Guest Blog by Kirsten Jensen, Director of Digital Marketing at Onsharp | @OnsharpKirsten
Your employees are some of the biggest assets for your brand. They are the faces that welcome customers. And, the voices that engage to build relationships. The strength of your customer experience is built by many individual moments between your team and the people they serve. Yet, when we build our online communities, we tend to focus on connecting our customers to the brand – we ask them to “like” our brand’s Facebook page or “follow” the brand on Twitter. If this is our only focus, we miss the opportunity to extend the relationships that already exist between our employees and our customers into digital connections. Truly, we miss the power of social media to connect people to people. As Mark Burgess and Cheryl Burgess point out in their book The Social Employee, “Customers don’t want to speak to a brand; they want to speak to real people.”
A growing trend in marketing focuses on empowering individual employees to use social media as part of their jobs. The movement goes by several names – employee advocacy, brand advocacy, social employee – all focused on extending offline relationships into digital connections. If your small business has been struggling to create meaningful digital connections with your customers, consider a social employee program. You’ll see immediate benefits when you give employees content ideas that they can share in their existing social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter). And, you’ll see exponentially greater results with a company-branded program on Twitter (P.S. Check our more info on setting up a company-branded account here).
Here are five ways that your team can help to build your digital brand by being active in social media:
Tell more stories – be everywhere at once. Share more stories about why you do what you do. In most small businesses, one team member is responsible for social media as a small part of their role. When I visit with those folks, I often hear “I know that there’s so much more happening, but I can’t be everywhere at once.” When you expand your social program to include employees from across the business, you suddenly have the ability to be wherever those employees are going. For inspiration, check out how The Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead West Fargo has empowered each of their team members to share content about the programs they lead. (Read the story | See their Tweets.)
Deepen relationships. Start a dialogue in social media. Engage. Recognize partners. Thank donors. Share ideas with customers. Inspire or, perhaps, intrigue prospects. To deepen relationships, tag that person or organization in your tweet. For inspiration, read how these social employees are saying “thank you” with Twitter.
Extend your reach. According to @WeRSM, only 2-8% of an employees social media network overlaps with that of the brand they work for. That means, more than 90% of the folks connected to your employees don’t follow your overall brand. Encouraging your employees to share can help you reach a whole new audience that is currently only one degree removed. And, we’ve found that individual connections inspire brand connections, too. CCRI, for example, has seen their rate of new followers to their overall brand account nearly double, since starting their social employee program. Read about @CCRIAnna ‘s experience as a social employee.
Share expertise. Share the unique passions, expertise and responsibilities for each team member. Leveraging the unique interests of many team members makes for richer content that does a better job of telling your brand story. List areas of expertise in each team member’s Twitter bio and post on those topics regularly. For inspiration, see Twitter these Twitter bios that share areas of focus: @FMWFSamantha, @OnsharpAbby, @OnsharpKirsten
Demonstrate culture and values. Let your light shine! Your culture and values should be strong recruitment tools. Go beyond listing your values inn the About section of your website. Let your employees share social proof of what your culture and values really look like on a day-to-day basis. For inspiration, see how the FMWF Chamber uses #ChamberCrew, how Sanford Health uses #SanfordFamily, Onsharp uses #TeamOnsharp, how American Crystal Sugar Company uses #CommunityRoots.
Empowering individual employee voices in social media provides powerful social proof to build your digital brand. You can learn more about social employee programs by visiting onsharp.com. I look forward to connecting with you on Twitter!