Guest Blog By David Lloyd. CEO of PostBeyond
Social media; it’s used to stay up to date with news and communicate with friends and family. Social media is also used by many businesses as a marketing tool for their brand(s). The likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are growing each day and they have become a fundamental way businesses connect with their customers.
Every second of every day, on average, 6,000 Tweets are sent. That’s nearly 360,000 Tweets per minute.
If you run or manage a business – whether it be an SME or corporate – social media should be used as aplatform for marketing. However, you can take it one step further; creating a strategy where employees share company content on their personal social media. This social advocacy helps represent your business in a more engaging and authentic way.
If done correctly, your employees will help your business increase brand awareness, as well as impact sales; this has been demonstrated by a recent survey, which found that 67% of people considered their friends to be a reliable source of information on social media. If potential clients and customers see your brand being positively communicated through the unbiased voices of your employees they will be more inclined to collaborate and join forces.
Encouraging your employees to speak freely and share information about your organisation shows them that you trust and value their views on the organisation as well as their ability to communicate and share business information. However, having your brand image and updates shared through employees’ social media to potential customers, requires guidelines to ensure both the employer and employee are comfortable and on the same page.
Here are a few ways you can make social media advocacy work for your business:
Give your employees a reason to promote your business
In order to gain social media shares and coverage, it is important for mentions to happen in an organic way. So, look for opportunities where you can give your employees a reason to amplify the company they work for.
The first thing employees need in order to become advocates for your organisation online is content. Think about the type of content you need to create that employees will be inclined to share across their social media platforms – what do they feel most proud of as a member of your business? Whether this is visual content such as photos from recent team events, a post about recognition or an award they’ve received at work or a news release about an exciting new partnership, your employees need to have a connection with the content in order to want to advocate it.
Showing your employees that you appreciate their hard work in a tangible way could increase the possibility of them actually wanting to share content and praise the company via social media – they genuinely believe in the brand and so want to share it with their peers.
A survey carried out by Gallup revealed that over 50% of the U.S. workforce felt they weren’t engaged in their organisation. These employees rated themselves as indifferent – neither liking or disliking their job – demonstrating that they need that extra push to be inspired. This is where employee engagement through social advocacy can be the differentiating factor; “Organisations have more success with engagement and improve business performance when they treat employees as stakeholders of their future.” This showcases that employee wins, team victories and inclusion into more company related internal information can create more invested employees. Ultimately, employees who feel invested in their brand are more engaged and produce better business outcomes.
A great example of a company putting social advocacy into practice is Starbucks. Although they have an entire team of social media strategists, one of their best-kept secrets is that the majority of social media interaction and mentions come from their own employees. Starbucks’ ‘Tweet a Coffee’ Twitter campaign was advocated by their own employees and managed to have a direct impact on sales and boost it by $180,000 in just one month.
This goes to show that if you treat your employees right and they’ll genuinely want to promote their workplace, which can have a direct impact on sales. With that said, 92% of consumers say they trust products and services recommended by friends and family, so employers should be investing in making staff happier. Happier, engaged employees will be more inclined to share on social increasing both organic social media coverage.
Provide guidelines for staff sharing on social media platforms
In order to mitigate possible oversharing mishaps you have to set up guidelines and principles for your employees to follow when sharing work-related content on their personal social media platforms.
It’s important to make your employees feel comfortable with the idea of sharing work related content on their personal social media channels. You should also communicate the personal benefits they can achieve through social sharing as well as simplifying the social sharing process as much as possible.
Why not set out a few guidelines for employees who want to share content surrounding the brand? For example, you can suggest a list of appropriate hashtags for them to use, preferred brand terms, competitor products/services that should not be mentioned and easy cheat sheets that help explain the nuances of each social medium.
Staff that are happy in their work environment and aligned with their organisation’s vision are more likely to share content with their friends and family. Successful employee advocacy should be organic and authentic posts shared by employees and not a forced program pushed by management, HR departments or other team members.
Maintain your brand image at all times
It is of utmost importance that you put your trust into your employees when it comes to them promoting your organisation online. However, be sure they know not to promote the brand image in a way that conflicts with the organisation’s vision. Although organic and representative images of a business are needed, social media sharing spreads like wildfire and can often spiral out of control. If you’re an organisation in a highly regulated field, there should be a focus on educating and encouraging employees to understand and closely follow those guidelines you shared.
In a modern digital world, people want to work with brands that are represented well and are known for treating their employees and customers with respect. If your employees are translating this onto their own social platforms, not only will it showcase a great image for your business, but it will also promote and build on potential clientele relationships.
However. sometimes maintaining a brand image doesn’t always go to plan and ex-employees – or even current employees – can negatively represent and shame brands. A former Google+ UI Designer recently suggested on his personal twitter feed that the reason for the network’s demise was due to incompetent management.
As both current and ex-employees act as social influencers for your brand, their activity online has the power to either strengthen or dilute your ideal brand image. If each employee shares a joint vision of using employee advocacy to promote the organisation through social media, it will appear more sincere than if advocacy is forced upon employees; freely offered communications will come across as more genuine to prospective customers.
Therefore, as the opinions of your current and ex-employees are out of your hands and they are your own social influencers – everything they do either strengthens or dilutes the brand you’re trying to create – you should treat them with respect and they’ll be more motivated to shout about it on their own personal platforms. The business ramifications this can have are endless.
Whatever way you choose to use social media in your business, whether it’s for customer engagement, promotion or to view competitor movements, be sure to treat your employees well and give them the incentive to promote your business on their social media.
It’s a tool that must be utilised and when done correctly can improve sales, employee happiness and brand awareness.