Social media has established itself as an essential part of most brands’ marketing strategies. At the same time, social media has become a ubiquitous force in the lives of employees. Brands continue to realize the substantial power that exists when employees’ social media skills are successfully harnessed.
This practice is partly a numbers game. Every retweet, share, or post reaches all followers of each employee—exponentially increasing a brand’s reach on social media. In addition to opening up a larger audience, messages coming from friends are received with a higher regard than messages coming directly from brands. A study from Forrester Research found that 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends, versus 10% who trust recommendations directly from a brand.
Engaging employees in a company’s social media strategy can be a tricky process, but it also reaps plenty of rewards. Here are seven secrets to successfully establishing an employee social advocacy program:
1. Implement an open social policy
As tempting as it can be to ban social media in the workplace, that policy can be counterproductive to company goals. 46% of workers polled in a study by Ipsos for Microsoft said that using social media made them more productive. Besides that, the effort to squelch an activity that has become so prominent in people’s lives is just not worth the effort. Allowing for responsible social media use during work hours sets a positive precedent for the use of social tools within the structure of employees’ jobs.
2. Build a solid company culture
One of the most difficult, but also most important, tasks in engaging employees in social strategy is building a solid foundation in the company culture. If there’s a general sense of unhappiness or apathy in the company, it will certainly reflect in any social strategy a brand tries to employ. Be sure employees want to speak highly of the company they work for.
3. Start small
Just like with other marketing initiatives, it’s best to start small when engaging employees in the social strategy. Find a few qualified employees who understand how to use social media and can grasp its place within the brand's overall image. If the test phase goes well, then consider expanding it to more employees. The test group can serve as leadership as the policy is rolled out with the entire company.
4. Appoint leaders
It’s great to allow employees the freedom to utilize social media, but someone should oversee the program. Appoint certain marketing managers or executives to be responsible for the oversight of employees’ social media use and keep the strategy on track.
5. Establish guidelines
Take those appointed leaders and ask them to create certain guidelines for social media use. The foundation of company culture and an open social policy will help steer this process in the right direction. Offer as much flexibility as possible to employees while still providing support and suggestions through agreed-upon guidelines. Employees will be more likely to participate if clear guidelines are laid out.
6. Empower employees with the right tools
Employees will excel when empowered with the proper tools. Find a solution—whether it be a platform, a software program, or a list of best practices—that helps employees use social media in a productive way. Social media platforms like Hootsuite and Buffer are user-friendly options that many employees may already be familiar with. A whole slew of tools geared specifically towards employee social engagement are also available.
7. Don’t be afraid of mistakes
Marketers may be terrified of turning over the reigns of their perfectly manicured brand to the Wild West of employees’ social media practices, but they shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes. In fact, it's best to embrace the idea that employee mistakes are inevitable, and address them as they come along. The benefit of having an entire army of brand advocates in the ranks outweighs the danger that one of them might make a minor mistake.