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How Cisco Built a Champion Team to Conquer Employer Branding on TikTok

How Cisco Built a Champion Team to Conquer Employer Branding on TikTok
Profile photo of Jen Burns
Written by Jen Burns

Jen Burns and her team at Cisco felt TikTok was a social platform worth exploring in order to grow their employer brand, and to launch their strategy they created a pilot program with the help of employee ambassadors. Read how Jen launched this new social platform and her tips for incorporating TikTok into your social recruiting strategy.

How Cisco Built a Champion Team to Conquer Employer Branding on TikTok
5 (100%) 4 votes

TikTok is everywhere these days, but not just for Gen Zers. More and more companies are embracing the platform to share employee stories. Does that mean it’s time to start experimenting with TikTok to meet your own recruiting objectives? That was the question we asked ourselves last year, and I’m here to share our experience at Cisco using TikTok as a channel to grow our employer brand and reach new audiences through a team of employee ambassadors.

I’m the Social Media Manager for @WeAreCisco, and up until last year, TikTok wasn’t even on our radar. There were security concerns and most brands were still shying away from the platform. 

Cisco’s employer brand social media strategy for @WeAreCisco is focused on creating connections with potential talent through engagement with current employees. We do this through employee generated content (EGC) — real stories created by our employees about what it’s like to work at Cisco — the “social proof.” 

In the past year when the whole world was staying at home during COVID-19 restrictions, we realized that employees – and candidates – had really adopted TikTok. They were “bored in the house and in the house bored,” a TikTok trending song, so when my team lead Carmen Collins (Sr. Social Media, Brand and Content Lead) and I started to think about how we approach our audience, she said, “Let’s take this risk! We’ve been smart and strategic about it, so we have to try.”

An important part of our approach to employer branding is to tell our stories where and how our audiences like to view them, so we decided to dive into this new platform too! 

Getting started on TikTok

We were thoughtful and purposeful in our plan and committed to our employee ambassador strategy. Carmen and I started by doing a lot of research on TikTok, looking at our target audience and seeing what worked well. 

Then we had to get buy-in internally. To do this, we put together a fluid editorial calendar so that our governance team could see what was coming up and how we planned to use the platform. We structured the calendar so it clearly showed our game plan but still allowed us to have some flexibility and experiment too. 

Also happening at the same time: interns were being informed that their internships would either be canceled (60% of them) or taken virtual (how Cisco did it). The perfect TikTok storm was brewing for the WeAreCisco team. 

Creating a team of employee ambassadors 

From there, after the initial research and approval phase, our goal was simple: to create #WeAreCisco advocates who are motivated to be part of something new and exclusive. The reason this was a primary goal for us is that we wanted to reach our employees’ social networks to expand our employer brand reach and share what it’s like to work at Cisco through first-hand experience. 

We created a pilot program — the first of its kind at Cisco — and activated interns and employees to be our influencers and share their #LoveWhereYouWork story through a variety of TikTok “challenges” that the #WeAreCisco team issued weekly throughout the summer. We then cross-promoted these TikTok videos through our Instagram Stories – our most engaged platform – to build more awareness and start to get a following on our @WeAreCisco TikTok account.

We created an initial group of intern and employee ambassadors (so that we could highlight how the intern experience was integrated into the employee experience) and introduced them to the program using Webex by Cisco. We asked interns and employees who were already on TikTok and any other employees who wanted to volunteer to participate. We ended up with a passionate group of 37 ambassadors who were excited to try something new. We were open with our ambassadors that we were all learning along the way and didn’t have it all figured out! 

Our ambassador group brought their own ideas, or brought up trends they saw on TikTok. We pivoted and adjusted along the way if there was a trending game or song that we deemed relevant and fun for our ambassadors to participate in with #WeAreCisco — the Dolly Parton 9-5 challenge was one of our favorites! Every person had a different perspective, so even if a few ambassadors participated in the same challenge, we saw their own personalities shine through with their twist on it.

Fun fact: One Cisco intern was duetted by her TikTok-famous dad with 14K followers on the WeAreCisco account, helping to boost our reach and awareness of Cisco!  

Cisco’s team of TikTok ambassadors posting videos

Cisco’s team of TikTok ambassadors posted videos about working at Cisco with #WeAreCisco. 

The results

We asked all employee ambassadors to fill in a form each week so that we could measure how their content was performing and learn from it. We learned that quickly capitalizing on TikTok trends generated more views and engagement and using relevant hashtags and sound bites allowed the #WeAreCisco content to show up in search. 

After looking at the results, we observed that we were definitely reaching a wide (and brand new!) audience for us. Here’s some of what we saw after about 2 months of using TikTok: 

  • 265K views on ambassador content; 19K views on @WeAreCisco content 
  • An intern post went viral with 239K views 
  • 14x more views on @WeAreCisco TikTok content when we leveraged trending videos, songs and hashtags vs. average non-trending content on our page 
  • 2 ambassadors became bloggers for We Are Cisco blog, because their TikTok videos sparked ideas for long-form content

Lessons learned and final tips

We’ve learned a lot about TikTok since starting out and we were thrilled to be recognized at the 2021 Rally Awards for Best Use of Organic Social Media in Recruitment Marketing for our TikTok employer branding pilot program!

What other tips can I leave with you if you’re considering using TikTok too, based on what we’ve experienced?

  1. Start with research. I spent a lot of time researching TikTok before we launched to learn what content was working on the platform. Our experience with TikTok involved a lot of experimenting, and continuously asking ourselves: is it working? How can we improve? 
  2. Think about who your target audience is: are they on TikTok? With so many new tools in our field, you have to be agile and open to new strategies, but think about your audience and if it fits your brand. 
  3. Get your employees involved from the start, learn along the way and have some fun trying something new. 

I hope you found it helpful to hear about our approach to TikTok! If you’re interested in learning more, check out this Rally blog on 3 Ways to Use TikTok to Boost Your Employer Brand

Best of luck as you experiment with new content types and platforms to get your employer brand out to your talent audiences

How Cisco Built a Champion Team to Conquer Employer Branding on TikTok
5 (100%) 4 votes

About the Author

Profile photo of Jen Burns

Jen Burns

Jen Burns is the Social Media Manager for the @WeAreCisco social channels and part of the Talent Brand team at Cisco. She works to maintain a daily presence on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok and wherever the audience takes them next.

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