June 16, 2016
Case Study

Inbound Marketing: HP turns interns into brand ambassadors with Twitter contest

SUMMARY: To turn interns into tried-and-true brand ambassadors, HP launched a series of Twitter contests made available to its more than 2,500 interns around the world who wanted to receive expert coaching and support on building a professional digital brand for themselves.

HP used this content to give a face to the brand, to build a continuous source of millennials interested and engaged with the company and, as a bonus, to drive a 95% satisfaction rate with interns.
by Courtney Eckerle, Managing Editor


“At HP, we believe in reinvention. We believe that technology should make life better for everyone, everywhere. This vision guides everything we do, how we do it and why we do it,” said Daniela Petkova, EMEA & Asia-Pac University Hiring Leader, HP Inc.

As part of HP’s HR department, Petkova and her team’s mission is to position the company as a talent magnet and attract the best candidates. This is from the belief that a brand is just a name, before it’s given a personality — and your employees are the biggest component of that personality.

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In this campaign, the team was looking to attract millennials to the company, who would bring with them an intrinsic enthusiasm for the HP brand.


The company was looking to recruit talent who would begin new positions in the company already having an organic enthusiasm for the brand.

Petkova and her team believed it was important to leverage social media to build connections and to let brand personality shine through.

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“Typically talent attraction has followed traditional channels such as job boards, employee referrals, university campus fairs and presentations. In order to re-position our employer brand as a millennial talent magnet and target the most relevant talent in the most cost-effective way, two years ago we launched a Global Millennial Social Media Competition,” she said.


The team wanted to provide a group they termed “HP Millennials” the opportunity to speak up in their own voice, to their community of friends and family about their personal excitement with HP, while gaining internal visibility with the HP leadership team.

The goal of this campaign was to raise HP brand awareness as a best place for work for millennials, while “leveraging social channels at scale and almost no monetary investment via a campaign that engages in a personal, authentic and a fun way,” she said.

At the beginning of each contest, HP selected three to six participants (“Twiterns”) from hundreds of applicants. Then, over the next three weeks, the company challenged the Twiterns to post engaging content about their internship experiences using the hashtag #HPTwitern.

Step #1. Establish game parameters

There weren’t many competition rules, Petkova said, as the team wanted to create an experience that would allow participants to feel free to be creative.
“We focused on having continuous support for the contestants around how they can shape their personal digital brand,” she said.

Throughout the contest, they had an HP brand and digital coach helping all contestants with questions, as well as a peer coach, who was an intern who had stood out with a particularly robust digital footprint.

“Ultimately, we wanted the participants to learn and expand their views on how social media could positively impact their professional career,” she said.

Below are the general guidelines provided to the participants:
  • The content submitted has to be your own creation and must not infringe upon the copyrights or other rights of any person or entity. Should you have images of non-HP employees, you must ensure you have their written consent on using their image on social media platforms.

  • Your entries shall not contain any image or message that is or could be considered inappropriate, unsuitable or offensive and/or exhibiting any activity that is illegal.

  • At all times follow the HP standards of business conduct, which have been established to ensure a high level of integrity in all our business dealings and to safeguard our customers and partners.

Petkova said one of the most important aspects was to focus the competition “toward students getting to know HP in a way that they engage with us in a friendly conversation via our own interns. We wanted to create a personal trusted interaction between people, and the intention was not to push messages.”
The team did not in any way want interactions to come off as aggressive.

“That would have been a disaster and would have killed the authenticity of the conversations. What we noticed though is that friends of our interns naturally started asking them about career opportunities, and our own interns were recommending available jobs to them,” she said.

Step #2. Establish phases and goals for participants

The competition had two phases, Petkova said, the first of which was nomination.

This meant that applicants had to make a 30-second video that illustrated why they should be nominated and be the voice of the HP intern community. Interns had three weeks to submit their video submissions before judging began.

From there, a panel of judges selected three interns to become the HP #Twinterns leaders. The number of selected participants has varied from contest to contest, but typically lands between three and six. The panel included a Global Digital Media Manager, Global Branding Lead and a representative of HP University hiring leadership.

Entries were judged based on the following criteria:
  • Creativity

  • HP culture fit

  • The intern’s digital footprint on social channels

The second phase was simple: win the contest.

After being selected, the nominated participants joined a three-week challenge on posting engaging content on Twitter and Instagram.

The goal, Petkova said, was to inspire tons of engagement on posts and win the contest. There were official challenges announced over the official hashtag — #HPTwiterns.

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All participants, she said:
  • Completed HP Social Media Guidelines training.
  • Attended the kickoff orientation session with HP Digital Media team prior to posting content. During the meeting, participants asked questions on the contest rules and received clarifications.
  • Used competition hashtags on posts related to this contest as to gain points toward their social influencing index.

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The winner was the participant with highest number of points on the last date of the contest, and they received the prize, an HP product.

The awards for the competition winners were: an HP tablet, enhancement of participants’ digital personal brand, internal visibility to senior leaders at the company, and “freedom to speak up and tell their story in their own way.”

Coworkers joined in the fun, she added, so this also unexpectedly opened up networking opportunities.

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Since this was a global competition, active since 2015 in the Americas, Asia, the Pacific, Japan, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, cultural awareness was also a benefit.

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“We brought folks together from all corners of the world, [and] they started connecting and learning from each other. Now all of our participants across the globe know each other and catch up. We did not facilitate that in any way — it just happened naturally, driven by them,” Petkova said.

Step #3. Evolve contest

There have been four editions of the competition, according to Petkova, and the team has fine-tuned its operational workings over that time.

“We calibrated pieces such as the challenges, the internal and external communications, encouraged manager participation,” she said.

For the upcoming competition, she said, “We are especially excited to bring the competition to life in the new HP Inc., and we are planning some major steps.”

Those steps include:
  • Executive sponsorship directly from the C-level leaders

  • Changing the competition name

  • Potential expansion to more social media channels to be used
  • Increased target audience to not only interns but also graduate hires

  • Further internal and external communications enhancements

  • Bigger prizes

She and her team have made this evolution of the contest by consistently testing what works, and what doesn’t.

“Before bringing the competition live globally, we did a pilot in the U.S. in summer 2014. By focusing only on one country, we managed to gain valuable insights,” she said.

The insights they were able to gain were:
  • How to align competition rules with local law and tax regulations

  • Communications cadence and key messaging

  • Resourcing of the competition, roles and responsibilities

  • Which social channels were suitable and which challenges spurred most engagement

  • Internal and external reactions of the audiences and how to expand engagement

  • Uncovered participant’s areas of weakness in the digital space and how to unlock opportunities for them

A final takeaway from that pilot program was resetting expectations on participant engagement.

“We were assuming that from an audience of 1,000 we will get 100 videos for the first phase. After the pilot, we actually identified the realistic number and it is around 1% to max 2% of initial target audience. This has been really useful to help manage the expectations of the judges and other internal stakeholders,” she said.

Also, although they have only three to five participants in the second phase, anecdotally, she added, there is always one participant who is not as engaged as the rest.

“The [insights] above provided us with great insight, and after the pilot, we created a competition toolkit with all tools and collateral for its global implementation,” she said.


“[This campaign] helped us have a human face — HP’s greatest asset is really the people. This campaign gave us a chance to give the mic to them,” said Petkova.

No other talent attraction or employer brand effort has been so well targeted, she added.

“With this competition, the stories reached exactly those we wanted at scale,” she said. “The big win was the authenticity. The stories were not made-up and were not polished by marketing specialists. They were real, directly told by millennials to millennials in their own language.”

The team looked at two main sets of results for this competition, which Petkova said exceeded expectations:

Authentic content generation vs. typical corporate weekly content activity saw a 3,700% increase.

“We looked at the number of posts generated in the competition, the reach, and the engagement … a typical social media engagement on our corporate page would require people to ‘like’ the page and then get messages in their newsfeeds. #HPTwiterns is posted directly to each participant’s own social accounts, so it reached their friends’ networks without those individuals needing to actively follow HP. It was a very personal experience,” she said.

Intern program achieved a 95% satisfaction rate (via the internal intern global survey).

“Thanks to this competition and few other key engagement initiatives, we have experienced exceptional satisfaction results with the program. Note this program was formed of 2,500+ individuals, so [it is] one of the largest and also one of the best,” Petkova said.

Creative Samples

  1. HP millennial

  2. Office party tweet

  3. #HPTwiterns challenge

  4. Interns ranking

  5. Manager-intern Tweets

  6. HP Global internship luncheon



Zoomph — HP’s social media vendor

Related Resources

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Social Media Marketing: Over 120% increase in daily activity for app due to visual social media campaign

Content Marketing: ZipCar increases contest submissions by 717% by moving off of Facebook

Social Media Giveaway Campaign Lifts Sales 15%: 6 Steps

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