This is the story of a startup Australian recruitment company and how it built its brand and its business using a combination of social media communications, content marketing and influencer relations, or if you prefer: Owned, earned and social media.
The company is Firebrand Talent.
Carolyn Hyams is the Australian Digital Marketing Director for Firebrand Talent as well as its sister agency brands, Aquent and Vitamin T. All three agencies operate in the digital, marketing and creative space. Collectively they employ 28 people across their Sydney and Melbourne offices.
In this Skype video chat with my good self, Carolyn takes us ‘behind the velvet rope’ of Firebrand’s marketing strategy and breaks down in detail how the business approaches content marketing, social media and influencer relations to build brand visibility, influence and trust in the marketplace.
It’s a good yarn with lots of lessons for anyone in business keen to know more about how publishing content and using social to build a ‘village of support’ for your brand can pay business dividends over the long term.
When it launched in 2010, Firebrand was unknown and had no marketing budget to speak of. Two and a half years later the company had made an impact in the digital/marketing/creative recruitment space – so much so that in late 2012 the company won “Best Boutique Agency” and “Best Brand” at the Recruitment Excellence Awards.
BEST PRACTICE: Owned, earned & social media
I consider what Carolyn and the team are doing at Firebrand Talent as top notch. I thought the same thing in 2013 when they first popped up on my radar (I interviewed Carolyn on that occasion – you can still watch or listen to that interview).
Three years down the track and the company continues to raise the bar of its social media, content marketing and influencer relations efforts, and in doing so is ‘building a moat around its brand’ which, I believe, is putting distance between it and its competitors.
I talk a lot about the need for businesses and organisations to be strategic with the way they integrate their owned, earned and social media. Firebrand Talent does it better than most. You could say (well, I do say) they could be considered best practice in this regard.
Now, heaps of businesses blog, tweet, publish on Facebook and LinkedIn, and run events. What is Firebrand Talent doing that’s so special?
Here are my top line observations.
- Social/content is part of the company’s DNA; it was there from the beginning – the company had minimal marketing budget when it was first established so they actually didn’t have a choice – they had to use the (largely) free tools that were available to them, and then work them hard (and strategically).
- A dedicated, focused and relentless approach to showing up daily and providing value to the marketing community over and above the services they provide.
- Genuinely (and proactively) growing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with industry experts and leaders.
- Being human! I know it sounds trite and all a bit of a motherhood statement, but when you see businesses that effectively use social media to humanise their brand, it stands out. And guess what, the public gravitates to the people behind the logo. Firebrand Talent is very good at taking people behind the scenes of its business.
There are so many great insights and lessons to be gained from Carolyn and what she and the team are doing at Firebrand Talent. Here are a few key takeaways and snippets from the interview:
BLOG & EMAIL
- 48,000 monthly visitors to the Firebrand Talent ‘Ideas Ignition’ blog (three years ago it was around 30,000 with more content being produced)
- Important to integrate the blog with the website (previously the Firebrand Talent blog and website were separated) – have experienced increased traffic as a result of improved SEO plus the company’s service offering is now more visible to blog visitors
- Much of the content today is created by hand-picked industry experts and thought leaders; it’s a mutually beneficial relationship: “We get amazing content … but the industry influencers … we promote the hell out of them”
- Listicle articles continue to work but they still need to provide value (Carolyn: “I am very passionate about content that’s educational, helpful and valuable.”)
- Content needs to be written in a way that’s easily digestible
- Long-form content is also working well
- Each post on the blog has a six-month lifespan
- The key to a successful blog is consistency
- “Email marketing is not dead in the slightest … it is key to your marketing strategy.”
- Email strategy is same as the blog – publish content that’s helpful and valuable: “It’s boring talking about yourself … why not provide some value for the people who are reading your emails.”
- Firebrand Talent grows its email list through the events it runs plus social media and the blog
SOCIAL MEDIA: Twitter – Facebook – LinkedIn
- Twitter (@FirebrandTalent) – 35,000 followers
- LinkedIn Company Page and Group combined – 12,000 followers
- Facebook – 4000 likes
- Instagram – 546 followers
- Facebook strategy is two-fold; aimed at Firebrand Talent candidates but also used to take people behind the scenes of the company (“the DNA that makes up our brand”); tone of the content is a bit more fun but also useful (“The career articles tend to work the best”) – that said, Carolyn says “Facebook is still a disappointment … but you need to be there because if you’re being checked out as a brand, people will go to your Facebook page and see what you’re posting”
- In terms of Facebook content: “We would get more engagement posting some stuff about what’s happening behind the scenes as opposed to the (blog post) content that we post”
- Firebrand Talent employees are also very active individually on Twitter; Carolyn says “We do need to be connected … we need to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk in the space that we recruit in”. Critically – and here’s a good lesson for other companies – Firebrand Talent employees undergo training on Twitter and LinkedIn – “We really encourage them to be social,” she says
- Having the company’s employees active on social media is not just a one-way thing: “Our Firebranders see the benefits in being social through referrals and recommendations and being able to answer questions quickly … there are massive benefits of being on social.”
- Having a steady stream of quality content from the company blog available for the Firebrand Talent employees to share with their personal and professional networks is a win-win for both the staff and the business
- Content curation on social media is important: “We do share a lot of content that is not ours … even more so than our content, as long as it’s relevant to the audience who are following us”
- Interacting in real-time with people on Twitter is a missed opportunity for many brands that are not using it as a customer engagement tool
- How often should you tweet? Carolyn says: “You need to be more frequent on Twitter than ever before.” (the Twitter team at Firebrand Talent tweets roughly 30-40 times a day) – you need to vary the times you tweet in order to catch your audience (nights, days, weekends – “vary it up”)
- LinkedIn is “incredibly important” for Firebrand Talent. In terms of driving traffic to the Firebrand Talent blog, after organic search and people coming directly to the site, “LinkedIn is probably the next referrer” of web visitors (“And then Twitter … don’t discount Twitter … it’s probably number four”)
- One of the key reasons LinkedIn is a powerful distribution platform for Firebrand Talent’s blog content is that “our entire team shares the content via their own LinkedIn profiles and there’s lots of engagement and sharing there too so it’s like a double whammy”
- The company has produced videos in the past but has not been prolific; that’s all about to change however: “Video is key for us now and just watch this space for 2017. It really is massively high on our agenda.”
- Carolyn and the team continue to experiment with Facebook Live
- In-person events form part of Firebrand Talent’s content strategy; this year the company has run 20 events
- Firebrand Talent’s signature event – #Digitalks – feature notable industry figures as keynote speakers and are held every quarter in both Melbourne and Sydney (total of eight per year) – on average these lunchtime events attract 250+ people
- The company also runs panel events (‘Put it to the Panel’) that deep-dive into specific topics in the digital space; they’re run every two months in both Melbourne and Sydney
- Events provide great content for Firebrand Talent’s social channels and occasionally for the blog as well
- Dealing with thought leaders and influencers: Firebrand Talent partners with industry experts on its blog and with speaking events; often the people who blog for them will end up speaking at one of their events, and vice versa – guest speakers become guest bloggers as well
- “It’s a relationship with these wonderful thought leaders …it’s a real give and take … what else can we do to partner together, how can I help you more and obviously how can you help us more” (my words now, but I believe what Firebrand Talent has done is build a vibrant eco-system or ‘village of support’ of industry experts and leaders who benefit in terms of profile and endorsement from being involved with the company).
By way of disclosure, I maintain a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship with Firebrand Talent. I contribute to the company blog and speak at Firebrand-organised events. No money changes hands. I do it because I like the people and admire the business they run. It also means I have ‘inside’ experience of the way they go about their business from a PR and marketing perspective and can vouch for their approach to owned, earned and social media.