2015 iTalent winner Universum’s Iris decodes what content is most important for organizations to engage talent.
By Audrey Roth
“Does social matter?” asked David Brudenell, global vice president of product and head of digital for the Americas, for the 2015 iTalent competition winner Universum, at the HRO Today Forum in May. With 380 million members on LinkedIn, 1.49 billion active Facebook users spending an average of 20 minutes on the site per day (accounting for nearly 20 percent of all time online), and 500 million tweets being sent per day, it’s hard not to agree with Brudenell’s answer: “Hell yes, it absolutely matters.”
Social media has also become an access point for employers to find talent who are now all facing one problem: All of the current social media measurement tools are meant for marketers. This is where Iris—created by employer brand experts Universum—comes in: helping companies create an educated social media strategy for talent acquisition.
Universum runs the world’s largest talent survey every single year and its 25-year-old framework conducts research with students, professionals, graduates, and Millenials about where talent shares what is important in an employer. Universum has found that when organizations focus on what talent tells them to (in terms of content), they become more attractive to that talent.
The spin Iris takes is applying this analysis directly to social media use. “It’s the first social media listening tool or monitoring tool that actually uses crowd sourced talent to actually assess the content that’s being put out there,” says Brudenell.
To start, Iris selects employers who are currently on social media platforms, like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and then works with a data provider to extract all of their posts. “That database is then connected to essentially a crowd sourced engine,” says Brudenell. Through Universum, Iris is connected to millions of talent every year. They then invite that talent to assess those posts that are pulled into the system, making sure multiple people see each post to provide reliability in responses. Through an online tool, talent anywhere from the United States to Brazil to Singapore will be presented with a post (from a database that currently has more than one million posts) from any employer that they are tracking.
“We’ll ask them a very simple question: What do you think this post is about?” says Brudenell. The talent codes the post by selecting from one of 40 attributes to determine which of the attributes is most applicable to the individual post. Examples of attributes for coding include corporate social responsibility or prestige. “This 40-attribute framework we’ve been using in our core research for about 25 years now. It’s proven for clients that when they focus on the things that come through our core research, they become more attractive.”
In addition to compiling the coding from the talent, Iris also pulls in all of the engagement data from the shares, the comments, the likes, and the re-tweets. “Iris gives this unique data perspective in the sense that we can see what talent thinks the post is about, but then also we get this great behavioral data from the engagement and can say, did it actually resonate with the larger pool?” says Brudenell.
For example, a post from IBM Australia can be seen by a variety of sources—a student and professor—and they both will agree that the post is about corporate social responsibility. If it gets several likes, shares, and comments, this is a good indicator of quality content, says Brudenell. Employers can then begin to identify which content works for which type of talent and when.
In addition to sharing which content is most beneficial to produce, Iris also takes into consideration volume and the content of competitors. “One of the interesting things we saw in the professional services industry in North America is that all of them talk about exactly the same thing, at exactly the same time. And the net effect is a zero sum game,” says Brudenell. Armed with this information, Iris can outline unique content that will not reflect their competitors’.
Although there are other social media listening tools in the marketplace, what sets Iris apart is its industry counterparts are only built for marketers. “We really saw that there was a gap in the market for HR, recruitment, and talent attraction because these industry practicing areas were using marketing tools. We felt that there’s a very big difference between talking to consumers on social media and talking to talent in terms of the engagement and what you should bet talking about,” he says.
How is the market responding? Two weeks into Iris’s inception, a pilot or a MVP (minimal viable product) was up, and with just a couple thousand posts coded by a group of talent, the company was able to see the impact of it. So, within the first month there were roughly 30,000 posts coded by talent.
One factor driving Iris’s success was that they created a foundation partnership with 13 of the largest employers in North America and South America. “The power of creating a foundation partnership with clients was I believe one of the most important things that we did. Because these foundation partners are the practitioners, they are the creators of the social media content. They helped us, they told us what they needed in a very comfortable and safe environment, and we did the smart thing. We just listened to them and did what they said,” says Brudenell. “They continue to help us craft Iris in the front end, how it looks, and how it works, but also help us understand what data platforms as an example to track next. And what extra data we should look for to help them talk better on social.”
When using Iris, companies are focusing on the attributes that matter most to the right talent to help curate their appropriate audience onto their social media pages. During the piloting phase, one of their foundation partners resulted with a 700 percent more effective Facebook page from an engagement perspective than their competitors. Even though their page was 99 percent smaller, their page was packed with intelligent engagement rather than a large but irrelevant presence. “What Iris helps employers do is talk about the right things, at the right time, more often,” says Brudenell. “We’ve seen some really fantastic results in terms of engagements and returns. Some of our other foundation partners have reported bumps between 10 and 30 percent increases in engagement on their social media posts. And this is in the first month of piloting Iris, when we first pushed out, and that was only in flat reports when we first started deploying the Iris data.”
Adding to Iris’s effectiveness is user access to their million-post-strong case study library, which is the congregation of all of the posts pulled into Iris. All of these posts have been coded already, so they are indexed by attribute, content, engagement by industry, platform, and additional criteria, making it easy for employers to peruse.
With access to this database, employers can be inspired daily by relevant content to their actual goals. “If prestige or market success is one of the attributes that you and your team are focused on, in almost two seconds you can go into Iris and search for ‘prestige’ in the case study library and see how the world talks about it,” says Brudenell. “It’s been really helpful for our clients in terms of the content creation perspective. You can be inspired by looking at the best and you can also search for your competitors, so you can be sure from a language perspective or an imagery perspective you don’t look and sound exactly like your competitors.”
The bridge between social media for marketing’s sake and social media for HR’s sake had not been gapped before now. “Iris has really helped some of our foundation clients inform the marketing department, and actually show the marketing department that there’s quite a lot of sophistication behind the content that they’re producing for attracting talent,” says Brudenell. “It’s helped to create better and stronger relationships between the HR department and the marketing department. What we’re seeing with our foundation partners start to open up a new budget because now they can show quantitatively or empirically that what they’re talking about actually resonates with talent, and can potentially lower the cost of recruitment through social media.”
What’s ahead for Iris? Employers can keep a look out for additional platforms to track, new analysis features, word clouds for higher engagement, and pre-coding posts, among others. Iris found its niche in the marketplace for talent acquisition social media tools. Although social media recruitment strategies are certainly not hard to come by, one that is backed by empirical research is in a league of its own.
Eye on iTalent
David Brudenell presented the technology platform, Iris, and won the HRO Today Forum 2015 iTalent competition, where finalists give a seven-minute HR innovation pitch before the event audience and panel of HR technology experts, industry analysts, HR practitioners and technology investors. “When I was walking around psyching myself up before the presentation, I could see a lot of heavy hitters in HR and a big attendance at the conference, so I felt like I was speaking to the right audience when I was up there,” says Brudenell. “That whole style of pitching to investors, I thought was a great way to really espouse the real value of the products.”
And the judges were impressed—basing their winner selection on a new technology solving a problem. “For me, it was also not just which one is the best of these, but which one is actually doing something different and unique,” says Mir Ali, vice president of global technology solutions for Futurestep and 2015 iTalent judge. “Because you’re all doing something that’s a little different than what others are doing, but some of are you are doing things that are actually new to the marketplace, not just variance of things that already exist. For me, it was really around that disruption and what is true innovation versus what’s just another iteration of the same thing that’s already been out there.”