With Workers TikToking on the Clock, Brands Rethink Employee Advocacy

Advertisers are throwing strict social media guidelines out the window to help recruit Gen Zers

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On April 4, LA-based TikToker Melanie Moradi posted a Gucci unboxing video, unveiling the generous uniform set the designer brand bestows on all its new employees, herself included, to her 13,500 followers. Set to Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang,” the short clip showed two huge shopping bags, filled with olive green blouses, blazers, shoes and leather goods. “Should I just keep the bag and ghost?” she asked in the caption.

Eleven days, and 9.4 million views, later, Moradi took to TikTok to announce she’d been “fired” for breaking the company’s policies around social media use, owing to how she’d captioned the video. Oh, and she had to give all the items back too.

“It honestly didn’t even occur to me that my caption could be an issue because it’s just my sense of humor. I thought it was funny, I thought it was obvious that it was a joke and that it wouldn’t represent anyone at the company poorly,” she told fans.

@moradi.mp4

Should I just keep the bag and ghost #gucci

♬ Gucci Gang – Lil Pump

Moradi represents a growing throng of content creators TikToking while on the clock, often with the encouragement of their employers. A quick search shows staffers from flight attendants to aspirational “tech girlies” at Google, Cisco and Amazon and every profession between offering audiences a look behind the scenes at their working life.

For many brands, the opportunity to use platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Twitter to recruit fresh Gen Z talent outweighs the risk of handing creators the corporate branding reins.

This new, more relaxed approach to employee advocacy and recruitment is helping brands appear more personable to candidates, according to Fanbytes by Brainlabs head of creative strategy Tom Sweeney, who devises social media campaigns for clients like Paula’s Choice and Cineworld.

“Social media used to be a ‘highlights reel’; now it’s just a ‘reel.’ For Gen Z, it’s authentic, it’s personal and it’s open—it’s a place where creators like telling real stories,” Sweeney said.

LinkedIn for Gen Z

Macy’s was one of the first brands to spot potential in this trend with its 1,500-strong employee advocacy army in 2018. Members of the Macy’s Style Crew were initially trained to use the retailer’s Video Storefronts platform to create personalized homepages for fashion, beauty and home goods on Macys.com. They were also equipped to share shoppable videos and images across their social media channels.

In 2020, United Airlines launched its own internal initiative to turn employees, including baggage handlers and cabin crew, into influencers. And Cisco has been offering training to its 83,300 employees to act as talent influencers, providing them with guidance on how to use their Instagram and TikTok profiles to attract job candidates.

Though LinkedIn, or a branded job site, may seem like the most natural platforms to launch employee advocacy initiatives, those places aren’t where young, fresh talent is hanging out in 2023.

Gen Zers aren’t even searching for roles on Google like Gen Xers or millennials. At a 2022 tech conference, Google svp Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs the company’s Knowledge and Information organization, revealed the giant was losing ground to TikTok and Instagram, which he said were the preferred search engines for “almost 40% of young people.”

A U.S. study in the same year by HR tech company CareerArc found 62% of Gen Zers had discovered open roles on social media. These platforms could also help brands reach a more diverse range of candidates, with the same data revealing Hispanic and Black Americans with work experience were far more likely than their white counterparts to say they’d discovered job opportunities on social media (49% and 46% vs. 28%).

For Fanbytes’ Sweeney, Gen Zers in particular expect brands to have their own online unique traits and clear values. “When brands then allow team members, colleagues and staff to showcase their individual personalities, that aligns really nicely with the way that Gen Z want to consume content,” he said, adding that this kind of advocacy is especially important for b-to-b brands, which typically have less of a “face” on social media. 

Fanbytes recently worked with professional body The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) to encourage young people to choose a career in accounting. The result was a disruptive influencer campaign that featured members telling personal stories, like how they overcame hatred of math at school to pursue a career in finance, and comedic TikToks based on trending sounds and challenges.

“They saw that [campaign] as a massive value driver,” said Sweeney. “These weren’t people they were paying. They were really credible people, and it allowed the brand to start really specific conversations with potential applicants.” 

Clarifying expectations

Employee advocacy isn’t just an effective recruitment tool. It can also give brands a reputational boost. 

According to PR firm Weber Shandwick, half of all employees share content from or about their employer on social media, and 33% do so without any prompting. So it makes sense for brands to introduce their own schemes and formalize this lip service. 

However, some advertisers are not so keen to rescind control over to creators. In 2022, British Airways introduced new social media guidelines that would prevent staff from posting social updates on the clock, or in the cockpit.

“We’ve given our people clarity about what’s appropriate and when. For example, when our colleagues are flying an aircraft, they’re responsible for the safety of everyone on board. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to wait until their break to take photos,” said a British Airways spokesperson. 

To avoid another Gucci-TikTok controversy, leadership consultant Amalia Sterescu said any brand entering this space must handpick the staff they want to work with, then clarify expectations around their social media messaging.

“It’s crucial that invited employees understand this is a voluntary effort, that they will need to follow certain social media communication rules in line with company policies, that they will receive support not only through personal branding training but also in positioning themselves as experts in their industry or field,” said Sterescu. 

This story is part of Adweek’s Creativity x Culture digital features package, which spotlights the people, marketing strategies and creativity driving lasting cultural and societal change.