Many companies that invest heavily in social media marketing fail to mobilize one very important network in their efforts: their employees. How much time and energy are you devoting to finding, educating and empowering brand advocates outside your company? Compelling research suggests focusing on improving employee engagement can have powerful business consequences, on social media and beyond.
Yet investments in empowering employees’ social participation are limited. A study from the Altimeter Group suggests that 62% of companies don’t have a social media education program in place. Here’s a closer look at how to get ahead of your competition and strategically engage employees to add rocket fuel to your social media campaigns.
Engaged employees are the new brand advocate
A study from Edelman Research suggests that regular employees are viewed by the public as more trustworthy than executives. As part of its 2012 Trust Barometer, Edelman interviewed more than 30,000 consumers. 50% of people interviewed felt that a “regular employee” had credibility, falling just below a “peer” at 65%. CEOs, by contrast, fell significantly from the previous year to less than 40%. This is a powerful incentive for companies to invest in creating internal brand advocate networks. Could using an employee as the social media face of your company improve campaign performance and customer response?
Focus on social media education and empowerment, not restrictions
For many companies, social media policies are about restricting and monitoring employee usage. Many brands are more concerned with limiting employee interaction online and minimizing potential brand damage than educating employees on how to use social media to do their jobs more effectively. While having social media policies in place is important, it’s also critical that your organization identifies opportunities for employee engagement online. Making this change requires a paradigm shift. It’s important to build a company culture where responsible social media participation and engagement is encouraged and valued. A clear social media policy, education, and incentive programs can help.
Build incentives to promote employee participation
You control what you measure. Your employees are focusing their energies on what aspects of the job they value. One strategy for engaging your employees with social media is to build it into their job descriptions as a performance metric. For example, monitoring and responding to brand mentions on Twitter and Facebook may become part of your customer service team’s responsibilities. All employees may be expected to act as brand advocates, online and in person. Set easy targets, such as sharing one piece of content each week on a priority social network such as Facebook or Twitter, to help measure and encourage participation.
Educate employees on your company’s strategic social media priorities
Many companies fail to capitalize on employee engagement, simply because they don’t ask. Each month, let employees know about key blog posts, social media campaigns, and innovative online marketing you’re doing. Encourage them to contribute, to share feedback and ideas on the marketing, and to help disseminate it to their networks. The more successful your business is, the more secure and lucrative their jobs will be. You never know if your next big client or deal will be within your employees’ networks. Articulating your online marketing goals and strategies will help your employees succeed.
Make it simple to share and promote
Another aspect of encouraging employee social sharing (and social sharing in general) is making it easy to do so. Ensure that your content features a simple share button to all the major networks, including Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Post content or hire someone to do so on a regular set schedule, and notify your employees when major pieces such as new blog entries, white papers, or viral campaign assets are released. In fact, once they “like” your Facebook page or follow the company on Twitter, they will automatically receive updates and that can trigger an action in them. The easier it is technologically to share and promote your content, the more likely your employees are to participate.
Show the impact
Take the time to educate your employees on the potential value of social efforts by demonstrating examples of brand building, lead generation, and ongoing customer service in your industry or with recognized brands. If you work with a professional SEO firm who provides social marketing for you, ask them to come in and train your employees on how to support your brand through engagement. When social media efforts are instrumental in improving your bottom line, share this information. Show how specific social media efforts are strategically tied to your company’s top business goals in the year ahead. Transparency and guidance can go a long way toward converting social media skeptics.
Focus on the personal benefits
Another aspect of getting employees involved in online marketing is emphasizing the benefit to their careers. Employees with experience in social media marketing, online marketing, and content generation are in demand in all fields. As a result, being able to demonstrate expertise in these areas will help your employees meet their own personal long-term career goals. By sharing high quality content and having industry-related active social media profiles, they’re also taking important steps to build their own brands within your field.
Social media marketing has the potential to impact your business in numerous ways, from building brand awareness to helping directly land new clients. Social marketing also plays a growing role in Google algorithms which means it helps you rank higher than the competition. Successful social media campaigns make use of your company’s most important asset: your people. Use these strategies to help educate your team on how their participation in your social media efforts can be transformative to your business and beneficial to their own careers.