The secret to making your employer brand tick?

How Cisco builds on trust to engage their talent.

When Cisco’s Talent Brand team came together for the first time as a new team a little over two years ago, our mission statement became clear: make personal connections with future talent.

The key to unlocking those personal connections became more and more obvious as the team explored strategies: trust.

We weren’t trusting blindly. The Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey indicated that the most perceived authentic source of information comes from a person’s own personal network, and we wanted to tap into that trust network by empowering employees. Then, a nugget from the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer gave us further encouragement. When talking about a company, only because they’re not expected to do this, employee voices are trusted 16 points more than the CEO!

We started our trust journey on Twitter as @WeAreCisco. Listening on the #WeAreCisco hashtag, we identified employees who were already authentically posting about working at Cisco, and started to ask permission to amplify their photos and stories. This solidified our strategy of speaking in a “co-worker” tone and not like a “brand.” We grew from 2K to 20K followers in a little over a year (now nearing 30K), but our goal was engagement and brand awareness, and we see 2X the industry engagement rate there.

Then, we took that strategy to Instagram. This was a new channel for us, but staying true to the Instagram style, we relied heavily on photography – all sourced from the employees. We tag them in posts when we use their photos, they send in photos and videos for Instagram stories, we even have a photography ambassador program. Without a single paid follower or bot, the channel grew from 0 to 15K followers in a little over a year (just now surpassing 18K), but again, the key was the right audiences and the right content. Even after an Instagram algorithm change that hit many brands hard above the engagement belt, the @WeAreCisco Instagram account regularly sees above- industry engagement.

When you see as many employee photos as the social team does, you start to recognize stories. A photo speaks 1000 words, right? The team realized we also needed more than 140 characters or 30 hashtags to do the employee storytelling justice. Thus, our Life at Cisco blog changed from the Talent Brand team interviewing employees to tell their stories, to giving them the byline and helping them tell their own

Last was the biggest, scariest (but the most fun) trust project of all, the WeAreCisco Snapchat account. Every single day an employee takes over the account. The Talent Brand team manages the goals, strategy, account security and the ambassador program behind the scenes, but the stars are the unscripted employees who Snap (yes, with dog lenses and rainbows) about a day in their life. These are engineers, cloud developers, program managers, IT folks –not marketers – so the trust meant a lot to the Talent Brand team, and to the ambassadors, because they talk about it (unprompted) in their other social channels. We manage for the 99% of the time employees knock it out of the park, and have yet to see the 1% where we’d have a large-scale trust issue to address.

It’s the most raw, authentic channel we have – so far. We’re working on our next innovation in employee stories as you read this. Tune into @WeAreCisco on every social channel to see where we go next. We even recently launched a new careers page – and there’s not one stock photo on the site. Every image is either of or by an employee!

The takeaway? Give employees something that they want to talk about, and let them have a voice. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.

Employer Branding on Snapchat - WeAreCisco Take Overs Take Over Snapchat, and Times Square! won the Employer Branding category at the North American Excellence Awards. See the full winner list here.

Carmen Shirkey Collins

Carmen Shirkey Collins received the 2016 PRNews Social Media Professional of the Year award for her work as the Social Media Lead for Cisco’s Talent Brand team. She manages the @WeAreCisco social media strategy to create personal connections with current and future talent by harnessing the employee voice. You can find her @cshirkeycollins on Twitter and Instagram, and follow her blog posts on her website