‘What I Learned Examining 1,000 Employer Brand Posts’

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Dec 12, 2022

I just completed an analysis of almost 1,000 social-media employer-brand posts at 100 companies. (focusing on LinkedIn). While these organizations are making a lot of highly specific and individual choices about how they tell their stories to prospects and candidates, a number of trends emerged.

1. Ticking the Boxes Seems Like the First Priority

Everyone knows they should be talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion. Everyone knows how much candidates want to hear about professional development and empowerment. Everyone knows the value of talking about how much they support their teams.

So companies post about all those things — without saying anything of value. 

A post about DEI might simply be that the company invited a well-known speaker to talk about the importance of the subject, but not about the substance of the meeting, what people learned, how people might change, policy ideas that came from the talk, or, well…anything. I found many posts where I went looking around for the link to the video or blog post that offered more information than “this person spoke” — and came up empty.

And it’s not just regarding DEI. It’s every single subject of consequence. Companies are talking loudly and saying nothing.

2. Ephemera Is King

The “Happy Thanksgiving” post is really just clip/Canva art and some “from our family to yours” copy. There’s the “we’re watching the World Cup” post. The “we hired a new VP of something-or-other” post. The “we got invited to speak at an event you’re not invited to” post. The “this person just celebrated their 7th work anniversary” post.

And everyone’s favorite: the “we’re hiring” post.

None of it means anything to a candidate. None of it says what working at the organization is like. None of it speaks to the actual culture or the working style. And there is so much of it! It’s just all greeting cards and slogans, looking like something that might be a “peek behind the curtain” but isn’t really a peak behind anything. 

If we understand employer branding as fractal in nature (that is, no matter what part of the company you look at, you should see the brand in it), ephemera has value. It can be used to prove the brand. But most employers are just posting pretty pictures. 

3. Job Postings Are Still Hot Garbage

If an employer brand doesn’t attract the right talent and eventually drive applications, it really isn’t a good brand at all. 

But 80% of all “we’re hiring/join us” posts are completely vacuous, devoid of meaning or messaging beyond “work here!” They miss (or ignore) the opportunity to support the brand or deliver a more meaningful message while driving action.

If you’ve got an open role, start by talking about how that role supports company goals, or how the unique culture means that you’re looking for a specific kind of person for the role. Illustrate the brand promise by talking about what the new hire will get from the job. Then link to the job. 

4. The Hallway Post

Picture it. You’ve got an amazing profile of one of your staff. Or maybe a team volunteered and did something local-news-coverage-worthy. Or there was an initiative where you sent 30 workers away to learn about something amazing and they just finished it.

These stories are employer-brand gold. They can illustrate what your company cares about, how it invests in its people, provide role models of what amazing employees are like (and wouldn’t you want to work alongside them?).

But what gets posted on LinkedIn is, “Charlie Denningham loves goats. Click here to discover his story” or “Erica Francisco’s journey as a trans nurse isn’t unusual. Click here to find out why they chose to work here.”

These are “hallway posts,” and I’m seeing them a lot. They serve no value other than sending you to someplace else. If you get the gift of someone’s attention and they are looking at your posts on your page or on their feed, use that gift.

If you have something to share, something to offer, something to say, and even if you have to keep it a click away, use the post itself to say something that will encourage someone to click. If you can instill the brand promise without them clicking, why wouldn’t you do that?

Only 5% of the people who see your post are going to click. So stop throwing away the opportunity to inform the other 95% whose attention you have.

5. Video Isn’t Magic

Videos can be amazing, provided they are trying to communicate something beyond “we’re using video now.” I saw so many video posts that said nothing. They were pre-meme-era gifs where a “happy Halloween” headline bounced into view.

On a channel where the viewer has to click something to make the video play, the reader/viewer feels like you just wasted their time when you don’t offer anything useful. This is literally creating negative brand impressions.

Also, there are plenty of videos with 15 seconds of pre-roll and your logo and a title card that served only to state what the video was about to tell me. 

So if you’re going to bother with video, say something of meaning. Of value.

6. What Companies Care About

One thing I was tracking was what motivations companies were attempting to engage with their content. Were they trying to elevate their status? Underline their commitment to their mission and vision? Was their energy directed towards illustrating their stability or growth?

Broadly, companies spend most of their energy showing off their team’s performance and how much they are working to support those teams (though with varying levels of effectiveness). Next came talking about innovation and career.

The motivations least talked about were empowering employees, company stability, and compensation.

7. Hiding the Staff

The power of leveraging employees as advocates cannot be overstated. Yet roughly half of companies seem to hide their people from view. 

For some organizations, the only view of employees we get are posts about elite leadership, and only in very posed and high-status contexts (we won an award, here’s the CEO speaking at a tech conference). Rather than showing individuals volunteering or taking officewide holidays, we get CHROs talking from a stage or podcast about how important giving back or preventing burnout is.

These manicured images not only make claims about supporting staff or empowering people less credible; they run the risk of establishing the company as a place where only leadership matters, which may be a very strong and unintentional brand to build.

8 Church and State

Many brands have a very clear and obvious line between their employer branding content and their corporate/PR/Investor/consumer content. And by “clear line,” it is clear that these are (at least) two teams that have different writers, different intentions, different style guides, and different ways of thinking about the value of the channel.

This is a missed opportunity as the value goes in two directions. 

The first is for companies to humanize their corporate and consumer messages. Employer branding should be the most human element within the brand. After all, it’s the people who make the company work, so you shouldn’t ignore the chance to make one’s products, services, customer-facing agendas, and corporate growth feel human.

The second is giving more of the corporate spotlight to the people driving the business. Recognition costs nothing, and it increases morale and feelings of appreciation — not just by the employee whose face is on the post but by those around them who see the company as caring for their people.

9. Missing Intentionality

If you have an award or conference to announce, if you want to highlight service anniversaries, if you want to talk about new hires, the big mistake is to “just post it.”

Take the ubiquitous “we’re a delightful place to work” award. Most companies take the supplied graphic and post it on Linkedin with the “thanks so much to XYC for recognizing us as a great place to work. If you want to join us, here’s the link to our career site.” This post is everywhere.

But what should a passing reader take away from that post? That you’re a delightful place to work? OK, but why? The post gave no specifics on why they were delightful, which efforts make the company delightful, or (my personal favorite) for whom this company is delightful. Consequently, the post has no value. It fills space and nothing more.

The goal is to make every post mean something. So the same post could be rewritten, using the same graphic and link, to say, “Over the last year, we have built some interesting programs to develop our staff, including offering tuition reimbursement, in-house training and mentoring programs, and companywide access to three major learning platforms. All told, we spent $1.4 million dollars to offer our employees every opportunity to develop their craft. Clearly, this effort has been noted by XYZ, and we are humbled by the recognition. If you are driven by the need to become better at what you do, we have openings right now in the X team.”

If such a company wants to be known as developing its people, the second version tells that story with meaningful specificity. It isn’t a puff piece; it knows what it wants the reader to take away. It has intention.

You can make these kinds of choices on every single posting. And yet, most companies do not.  

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