actively trying to jumpstart your hiring efforts, in which case your goal should be conversions, whether that means converting traffic into e-mail newsletter signups or actual applications. If you’re in this latter camp, it’s time to start taking Instagram seriously specifically as a conversion machine, a tool that serves a specific business goal in a specific way. Sure, you’ll still need to generate quality content that emphasizes your employer brand, but you’ll also want to optimize your page for the task of converting visitors into leads.


Make Sure You’re Using a Business Profile 

To some of you, this first item on the list of best practices might sound obvious. Why wouldn’tyou be using a business profile? But especially for early adopters of the platform, the advantages of a business account may not be obvious. Whichever camp you fall into, this is a crucial first step for getting more out of your current and future traffic. Business accounts let you add more information than personal accounts (business hours and location), while giving your followers the ability to contact you directly (via direct messages that can be automatically forwarded to SMS or e-mail as needed). By offering potential applicants this level of direct access, you make it easier and thus more likely for them to enter your recruitment funnel. More than that, business accounts give you the ability to run ads and leverage useful analytics tools. Better still, create a business account that's specific to recruitment, instead of posting recruitment-centric content on your main page.   


Use Your Links Wisely 

One of the reasons that it’s so crucial to focus on the conversion potential of each elements in your Instagram presence is that, unlike many similar platforms, link real estate is at somewhat of a premium. To wit, your profile page only gives you one opportunity to link to your website. Use that opportunity wisely! Your first impulse may be to link to your corporate website, but you may actually be better off using that space to direct users to a career-focused page, whether that be a landing page for an individual job or a newsletter sign-up. Either way, it should entice your audience to take some further action, ideally one that keeps that in contact with you (i.e. something that requires them to provide an email address). If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can rotate this link over time depending on what your most immediate goals are. This will give you a certain degree of flexibility in your marketing efforts, and it will give repeat visitors to your page a reason to click multiple times.  


Utilize CTAs 

Calls-to-action (CTAs) come in many forms, and they can all be critical for driving conversions. First, there’s a call-to-action in the sense that you are literally recommending that the reader perform a particular action; this can be a good way to let users know what next steps they can take to continue engaging with your employer brand. This can be a valuable element of your bio, for instance, which might otherwise give your target personas no way to act on what they’re learning about your business. CTAs can also take the form of actual links, i.e. rather than directing a user to a link by telling him or her to “click,” you present them with a single button that does both. This kind of CTA is a big part of Instagram’s ads infrastructure, and it’s another important piece of the optimization process. When you’re running a recruitment ad campaign, it’s crucial to match your CTA to the recruitment goal that the particular ad campaign is supporting. If, for instance, you’re a growing start-up trying to establish yourself as an employer of choice and thought leader within your industry, you might use your CTA space to direct users to a signup form for a recruitment-centric blog. In this way, you spread your employer brand and attract a number of potential applicants to the top of your recruitment funnel.


Optimize Your Landing Pages 

Above, we alluded to the possibility of directing your audience to a signup form for a blog, but that’s not the only thing that you’re likely to need to direct people to. You might need to send potential candidates to pages for particular jobs, or to your corporate careers page, or anything else that moves applicants from one part of the funnel to the next. In order to do so in the most effective way, you’ll need to optimize your landing pages. This means setting up a separate landing page for each job that you might be advertising for and each individual form that a user might need to fill out. This advice might not seem like it’s really specific to Instagram as a platform, but it’s important nonetheless. Why? Because a clean, simple, and individualized landing page can radically increase the likelihood that users will stay on the page long enough to provide you with their information. By sending people to a long, confusing form or a generic, hard-to-navigate careers page, you risk frustrating or alienating them in such a way as to cause them to drop out of your funnel.  


Try A/B Testing 

We hope that the paragraphs above have given you a sense of what might work for your page, but the only real way to be sure what the best version of your Instagram presence is from a conversion perspective is to experiment! Try A/B testing different links, bios, and CTAs to determine what converts visitors into recruitment leads most effectively. While you’re doing this, Instagram’s analytics tools can be a big help, and can provide you with the feedback you need to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your Instagram account.

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