Image from Bottle Uncorked
What is the best way for companies to harness the power of social influence?
Is it in having a beautifully designed and SEO ready website? Nah. Everybody would already have done it, one way or another.
What about having an active presence in all the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc)? Well, that would certainly be important in this day and age, but all your competitors are already doing it.
What about producing amazing and helpful content? Well, that is certainly important, especially when content marketing is taking centrestage in the digital marketing arsenal of more and more organisations.
However, it isn’t as singularly powerful as this strategy that I am talking about.
Enter employee influencers
Well, the answer lies in harnessing the power of employee influencers on social media. In other words, equipping, encouraging and empowering each and every employee to be a powerful online advocate for the firm.
Beginning with the CEO, of course, but not ending there.
As you would imagine, this may not work for every organisation. I mean, an FBI or CIA agent would possibly not want to blow his cover.
Neither would employee influencers work in companies struggling with staff motivation or retention issues. Such organisations are not ready to “go social”. Instead, they should focus their energies on improving their organisational culture and strengthening employee engagement.
Beyond the two examples, however, the majority of healthy organisations would probably benefit from this exercise.
7 reasons why employees are good influencers
Now why would the members of your organisation be great advocates for your brand?
Consider the following:
1) Almost everybody is on one social network or other, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
2) Many of us spend an incredible amount of time online. This applies during and after office hours.
3) Nobody knows your brand DNA like your staff. Happy employees are also likely to feel very strongly for your brand as their livelihoods literally depend on it.
4) Employees are already posting organisational events on their personal social networks. Don’t believe me? Just scroll through your newsfeeds and see for yourself!
5) With an average network of 200 to 300 friends or followers each, an organisation with say 100 staff could have a potential reach of 20,000 to 30,000. And that is not counting the friends of friends!
6) That’s not all. There are likely to be “hidden influencers” in your organisation who already have a significant social following. You just didn’t bother to find out.
7) Finally, the most common question asked amongst acquaintances is “What do you do?” The second most popular question? “Where do you work?” As social influencers, every one of your employee can use both online and offline opportunities to promote your brand.
Steps to building a social business
Naturally, this requires a major organisational retooling exercise. After all, getting your whole team to become social influencers requires a fair amount of planning, strategising, and execution.
For a start, mindsets need to be changed. Trust must be forged between bosses and their staff. Cultures should also be strengthened so that everybody is convinced that they should be emissaries.
A fine balance is also needed between encouraging employees to post on social networks versus doing the stuff they are hired for. Naturally, this needs to be handled with sensitivity and care. Social media policies establishing behavioural norms would come in useful here.
To succeed, the appointment of employee influencers need to be voluntary. Forcing somebody to tweet about a new policy which she disagrees with is tantamount to water torture. Ditto for getting sour faced Sam to post a happy selfie on Instagram!
At the same time, remaining silent and letting nature take its course isn’t enough. After all, we are social apes trained to mimic each other. Nobody wants to be the nail which sticks out waiting to be hammered back in place.
In this regard, leaders ought to blaze the trail. Beginning with the Chairman and CEO, and cascading down the line. Department directors and managers could also be appointed to set the example for their teams to follow.
The thing is this. If you see that your boss actively promotes the business through his or her social networks, you are more likely to be comfortable sharing it through yours.
Beyond leadership, HR also needs to also come in. Beyond establishing the “Dos” and “Don’ts”, HR could look at redesigning their entire compensation and benefit structure to encourage social sharing and advocacy.
Last, but certainly not least, employees need to be trained and equipped with the right social tools. This can be done internally by identifying subject matter experts in the organisation, or externally via appointing a social savvy consultant or trainer. Like yours truly. 🙂
What do you think about employee social influencers? Can such practices work in your organisation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.