Licensed via GL Stock Images
Licensed via GL Stock Images

After more than a decade of trying to figure out the ins and outs of social media, it’s pretty clear that people mostly share only what interests them. So how is it that employees usually hesitate to share their companies Facebook or Twitter posts?

Simple—they’re not involved or inspired. Most of them are far happier to share family photos or memes that relate to their likes (or dislikes) or articles relating to something they feel passionate about. You can’t force employees to share something that doesn’t feel right for them to share. But if you involve them in the process and inspire them wisely by producing content most of them can’t resist, you can easily create a team that doubles or triples the size of your marketing staff.

Benefits and Bonuses

In 2012, the Edelman Trust Barometer complied data from over 30,000 people. They found that “company employees have more credibility in the eyes of consumers than executives.” Turning employees into brand ambassadors makes use of an untapped asset—passionate employees who love what they do and who they do it for.

Not only is this a great form of word-of-mouth branding, it also effects the bottom line; profits. According to Gallup’s 2011-2012 study of employees in 142 countries worldwide, highly engaged employees “have 3.9 times the earning per share compared to their industry peers.” However, the study went on to say that “only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs.” Even worse, it appears that few companies bother to consider employees as assets to their branding. According to some industry insiders, that’s a big mistake.

“One of the hottest topics in social is the ability to measure its ROI,” said Eric Roach, CEO and Co-founder of EveryoneSocial, in an interview last week. “Companies should strive to make things as simple as possible for social media managers.”

I happen to agree with Roach. The constant whirl-wind of marketing, especially in today’s world-net society, demands that brands make use of every asset they have. More than ever, we’re more likely to trust the voice of “the man in the street” as opposed to a politicized ambassador.

Roach continued: “Whatever analytics a company chooses should also provide customers with a trustworthy, clear picture of the results of employee social media engagement across the entire organization. This way, customers know that the engagement is happening among real people, not a bunch of Internet bots.”

Again, I agree. If we learned anything at all from certain recent scandals, it’s that transparency pays off. Especially when it allows people to make informed decisions or to establish well-informed opinions. You should never try to con a client or a customer, and you should never try to force an employee to advocate on your companies behalf.

You should engage and inspire all of them.

Tips and How-Tos

During my conversation with Eric Roach, I asked him to think of some tips as to how companies should be going about utilizing their employees as brand advocates. Here are his thoughts with a few notes from me:

1. Involve Employees in Content Production

People share what matters to them. Although you need professional writers to put it all together, making the creative process a group effort encourages employees to share their thoughts and internal company wisdom. For those articulate employees who are comfortable doing it, invite them to write blogs for your website in order to create a platform for their thoughts. Your professional writer can act as editor and help to build their confidence and abilities as writers. They and other employees will be more likely to share this kind of content.

(NOTE: Read about how Zappos does this in this article on the US News website.

2. Make it Real

Your product or service is only part of what you’re trying to sell. Your brand is not only a part of who you are, but who works for you as well. Why not tell these human stories?

What’s the story behind the making of your company? What was the path you had to take in order to achieve it? What role did various employees play in your company’s success?

(NOTE: Fishbowl Inventory features blog posts and videos from employees, as well as encouraging them to become entrepreneurs while still working for them. Check out their blog’s site.)

3. Incentivization
The process of improvement, incentivization and healthy competition means that you continually measure, rate and reward those employees who achieve results. Some will achieve a higher level than others, but everyone should be valued for their accomplishments. Generating emails that keep them aware, engaged and active on behalf of the company is also a part of the process.

(NOTE: Read one of my previous B2C articles featuring some tips from O.C. Tanner.)

4. Educate and Inform–Lightly

The best leaders are teachers and learners. Consumers are hungry for information, but they also tend to have limited time in which to absorb it. If you listen to and learn from consumers and employees, you can create content that teaches—blog posts, infographics, videos and webinars—but in a way that makes it fun and easy to “swallow.” This helps to build consumer awareness as well as employee engagement.

(NOTE: Optimizely is one company that creates content which is anything but a self-promotional sales pitch.) 

5. Research, Share, Measure 
The best way to stay current when it comes to trends is to allow your team to keep their eyes on the ball. Gone are the days when employees should be blocked from using the internet. Forward thinking companies actually set times where they allow employees to feed their internet browsing needs free from being hassled about it. How great is it to also encourage them to look for ways to improve your brand while they do it!

(NOTE: You can read more about this trend here).

But that’s not enough. You also have to set up a system for sharing information, internally and externally. These systems (databases, websites, blogs, etc.) should mobilize employees and customers, not stifle them. Keep it simple and easy to use.

Finally, you should have some kind of system in place that allows you to quantify your results. What content is being shared? How are people sharing it? Where are they sharing it? Who creates the most shared types of content?

Final Thoughts

Never assume what people want—go and find out. Ask employees for ideas and input. Find out what their needs are and act accordingly. See what customers are saying and respond in ways that satisfy those needs. If you’re not satisfying other people’s needs, you can hardly expect them to meet yours…

You can’t build this kind of system overnight. Not only do you need to earn trust and respect of customers, but also of your staff. Once you’ve got it, you can build a support system that empowers and engages to the benefit of everyone involved. That’s the kind of success that goes on and on.

Isn’t continued success what we all want?