Piers Cooper is CEO of Addvocate, a startup that created a platform to let brands harness the trust and breadth of the people who know their companies best.
Some of the biggest brands in the world are spending big bucks in the hope of turning paid likes and followers into measurable ROI. Guess what: They’ve been doing it all wrong.
They jumped into the deep end of the social pool as brands, not as the people behind the brands. They poured huge sums of marketing budgets down the drain into a tumbleweed zone of branded social channels.
What’s ironic is the solution to their problem of getting people – real humans – to share content around their brand, was sitting right in the cube next to them. Because statistics show that a company’s best ambassadors are its employees who are already sharing content on their own social channels:
- 84 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know, compared to 42% who trust banner ads. (Nielsen, 2013)
- 846 average number of user connections across social networks. (Pew Research, 2013 and DMR, 2014)
- 50 percent of employees post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer. (KRC Research 2013)
- 39 percent of employees have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer. (KRC Research 2013)
Everyone’s heard the oft-spoken adage “brands are not people.” It’s true. Corporate branded social media channels have become graveyards of canned marketing content, regurgitated pablum that does a poor job reflecting the people, personalities and interests of the people — the employees and customers — behind the spreadsheets.
And, yet, brands continue to wonder why nobody engages with their content. In large part, it’s because many brands treat social media as a brand-to-people medium.
The power of social media, however, is based on people-to-people
A better approach
It is often said that the best marketing is word of mouth. The same adage runs true for social media. Employees are a company’s best advocates. And they’re already sharing content. Imagine being able to tap into that river of content to humanize your brand, to bring customers closer to it. People trust people, they don’t trust brands.
Along that line of trust is the reality that effective employee advocacy requires companies to loosen the reins of control. It’s okay to unleash the hounds if you use the right tools to cherry pick the best content from your employees’ existing personal and professional feeds.
The native benefit of social is in it’s democratization of information and speed of distributing that information. The benefit to companies is that their message is perceived in a more meaningful and scalable way. All employee advocacy tools should allow moderation of offensive content, but only those companies that encourage free flow of info will get the full benefits of their employees’ advocacy.
So, what are some of the things a company must keep in mind as they move from a social media strategy that cannot scale to one that embraces every employee in their company?
1. Social Media is not working for lead generation
Consumers’ feeds are being polluted and they’re switching off. Paid ads are filtered out, ignored and/or the traffic is fraudulent. Dumping copy into social media and assigning 10 percent of your online marketing spend to paid traffic isn’t going to deliver.
Bottom line, don’t expect traditional lead acquisition tactics to work in social media marketing. Instead, embrace the real power of social: its authenticity and scalability.
2. Online communities are delivering real value
Consumers and employees will support and advocate for your brand without being asked. They provide insight into product development and flag issues with service delivery before they blow up.
Make sure that you nurture your community once you’ve set it up. No-one should be ignored when they participate. If someone posts and it gets no engagement from others in the community; you need to step in.
3. Social media is great way for consumers to engage directly with the brand
Consumers already expect and in most cases they actually receive fast responses when they communicate with brands via social. Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster. Sharing content that reflects your community — not just your brand — is an effective way to humanize an inhuman entity like a company’s brand.
4. Employee advocacy is an opportunity
Engaging your colleagues delivers essential skills, drives sales, recruitment and retention. Companies need to recognize that their employees are already talking about them on social media. They can either embrace this and support colleagues in becoming Brand Advocates or act like King Canute and attempt to hold back the tide with ineffective social media policies.
The fast pace of social media means that you can’t police everything all the time and frankly there’s no point.
Don’t overreact. Empower your colleagues to speak out regularly. A faux pas that might seem “critical” is soon buried under new stories – taking no action is fine in most cases. Counter any mistakes with positive news stories the social news flow is rapid and unending.
5. Social cuts across organizational silos – you need to be strategic
Marketing, PR and sales need to work together and deliver a consistent message and brand experience. Social Media is still the ugly stepchild in many orgs with low visibility and minimal budget despite impacting many areas of the business. The opportunity is there for leaders to take the initiative and effectively leverage the army of advocates who already reside on their payroll.
The best social media programs focus on people as much as product. Remember this and you’ll be rewarded for it.