Newspaper and magazine ads, television commercials, and billboards are traditional marketing techniques that businesses have used to connect with their customers. While newspaper and magazine ads can still provide companies with valuable exposure, the effectiveness of the ad is hindered by the lower number of individuals who see them. Today, people utilize their DVRs to fast-forward over commercials, the number of individuals who read print newspapers has been on the decline, and the number of people who see billboards is too dependent on physical location.
The internet, and more specifically social media, offer a cost-effective alternative (or addition) to traditional advertising. Currently 84% of U.S. adults browse the internet and 62% of individuals who go online use social networks like Twitter or Facebook. To maximize the effectiveness of social campaigns, businesses can turn their employees into what Rutgers business professor Mark Burgess calls social employees.
What is a Social Employee?
Social employees are individuals who believe in the mission, the vision, and the values of the company brand. The difference between a regular employee and a social employee, according Burgess’ TED Talk The Rise of the Social Employee, is that social employees willingly integrate their “personal brand and [their] professional side.” What does this mean? In essence, employees willingly represent their company on social media because they genuinely believe in the company and, more importantly, it offers a valuable medium for them to develop their own personal brand.
How to Set Up a Social Employee Initiative
Social employee initiatives should be carefully planned, implemented, and periodically monitored to ensure social employees represent the company brand effectively. Here are a few steps to get your company off to the right start:
If you’ve yet to do so, cement what you want your brand to be. Write out a mission statement for your soon to be social employees to rally around. Ensure that before you give employees the ability to become a social employee they have a good sense of the brand your company is endeavoring to create.
Write out guidelines and rules for your social employees to follow while on social media at work (and off the clock). Employees should realize that as their name is used in conjunction with the company brand, so the posts should be slightly more professional. Suggest or mandate that social employees refrain from posting inappropriate pictures, videos, and posts. Just be aware that the more rules you create, the harder you will make it for your employees to be genuine and engage with potential contacts.
Give new employee social media lessons. Successful social media marketing takes time and practice. Some employees might be self-taught social media experts, but you should not assume that all of your employees spends their days tweeting and chatting on social platforms. Ensure that part of the beginning stages of the social employee initiative identifies which employees could use some social media training. Offer those employee a quick run-through either by a manager or another social employee about how the various social platforms work. You can also create a list of social media “how to” articles that will teach your employees what they need to know.
Set up guidelines on what happens to employee social media accounts after they leave the company. In the past many companies have either tried to either take over an employee’s social media account or to sue the employee after the employee leaves with the account. Neither tactic is ideal for a social employee initiative. Employees don’t have stock in the company and they aren’t owners, so they need some tangible reason to act as ambassadors for your brand—something more than “they gave me this job.” By giving employees ownership of their account, they have real motivation to expand their social influence which will benefit the company.
It might be tempting to try to wrangle the account from your employee when they leave the company, but it would not be in the spirit of the social employee initiative. The draw of the social employee is the ability for employees to build their own personal influence. By attempting to take over an employee’s social accounts, you make it clear to all of your current employees that the program will not benefit them at all. Which will quickly kill employee devotion to the initiative and damage the trust you’ve built as a company who looks out for its employees.
Social media marketing can be a very effective advertising strategy. Companies can take social media marketing to the next step by encouraging employees to become social ambassadors for the company. It will take a bit of work, but with a bit of time and the right policies your employees can help your company grow.
Author: Samantha Stauf spends her free time writing about marketing, exploring twitter, and procrastinating writing the next great novel.
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