How @WeAreCisco Grew Its Instagram Account Organically in 5 Steps

By: Casie Shimansky, Cisco

July 12, 2017

If you look up the word “daunting” in the dictionary, I’m fairly certain “starting a new social media account for your company” would be one definition.

When Cisco’s Talent Brand team opened an Instagram account in the summer of 2015, we didn’t just throw a few photos into the feed, bedazzle them with hashtags and call it a day. We knew that getting people to show up and remain engaged with the account would be a challenge.

The goal of @WeAreCisco’s Instagram account was to make connections with prospective talent through dynamic imagery and storytelling provided by current employees. We didn’t want to just tell people that there were jobs at Cisco—we wanted to share why they would want to work here.

So, how did @WeAreCisco’s Instagram account grow from zero to 18,000 followers, with healthy engagement rates, without paying a dime? Here are the five steps we took to flip the switch on employee storytelling on Instagram.

Step 1: Be Human

It’s OK to let your audience know there’s a person behind the account. In fact, it’s encouraged.

A few months before opening an Instagram account, we started changing our tone and voice on Twitter. Gone were the days of simply posting job listings—now we were laser-focused on employee storytelling and being social ourselves. There’s a big difference between pushing out content and becoming part of a conversation. Being human allowed us to be part of the conversation and to grow our following as well.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

Cisco, social media manager, Casie Shimansky

Casie Shimansky, social media manager, Cisco

Instagram’s community is very specific. It’s a storytelling platform created for artists and photographers. So, we put a heavy focus on photography and even trained our teams on Instagram, Instagram Stories and photography basics so they knew what type of images we were interested in.

It was also a conscious decision to keep our Snapchat strategy and Instagram Stories strategy different. These are two distinct channels—like different children from the same family—with unique goals and storytelling capabilities.

Always converse with each platform’s audience in their language. Very few accounts can get away with bombarding their followers with text overlays. Take into consideration what your audience wants to see and illustrate that through imagery that feels unique and native to the platform.

Step 3: Research Your Hashtags, Then Show Up Unexpectedly

Are there easy ways to misspell your company’s name or is there something your audience may be talking about when they’re really trying to talk about you? Perhaps there’s a certain geotag your customers use that you may not know about. You should go wherever your audience is. By finding out where they are and meeting them there, you’ll surprise them.

#Cisco is a frequently used hashtag that can mean anything from a character on a TV show to the misspelling of Sysco (a name shared by a food product company and a rapper). So, we started focusing on event hashtags like #CiscoGSX and #CiscoLive, as well as our global offices, via Instagram geotags. When we showed up unexpectedly in these places, we surprised people and our following really took off.

Step 4: Find Your Ambassadors 

We didn’t set out to develop a program for employee advocacy. But by listening to the conversations our employees were having on the platform, we noticed that some were already sharing why they love working at Cisco—and they were good at it, too. We decided to harness their enthusiasm and that is how the WeAreCisco Snapchat and Instagram ambassador programs were born. There are now more than 125 active ambassadors across the two programs that span the globe.

The more you encourage and enable your employees to post, the more their networks have eyes on what you’re doing. Trust them to do their jobs, tell their stories and be an authentic voice for your brand.

Step 5: Ask Permission and Give Them Credit

The @WeAreCisco Instagram account is entirely user-generated content (or as we like to call it, employee-generated content). We always ask for permission to share their images and always give the employee a photo credit within the post. Our following rapidly grew once word was out that employees could have their images featured on @WeAreCisco.


Casie Shimansky manages strategy for the @WeAreCisco Instagram and Twitter accounts, while also helping to harness the stories of Cisco employees through the Life at Cisco blog. 

Connect with Casie Shimansky: @TheNameIsCasie

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