Confronted with the need to enter the social media space, companies are challenged with forecasting and allocating resources. At the same time, other companies are advancing towards more mature social media best practices and the drive to scale performance increases.
In both cases, there’s an often untapped resource businesses can explore for brand advocacy and engagement on the social web. To offer insight into the how, the smart and savvy B2B marketer Erin Nelson shares her insights:
Employees are immersed in the complexities of today’s social media landscape.
They are engaging with multiple networks and they are heard (even if for only a brief moment) by large numbers – daily. Marketing executives can certainly choose to leave these impressionable and active online crusaders to themselves. Or they can realize they are sitting on top of a lush and lucrative goldmine.
As more companies recognize the potential of utilizing multiple layers of their enterprise, the more closely we can see why this method makes sense, and how best to utilize the potential of our internal masses.
Brands don’t have to start clean and reorganize their budgets. All they have to do is utilize their existing employee investment as social capital. Below are five reasons why it’s time to start.
1. It’s cost-effective to use what you’ve got.
Consider how efficient is it to tap into a large and diverse consumer base through the networking action of existing employees who are already paid – and are currently active in social media.
These employees will indeed need to be guided on how to frame stories in ways you can be sure will work towards your advantage. However, this is a relatively low frontend cost for activating bountiful networks that represent a widespread collection of interests and motivations.
Remember that emergency, classroom phone tree that was used to spread news quickly? Employee engagement is the social business phone tree of the future – high-powered and with far greater outreach and branding potential. In the words of Charlene Li from the Altimeter group, “It’s a totally different ball game that social businesses are playing when thousands of employees are connected externally as well as internally.”
2. People trust information from their networks.
Today’s consumers trust online information, and more specifically, recommendations from their trusted internal networks.
Did you join Facebook because you saw an advertisement or did you register because a friend or colleague told you about its advantages? Whether or not we are talking about a social network, a product or a service, people use the web to research costs and benefits.
Now, research for product or service review has been extended. People don’t just ask Google if a brand is legitimate. They seek knowledge from people they trust within their existing networks.
When you have employees advocate on behalf of your brand, they are leaving an impression with people that understand their motivations and, for one reason or another, are invested in their output.
3. The best advocates of your business are the ones who understand it – and rely on its success.
The marketing team is paid to spread the message of a company brand. It’s our job to enter the collective consciousness of a target audience, to assert industry leadership and to advocate the advantages of company engagement. But, can one team possess knowledge of the entirety of an intricate organization?
A large advantage to utilizing other company members is that they can communicate personal levels of expertise. Each of them will have a story (and hopefully, talent) that is unique to their role within the firm.
Brands become stronger by sharing individual perspectives pointing to the same source. And you can be sure your employees will mean what they say, as their employment and professional reputation relies on the success of the brand.
4. Diverse internal perspectives attract different and specific demographics.
The CEO has something different to say than does the HR manager. The graphics team will face different challenges than the executive assistant. Finance will prepare for the day with different news than Sales. Each of these branches balances the intricate infrastructure of a company.
Creating a strategy in which each layer capitalizes on its unique online personas involves recognizing that not everyone needs to post the same thing or be engaged in the same conversation. Dion Hinchcliffe, from the Dachis Group, outlines how (exactly) this can be done.
Each employee can talk about the brand in relationship to his or her role within it. This not only personalizes your company name and objective, it gives employees the freedom to mean what they say. The more diverse and genuine the conversations, the more chances you have to convince and convert.
5. Transparency speaks volumes about the way you do business.
The financial crisis of 2008 and impending Great Recession were not long ago. Today’s consumers not only want the best deal, they want to know where it’s coming from and the authenticity of the transaction.
Involving all levels of your staff in the social media conversation brings light to the ways different departments interact. Ultimately, involving employees provides the opportunity to humanize the way your brand functions internally. The stories your employees tell will, in the end, be a valuable tool to connect with potential buyers and partners because of the intimate foundation that has already been laid.
Especially in the case of C-level communication within social media, people trust brands in which they can see a face – one they can both praise and hold accountable.
The Hard Knock Life of Business
Despite the volatile nature of social media, there exists lucrative potential in tapping into the motivations of people who already exist in a given place. Empowering employees to become brand advocates is a way to engage an active market with low risk and high return.
Utilizing what you have is not only the first lesson in social media. It is a goal that must be realized to get ahead in the hard knock life of business. In today’s business, we use social capital to formulate meaningful and lasting relationships.
Companies, who recognize the potential of their employees, will likely have a monetary advantage – connecting with a greater number people, more rapidly, and on a deeper level.
Ultimately, these will be the brands we remember.