Should you get your employees involved in your social media marketing even if they’re not on your official social media team?
Short answer: Yes, you should.
Foster the people
The long answer is because it fosters employee engagement, which is a major challenge in today’s economy. According to Gallup, a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work, leading to product quality losses, increased shrinkage and absenteeism, and higher turnover rates. Employees are feeling less engaged at their jobs for a variety of reasons, including leadership and business strategy changes, financial slowdowns, and legal or regulatory changes.
They’re feeling defensive as they try to navigate all these negative changes, from both an internal and external perspective. But that’s not stopping them from talking about their employers on social media. “People are already talking about you everyday,” says Alexander Onish, L’Oréal’s Digital Employer Branding Manager. “If you go through social media you’ll see people tweeting about a successful meeting or posting on Instagram while they’re still at the office.”
The key is to harness that activity for the good of your B2B company, since 50 percent of employees currently post messages, pictures, or videos on social media about their work, with approximately one-third doing so with no direction from their employers.
“(It starts) with workforce engagement – if you do not have an engaged workforce it is difficult to get advocacy for your brand,” says Sarah Goodall, founder of Tribal Impact, a marketing consultancy focusing on employee advocacy.
Just look at these stats about how employees are talking about their employers on social media:
The impact of social encouragement
Having an engaged workforce is the key to starting an employee advocacy program on social media, but what kind of impact does it have on your B2B company as a whole? It has a BIG impact.
Organizations that create a welcoming environment for social media and employee advocacy enjoy higher rates of several key business metrics:
- increased sales due to amplification of products by employees;
- increased volunteerism as employees supported a cause the employer supports;
- lower employee attrition; and
- increased brand awareness and reputation levels as employees made positive comments about their employer where others could read them (like on social media.)
“…Leadership has a catalytic impact on employee engagement and willingness to be an ardent employer supporter. In the absence of trust in leadership, and credible and relevant communications from leadership, organizations run the risk of having more detractors than activists,” said Renee Austin, Executive Vice President, and Co-Lead of Global Employee Engagement & Change Management, Weber Shandwick.
Tactics B2B companies can use to encourage employee advocacy on social media
B2B companies have been a little slow embracing social media for business, partly because you feel like it’s the Wild West. You feel there’s no structure, framework, or guidelines you can use to keep everything moving in a positive, forward direction.
Open acceptance of social media helps foster the collaborative attitude that social media advocacy requires.
- Develop a company-wide social media policy. A social media policy doesn’t have to be an unfriendly and ultra-restrictive document that sternly lays down the law. Explain the law, but also give them the ‘why’ of the law. Tell them why social media is important to the company, how their actions can affect the company, and then give them guidelines they should follow to use it the right way.
“Don’t just say what they can’t share. Instead, define the things you do want them to share and show them the official and safe way to do it,” Onish says.
- Sketch out the various audience members that may be reading your social media. Employees outside the sales and marketing departments will have no clue about personas and target audiences. Their social media followers are simply their “tribe,” a collective group of people they communicate with. Their audience is a diverse group of individuals that may know your B2B company in different contexts: one is a consumer, another a manager, executive, front-line employee, or casual acquaintance. You just don’t know who’s out there.
Sketching out some basic audience personas for your employees will help them remember who they may be talking to. Include information like their role at their job, how they may know your B2B firm, how they enjoy their downtime, and how they may know your brand.
2a. Identify different roles employees can play in your overall social media program. Formalizing the social media advocacy roles employees play helps in two ways: First, it gives employees a framework through which to do their social media activities, which makes them more accountable for this work. Second, it eliminates any fears management may have about employee advocacy, since they’ll know the purpose and intent behind employees’ social media work.
For example, Dell uses five different roles, including the Listener who’s digging in to social media data and creating insights around the business, the Brand Advocate who’s sharing positive news that relates to their company, industry, and community; and the Content Curator who republishes third-party content that resonates with their brand, industry, and community.
- Give them a pipeline into the official social media team. Employees are already posting on their own social media accounts, but what about your official social media team? Is there a way for other employees to help them out too without feeling like they’re overstepping? You bet!
Create an online, internal suggestion box where they can send their social media suggestions. That way they’ll feel like they’re participating in the overall social media process, like they’re “part of the team”. And your actual social media team gets some new ideas and content they can post. It saves them some time and effort.
- Write content employees can share on social media. Some employees are good writers and will send out compelling and engaging social media messages on your behalf; many aren’t. Have your social media team provide messages employees can send out on their own accounts. This way you control the quality of the messages, ensure campaign tactics like hashtags are being followed consistently, and make it easier for all employees to pitch in.
- Provide the right social media tools to employees.You could invest in a social advocacy platform like DynamicSignal, Hootsuite Amplify, and Sociabble, or just unblock the Twitter and Facebooks sites on your computer network. Either way, you’re creating a more inviting and encouraging environment for your employees to be social online.
- Start by sharing internally first. Not everyone is used to sharing this way for business, so an internal sharing venue is a great way to ease employees into it, giving them a safe venue to do it. For those accustomed to sharing on social, it can help them refine their ‘voice’ and perspective so it reflects positively on your B2B company. “Tools such as Chatter, Jive, Yammer, and Slack…where employees can feel free to say what they want, to communicate directly with leaders. Foster a collaborative culture internally,” Goodall advises.
Embrace employee advocacy or stay stagnant
Social media has the finger on the pulse of the online community which is why many B2B companies are wary of using it. Yet your employees are already using it for their personal lives, and they’re already talking about you there as well.
These tips will help you harness this time and effort for your B2B company and set up a solid foundation for an employee advocacy program you can use to great effect.
Flickr photo via static.guim.co.uk
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