BRANDE : blog archives for September 2014

September 29, 2014

Why the US Coast Guard is a Social Media Recruiting Superstar

According to the Social Recruitment Monitor, the US Coast Guard has the top recruiting page in all of Facebook. Last week, with just eight posts, the USCG attracted almost 800 comments and spurred 1,600 shares. The Monitor also rates the Coast Guard as the #10 recruiter on YouTube, with 46 videos and more than 314,000 views. How does the Coast Guard beat not only other branches of the military but the Disneys and Starbucks of the world? Here are the keys to their smooth sailing.

Courageous Honesty

The USCG’s most recent Facebook post, as of this writing, was elegant in its simplicity: “Do you have questions about joining or serving in the Coast Guard? Ask a recruiter in the comments!” Remember, this isn’t a “fun” brand like Oreo; this is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, engaged in counter-terrorism and drug interdiction. I’m impressed that the Coast Guard is hosting a frank question-and-answer session on a public website. As often happens, the commenters have begun talking to each other, with some active Guardsmen providing their own experiences and insight. One mentioned that boot camp is in Cape May, New Jersey and added “you DO NOT want to be there in July and August.”  The USCG hasn’t edited or deleted that post, or any others, as far as I can tell.

So did the strategy pay off? The original post drew more than 30 shares, 90 comments, and 415 likes. One of the comments: “No question just a statement to say I think this site is wonderful! Lots of info for those interested!” You can’t buy good impressions like that.

The Takeaway: Be bold. Let job-seekers ask questions, make comments, and even lodge complaints on your social channels. How you respond to those interactions will say a lot about your brand externally and how you treat employees internally. If a branch of the military can do it, openly and publicly, your organization can do it, too. The Coast Guard even goes one step further than many consumer brands and provides the names and titles of the people who run their Facebook recruiting page.

US Coast Guard asks questions on Facebook

Honest Courage

And if that wasn’t brave enough, the Coast Guard also publicly talks to its own employees on its Facebook page. A recent post mentioned the teamwork and camaraderie of the Guard and finished with “Tell us about the best crews you’ve served with.” An open-ended offer like that is virtually begging for negative responses from employees. But the stories from Coasties, which ranged from their current ships to Vietnam experiences, were all positive, and many were heart-warming. This simple concept drew almost 4,600 likes, over 100 comments, and 236 shares.

The Takeaway: As above. Have the fortitude to host an open and honest dialogue with customers, employees, and job-seekers. The conversation is already happening on message boards, personal Twitter feeds, and sites like Glassdoor and Yelp. Join the conversation and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

Thrilling Videos

The USCG maintains two YouTube channels. GoCoastGuard is a traditional recruiting venue, which the Guard describes as a place to “check out the different jobs, officer programs, commercials, and cool new video profiles on real Coast Guard members.” The fast-paced videos give brief profiles (often less than a minute) of Coasties in positions ranging from intelligence specialist to electrician’s mate. This channel has 3,728 subscribers.

The other channel features “the best clips of the US Coast Guard in action,” with exciting rescues and other operations. One 20-minute video gives a rare and fascinating look at what life is like aboard a Coast Guard cutter. For shorter attention spans, there’s a three-minute video on “A Week in the Life of the Coast Guard.” These videos and many of the others don’t shy away from either the monotony or the danger that co-exist in military life.

The takeaway: Many jobs and company cultures are hard to describe in print or pictures. You need videos to truly engage job-seekers, to show them “a day in the life” of your organization, and to let them hear from real, smiling employees who love working for you. Maybe you can’t match the cinematic excitement of a Coast Guard rescue, but you can still show off your break room, or film your company trip to a baseball game, or share testimonials about employees’ volunteer work.

US Coast Guard on YouTube

“Semper Paratus”

Since the Coast Guard doesn’t sell a product, we can think of all their social profiles as recruiting channels. That would include @USCG on Twitter, which offers photos, historical fun facts, and news of the Guard’s latest operations. I also love the Guard’s Flickr account, with 201 albums of images. There is some great employe brand messaging in those photos, with albums like “Women in Command” and “A Week in the Life of the Coast Guard Academy.” All of these social media efforts create a compelling case for joining the Coast Guard.

The US Coast Guard is clearly semper paratus — always ready — to engage job-seekers looking to make a difference in their lives and their country. And for that, I name them a Social Media Recruiting Superstar.

Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.

September 24, 2014

How to Influence Top Candidates: A Guest Blog on Jobvite

LinkedIn recently asked 18,000 professionals the most important factor for them when picking a new employer. 56% said the the company’s reputation as a great place to work was the deciding factor. Employer Brand International’s 2014 survey found that 35% of companies believed that a strong employer brand eased their hiring, reduced recruiting costs (34%), and increased employee engagement (32%). By virtually every metric, employer branding is a crucial part of every organization.

Brandemix president Jody Ordioni writes a guest blog for Jobvite on this important recruiting topic.

September 11, 2014

Responding to the Latest Design Trends

Websites. PowerPoints. Banner ads. We think we know how they’re supposed to look and what they’re supposed to do. But just like technology, design is marching on and changing the way we consume content. Our creative team has mastered the latest trends and can share the most important ones with you.

Responsive Design

People are visiting websites, digesting social content, and reading documents on multiple devices, making it harder for organizations to ensure a great experience across all these platforms. The key is responsive design, which allows content to change based on the size, resolution, and capabilities of the device upon which it’s being viewed, whether it’s an iPad or an Android phone or a Kindle Fire. Responsive design ensures that reading and navigating is easy on every platform.

A good example is Vogue magazine, which looks exactly as it does on an iPhone as it does on a laptop. There’s no sense of “Oh, this is just the mobile version; What am I missing from the full site?” This type of design even responds to how you’re holding your device — ever turn your iPhone and have a web page suddenly become unreadable? I’ve found that responsive design often results in text and photos separated vertically, so that images fill the screen when viewed on a mobile phone. This makes them easier to view on a small device and easier to tap with a thumb.

There’s one casualty with this innovation — mobile versions of sites, with URLs like “m.mywebsite.com.” Responsive design works on every device, so there’s no need for a separate mobile version.

Vogue mobile

Vogue’s mobile site; a duplicate of its desktop version.

PowerPoints with Power

I think it’s time to update the 20-year-old PowerPoint slide show that relies on white screens, black text, and royalty-free clip art. (You may be as sick as I am of the faceless alien that shows up in virtually every PowerPoint from Corporate Communications.) Two ways to do this are Prezi and ScrollDeck, which add motion and animation to presentations, making them much more interactive and compelling.

I’ve found some plug-ins and add-ons which can shake up the traditional speaker-and-audience relationship that make some slide shows so dull. A good one is YawnBuster, which lets you create quizzes, polls, games, and group activities that are sure to keep your viewers from, well, yawning. It’s aimed at keeping students’ attention in class, but adults can become just as bored as children. Going one step further, you actually don’t ever have to use PowerPoint to create a presentation again. New apps like Haiku Deck let you produce beautiful decks, with great stock images, right on your iPad.

Haiku Deck
A slide from HaikuDeck

Enhanced Banner Ads

People want to visit websites. They are often voluntary participants in polls, presentations and surveys. But most people aren’t big fan of banner ads. Sure, they’ve evolved from static text images to include flashing colors and primitive animation, but they’re still routinely ignored, with a click-through rate of less than 1%.

Interactive designers have accepted the challenge of making banner ads irresistible. FedEx turned their banner ad into a clever clock that displays the user’s current time in FedEx boxes. Volkswagen’s ads featured a blank space before “like a Rabbit,” and whatever the user types in that blank, the car does. Gatorade let users play with a push toy, while Brastemp water purifiers made users put their cursor into the an animated water stream to see the company’s (funny) message. As with presentations and websites, the key is interactivity: responding to user’s situations, letting them play with their online content, and using video or animation to take any message beyond simple, static text. Brastemp’s and Volkswagen’s banner ads also included audio, from the trickling of water to a love song between two enamored Rabbits.

New Faces and Designs

Another change in design is in the people featured in photos and videos. I’m seeing a lot more diversity, including older, “natural” women (i.e., not models) and dads playing with their kinds instead of working at the office. I’m seeing all different races and ages, and people with disabilities.

I’ve also noticed design starting to reflect the personal, homemade look of Instagram and Vine — photos with lens flare, intentionally imperfect pictures of food, hand-drawn sketches instead of faceless-alien stock images.

Lastly, I see that mobile devices have just about driven designers away from the shadows and color gradients that used to give websites a three-dimensional look. Instead, everything has a “flat” look, with nothing floating above or peeking out from below the page. While I miss some of that clever design, it did make for harder reading and navigation on a phone.

Hand drawn chart
A hand-drawn chart


So what can you do to make sure your design and content is as compelling as possible?

– Your content should be responsive to user’s needs, device, and location. If they want to view your PowerPoint on their Samsung phone, they should be able to — with no loss of quality.

– It should also be interactive, to keep users engaged. Banner ads are easy to ignore. Slide shows are easy to sleep through. The more people feel they’re part of the conversation, or if they’re required to act to keep the action moving, they’ll absorb more of your message.

– Everything is important. Volkswagen didn’t have to create a crazy game with lots of animation to sell cars. Look at every piece of content, from a tweet to a homepage, as an opportunity to surprise and impress your audience

Need help navigating the new frontier of web design? Brandemix can help.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

September 6, 2014

How Careers Websites Have Evolved — And Are Still Evolving

The idea of a discrete website solely for recruiting goes back only about 15 years, but a lot of innovation has taken place in that time. By making their own advances and following the latest technology, smart recruiters have created compelling destinations for job-seekers. Here’s a quick look at how careers websites have evolved and where they’re headed next — and how you can be part of the conversation.

In the beginning, careers websites were little more than online recruiting brochures with job listings. Progressive companies may have added a search function, some pictures and possibly boilerplate text that talked about opportunity and growth, but mostly the sites were uninspiring. That’s because organizations didn’t think they were that important. Recruiters were experimenting with job boards like Monster and CareerMosaic, and were putting time and energy into online classifieds.

Merck - Then

Merck’s careers website – “Then”

Eventually, careers sites grew and added sound, videos, and other bells and whistles. Job boards still reigned, but careers sites were now supplementary destinations, able to adequately inform job-seekers, if not entertain them.

Then along came social media, and the whole paradigm shifted.

Because social channels allowed for conversations with job-seekers, not just one-way announcements, organizations found themselves answering questions, congratulating new hires, and handling complaints in real time. They also needed to produce content for all these channels, which meant interviews of top executives, photos of offices, and videos of employee parties. Just when HR teams had Facebook and Twitter figured out, Instagram and Pinterest came along, requiring even more visual content. And then Instagram added video and Twitter added Vine, turning recruiters into filmmakers.

Careers sites had to change as well. They suddenly needed to, as CareerXroads put it, “follow the job-seeker…connect with them and address their needs and concerns.” The sites became more interactive, giving visitors more choices for content. Three employee videos testimonials are nice…but if an organization has ten major divisions, shouldn’t each division get their chance in the spotlight? Job-seekers would complain if they felt their field or career path was given short shrift — and on the company’s very own social channels. Adding to the complexity, there were more opportunities to create career micro-sites and host them elsewhere, such as on job boards, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor.

Merck’s careers website – “Now”

Now the best recruiting sites are just as elaborate and robust as their companies’ consumer-facing sites, with strong branding, rich media, multiple social channels, special content, and continuous updates. And just as mainstream websites have gone mobile, careers sites are now optimized for phones and tablets, letting job-seekers search jobs and even apply without ever sitting down at a desktop (which is what job-seekers want).

Where do careers sites go from here? It’s anyone’s guess.

On October 23, I’m presenting a webinar on this subject and I’m looking for people to speak with, careers sites to feature, and questions to answer.

Won’t you weigh in by taking this brief questionnaire?

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

September 1, 2014

Best Practices for Engaging Fans on Pinterest and Instagram

You want to move beyond posting words to your social media followers…but you’re not quite ready to produce videos. That means it’s time to get involved in visual social content, which includes photos, images, and infographics. This kind of content is very compelling and shareable, and will open up your online marketing, branding, or recruiting efforts to a whole new audience. And the places to start are Pinterest and Instagram.

Here are a few reasons why: With an estimated 40 million monthly active users and 30 billion pins, Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Twitter, Reddit, and StumbleUpon combined. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, has an estimated 180 million monthly active users. Instagram sees 1,000 comments per second and 8,500 likes per second on its content in total.

What’s the difference?

Pinterest lets you organize images into boards. You can then arrange the boards on your main Pinterest page, so that “Halloween cookie recipes” is only prominent at the right time of year. Besides uploading your own photos, you can “pin” images from anywhere on the web, or “repin” images that you find on Pinterest. So some popular images, like the famous garlic cheesy bread, show up multiple times in a Pinterest search — and it can be hard to tell who created or posted the original image.

Instagram currently has no way to to organize photos. It’s meant for mobile, with users taking pictures, editing them with filters, and uploading them to their personal profiles. With no folders or categories, users classify and describe their images with lots of hashtags; we have Instagram to thank for the popularity of the word “selfie” for just that reason. Since it’s a constant stream of content accompanied by hashtags, you can think of Instagram as a sort of visual Twitter.

With some exceptions, Instagram is mostly based on your own images, photos you take with your phone and upload with the Instagram app. Pinterest allows you to share others’ images along with whatever content you produce.

Pinterest and Instagram

Pinterest best practices

First, be sure to verify your company website by adding code from Pinterest onto it. This will give you access to the site’s free analytics. You should also embed “share” or “pin it” buttons into all your site’s visual content, to make it easy for your fans to share it on Pinterest. Then you’re letting them do your marketing for you!

Internet marketer Fannit has found that the best times to post on Pinterest are weekdays from 2 to 4 pm and 8 to 11 pm, along with Saturday mornings.

It helps to pin the types of images that get the most attention. The three most popular categories on Pinterest are Food and Drink, DIY and Crafts, and Home Decor. However, different categories are popular on different days: Monday’s most popular category is Fitness, while Travel wins Saturdays. Meanwhile, Pinterest itself claims that its fastest-growing category is Humor.  Combine these findings with peak posting times to give your images the best chance of  being seen and shared.

Follow the example of…

Nordstrom. As of May 2014, they’re the most followed brand on Pinterest. With 67 boards, they have something for everyone, from “Back to School” to “Great Gifts” to a board devoted to products in “The Color of the Year – Radiant Orchid.” The retailer goes one step further by offering free shipping on their most-pinned items. Nordstrom even takes Pinterest into the real world, physically tagging their most pinned products in their retail stores.

Nordstrom Pinterest

Instagram best practices

Obviously the best Instagram content is simply compelling photos, with or without the many artistic filters the app provides. But the way users find those images is through the hashtags you attach to them.

Positive content, without commentary, rules the day at Instagram. According to Webstagram, the top hashtags include cute (#6), happy (#10), beautiful (#11), and#fun (#17). This is probably because the app started as a way for people to share photos, which generally show happy events like vacations. Now brands can take advantage of this environment by posting images that are fun, cool, or quirky — whether it’s a silly sign or a pretty sunset or an employee party.

You can have many hashtags, so it’s safe to tag a photo with #yourcompany#yourproduct, #yourtagline, and then multiple descriptive terms like #summer or #nyc.

Instagram’s basic, free version has few frills; you just take a photo, describe it with hashtags, add a filter, and upload it. Everything takes place on your phone. But there are a few tools that make this process both easier and more robust. Repost is an app that lets you share others’ photos on Instagram while giving credit to the original Instagramer — think of it like a Twitter retweet or a Facebook share. Picdeck brings Instagram to your computer with a Tweetdeck-like dashboard, so you can monitor multiple feeds and hashtags. You can’t post from Picdeck — that still requires your phone — but it’s great for searching images.

Follow the example of…

Nike. Nearly 6 million Instagram users follow their stream, which showcases beautiful images of sports, health, and fitness. The expected photos of pro athletes are actually a rarity here, in favor of artistic shots, like this image of a boy facing his fears before diving into a pool. There are plenty of pictures that appeal to non-sports fans, like this great shot of a lone rower in Rio. These photos go beyond promotional to become inspirational — and thus more shareable.

Nike Instagram


These basic tips will help you get started with either or both of the two most popular visual social sites. People love to share photos, so be sure to integrate Instagram and Pinterest with your website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, so your customers and fans will have greater access to them. And get ready for your social channels to brighten up with lots of fun images — and a lot more interactions.

Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.