Are Your Employees Your Biggest Fans?

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According to Forbes, in 2012 forty of the Top Companies to Work For were also the top companies in social media. Many companies are turning to their employees to help them achieve social media success via Employee Advocacy Programs. Tapping into employees’ vast array of social connections offers a company a far more diverse and broad reach than they could achieve on their own.

Employees are instrumental to social media success because:

  1. They care about the company brand and want to see the company succeed
    2. They are trusted by the public far more than the company itself
    3. Corporate messages are filtered by social media; individuals are not

Starbucks refers to its employees as ‘partners’ and they have Starbucks Partners accounts where they are encouraged to interact. The Twitter profile reads tweets for partners, about what it means to be a partner (employee). Recent tweets and retweets highlight employee and customer interaction. The company launched a campaign called Race Together, which encouraged opening a dialogue about racial diversity between Starbucks employees and its customers. The 28,000+ followers of the account were encouraged to spread the word of the new campaign across social media channels. That’s what Employee Advocacy is all about.

Are there possibly negative points to consider? Sure. The Starbucks campaign, a week after its launch, was calleda marketing fiasco that could rank right up there with ‘New Coke’, by FOX Media.

The campaign was criticized as ‘opportunistic and inappropriate’, especially after recent racially charged events and national protests about police killings of black men. Some critics disparaged the idea of opening up the topic in the few minutes a Barista should be selling drinks.

Corey duBrowa, senior V.P. of global communications, received so many inflammatory and negative tweets when the plan was announced, he deleted his Twitter account. Ouch! (It was reactivated 24 hours later). Having all employees stop referencing the failed campaign on social media is one possible problem.

Employers may be concerned about reining in negative posts and tweets. (What if your disgruntled former employee starts spewing #hate?) There’s only so much control over what’s put out there. So, how to avoid potential negativity? While you can’t empower an employee and excite him to share ideas and then censure his input, and there is a certain amount of trust that goes hand in hand with this type of outreach, employees are given guidelines, instruction and often post via portals to prevent issues from arising. Employee Captains and Social Media Leaders are also designated to coordinate and manage posts. There are steps to creating and maintaining an effective Employee Advocacy Program including: strategy, research, metrics and software. This helps ensure positive results for the employer and employees.

If a company’s employees are its “fans”, no one will be better at spreading the word, sharing “sneak peeks” and “insider info” and getting new customers. Employee Advocacy Programs utilizing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of contacts who already know and trust its employees may the best inroad to social media success that a company can take. What’s not to “like” about that?

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