“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”—Peter Drucker, Management Consultant
Social media is driving consumer interactions, it is therefore critical that companies are represented on these platforms in a relevant and productive way. For new and small businesses, growing a following and monetizing through social media investments can prove to be a slow, frustrating process unless there is a high budget for advertising. Today, the most successful brands create an authentic, deeply rooted, and dynamic brand identity using these platforms in connection with their internal social employees. In the age of social business, companies need social employees as word of mouth endorsements are 10x more powerful than traditional advertising.
Why Involve Employees? At their core, social employees are engaged listeners, passionate collaborators and problem solvers, and are unafraid of social media interactions and platforms. However, employee social media encouragement is still a widely misunderstood marketing strategy with brands who are themselves afraid of the platforms. Employees can be an effective social media marketing resource for any company, their enthusiasm will be evident in how they engage the audience on their own social media platforms or other marketing arenas—a term commonly known as inbound marketing. Inbound marketing creates trust by crafting content and messages that are engaging, shareable, and authentic. By communicating their passion, employee engagement is more likely to attract potential sales prospects impressed by what they have read about the company’s product or service through employee praise or service. When ramping up employee involvement, start small and encourage employees to simply share, comment, and like the company’s social media posts, and then it can build from there. Consumers view word-of-mouth messages from friends and colleagues as more relevant and trustworthy than social media blasts from business accounts. 
Turning Employees into Social Media Advocates
You and your marketing team have probably noticed that leveraging conversations happening around your brand and turning your fans into brand ambassadors pays off. Let’s be honest, your employees are already on social media while on breaks at work (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). These employees’ social media use can be leveraged by uploading photos of company events, accomplishments, or conferences to their social media accounts. Let’s use this to your company’s advantage.
Train Your Staff
Not every employee is as marketing-savvy as your advertising team. If you want your employees to become better brand ambassadors, consider starting a Brand Ambassador Pilot Program to engage coworkers and customers on social media. To start, find employees with a knack for social media sharing and encourage them to become thought leaders. In doing so, you can help your staff confidently distribute brand content and increase their willingness to participate in social media and content marketing.
Social media practices may seem like common sense to your social media team, but other employees may need more guidance. Once you identify volunteers willing to become brand advocates, you’ll want to set up straightforward social media guidelines that are easy to read and understand. These guidelines should include what you do and don’t want your employees to post, as well as and how to do it. For example, well-written policies should mention that employees are encouraged to discuss new products/services and how they benefit consumers or businesses, but not release any proprietary information. Other effective posting topics include company milestones, special recognition from a customer, or employee participated in charitable activities. Basic components of a good social media policy include:
· Outlining descriptions of the social networks and demonstrate how they benefit the company.
· Providing acceptable employee uses of social media and guidelines for social media use.
· Including protocol for when there’s a crisis and how to manage it.
Since the material your employees post online has the potential to go viral, discretion is strongly advised. Your guidelines should include what subjects and topics are appropriate to discuss, and which are to be avoided. For example, employees should be instructed not to disclose sensitive information about new products or services before launch and avoid mocking customers and coworkers. Similarly, you should instruct your employees not to engage in discussions with Internet “trolls.” All of this might sound rudimentary but if you don’t have written policy or guidelines in place, the sky becomes the limit on interaction. It only takes one post to have a profound effect.
Here are some guidelines from Fast Company to use as a tool:
1. Any employee social media program has to be voluntary, employees have to want to share company news.
2. Messages need to reach the right audience. Social advocacy works best when employees can tap into a relevant professional or personal network following.
3. Know when to share organically and when to prime the pump. To a large extent, employees should be spontaneously composing their own messages and sharing company news without any special prompting, just as part of their normal routines.
4. Basic social media training may be necessary to get everyone up to speed on different social channels, and it’s also key to lay out guidelines for how employees should talk about the company on their accounts.
5. It goes without saying that social media runs on trust, so use your employee advocates sparingly.
Highlight Company Culture
Don’t be afraid to show what your work culture looks like and take photos and videos of your staff at work. Publish pictures from events, office routines, and gatherings, and tag employees so they’re featured. This allows your audience to see how your business operates and looks like beyond advertisements.
According to OnSharp, when it comes to employee satisfaction, company culture is becoming more and more important:
· Happy workers are 12% more productive than the average worker versus unhappy workers, who are 10% less productive.
· Job turnover at an organization with a high focus on company culture is 13%, but 48% in companies with a low focus.
· Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.
Company culture doesn’t just impact employee retention and satisfaction – it also impacts consumer trends. By making your company culture more visible on social media, you will not only attract customers who appreciate how well you treat employees, but also potential candidates. Telling your brand’s story through images and video lets people outside your company understand your culture.
Make a Plan of Action
Before you start approaching anyone, it’s important to have a solid plan established. Again, not all of your employees are social media savvy, so giving them vague instructions or changing social directions without warning won’t give you the best results. Just like any other project, having a plan of action will help you and your staff stay focused. So first ask yourself:
· Do you need to spread the word about your brand and products?
· Do you want to highlight what a great company culture you have?
· Do you want your employees to help show a more human side to your business?
· Do you want staff to help explain product/service details?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you need to keep reading!
Make sure that you mix into your social messages your company’s products and services. This includes resources like blogs, how-to’s, industry-specific reports, and whitepapers. Provide photos, video, and links to your website to establish your brand as an expert influencer as well as for anyone to research easily what your business does. Here are four ways social media can be a powerful source of revenue for your business:
1. Instagram Stories: Highlight your company’s products and services on by adding links to your Instagram stories. By including links and mentions, this will help you get in front of your target audience, making it easier for followers to browse and shop your products and services.
2. Snapchat Stories: Snapchat ads, which appear between friends’ stories, are for brands with large advertising budgets. For businesses that don’t have the budget or brand recognition to pursue this kind of advertising, Snapchat stories are a free alternative for promoting your business. Creating a Snapchat story will help your business generate interest in its products and services while reinforcing your brand message.
3. Facebook: Facebook business pages are still a great way to connect with your audience and promote products and services. You can import your online store to your Facebook Page using StoreYa, an app that makes it easier for viewers to browse and shop your products and services directly on Facebook instead of being rerouted to the website.
4. Showcase on Pinterest: Pinterest’s business feature, Showcase, acts as a virtual window that lets you put your business’s products on display. The best part of the Showcase feature is that you can easily bring up-to-date the gallery depending on your business goals.
Talk about Employee Culture to Build Personal Connections
Companies need to understand that relationships are built between people through common interests, not brands. Companies who share important employee milestones on social media, such as celebrate employees’ birthdays or work anniversaries, help to create personal bonds between consultants and clients. To build those connections further, companies should share the outside interests of their employees, and therefore attracting customers who have the same interests. When those employees share these interests, the reach of each post is increased and more people become aware of the business and services.
Another way to build a personal connection with consumers through your employees is by taking photos or videos of your “employee of the month” and sharing some information about them and their contributions to your company’s success. This allows your audience to get to know the people who make up your culture and business. For example, L’Oréal has used their renowned brand of a positive corporate culture to build a personal connection with consumers using employee engagement on their social media channels. With positive employee engagement, L’Oréal has initiated social media strategies that create a positively engaged workforce and frequently share it with the outside world.
L’Oréal has two hashtags its employees us to talk about their working lives on Instagram and Twitter. #LifeatLoreal is designed for the company’s employees and clients to find out what is going on in the various offices. What the fun events are, what the culture is like, etc. The second hashtag, #LorealCommunity, gets employees to share how they interact socially with coworkers inside and outside the office. This showcases to followers and consumers how employees are friends with their coworkers outside of work as well as displays what the company’s culture is like.
More Tips on Converting Staff into Social Media Advocates
It is not enough just asking employees to share company links in order to expand your company’s social influence. You need to set ground rules and procedures so they understand how to represent the brand appropriately. Here are some more tips for getting started.
Make It Easy
The best way to get employees to join in on your company’s social initiative is to make it super easy for them to do so. In addition to having a social policy easy for everyone to understand, you can push social initiatives by including call to actions in company emails. Don’t expect your staff to know what or when to share posts, but rather, tell them. For example, when you share news with your employees, offer some pre-formulated posts as suggestions for them to use when posting on social media. This will help familiarize your staff with the brand’s tone and save them time, rather than having them draft posts for review.
Your new social media volunteers might have good ideas about future campaigns and strategies for dominating different social networks, so schedule monthly meetings where employees can share their ideas. Chances are your employees have some sort of connection to your company’s target demographic, and what’s trending online. Giving them opportunities to present their ideas will help you take advantage of these current trends, so consider setting up a Trello board, or other central location, for employees to make suggestions for social campaigns. This also keeps the information organized and employees can tag the topics that do and don’t work with consumers.
Make It Fun: Give Employees a Reason to Engage
Your employees represent an unused resource that holds huge potential for your marketing efforts. Think of your employees as another kind of follower, and any fun engagement strategy you use with customers and followers can work with employees too, making them more likely to participate than if you send out a standard request. Encourage employees to tweet selfies from a company outing or hold an Instagram contest for best-decorated office. Upping the company culture’s fun factor by showing off employees’ personalities will add a human touch to your brand.
Marketing campaigns are more successful with employee buy-in. Establish “what’s in it for me” with your staff and show them how they benefit from engaging in social media. You can do so with the following tips to motivate, recognize, and reward employee engagement:
· Adjust your expectations for specific employees, as some staffers will be active on Facebook, others on Twitter or LinkedIn, and some will hardly know what social media is.
· Do you have a staffer loved by customers? Invite them to engage with customers on your Facebook page.
· Do you have an employee who likes to write or do vlogs? Discuss content ideas and invite them to post content.
· Want to build your online reviews? Offer a reward for every 4 or 5-star verified reviews an employee commissions from a satisfied client.
Social media has made it easier to enlist your staff as an effective marketing tool. Employees need to see the fruits of their labor to encourage continued habits. Be communicative and encouraging with your volunteers about new initiatives, priorities, and strategies. Update your new social media team about company news, such as product announcements. Not only will the information reach new audiences, but you’ll also create a sense of shared ownership among your staff:
· Ask employees for suggestions on how to improve.
· Check in with results during sales meetings.
· Recognize leads that converted into sales.
· Review key metrics like Facebook engagement and new online reviews.
· Review and recognize results of the sales follow-through.
Most importantly, while your employee volunteers will most likely be happy to help expose your brand on social media, it’s not their primary job, so do not make your non-marketing employees search for content to share. If you expect your non-marketing team to search for content, you’re just adding extra work to their already busy schedules, which is a quick way to lose your volunteers. If you want to include and maintain them on social media, you need to give them incentives for interacting, sharing content, and taking part—just like your consumer followers.
Divergent Web Solutions designs and maintains social presence include websites, social platforms, PR, and online social analysis, which supports small businesses, by creating space and focusing on their design, marketing, social, and/or development platforms where the price of hiring a custom developer might be high, hiring this team makes sense. Contact us for a free consultation, and we’ll develop a customized quote tailored just for your unique needs and budget at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Information taken from “Wired and wireless: Key findings”, Euro RSCG 2001, URL: http://www.eurorscg.com/starview/doc/ww_summary.pdf
 Information taken from How To Turn Your Entire Staff Into A Social Media Army, Fast Company 2015, URL: https://www.fastcompany.com/3053233/how-to-turn-your-entire-staff-into-a-social-media-army
 Guidelines taken from How To Turn Your Entire Staff Into A Social Media Army, Fast Company 2015, URL: https://www.fastcompany.com/3053233/how-to-turn-your-entire-staff-into-a-social-media-army
Information taken from How To Use Instagram To Highlight Company Culture, OnSharp 2017, URL: https://www.onsharp.com/how-to-use-instagram-to-highlight-company-culture/