Companies spend a lot of time and money investing in marketing tactics that can help them achieve a bigger reach with the audiences that care about their products or services.
However, there is a very important tactic that is often overlooked by business leaders and marketers – encouraging employees to promote the company and their industry on social media.
Sound scary? Intimidating? What’s the value?
All important thoughts and concerns, but social media continues to be a driving force for growing a business and connect with buyers. On top of that, paid social continues to grow more competitive and cost more.
While activating employees on social media may not often commonly be considered a marketing tactic per se, it is an effective method for impacting a larger audience in an organic way.
Are Employees on Social Media Talking About Your Company?
Before we go deeper, a bigger question might be, “Are employees at my company already actively sharing about the company online?”
The short answer is yes and maybe more than you’d realize.
98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company. (Weber Shandwick)
Additionally -and these numbers are growing – 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicated that they use any form of social media, 78% among those ages 30 to 49, to 64% among those ages 50 to 64. (Pew Research Center)
And the main players in the social space continue to be where customers and buyers are hanging out, looking for information. We are at a time in the digital age where social media cannot be ignored or blocked at the workplace.
The Pros and Cons of Employee Representation on Social Media
Weber Shandwick found that half of all employees have already mentioned their employers, their company, the products they create or the services they provide. This means that companies are actually missing out on the opportunity to guide these posts in a positive direction.
Any concerns about employees unveiling a bad side to the company are not going to be curbed if no action is taken. The same study found more than one-fifth of employees are already posting strictly positive posts about their employers and companies. Only 16% said they had shared criticism or negative comments about their employer online.
Of course, the idea of having unbridled employees on social media can be terrifying to many leaders. After all, companies work hard to create schemes that carefully analyze every statement, Call to Action and visual aid before it is published.
Companies know they will be held accountable for what their audience perceives as part of their brand. Employees form branches that stem directly from the company and a bad limb will often provide a large group of viewers with an idea that the whole tree is bad.
But, on the other hand, companies aren’t able to keep their employees off social media (even if they block it at work, doesn’t mean they aren’t posting on mobile or off company time). And not embracing social, also puts you behind competitors who have adapted to the digital age.
Without empowering employees through education and then encouraging positive posting from their employees, they are left only with those who are posting on their own volition and without any direction. Companies can help themselves by helping guide the voice and direction of content posted by employees on behalf of the company.
The Value of Social Media on a Personal Level
Brands are turning to social media for corporate pages that offer assistance and answer questions from their audience. It only makes sense that those social media plans extend to willing employee participation.
Social media offers a personal place where companies can connect with their audiences, but employee advocacy – or empowered employees and subject matter experts – reaches the audience in a whole new way.
Employees are able to: (1) connect with their friends and families in a deeply personal way and (2) engage more authentically as a brand representative with peer groups and your target audience.
Creating Policies for Social Media Activity
Of course, creating policies for employee posting is going to be very important. If you want to get off to a strong start, you will have to carefully consider how you can support and empower engagement without curbing enthusiasm. Social media policy shouldn’t be restrictive, but it does need to exist and be easily accessible for both the sake of the employers and the employees.
Let’s first note that trusting your employees is the first step towards employee advocacy. You will need to get your employees on your side and then allow them the freedom to work on your behalf. Part of trusting your employees will mean not posting on their behalf or controlling their posts. You should never ask an employee for their personal password or access to their personal account.
Consider the Organic Nature of Social Media
Too much policy will push your employee advocacy program into a strange and forced place that won’t go over well with your employees or the audience they are reaching out to impact. You can structure your company culture far better than you can structure the nature of your employee’s posting.
Providing training to help show employees how to post correctly and how to disclose affiliations will keep the guardrails up.
But it is equally important to educate the employee on the personal value they will realize from being a brand advocate and how it helps the company succeed. The training should be interactive and help them navigate the grey areas through sharing examples and use cases.
When Employees Become Advocates
If you are still wondering about the value of employees becoming advocates for your company, then you should consider the benefits they have access to that your company profile will not.
Reaching a Larger Audience
Perhaps your company has thousands of followers that receive your latest posts, but you are probably still trying to grow those numbers.
But your branded social accounts can be limited. In fact, 76% of individuals surveyed say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands.
Employees have various degrees of additional reach to friends and family members that your company doesn’t have access to. This means that your employees offer thousands of potential new customers.
The audience each employee reaches are likely to be similar to themselves…and probably a good demographic for your company’s services or products.
Realize that getting your employees on social media should be as valuable to your employees just as it is to you. You need to make it easy for them to post content that they are interested in and shows their professional clout and expertise.
As your employees develop their professional social capital, your brand actually looks stronger from the outside. As you strengthen your representatives, your company becomes the embodiment of expertise and thought leadership.
The Strength of Word-of-Mouth
Most people today are far more likely to trust a personal recommendation than an advertisement. Employees posting positive comments about your brand, workplace, products or services are recommendations that carry more weight than paid-for advertisements.
Earned media (press, word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer referrals) drives 4x the brand lift as paid media. (Bazaar Voice)
Benefits for Employees
On top of all the benefit employee advocacy does for your own brand reputation and image, your social media marketing tactic can also be a big benefit for your employees.
In fact, all policies should be created on behalf of your employees. Consider how you are helping your employees succeed and enjoy their work environment and you will achieve a much more dedicated base of supportive employees.
What’s in it for them? You can force employee participation in social media. But by encouraging it, providing incentives, and showing how it benefits their careers and opportunities, you’ll quickly have a marketing army.
If you are looking for more important benefits and stats of employees on social media, this post covers the most eye-popping statistics.