By Russ Fradin (not to be confused by the picture of Lindsay Bell-Wheeler over there <—-)
We are all acutely aware of the value that social media brings to brands, and we at least acknowledge the existence of a good social media marketing strategy.
But what if developing a working strategy isn’t the primary issue when trying to bang the social media drum?
What if the issue is social media anxiety? You probably have at least one colleague who is just not very engaged on social media.
Their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ profiles are either barren or rarely updated, and they don’t bother to engage other users to increase their following.
While not everyone needs to be actively engaged on social media, it’s crucial for anyone in communications, marketing, or public relations to have an online voice and an audience.
PR people, in particular, should be developing relationships with journalists on Twitter, and spreading client news across their social media channels as a best practice.
So where is the disconnect?
Social Media Anxiety
When it comes to employees representing themselves, their company, and even clients or customers, there can be resistance and even anxiety about posting content online. One poorly written post, and their mistakes are available for public criticism.
Employees may also fear misrepresenting clients or they may not even know what is “brand-safe” to share. Businesses are rapidly realizing the need to find a way to overcome their employees’ social anxiety, and integrate them into their larger social media strategy.
So how can your business do this? Motivate your team to participate in social media through an employee advocacy program.
An employee advocacy strategy is based around the concept of encouraging employees to become advocates on behalf of their company, and is a powerful strategy that can boost your employees’ networks, strengthen relationships with current clients, and get the attention of prospective clients.
Making it Work
So how do you actually pull off an employee advocacy strategy? Here are some guidelines, things you need to have established – as policy -to get you started in the right direction.
Social Media Policy
First of all, if you don’t have a social media policy, you should seriously want to consider creating one.
There are certain best practices that need to be followed when sending out tweets on behalf of your company or customers. A basic corporate social media policy includes guidelines on what employees should – and should – not share online.
A good employee advocacy platform will make it really easy for your employees to follow the policy and stay compliant.
Social media can seem self-explanatory to those with experience, but there is still a learning curve. Convenience is the key to getting employees to participate and share. An effective employee advocacy tool should simplify social sharing, not make it more complicated.
Certain tools accomplish this by aggregating all brand-safe, relevant content in a single location, and allow employees to link multiple social accounts to the platform, enabling them to share the content on all their social channels in fewer steps.
Employees already have day jobs so asking them to be social media mavens is a tall order. A good employee advocacy platform will make it super convenient.
Employees will need to know what to share. Whether company or client news, there needs to be a strategy to keep them up to date on the latest suggested posts. This can be as simple as an email to employees from the social media manager with suggested tweets or posts, or a link to an article to share.
Employee Advocacy is Opt-In Only
Social media has its benefits, and when an employee is using their social media networks to promote something or someone this should be by choice. But as employee advocacy should be opt-in only, incentives – rather than demanding employees become social advocates – can be a great way to encourage sharing.
Recognition is often the most powerful incentive and reward.
Give employees credit for their social media efforts. Create a leaderboard, for example, with a point system, and award monthly prizes to your most active employee advocates.
Reap the Benefits
As PR professionals, you naturally want to get news out to as many people on as many channels as possible. Accomplishing this via social media, however, is vastly different than distributing a news release. The right advocacy tool will help your employees overcome social media anxiety stemming from a social media learning curve, or the fear of sharing not brand-safe content.
A brand story shared on social through your employee’s authentic voices has the potential to meaningfully engage a far broader audience than traditional paid media. According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, employees are considered one of the most trusted and reliable sources of information, far more so than the CEO.
Employee sharing and networking on behalf of your brand not only increases their personal social clout, but also raises your brand’s social profile. Show your employees how simple it is to discover, share, contribute and even drive larger conversations for your brand.
They will feel empowered, and your company and clients will reap the benefits. Everyone wins.