What HR and L&D Professionals Can Learn from TikTok and Social Media Influencers

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If you’ve ever worked in Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D), this scenario probably sounds familiar: you created some informative and engaging content that responds to business needs and takes into account employee feedback. After months of interviews, stakeholder meetings, and team workgroups, you’re ready to share it with your organization. The problem? It goes largely ignored, and the hours of effort you put into it go wasted. Worse yet, your reputation suffers.

So, what’s the missing link? The answer has been right in front of us all along – marketing and copywriting. For decades, these fields have mastered the art of piquing interest and sparking desire in target audiences. And despite many varied opinions about TikTokers and social media influencers, they’ve mastered this skill set in ways that have engaged millions of followers of all different ages and backgrounds. In this article, we’ll delve into the strategies and tactics used by marketing professionals to capture hearts and minds and explore how HR and L&D can apply these techniques to engage employees and drive enrollment.

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The Problem with the Way We’ve Always Done It

We’re passionate about providing employees with valuable content, from training programs to benefits packages to development opportunities. Yet, more often than not, our efforts fall flat, as evidenced by:

  • Low Enrollment Rates: Employees are often unaware of the full scope of opportunities available to them. Even when they are, enrollment rates can remain disappointingly low.
  • Unopened Email Newsletters: Despite crafting well-designed newsletters and communications, many HR and L&D emails go unopened or are quickly dismissed (although, I acknowledge that even broader organizational emails often go unopened and unread).
  • Lack of Engagement: Even when employees do enroll in programs, the level of engagement can be lackluster. They may complete the bare minimum or fail to fully embrace the offerings.

A Fresh Approach: Borrowing from Social Media Influencers

Social Media influencers have mastered the art of both captivating audiences and converting interest into action. Let’s explore the strategies and tactics that have made their work successful and consider how they can be applied in our field.

  1. They understand their target audience. Influencers invest significant time and effort in creating detailed customer personas and dissecting their interests, needs, and pain points. And while it may not be a formal document, the more successful influencers are crystal clear on who they are targeting. They aren’t trying to reach everyone; they know exactly who their audience is and the words and emotions they’re feeling. HR and L&D can adopt a similar approach by segmenting their employee base and tailoring communications and offerings to meet specific needs. While it will take more time and effort, you’ll see higher engagement because you won’t need to reach everyone – you’re only reaching smaller sections of your organization.

    Put this into action by:
    a. Segmenting: Divide your employee base into distinct groups based on characteristics like role, experience, or preferences. This allows you to tailor messages and offerings more effectively.

    b. Gathering surveys and feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from employees to understand their challenges, aspirations, and preferences. Use surveys and one-on-one discussions to gather valuable insights and the exact words they would use to describe their pain points. If something works, analyze what made it work and iterate on it.

  2. They tell compelling stories. All of these fields excel in storytelling, even at 5-30 seconds at a time. Influencers weave narratives that engage their audiences emotionally. HR and L&D can leverage this power by crafting compelling stories around their programs and benefits.

    Put this into action by:a. Sharing real-life examples: Showcase employees who have benefited from your programs. Share their personal journeys and how these opportunities transformed their professional lives.

    b. Creating emotional connections: Appeal to emotions by highlighting the personal growth, career advancement, or improved work-life balance that employees can achieve through your offerings.

  3. They leverage social proof.Marketers and Influencers understand the persuasive impact of social proof – positive reviews, endorsements, and testimonials. Too often, HR and L&D believe the content should speak for itself. Instead, we should be utilizing all the positive feedback we already gather and use it to “sell” the services.

    Put this into action by:a. Using employee testimonials: Encourage employees to share their success stories and insights from participating in your programs. Highlight these testimonials in your communications. If you don’t gather them now, start gathering them diligently.

    b. Using peer recognition: Establish a recognition program where employees can nominate colleagues who have made significant strides through HR and L&D initiatives.

  4. Their messaging is simple.Marketing materials are known for their clarity and simplicity. HR and L&D can take a cue from this and ensure that their communications are easy to understand and navigate. Avoid jargon and overly complex language. Above all, marketers, copywriters, and influencers follow one rule: have one simple and clear call to action.

    Put this into action by:a. Communicating clearly and with a single purpose: Use straightforward language to convey the benefits, requirements, and steps for enrolling in programs. Make information easily accessible through well-organized channels. Simplify emails so that it’s crystal clear what the one call to action is.

    b. Using multiple formats, like visual aids: Incorporate visual aids such as infographics or flowcharts to simplify complex processes or choices.

    c. Being creative with subject lines: Experiment with different subject lines for email invitations to discover which ones yield higher open rates.

  5. They make their content feel personal. Marketing materials don’t succeed because they’re flashy or have great special effects. They succeed because the customer feels likethey’re personally being heard and seen. Likewise, HR and L&D can employ data-driven personalization to recommend specific programs or benefits based on an employee’s role, tenure, or preferences.

    Put this into action by:a. Using data: Leverage data analytics to understand employee preferences and recommend relevant programs or benefits.

    b. Personalizing communications: Send personalized email invitations or communications based on an employee’s profile and interests.

Now It’s Your Turn

It’s time for HR and L&D to take a page from the marketing playbook. By embracing these strategies and tactics, you can bridge the gap between what you offer and what employees engage with. It’s not about changing the essence of our programs but rather how we present them.

In doing so, you can transform HR and L&D from mere providers of options into catalysts for growth and development, inspiring our employees to embrace the opportunities. Together, let’s turn disinterest into enthusiasm and unlock the full potential of our organizations.

Chris Wong
Chris Wong

Chris Wong is a licensed therapist, certified executive coach, and Founder/Owner of Leadership Potential, where he helps leaders develop confident communication skills in challenging situations and relationships. Chris has helped countless professionals navigate complex situations with confidence and achieve exceptional results. He has worked in the nonprofit space, creating and implementing leadership and organizational development initiatives to foster a strong leadership pipeline within the organization.

Certified as an executive coach, he works with human service nonprofit executives to create engaged and human-centric workforces so they can focus on the impact they want to have. This includes helping leaders navigate difficult conversations, resolve conflicts, create high-performing cultures, enhance productivity, and cultivate an inclusive and equitable work environment. Chris’s expertise spans diverse areas, including leadership development, strategic planning, leading change, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.

Recommended Webinar
Be a Strategic Advisor: How to Lead without Formal Authority

Chris Wong will provide actionable strategies for leaders to be truly seen as strategic advisors among executive leaders. In a time when learning and HR budgets are being trimmed, this is even more important to justify the business need.

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