Kirt Zimmer began his career as a newspaper reporter. He learned early on that perhaps the most essential skill for telling great stories isn’t necessarily the actual writing. It’s listening and watching. And that helps explain an epiphany Zimmer had as the Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing for Robert Half, the world’s largest specialized staffing firm.
A large part of his role is to amplify the brand’s message and reach. He began noticing that recruiters – an important Robert Half audience – were sharing humorous memes on LinkedIn. Those posts were getting crazy engagement and Zimmer, well, was a little envious of the buzz they were creating.
So, his team tried something bold for their button-down brand, which is synonymous with professional employment services. They dipped their toe into the meme pool. A little Will Farrell here. Some Jim Carrey there. They experimented with social media posts that could put smiles on faces and convey a serious message centered around Robert Half’s business.
“Go figure, people liked it,” Zimmer said.
It wasn’t only that measurable engagement rose. The feedback was that people were thrilled to see Robert Half willing to become more relatable, have a little fun and be, well, more human.
“It’s easy in marketing or communications to think about pushing out content all the time,” Zimmer said. “But real communication is also about listening to your audience and figuring out what kind of content they want to share. Our team has made a real effort to understand what’s important to our colleagues in the field and help them do their jobs better.”
They do that by having a laser focus on metrics to help identify what’s working best in their social media program and having a direct impact on the business. And, yes, have a little fun as well.
“Kirt and his team really believe in the importance of Employee Advocacy,” said Katie Rubak, Associate Product Marketing Manager at Dynamic Signal. “Robert Half is in the upper echelon of successful programs, and it all comes back to how they use data and their ability to measure everything they do. His team produces the most creative content and is always willing to try new things.”
That reflects Zimmer’s belief that marketers have much in common with psychologists.
“You’re just always trying to understand the human mind,” he said. “It’s always interesting and sometimes entertaining.”
Zimmer took a meandering path into marketing. It began when he first stumbled into journalism while in college. By chance, he wandered into a meeting where the executive staff for the campus newspaper was being chosen. Zimmer talked his way into the sports editor job. The next year he was named the editor, overseeing a staff of nearly 50 people with a significant budget and deadline pressures.
After college, he worked at small newspapers in Upstate New York and Vermont before finding his way into public relations and then applying his storytelling ability to corporate content marketing roles. He joined Robert Half as a content marketing manager in 2015 and two years took over the social media program.
Today, his team of three manages 27 different social media accounts. They also support colleagues around the world who have their own social media programs.
“It’s the perfect blend of being creative and analytical,” he added. “We’re a tight-knit group, and we talk a lot about what we’re trying to achieve. We’ve developed a culture of testing, learning, and collaborating. Social media is always changing. You have to be nimble and unafraid to change with it.”
The team also embraces the inherent passion that comes with Robert Half’s mission of helping employees and employers find the right job fit.
“We never want to lose sight of the human element of what we’re doing for people,” Zimmer said. “When you apply for a job, you’re either validated or you’re rejected. People take that very personally. So, we’re trying to have real, honest, and valuable conversations with our customers. The benefit of social media is you get insights about the mindset of job-seekers and businesses that you didn’t have before.”
One of the benefits of using the Dynamic Signal platform is that Zimmer’s team is able to measure engagement analytics such as how often people liked, commented and shared content as well as the number of visitors directed to the Robert Half website. These proof points of impact on the business have helped them win over social media skeptics.
“It’s considered much closer to the dollar,” he added. “Initially, there was some concern that if people were spending too much time on social media, it took away from their core responsibilities of selling. But now there’s an understanding that social selling is selling. It’s not just goofing around. Some companies may still think, ‘Why are we paying people to post stuff on Facebook? I don’t get it.’ But we don’t hear that anymore because everyone sees that it just makes good business sense.”
Even when they’re laughing at funny memes.
Role: Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing for Robert Half
Home: Lafayette, Calif.
Family: Wife Kate; children Nick, Will, Ezra, Abby
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications at the State University of New York at Geneseo
Career: After working as a reporter and in PR, he was director of content marketing at Intrax before joining Robert Half
Interests: Hiking and attending concerts. Among his favorites: seeing Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, David Bowie three times, and Prince shortly before he passed away
Favorite Book: “Watership Down” by Richard Adams
Favorite Movie: “Dances with Wolves,” “Cast Away”
Favorite TV Shows: “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” “Black-ish,” “Black Mirror”
Best Advice He Ever Received: “Every bad boss taught me what not to do as a supervisor. I like to have close relationships with people who report to me where we develop a real partnership. They can learn from me because I’ve been where they are. But there’s also plenty I can learn from them. We all have things to teach each other.”
Fun Fact: He was a beekeeper while living in the Catskill Mountains. “I had a couple of hives outside my home and had to fend off the various bears who wanted to smash them.”
Follow: @kirt_zimmer on Twitter
Five Questions with Kirt
What is the impact of the Dynamic Signal platform?
“The size of our audience through Dynamic Signal dwarfs the size of our audience on our brand channels. Beyond audience size, it seems obvious to me that when you get a message through a friend or a colleague, it has more credibility than when you get that same message from a company. Dynamic Signal helps make Robert Half more human.”
What’s a cool way you use the platform?
“We’re able to build closer relationships with influencers. If we do a whitepaper and quote a major industry figure, we can give them a shout-out on Twitter or tag them on Facebook or LinkedIn. When all of our recruiters around the country share that content, that influencer really feels the love from Robert Half. It’s one thing when we highlight thought-leaders on our brand channels. It’s 10 times more impactful when all of our employees do. It just feels much more human.”
Why does Employee Advocacy build trust?
“It’s one thing when you see brands brag about themselves. ‘We won this great award, now you can love us.’ It’s another thing when employees share genuine pride in the place where they work. When you see a post from a company, it feels like a logo talking to you. But when you see a post from a friend or a colleague, you’re looking at it as a human being who is sharing their thoughts and feelings. It has a different vibe. It has credibility.”
How do you measure success?
“Engagements are the main signal. Are people looking at the content, sharing and commenting? Also, are people interested enough to want to go to our website to learn more, fill out a form, and hopefully become a customer? But for somebody in the field, it just might be how many people they got to go to an event or how many people they got to view an article.”
What is an example of a lesson learned?
“We’ve seen that video has become a higher priority in the algorithms. The challenge for most people is having the courage to stick the camera in front of themselves. There’s some anxiety about doing it wrong. One of the best things we can do is lead by example. Our team started doing videos, and in a short amount of time, our skills have gotten better. It’s going to be a little messy at first, and that’s OK. It doesn’t need to be a Hollywood-level production. We’re just trying to demonstrate our ability to solve customer problems. Everyone can do the same and have some fun, too.”
To learn more about Kirt Zimmer and other business leaders who are giving employees more powerful voices on social media (and helping their brands), download the free guide “Getting Real: Employee Advocacy in a Time of Eroding Trust.”