Paid social media ads can be a great opportunity for recruitment marketers to increase employer brand awareness and build qualified talent pipelines. But we all know social media advertising can be super challenging! There are a lot of barriers that can get in the way of launching a recruitment advertising campaign successfully and seeing the results you need to support your recruiting plan.
I’ve experienced many of these challenges firsthand and have figured out a few solutions that I’d love to share with you in the hopes that you can learn from my experiences and crush your own Recruitment Marketing goals.
But, before jumping into the list of challenges I’ve observed and solutions I’d recommend, you might be wondering what qualifies me to be sitting here writing this blog post about paid social media ads. What makes me an expert?
Before joining Squarespace as an in-house recruitment marketer, I was on the other side working at LinkedIn — selling and helping clients across multiple industries with their recruitment marketing strategies on LinkedIn (fun fact: Squarespace was one of my clients). I used LinkedIn’s advertising tool to help clients, and now I use it regularly to manage Squarespace’s paid campaigns.
I carried a number of cross-industry learnings with me when I made the move from LinkedIn to Squarespace and I’m excited to share what I know and how we approach recruitment advertising at Squarespace with you. I hope this list of challenges and solutions is helpful as you develop or fine-tune your own paid social media ad strategy.
- Deciding how to prioritize your paid social media ad strategy
- Managing ad hoc urgent requests to advertise a job
- Being able to respond and launch a paid social media ad quickly
- Adjusting the ad targeting to see optimal results
- Choosing the right creative concept for talent attraction
- Determining the click destination of your ad
- Securing the recruitment advertising budget you really need
Rally note: Rose and her team at Squarespace were the winners of the 2020 Rally Award for Best Use of Paid Social Media! To view other winners, see our panel of judges and learn more about the Rally Awards, you can visit the Rally Awards website.
If your role in Recruitment Marketing is anything like mine, there are a lot of competing priorities to balance. We have many hiring teams all looking to grow very quickly, so it can be difficult to decide which role types to allocate our social media ad budget towards. Is Product team growth the most urgent, or should we be investing in attracting more Creative talent right now?
To figure out the best way to prioritize our job advertising strategy and budget, we conduct monthly meetings with our recruiting leaders and VP of Recruiting to get a big picture view of what’s happening across the business. This way we can weigh different functional and location-based hiring priorities against each other all at once. This approach lets us understand how to split up our recruitment advertising budget for the coming months, decide which social media platforms to use to best support recruiting goals and lets us work ahead to avoid scrambling for ad content as much as possible.
As much as we try to plan ahead, another challenge that we all face is ad hoc requests that come up sporadically. Our dedicated recruiting team often comes to me with requests to advertise a job for urgent and hard-to-fill roles that they have open and that we didn’t predict or plan for during our monthly planning meetings. This is tough because there are 30+ recruiters on our team, so it can be hard to balance everyone’s needs!
There are 3 things I do here to address this challenge:
- First off, I give myself an extra buffer for these ad hoc requests in our monthly budget. We know they will inevitably come up, so we might as well plan for them! I tend to set aside a portion of my monthly recruitment advertising budget for these requests, and that number can vary depending on the frequency of requests that you typically receive.
- When a recruiter approaches me with a request, I do a discovery call to assess whether a paid social media ad is truly the best approach for the role they’re looking to fill. This discovery call typically involves me learning more about their target candidate persona and talent pipeline objectives, and then entering the audience criteria into LinkedIn’s campaign manager tool to see what the talent pool looks like.If the talent pool is really small (under ~1,000 according to the forecasting in LinkedIn Campaign Manager), we are looking for a “purple squirrel.” In this scenario, I advise them that a solid sourcing push is likely a much better use of resources than an ad campaign, since the audience they’re looking for is small and tough to target.
- If the role does meet the above criteria, but we’re short on budget, then we have to prioritize based on the conversation from our monthly leadership meetings. For example, if 2 recruiters have approached me, one for a Marketing role and one for a Customer Operations role, and Customer Operations has been identified as a priority during our last monthly talent acquisition meeting, then we’ll need to go with that ad over the other. Recruiters are most often receptive to this once they understand our efforts should align with the company’s overall hiring goals.
For some of these urgent ad hoc requests, time is of the essence, so we need to get the job ad live quickly! However, as you know, content creation can be a time-consuming process. It often involves having to work with Marketing or an external partner like a Recruitment Marketing agency, and sometimes they have other competing priorities that slow down the development of your collateral. So, how do we push out quality creative concepts quickly?
Get organized and dedicate time to invest in building out a content library that is filled with assets that speak to your different talent segments. This will involve identifying gaps in your Recruitment Marketing content plan (i.e., we don’t have enough content to attract Finance candidates), creating the content (which of course can take days, weeks or months, depending on what you need) and then organizing this content in a way that makes it easy to filter and re-use as needed. This approach will ensure that you have a range of content pieces to choose from on an ongoing basis so you can respond quickly to urgent recruiting needs.
I realize I may be simplifying the solution a bit — we all know how challenging it can be to create great Recruitment Marketing content. But if you don’t start to think proactively, you’ll also be one or two steps behind what the business needs.
Rally note: If you’d like expert tips on how to build out a Recruitment Marketing content library so you never need to scramble again, take a look at our Rally How To Guide: 18 Tips to Level Up Your Content Library.
There are so many different criteria that you can use to target an audience on any given social platform that it can be a little overwhelming! On LinkedIn, for instance, you can target by location, job title, years of experience, industry, company and so many other factors. It takes time to learn how to approach this in order to see the best possible results.
To ensure you’re targeting your job ad optimally, make sure to spend time connecting with your recruiting partner directly to learn everything you can about the target candidate persona. You’ll want to learn as much as possible about the ideal candidate’s attributes and demographics, along with prospective companies where they might work, so you can make sure you’re setting your targeting criteria just right.
Additionally, you’ll want to use the forecasting tool in the campaign manager to understand if your audience is defined enough. If the number is too high (say, above 500,000) your criteria might be too broad, so you may need to add some additional criteria to narrow down the audience. Conversely, if the number is too low (under 1,000), you may need to remove some criteria so you’re reaching more prospective candidates. Of course, the size of the audience depends on your campaign objective. For example, if you’re looking to promote a job to a specific candidate persona, it’s generally okay to have a smaller target audience. You wouldn’t want to get a bunch of irrelevant applications. On the other hand, if your objective is to drive brand awareness within a specific industry, or city, or function, then it’s okay to open up your audience a bit and generate more reach.
If you’d like to dive deeper on all of the different ways you can target an audience on LinkedIn, here is a guide on ad target best practices.
Rally note: If you’d like some help identifying and narrowing down your audience, we’ve developed a resource you can use as a starting point: download the Rally Candidate Persona Template.
The creative concept you use is one of the most important parts of your ad! If you don’t get the visuals and copy right, your ad will flop even if you’ve avoided all of the other pitfalls on this list. Given the importance of this decision, it’s common to feel a little analysis paralysis — but how do we overcome this and feel confident before putting money behind a paid social media ad? Afterall, advertising a job is different from other types of ads that people might see online.
A/B test every chance you get. Before putting any substantial amount of budget behind a Recruitment Marketing campaign, I always A/B test my creative concepts first. A/B testing is one of the most useful digital marketing recruiting tactics you can use. It involves putting a little bit of budget behind 2 or more concepts to see which one performs better in a small ad test. The key to successful A/B testing is to always test one element at a time, like the visuals, headline, copy or call to action. From there, you can take a look at the data and put your full Recruitment Marketing campaign budget behind the version that performed best during the A/B test period.
Below is an example of a concept we A/B tested. You’ll notice that the copy is different in version A and version B. The copy in version B performed better for us in the test period, so that’s the one we went with for the campaign.
Rally note: If you’d like more information on A/B testing, here are a few places to start as recommended in our Digital Marketing Strategies for Recruiting session presented at TA Week 2020:
- About A/B testing on Facebook
- How and why to A/B test your Twitter ads
- Test ad variations with LinkedIn ad rotations
Another important, yet challenging, decision when it comes to paid social media ads revolves around the call to action. Where do you want to send people or what action do you want them to take after seeing your ad? There are so many different options here and choosing the right destination can be the difference between converting more views into clicks or having an ad that falls flat.
When deciding where to send people who click on your ad, think back to your overall objective for the specific Recruitment Marketing campaign. This approach will help you to ensure that the destination you’re sending them to will help you reach your recruiting goals.
Here are a few examples of what this looks like in action:
|Objective||Where to send people|
|Build employer brand awareness with a certain talent segment||Your careers site — where they can learn more information about what your company is all about and if it’s a good fit for them|
|Increase applicants for a certain role||The job description for the role — so they can read about the opportunity and apply|
|Build a talent pipeline||A landing page for that job family or (even better since it keeps them in platform) a LinkedIn pipeline builder page — where they can leave their information so you can nurture them and consider them for future opportunities|
Here a few examples of the different ad approaches we’d use to send people to different spots:
Back in my LinkedIn days, I had clients who had access to some recruitment advertising budget, but it often wasn’t the right amount to get the results that their team were hoping for. Social media ads are a really impactful way to get in front of in-demand talent segments, but you do have to invest an amount that’s in line with the results you’re looking to achieve.
For instance, if you’re hiring at scale, the amount you invest will need to be greater than if you’re only looking to fill a single job here and there. So, how do you convince your leadership to allocate more recruiting budget towards paid social media ads to support your talent acquisition strategy?
Track, measure and broadcast your results! By sharing the outcomes of all the great work you’re doing with leadership, you’ll have more chance of securing additional funding in the future. This approach works because it shows leadership that Recruitment Marketing is a worthwhile investment and that strategically using your budget on paid social media ads actually delivers results.
At Squarespace, we track our ad results closely using LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager tool. We monitor results throughout the recruitment funnel, starting with impressions, engagements, and clicks, and then looking at landing page conversions and applicant conversions. Outside of the LinkedIn Campaign Manager tool, we also look at hires (if any) and influenced hires. For influenced hires, we typically work with external partners for this reporting. We also poll our new hires once they accept an offer on what digital platforms most influenced their candidate journey.
These metrics , even if no direct hires are made, are the type of information that your leadership will want to see and that can make a big impact on getting an increase in your Recruitment Marketing and recruitment advertising budget year over year.
While I hope my take on some of the challenges I’ve experienced and different solutions for overcoming these challenges is helpful for you to hear about, what’s even more important is identifying the unique challenges and solutions that work for your organization when it comes to paid social media ads. This way you can gradually optimize your approach, see better performance metrics and secure more budget for your team!
Best of luck as you embark on your next ad campaign journey — I hope you see the results you’re looking for and are able to find creative ways to make the most out of the great ad platforms and tools we have access to today to support our recruiting objectives.