The Secret of Branding
How to Attract Employees on Instagram and Beyond
I spend a lot of time scrolling through a sea of social media posts declaring, “Help! We’re short-staffed and can’t find anyone to work!” I’m not surprised that these posts exist, but I am shocked by the irony of where they’re shared. Social media is the easiest place to attract talent, yet I see few posts created with that in mind.
Why are veterinary clinics missing the mark when it comes to attracting job applicants online? It comes back to my favorite—often misunderstood—secret weapon for businesses: Good branding.
Beyond the Logo
The terms marketing and branding often get lumped together, but they’re different. Marketing is how you get your message out while branding is the strategy behind how you determine what that message is. That’s why you need great branding and a great brand strategy to create effective social media posts to attract talent. Without it, you’re posting without any sort of plan!
Branding is also often sadly mistaken as simply “having a logo.” A logo is part of your visual branding package, but a true brand strategy is so much more than that one design. For example, effective visual branding should include a great logo, consistent colors, intentional fonts, and some unique iconography. But even if you’ve marked everything off the visual branding checklist, you still don’t have a complete brand strategy. Without one, your social media posts aren’t going to resonate with your ideal team member.
If you want to attract—and retain—talent, you’ve got to dive deeper.
Your veterinary brand is what you want people to think of when they hear your clinic’s name. It’s how you want the public to perceive you, and it is the feeling people get when they walk through your doors.
Even as a branding expert, I admit it is a very nebulous thing to define. At its core, branding is that difference you just feel when you walk into a Target as compared with a Walmart. One draws you into a magical experience where you overspend and the other is about convenience and low cost.
Companies like Dunkin’ or Starbucks spend millions of dollars differentiating their brands. But vet clinics? Very few effectively and consistently communicate what makes them different from the option down the street. When you have great branding, it becomes simple.
So, how do you develop a brand strategy? One so great that you’ll have talent sliding into your DMs, begging for the chance to work with you? Building a complete brand is a big task and getting complete brand clarity, or an overarching brand strategy, is a huge process.
3 Steps to Attract Talent
Here are three easy steps to get you started on developing a brand strategy to attract the right talent online.
1) Define your ideal team member
Veterinary clinics often make the mistake of trying to be “for everyone.” This applies to trying to accommodate every kind of client, but that’s not where it stops. Trying to make every kind of team member happy is going to be equally, if not more, difficult than trying to please every client!
Get clear on the characteristics and goals your ideal team member embodies. What do they want out of their career? What do they value? What qualities do they have that would add to your team culture?
Ensure that you’re choosing traits that won’t exclude candidates based on a protected class. The goal here isn’t to discriminate against qualified candidates or create a homogeneous workforce! (Check out the Netflix documentary White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch for an example of hiring criteria gone wrong.)
2) Define clear promises for team members
Now that you have a clear vision for who you’re trying to hire, it’s time to create an enticing offer to attract them to your practice. Part of developing an overall brand identity is defining brand promises. Focusing some of these promises on specific commitments your brand makes to your team is a useful way to set yourself apart.
What will someone get when they work for your veterinary clinic? Literal benefits are important to define, of course. But I encourage you to dive a little deeper into clarifying why someone should choose you as an employer.
Do you have a super supportive team culture? Do you prioritize your team’s mental health over appeasing rude clients? Brainstorm all of the tangible things someone will get from working with you. From there, get into the intangibles about how it will feel to work at your practice. If you don’t have a lot of unique things to promise, you can reverse engineer. Ask yourself what your ideal team member would want from you, and then consider how you can provide it.
Social media can be a great tool to help you see what the Instagram generation wants. A quick scroll through #vettech or #veterinarian hashtags on Instagram reveals trending topics that matter to team members. What are some of the common requests Vetstagram’s vast talent pool is making of employers? Some of the things you might see them asking for are for employers to provide structured mentorship, pay a living wage to all team members, and support mental health in a meaningful way.
3) Back up your promises
Once you’ve got clarity on what you can promise potential team members, it’s time to make sure you can back it up. After all, a promise isn’t a promise if you break it.
Team members expect transparency and authenticity from employers. You can’t post pretty pics on social media but then fail to follow through with meaningful action. It might attract team members in the short term, but you’ll never retain them.
What does “meaningful action” look like? Your brand must have a plan to carry through on the promises you make. For example, if you are claiming to provide mentorship, what is the structured program a mentee will go through?
Backing up your promises is especially important when it comes to the core values your brand chooses to embody. Veterinary hospitals that say they’re dedicated to increasing diversity in the workplace, for example, must be making meaningful internal steps toward improving diversity, equity, and inclusion. (Hiring a DEI expert is a great place to start!)
Whatever promises you choose to make, be ready to provide a clear plan so a potential candidate knows you mean what you say. When you impress them with your follow-through, they’ll be the first to tell everyone about it on social media.
Utilize Social Media
Once you have an enticing offer, clear promises, and a plan to carry it all out, you have a mini brand strategy! Having a clear brand strategy sets you up for success with your marketing online and on social media. As a refresher, your brand strategy gives you something unique to say, and your marketing strategy is your plan for communicating it.
To develop a basic marketing strategy to attract talent, follow these 3 steps:
1) Choose your platforms
Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can all be effective social media platforms for spreading your message. A key part of an effective marketing strategy is to choose platforms where your ideal person spends time. If that ideal person is millennial veterinary talent, platforms like Instagram make it easy to network and communicate your brand. Facebook users tend to be older on average and TikTokers are on the younger side of social media users.
2) Decide who is going to post
A hospital account is an obvious choice for who gets to share your brand strategy, and it should be part of your marketing strategy. But in today’s market? Get creative! Personal brand accounts hold a ton of power, and they can be especially good for networking. A practice owner or practice manager could easily represent your brand through their accounts.
Happy employees will talk about their happiness on social media, and leveraging this formally could be part of your marketing strategy. Increasing numbers of veterinary brands are utilizing the power of influencers—people with large and engaged followings—on social media. Your team can act as ambassadors, spreading the story of what it looks like to work for your practice!
Whoever is posting, ensure they’re clear on the brand strategy. This training will ensure they’re posting in a way that will communicate your brand promises to potential talent.
3) Share posts that highlight your brand strategy
Now that you know where you’re posting and who is in charge of it, what are they going to post? This depends on your unique brand strategy.
Overall, focus on posts that showcase your brand promises and highlight the benefits of working at your practice. On Instagram, these posts could range from silly reels featuring your team having fun to carousel posts outlining your core beliefs as an employer. Just remember that your goal is to highlight your specific brand strategy!
4) Don’t forget to be social!
Networking is your friend in the search for the perfect employees. Don’t forget to actually interact with other veterinary professionals on social media! Paired with content that showcases your brand strategy, it’s a winning combo.
Hiring in today’s climate can be tough, but it isn’t impossible with the assistance of effective branding on social media.
Danielle K. Lambert is a former veterinary practice manager who founded SnoutSchool.com to help create progressive branding strategies for veterinary practices.
Photo credits: Visual Generation/iStock via Getty Images