I’m a cheerleader for social media, but when they fail, it can be instructive. First Friendster, then MySpace, and now Google Plus. What was Google’s strategy for creating its own social network? Why did it fail? And what did it do right along the way? Here’s my analysis.
When Google Plus debuted in 2011, I was skeptical, since similar efforts Google Buzz and Google Friend Connect had both fizzled. But if any company had the infrastructure chest to take on Facebook, it was Google, which owns YouTube, the Chrome web browser, and the Android mobile operating system — all of which could be integrated into the social network. MySpace was no longer a competitor, so perhaps Google could solve some of Facebook’s problems, further innovate in the social space, and give people a legitimate choice?
Google Plus’ numbers were great — first. A month after launch, G+ had 40 million users. At that time, Facebook had over 500 million users worldwide, half of whom logged in every day. Still, Google Plus was gaining a million followers a day, while others were encouraged to create a profile when logging into YouTube or Google Maps. While the format was similar to Facebook’s — some would say too similar — the Hangouts feature was unique. Users could video chat with up to nine of their friends (15 with a business account), a huge improvement over Skype. Internet startups with far-flung employees loved it. International Space Station astronauts held a live chat from orbit via Google Hangouts. President Obama answered voter’s questions in a Hangout as well.
By the end of 2013, Google’s Vice President of Social Business Vic Gundotra could claim that Google Plus had 300 million active users; respectable, if still way behind Facebook. And how “active” were those users? There was a joke going around that only Google employees used Google Plus. But eventually the joke became that even those people weren’t using the site. Mashable’s Ben Parr found that, in the first three months of Google+’s existence, Google CEO Larry Page had only posted seven times; co-founder Sergey Brin had posted 12. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt didn’t post anything until Steve Jobs’ death, 107 days after the service went public.
And while some brands — like BMW — were using the platform in innovative ways, many seemed to be on it just to be on it. Superstars were hard to find, since many of the features were available on other sites; why should a celebrity create new content for Google Plus when they could just cross-post from Facebook or Instagram?
The backlash escalated. ReadWriteWeb asked its fans why they weren’t using Google Plus. The most popular response was that their friends weren’t on it, a cyclical argument that can kill a social network. In late 2014, former Google employee Chris Messina (creator of the hashtag), wrote a scathing blog post about G+ where he admitted that he and the company “screwed up” what could have been a social site that combined personalized search functions. “Why did the world need another Facebook, unless to benefit Google by making their ad targeting more effective?” he wrote.
Around the same time, YouTube co-founder Jawam Karim posted on his YouTube page, “Why the f— do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video?” Many YouTube users and commenters felt the same way. No one likes being forced to sign up for anything to do something that required no effort before. Google was insisting that people use a social network they simply didn’t want to use. Bad PR, bad user experience, bad everything.
In 2014, Google began reassigning G+ employees to other teams. And a few weeks ago, it announced that users would no longer need a Google Plus account to access YouTube or other Google features; a Gmail account would suffice. The headlines that followed made it more clear: “Google Gives Up on Google Plus as a Facebook Rival,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s “Digits” blog.
In that same article, Google Plus chief Brad Horowitz says that his department is now referred to as “Streams, Photos and Sharing.” Google Photos, for example, lets users store and share photos and videos. It launched last year and does not require a Google Plus account. Other features are moving to other Google apps. And Hangouts, the most popular and exciting app in my opinion, isn’t going anywhere.
Horowitz posted on Google Plus that new features were coming, like Collections, which looks like a cross between Pinterest and Storify — an interesting idea. He describes the change to G+ as a “pivot” and says “Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love. Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired.”
So it looks like Google will continue to innovate in the social space, without forcing users of other Google apps to set up an account or try to emulate the unstoppable Facebook. It’s an interesting lesson in failure from one of the world’s most successful companies.
But does it mean that no social network can ever rival Facebook, whose mysterious algorithm controls what users see from their friends, family, and brands? Stay tuned.
Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.
I’m a big believer in the power of social media for talent acquisition. Each month, I conduct a survey of the most successful recruiting content on the biggest social platforms. If you’d like to engage your ideal job-seekers, and create a buzz on social media, here are the latest best practices.
The US Air Force recently did something that I advise clients to do all the time — host a chat on Facebook. The service branch asked anyone interested to post questions, and recruiters responded, sometimes within three minutes. Questions ranged from “What is the rule on cell phone use during basic training” (important for Millennials!) to “Can you join if you’re married with five kids?” Even a seemingly irrelevant and easily found answer — “How long ago was the Air Force established?” — got a response. Same with the question, “Why is the Air Force so cool?” The answer: “Because the Air Force is the only branch that is an accredited college, our quality of life is very high and we look good in our sharp uniforms.” That got eight likes. As is the USAF’s social media practice, every reply was signed by a recruiter.
Remember, this entire conversation was held in public, on an open Facebook page. The American armed services are not without controversy, so the Air Force showed bravery, honesty, and transparency in conducting such a free, open recruiting event. The branch also displayed great candidate care in explaining the intricacies of testing, enlistment, and training. The results are sky-high: 130 shares, 187 comments, and more than 2,500 likes.
I recommend that a company’s social recruiting platforms do more than just post job listings and answer job-seekers’ questions. They should be a resource for anyone looking for employment, even outside the company’s industry. The Home Depot perfectly illustrates this philosophy with a recent tweet: “These 8 tips will help any manager be more productive and manage their time,” followed by a trackable link. No photo, no video, no hashtag.
The link isn’t even to content created by The Home Depot. It’s an article on LinkedIn Pulse by someone at Carmel Vision, a provider of CRM software, who asked 300 managers what makes them productive in time management. Why does a tweet like this work? It reaches three audiences:
The tweet shows that that company cares about its workers’ career advancement — and acknowledges that it doesn’t have all the answers. This is the kind of content that attracts new followers. As I tell clients, you don’t have to create every post yourself; if something like this LinkedIn article is useful, you can and should share it with your followers. This tweet received five retweets and 11 favorites; the article itself has 597 likes and 57 comments.
I’ve long been a fan of Amtrak’s social recruiting. The agency has managed to make a government job in a 19th-century technology fun, accessible, and attractive to a new generation. That leadership continues on YouTube, where Amtrak hosts 23 videos with more than 9,000 total views. That channel received an 18% bump in views this past week — bigger than any of the top 50 recruiting channels on YouTube — driven in large part by the video Amtrak Police Department Careers.
The piece is a five-minute overview of four positions within Amtrak’s law-enforcement arm: patrol officer, special agent, K-9 officer, and communications officer. An actual employee describes each role. There’s not much else to it, but innovation isn’t the goal here. Amtrak simply wants to showcase one of its departments — one which many people, including me, don’t know even exists. I’m sure some job-seekers, considering the police or highway patrol, are now looking at Amtrak as a viable career for law enforcement. On top of that, the video is beautifully shot, with lovely music (which Amtrak credits in the video description), and captioned, which is a great way to reach out to a segment of the disabled audience.
I give extra credit for making a compelling, dynamic video about law enforcement that never shows any actual crime taking place or any cinematic action scenes. A few scenes show training, in which officers move about an empty train with weapons drawn, but otherwise it’s mostly footage of employees standing, looking, guarding, and patrolling. Yet Amtrak spins this footage into the noble mission of “keeping America’s railroad safe.”
What are the best practices illustrated by the most popular social recruiting posts this week? The Air Force’s live Facebook chat showed both candor and candidate care. The Home Depot’s career advice from a third party showed generosity that helped job-seekers without directly benefiting the company. Amtrak’s straightforward video once again made the agency look cool by highlighting a vital but little-known department. These lessons can be applied to social talent acquisition at any organization of any size.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
MetLife’s 2015 US Employee Benefit Trends Study found that only 45% of employees “strongly agree” agree their companies’ benefit communications helped them to understand how they would pay for specific services or were effective in educating them on their options. As a result, organizations are innovating in benefit communications just as they are with intranets and other employee documents.
Do benefit communications really need to evolve? Well, just two weeks ago, Employer Benefits Adviser ran a story with the headline Employers out of touch with employee perception of benefits. Satisfaction with benefits is a major factor in job satisfaction, which affects everything from retention to referrals to productivity. Inferior benefits communications are not only boring, they’re confusing, sometimes causing workers to miss out on benefits or overpay for others. So it’s in every company’s best interests to create clear, compelling benefits communications.
Just as employee communications and intranets have become more visual, benefit communications are becoming less text-heavy. For example, insurance broker Hub International has begun adding infographics to its benefit communications, making it much easier for employees to understand their many options. Graphs, tables, diagrams, and comparison charts are also very helpful, especially to the younger generation accustomed to visual information. I’m also a fan of big, clear icons, and categorizing sections by color or other thematic imagery.
Yes, even benefit communications are going mobile. Insurer Barney & Barney offers apps that cover everything from retirement plans to paid time off to health and wellness. The feature I most admire is “Tap to call,” letting employees instantly contact the right department or insurance company to answer their question in any given section of the site. That’s something a giant paper document can’t do. And mobile devices’ smaller screens mean that employers must use less text and more imagery, just as I recommended above.
Why only communicate benefits information during open enrollment? A recent LIMRA study discovered that half of employers now provide information about benefits throughout the year. Ted Katz, Executive Vice Presidents of Group, Voluntary & Worksite Benefits at MetLife says, “Communicating during open enrollment season may not be enough. Incorporating personalized benefit messages reflecting employee life stages and events throughout the year and offering educational tools…can help make sure workers receive the benefits information they need.”
With mobile apps and comprehensive intranets, it’s easy to provide workers with this information at all times. And once the enrollment period ends and the new benefits kick in, why not send an email to employees reminding them of their new products and services? And how about another email, say, 30 days later?
Despite my love of all things tech, I understand that personal interactions are still the most valuable. Even an issue as complex as benefits communications can gain from face time. Prudential’s most recent “Study of Employee Benefits, Today & Beyond,” found that employers believe the most successful communications methods are group meetings and seminars (74%) and one-on-one meetings (72%).
Are you just putting materials in the mail — or in email — and letting employees fend for themselves? The best organizations show they care about their staff by actively engaging them during open enrollment and addressing their concerns in person.
Speaking of which, one size does not always fit all when it comes to employee communication. You may have four different generations working at your organization, and seniority ranging from a high-school intern to the CEO. Not all communications — or benefits, for that matter — speak to every segment of your workforce. Innovative companies have discovered this and now deliver more customized communications.
For example, Southern Wine and Spirits of American created three different three mailers, addressing specific 401(k) benefits based on a worker’s seniority. The mailers included an enrollment form to detach and send in, so employees could immediately begin participating in the program — a clever way to combine information with a simple call to action. For its ingenuity, Southern Wine and Spirits won IABC’s 2014 Gold Quill award for HR/Benefits Communication.
It’s clear that benefit communications are just as important to employee engagement and employer branding as other internal communications. They continue to evolve as technology and workers’ needs change. At Brandemix, we can help improve your employees’ benefit experience with a creative communications campaign designed to engage, educate, and inform. We offer an integrated approach comprised of the best web-based and traditional methods customized to speak to your unique workforce.
If you’d like to improve your benefit communications, contact me for more information.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
Last year, I looked at the connection between the companies most loved by consumers, best reviewed by workers, and most desired by young job-seekers. This “Triangle Theory” holds true today and illustrates the importance of employer branding.
First, let’s look at the most valued and powerful brands in the world. Tenet Partners recently analyzed their proprietary CoreBrand Index to determine the world’s top brands, based on awareness and positive perception. Here are their top 10:
6. Johnson & Johnson
9. American Express
These are hardly surprising, though I didn’t expect Pepsi to be so close to Coke; in the past it’s been ranked as far back as #22.
Now let’s look at brands from the other direction. Universum surveyed 81,00 undergraduate business students to find their most desired employers. Here is where these leaders of tomorrow want to work:
5. JP Morgan
6. Ernst & Young
7. Goldman Sachs
Only Disney and Apple make both lists. If you think the list leans too heavily towards financial companies, here are the top 10 desired employers for liberal arts students:
2. United Nations
5. National Geographic
6. Peace Corps
7. US State Department
8. Teach for America
Again, only Disney and Apple are top-10 companies where college students want to work that are also the most powerful brands in the world.
Why? Millennials have lived with Coke and Pepsi all their lives; Hershey makes candy and Harley-Davidson is known for cool motorcycles the world over. Yet business students placed Coca-Cola at #13, Pepsi at #53, and Hershey at #54. Liberal arts students put Coke at #38 and Hershey at #50. Harley-Davidson didn’t even make the top 100 of either list.
Could the answer lie in employer branding? Let’s look at Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2015, which ranks companies based on employees’ anonymous votes. Only two of the top 10 on the Tenet list of power brands make the top 50 of Glassdoor. Can you guess which ones? That’s right — Disney (#50) and Apple (#22)
Two more companies are on the list of employers most desired by both business students and liberal arts students: Google and the FBI. The latter doesn’t make Glassdoor’s list, but Google is right there at #1.
What this means is that young job-seekers are drawn to companies more by their employer branding than their consumer branding. Nike, which business students ranked #4? It’s #25 on Glassdoor’s list — but 38th on Tenet’s. Liberal arts students rated NBCUniversal at #11. It’s #31 on Glassdoor’s list — but not on Tenet’s list at all.
This is great news for smaller organizations, new start-ups, and non-profits: You don’t have to be a known or admired brand to attract top talent. You just have to be known as a great place to work. And that’s something you have much more control over, since smart leaders can shape their company’s mission, vision, values, and culture. Don’t worry about competing with the Cokes and American Expresses of the world; worry about beating Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, which comes in at #12 on Glassdoor’s Best Workplaces list and has no category scored lower than 3.4 out of 5.
Brandemix has extensive experience with creating strong employer brands that speak to your employees – from the newest hire to the CEO – and to your potential employees, the job-seekers whose first encounter with your company may very well be through your employer brand. We conduct the research and analysis, and produce an employer value proposition that emphasizes your strengths and differentiates you in the marketplace. As I’ve shown here, a compelling employer brand can make an organization more desirable than soda or candy!
For more information about how Brandemix can help you create, refresh, or refine your employer brand, contact us.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
I’m constantly researching the latest trends in social media talent acquisition. Every month, I look at the most liked and shared recruiting content on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and pass their best practices on to you. Here’s how three top brands are effectively engaging job-seekers on social platforms and what you can learn from their success.
This week, Kohl’s Careers posted a photo of an employee in a warehouse with the text, “Day or night, our Ottawa team needs you.” The Facebook post included more information, including the starting pay (a bold move in itself), and a link to apply. Altogether, a good, interesting image. But what really impressed me was what happened in the comments.
A woman posted, “That’s my wonderful husband. He does it all for his family. Keep it up, baby!” which itself got six likes. Then Kohl’s responded, “Dave does a great job representing Ottawa and providing for his family! (p.s. We hope the boys are doing well!),” and a link to a video featuring the same employee. That was the first of many more comments, and the social recruiting team stuck around to respond to a remark about layoffs, stating, “We are hiring Seasonal team members, which are limited-term assignments that can last up to 6-months.” They then gave an email where the “layoff” commenter could ask more questions.
The result of these friendly, supportive, informative interactions? 111 likes, 263 shares, and 62 comments, many of which had their own string of replies and likes. And Kohl’s probably made a lifelong fan and brand ambassador of Dave Mikkelsen, who became “internet famous” for a few days and earned public support from his wife, co-workers, and friends.
How you can be like Kohl’s: Kohl’s Careers gets credit for a good Facebook post, but they really shined when Dave’s wife commented. Many organizations would have either ignored the comment (since it didn’t require a response) or just “liked” it or offered a brief, bland “We love Dave” type of reply. Instead, Kohl’s showed the world its closeness to Dave by posting “We hope the boys are doing well” and posting a video that also featured Dave. So Don’t just use your employees in photos or videos and then forget about them! They have every reason to share the content they’re in and can become employer brand ambassadors if you treat them with respect. Do you know your employees well enough to post a reply like Kohl’s did? Do you monitor Facebook comments for opportunities like this one? Would you have ignored or deleted the remark about layoffs — or responded with information and an email address? These are all important questions for your social recruiting team.
DisneyStudiosCareers recently tweeted a photo of their Burbank headquarters, adding, “Mid-day break on the Lot…” and a hashtag #JustAnotherDayAtTheOffice. The picture shows the distinctive Disney water tower and a mountain in the background, but little else. Despite the possibility of a superhero movie or Disney Channel show shooting on the lot, the image shows no activity, no celebrities, no sets. In short, it’s not a very interesting photo — it’s not even in focus. Yet the tweet earned eight retweets and 18 favorites and was one of the account’s most popular posts of the week.
How you can be like Disney Studios: Disney Studios Careers’ photo truly illustrates that any kind of content can generate a response. Disney has much more interesting visual assets than a grainy photo from someone’s cubicle. But a Twitter account needs a stream of original content, some one of the recruiters figured a photo of the campus would be worth a try. I always recommend that organizations show off their offices and neighborhoods, and here a glimpse of the Santa Monica Mountains reminds job-seekers that Disney is near Los Angeles and Hollywood. What can your team take a quick photo of? What images do you have access to that are worth a tweet? What are other strengths does your organization have that you want to remind job-seekers? Take a hint from Disney and tweet away.
Comcast Careers’ YouTube channel features dozens of compelling videos, divided into categories like “Women of Comcast” and “Realistic Job Previews.” Its latest addition to the latter channel is a brief video about Kalila, a User Experience Designer. She narrates the video and appears on camera, and shows us a typical day at Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters. The video shows her meeting with her team (always standing up, I noticed), writing on wipe-erase boards, and typing at her computer — an accurate if not thrilling depiction of a UX designer’s life. “I not only make things look good,” Kalila says, “I make them easy to use as well.” I think that’s a great summary for a somewhat arcane job.
No one else speaks in the video and there’s no overall narration or on-screen titles. This is one employee’s spotlight. It’s well-paced and short: just over two and half minutes. All the action takes place in the office, except for a brief clip of Kalila riding her bike to work. The whole thing can’t have cost much money. The video, just uploaded a few days ago, already has almost 500 views and eight likes.
How you can be like Comcast: Job-seekers love watching realistic job previews like this one. Letting your employees be the stars is a great strategy for humanizing your organization and showing how much you value your staff. Find a well-spoken employee, follow them around with a camera for a few hours, and interview them for a few minutes. Or let them shoot their own video, allowing their personality to fully come through.
Kalila is neither a senior executive nor a fresh-faced new hire (though Comcast has videos of those, two) so she speaks to the mid-career technical worker. One tiny thing I love about this video — Kalila says she rides her bike to work, “unless it’s raining.” How many companies would leave in that qualifier? How many would admit that it rains in their city? That sliver of honesty and transparency speaks volumes to job-seekers.
Want to craft engaging recruitment posts like Kohl’s, Disney, or Comcast? Brandemix is here to help.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.