OK, maybe not next to you. In this day and age, they could be on another floor, in another city or across the globe. But the essence is still the same, your company’s best brand ambassadors are your own employees – and perhaps your best path toward growing your social audience.
Many companies spend thousands, even millions, of dollars on market research, influencers and advertising. But, even big-name brands like Starbucks and Nike, who need reach many millions of customers (and spend big bucks to do it) leverage their own internal marketing army.
Who knows your company’s strengths better than your own employees? Who has more to gain from your success? Yet, mysteriously, many companies fail to see and/or take advantage of this “free” form of advertising or evangelism.
I’m not suggesting you subject all your employees to sales training or make them practice an elevator speech until they can say it in their sleep. I am here to suggest a few simple ways you can encourage your employees to participate in your company’s marketing efforts – and you may find that you not only increase your sales, but your employee retention too.
Start with the basics
Today, a personal LinkedIn profile is standard operating practice for many. One simple way your employees can easily promote your company is for them to be connected your company’s corporate LinkedIn page. To that end, you want to make sure your corporate page is kept up to date, engaging and informative. Your job is to be active, consistently posting product and service announcements, company achievements and relevant industry news so that anyone visiting your page (ideally after clicking on an employee’s LinkedIn profile) can understand your corporate offerings and get a sense of why you are the best at what you do.
While recognizing that an employee’s LinkedIn profile is their own, you might even suggest language they can use when describing their position within your company and provide coaching on profile best practices.
Undoubtedly, each employee has their own preferred social media scene – as do your customers. So, even though your products/services may not seem appropriate for a specific social media platform (maybe Instagram or SnapChat), your employees/customers may be active on them. I suggest a survey of employees to identify the platforms it makes sense to focus on. Once identified, like the LinkedIn suggestion above, commit yourself to propagating these platforms with quality posts and information – then encourage your employees to share your corporate posts as appropriate.
This instinct to share may not occur naturally, so some tips I recommend are reminders at staff meetings, in a company newsletter, via email or by sharing the information on your own personal social media profiles. Be a little more creative than just instructing employees to share. Add your own flair by saying something like “we’ve just added this new product that sets the world on fire and we’ve posted it to Facebook…YouTube…Twitter... You might want to share it with your friends…” OK, not those words, but you get the idea.
Take it up a notch
Valuable content is one of the biggest challenges in successful social media marketing. But, in your employees, you could have a built-in source. As I mentioned before, your employees know your company’s strengths better than anyone. They may have an alternate perspective, a creative use for your products/services or customer success story they could share. Encourage them to submit articles for your blog (if you don’t have one, that’s a topic for another post…oh, wait, see here). If yours isn’t a particularly photogenic industry as is required for Instagram, encourage employees to submit photos or tag your company page of them performing community outreach work or pictures of them working with customers – a video for your YouTube Channel would be awesome! Human nature says people choose to do business with companies they like. Personal interactions personalize your company and make you more likeable. Give yourself that competitive edge.
Practice what you preach
If you’ve gone to all this effort, you need to drink your own Kool-Aid. Your C-Suite and marketing/sales teams need to share on their own personal social media profiles. If an employee who you happen to be connected or friends with is an integral part of the shared post, tag them. The goal is to increase your organic reach; if you tag them, their friends will see your posts as well.
Why would you do this?
Like it or not, despite the rumors of its impending demise, social is still king of outreach. These statistics contradict news reports that Facebook is passé and Twitter is on death’s door. Follow this logic. Literally billions of people spend hours a day on some type of social media platform. Seventy-one percent of people who have a positive experience on your social media platform will recommend your brand. Eighty-three percent of people say they trust recommendations from friends. Those are some pretty convincing numbers.
And, it’s a numbers game, after all. Certainly, you can buy followers, but if you consider that the average employee has 338 friends on Facebook and you have 100 employees. If even half share even half of your weekly posts – well, let’s just do the math: (338 x 100/2) x 26 = 439,400. That’s a lot of potential viewings for your posts. What would it cost you to actively market to those people?
But an added, perhaps intangible, benefit to your inclusive social media strategy is to remind your employees of the value your company brings to your industry, instill some pride and, ultimately, encourage loyalty and longevity. I have no hard statistics to suggest this is true. I’m just again going back to human nature. People will stay places longer if they believe in the mission and they like it there. Oh, and if the company’s profits are increasing, it’s logical that salaries will follow.
More logic. One thing I do have statistics on is that happy employees lead to happy customers. And, it stands to reason that a disgruntled or disaffected employee will not go to the effort of sharing your posts. Therefore, if employees are embracing their roles as brand ambassadors, your customers will be happier and your sales will increase. Win-win-win.
A few strong words of caution
Whatever strategy you embark on, it’s important to not overextend yourself, or expect employees to share all your posts. For most small companies, I recommend selecting three social media platforms to actively propagate – maybe 4 – maybe start with fewer and work up to more. Create a plan for:
Give it time
Without millions of dollars to spend, a strong marketing strategy isn’t built in a day. And, this social strategy is focused on “organic reach.” You need to monitor and tweak and reassess. But, be prepared, most likely it will take more than a few months for you to see a highly measurable uptick. Stay the course. Keep encouraging employees to share your content. Note what type of content receives the most engagement. Over time, you’ll have a more loyal customer and employee base.
Wendy Peloquin is Chief Creative Officer of Pixie Fish Marketing. She has 25+ years experience weaving creativity with common sense to craft memorable messages and successful marketing strategies.
For my clients, I'm a storyteller, cheerleader, push-you-out-of-your-comfort-zone type of marketing consultant. Hopefully I can inspire you too.