Let real people be your brand’s Social Media activity

If you haven’t done so already, there is no reason to invest big time in starting up a corporate social media channel. Of course, it is a hygiene measure to have a corporate social media account though will this be your tactic that makes the biggest impact? I don’t think so.

There are groups of people who never owned a desktop computer and learned to access the web via a tablet or who directly went to a mobile phone and skipped landlines. This is the same for corporate social media channels: there is a use for it, and it was an attractive tactic in the past, however, employee advocacy will get you ahead, while the corporate channel will just defend your status quo.

Nobody wants to be friends with a logo

Building up a corporate account is painful. You start with zero attention (friends, followers etc) and what would be the most compelling reason for people to follow a company, to friend a logo? Building up an audience of a reasonable size will be super hard, consuming a lot of time and resources and even then your impact (reach, traffic, engagement) will be limited.

Don’t spend money on acquiring an audience you already have

Chances are high that even though your company is not on social media, your employees are. They might be there for personal reasons to read or share about their hobbies, their expertise or just connect with people they like. Some might be there for professional reasons and some of them might already be an ambassador for your company.

However, don’t see them as your new found marketing department. Don’t just give these employees the content you wanted to share on your corporate social media accounts with the instruction to share it on their own accounts. I would recommend against it, you need a smarter approach. Otherwise, your employees might end up looking like corporate banner ads and loose some friends since all they can talk about is your company.

Just to stress it is not an OR – OR decision between corporate accounts and employee advocacy. Though if you have a limited budget put more into employee advocacy than into building up a corporate social media presence.

Employees have more impact than your corporate accounts

People trust people, that is what is the Edelman Trust barometer is showing year over year. Therefore content shared by your employees is likely to perceived more trust worthy than content shared via a logo (your corporate accounts) even when the content is similar since people trust people more than logos, especially when these people display a certain level of expertise.

Next to trusting content, content (and in particular brand content) is re-shared 24 times more often when distributed by employees than by a brand. Which means that reach is not just a little bit bigger, it is five times bigger. For this increase in reach you either had to be very lucky with your corporate accounts or you had to invest in advertising for a significant amount.

Besides reaching more people, the engagement with your content is a lot higher: up to 8 times higher. So it is not just reach that increases, but also there are more actions that the audience takes with your content.

Lastly many channels, Facebook included, are deprioritizing company content over real people content. So if you are just focusing on corporate channels you will just end up paying more to maintain the same reach.

If it was that easy, why is not everybody doing this?

Before explaining you how you could help the existing group of social media enthusiasts in your company better, let me explain you how you could assist those who are not yet that active on social media first. There are always three root causes why people are not active on social media yet:

Root cause 1: employees lack the knowledge on how to do it

This might be the easiest to tackle by providing continuous education. Not just from a very practical point of view to explain how things work and which buttons to push, but also by sharing best practices with them and by stimulating conversations between themselves to discover what works for them. This is where you can also ask the enthusiastic to step in and share their experiences.

Root cause 2: employees  think they are not allowed to do it

It is not uncommon for people to feel they are not the ones who should be talking on social media. “What would I have to add to this discussion” is they question they raise. Which is true, though at the same time, millions of people don’t seem to holding back and keep adding to the discussion. Is more than always better? No, but you can explain them they have a point of view that is unique and that is valued.

Root cause 3: employees have a lack of discipline

Starting is always easy, keeping the pace is the hard thing. Some people don’t start because they think they cannot keep the pace, some people start and don’t maintain the pace. It is up to you to find a way to keep them going over time by building a habit of sharing and participation.

How you could help your employees to shine

You will help your employees most by not seeing them as a replacement of your corporate communications department or your marketing department. By not burdening them with a task to do for you. Employee advocacy is about making them shine and if you do it well enough their results will reflect on your company, it is not the other way around. In the end people trust people and want to connect with people not with logos.

Make social media a perk, not work

Employee advocacy is about making your employees shine, make them look smarter than they already do, provide them with things they can learn from and what their network could learn from. It is about providing employees an opportunity to grow in a safe and risk free way. Provide them with the opportunity to learn even if they don’t share any content with their network.

Make it easy

Being active on social media is not something natural for everybody and building a habit takes time. Therefore try to make it as frictionless as possible. It can be as simple as you sending them tailor made messages for them to share by clicking a link or by pointing them to an interesting discussion with some proposed talking points.

It shouldn’t take them a lot of time and it should give them a sense of accomplishments and pride on what they have done. Even though you make it easy, don’t forget to praise them for doing it, since they are changing their way of working.

Employee account, employee rules

If you ask your employees to participate you cannot expect that you are the only one setting all the rules. You ask them to participate on social media, you should give them the freedom to choose with what they participate and how they participate. Of course you can provide suggestions, though it is very much up to them to decide what they will do.

Spotlight internal and external

Don’t forget to compliment the employees for their hard work. And more importantly, don’t forget to show it what they mean for you outside the organization and inside. Outside: why not draw the spotlight on them: sponsor their content, highlight their contribution on the corporate accounts and inside: explain why they

Be ready for disappointment on the short term

Change is never easy, keep that in mind. You are working on change management and if that was an easy job, there wasn’t an industry around it. Change is hard both for you as the people you want to help out. Be prepared that it will take twice as long as you planned, success will be limited in the beginning, people dislike your ideas, but that on the long run you can be successful if you persist.

If you can persevere and make employee advocacy work, your employees will win more than the company. The more you enable employees to win big, the more your company can win over time.