If marketing wants to tap into the power of having an employee fan club, we need to rock their world not ours, as global marketing consultant and coach Jane Scandurra explains.
I’ve worked in the online/internet industry for (dare I admit it?) over 30 years (I like to say I started when I was five). Living digital is literally in my DNA. I love what I do because, even as technology disrupts everything, the human touch still rules – and that’s where I like to make a difference. For the last 10 years, I’ve been helping companies leverage the power of social media through employee advocacy and social selling enablement.
From a company perspective, the benefits of implementing these programs – that is, enabling and encouraging employees to engage in conversations and share brand-related content via social – is a no brainer. As pesky, ever-changing algorithms continue to reduce organic visibility for brands across social media, activating employees seems like a simple and pretty much built-in solution for effective brand communication.
All you have to do is look at the amazing stats to support the value and ROI. It’s why so many companies jump right into it, thinking they have everything covered – except most neglect to consider the “secret sauce” that, in my experience, is what sparks consistent, long lasting employee participation and, ultimately, amazing results for all involved. They fail to incorporate what should be an obvious program design element: making it personally relevant and beneficial to employees.
Don’t expect your employees to be advocates for your organization if they don’t know how it benefits them.
Employees rightfully ask themselves, “What’s in it for me? Why should I use MY professional/personal networks to share company info?”
Asking them to spend time in social channels sharing company information just smells like more work and that they’re merely being used as mindless marketing tools to spread company propaganda. It may be perceived as a corporate mandate, so they’re not likely to share these feelings with their manager (but they have shared them with me). They’ll play along and share content for a short time, but not consistently and not enough to make a difference. Not without clearly communicating a good reason – for THEM.
One of the most important aspects of an advocacy program is supporting the PERSONAL BRANDS of your employees.
The secret sauce to success is to make it about the employee brand, not the company’s. If you understand and communicate this basic principle, your employees will feel more engaged, knowing your company cares about their professional development instead of just turning a profit. Unfortunately, the individual brand-building component of an employee advocacy program is often an afterthought – if ever considered at all.
Align with the Millennial Mindset
Millennials fundamentally think about jobs as opportunities to learn and grow. Their strong desire for development is, perhaps, the greatest differentiator between them and all other generations in the workplace.
According to Gallup, Millennials care deeply about their development when looking for jobs and — naturally — in their current roles. An impressive 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job — far more than the 69% of non-millennials who say the same.
When you focus on developing employees to be the best they can be and to impart how their success equals the company’s success – you see wonderful things happen – for all involved.
We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer of a brand called You.Tom Peters, Fast Company, 1997 (and my all time favorite management guru)
Regardless of whether a company has baked in this secret sauce themselves, all of my social media enablement training starts with the personal branding imperative – and believe me, the lightbulbs go off almost immediately – even for SMEs like technical developers, engineers, etc – who normally operate in the background and don’t get the opportunity to shine in the marketplace. Now, they have a chance to show off their deep expertise and get the recognition they know they deserve – which tremendously benefits not just themselves, but the company by association. With this objective in mind, they actually do it.
Gaggle Amp clearly summarizes the three reasons companies should take an active role in helping it’s employees with their personal branding:
- Increased ROI for social media engagement efforts: Employees with larger personal brands mean a bigger impact (and ROI) for your employee advocacy efforts in social media. Having a bigger reputation on social media helps establish your employees as thought leaders and trusted subject matter experts.
- Improved hiring process: Having employees with strong personal brands raises your company’s profile as an employer. Social media engagement is not just limited to engaging with potential clients, your staff can also engage with potential employees. This can lower hiring and recruitment costs and increase the caliber of candidates applying for your open positions.
- Increased employee retention: Helping your employees with personal branding helps them grow within their own careers. The effort you spend helping your employees grow their brands on social media increases employee engagement at work – a proven factor in employee productivity and retention.
NOT focusing on promoting strong employee brands and enhancing their “social authority” can have negative effects – some you may never know about.
Sure, there are some employees who just want to collect a paycheck and will never get on board with a branding or advocacy program. Make a note and manage them accordingly. J One should also know that a weak personal brand can have a negative impact on a person’s job performance, career attainment and, inadvertently, on a company brand.
As an example, LinkedIn reports that 50% of buyers avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles. Kredible reports that 53% of decision-makers have eliminated a vendor from consideration based on information they did or did not find about an employee online.
That’s HUGE. In fact, I think it’s worth repeating to allow the potential consequences sink in:
53% of decision makers have eliminated a vendor from consideration based on information they did or did not find about an employee online.
CXO’s, including all you awesome Rockstar CMOs, need strong brands too.
Unfortunately, the recent “Connected Leaders” study by Brunswick Group also reports that too many CEOs are still sitting on the sidelines, missing out on the benefits – or possibly making themselves irrelevant in the digital workforce.
One of my favorite quotes on this is from Harvard Business Review: “As the social age matures, there will likely be just two types of business leaders: social and retired.” That definitely gets my clients’ attention.
A CXO’s lack of personal branding in social channels might be the reason why great candidates go to work for your competitors. You might be missing opportunities to elevate your company’s stock value in the investor community. Again, potential opportunities you’ll never know you missed.
A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.Herbert Simon
Like it or not, we now live in an Attention Economy. We are surrounded by a huge arsenal of “weapons of mass distraction” – Too much information. Too many choices. Addictive devices and apps. Disruptive technologies. Sensational fake news headlines. So. Many. Memes. Unfortunately, attention is a finite commodity. The only way to capture it today is to take it from somewhere (or someone) else.
In a noisy, distracted world, those who know how to EARN the attention and trust of their most important stakeholders by delivering consistent value, WIN BIG. Managing and communicating a strong personal brand does that.
As a result, companies that know how to nurture and harness their employees’ brand value offer themselves the opportunity to win big too.
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