Kristin-Thomas

Kristin Thomas with Vanguard shares how she overhauled employee social media guidance in a regulated industry

As the Program Manager for Vanguard’s crew advocacy efforts on social media, Kristin Thomas supports social recruiting.

If we can get our crew involved on social, our reach becomes 23 times greater, specifically on LinkedIn. Kristin Thomas
Which, within a regulated company, isn’t always the easiest task.

“I knew I had my work cut out for me my first day,” says Kristin. “For years, the guidance for our crew was very strict.” All of that started to change last year when Kristin set about overhauling their social media guidance and getting employees (crew members) involved.

Kristin says they had to make sure to change things little by little.

One of the first things Kristin did was develop a weekly email newsletter called The Social Roundup that shares crew member stories and advice for social profiles. According to Kristin, the newsletter was a grassroots effort starting with their recruiters that has grown organically over the last year from 75 to over 1,800 crew. This newsletter helped Kristin and her team drip out content and advice while they were developing the new guidance.

“It would’ve been a lot of change to come in on day one with new guidance and a social sharing platform,” explains Kristin. “We decided to take a careful approach to our rollout.”

But, Kristin says that was to their benefit, because it allowed them to change habits and re-educate the 17,000 crew members at Vanguard. “Now that we’re encouraging employees to introduce their content, comment, and include our hashtags. It’s good that we had this time and foundation to get them acclimated to the changes,” she says.

At the same time, in July of 2017, Kristin and her team worked to launch their careers blog.

“A lot of companies don’t necessarily have their own dedicated careers blog,” says Kristin. “But, it’s important to us that we do.”

The careers blog focuses on crew stories, written by crew members, that Kristin and her team work to promote through their email newsletter, other internal communications, and corporate LinkedIn channel.

The following January they launched #LifeatVanguard, which they connected with the stories on their blog.

She says that the growth of this hashtag was also a grassroots effort, as they only explicitly shared its launch with the group of advocates on their email list and specific crew members.

“There are certain influential crew members that we got to use #LifeatVanguard who had a lot of followers,” says Kristin. “Other crew would see it, and then they would start using it themselves.”

She says that they saw a significant jump in job applications through LinkedIn after the launch of the hashtag, which they think provides a highly engaged candidate pool with further visibility into Vanguard’s culture and career offerings.

To start working on the new guidance itself, the first thing Kristin did was meet with the legal and compliance teams.

As we were testing the waters we wanted to focus on slowly building participation on a professional networking site (LinkedIn) before venturing into other channels. Kristin Thomas
“I needed to talk to them about the talent market and how we have to meet candidates where they are,” explains Kristin. “Because, if we can get our crew involved on social, our reach becomes 23 times greater, specifically on LinkedIn.”

She says they had a lot of back and forth with these teams to make sure that every update they were making was appropriate and wouldn’t put the company at risk. Part of how they mitigated this risk was by focusing their efforts on the Vanguard LinkedIn page first.

“For us as a regulated company, it was a safe place,” says Kristin. “As we were testing the waters we wanted to focus on slowly building participation on a professional networking site before venturing into other channels.”

Recently, Kristin and her team have come to the point where the guidance was ready to go live.

“We filled our internal sharepoint website with training and resources geared towards helping crew participate on social,” says Kristin. “We’ve been building all of these resources at the same time we were updating the guidance in preparation for our official announcement.”

Then, a few weeks ago they posted an article called “Crew get Social with #LifeatVanguard” on their company intranet and kicked off their official launch phase.

Kristin says that it’s been fun to see the crew sharing their Vanguard pride and see how the hashtag continues to grow and evolve. “It makes me proud that we’re really getting out there and reaching the networks of our crew with authentic stories — which is the whole point of it all,” says Kristin.

Now that they’ve finished building the foundation, Kristin is excited to see what next year brings.

Because of our industry and our previous guidance, we’re working to show crew members how to engage with us on social media, enhance their own professional brand, and further promote the Vanguard brand. Kristin Thomas
She says the next step is exploring ways to bring #LifeatVanguard to new channels (Facebook and Instagram) and new ambassadors.

“My goal is to build a successful ambassador program,” says Kristin. “Now that the foundation is built, and we have an active base of advocates on LinkedIn, I’m focusing on groups where we have a higher external hiring need and finding crew that we can engage in those fields.”

Kristin’s team is focused on making crew members feel more comfortable on social. “Because of our industry and our previous guidance, we’re working to show crew members how to engage with us on social media, enhance their own professional brand, and further promote the Vanguard brand,” says Kristin.

As for her advice on tackling social guidance in a regulated industry, Kristin says not to wait.

“Work on whatever you can to lay the foundation you need for your employees or plans down the line,” she says.

She emphasized getting started in small ways, such as one-on-one meetings with leaders, presenting to teams, attending internal events, partnering with internal communications, or starting a small newsletter. “Don’t forget to celebrate the little wins along the way, they help people connect to the bigger picture.”

Kristin Thomas has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2017. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.