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Social Media is a SkillI attended Social Media Marketing World, held the end of March in San Diego.  I was very much looking forward to attending a conference where the discussions were not so much about what “is social media,” but how businesses and organizations were actually using it as part of their overall marketing communications strategy.

There were countless sessions to choose from, but I knew for sure that I would attend any session where Jay Baer was talking.

Most of you who do social media have come across Jay’s information before.  He’s been doing this a long time.  I’ve been known to credit him for actually inventing the “world wide web” back in the mid-90s, when he worked here in Phoenix for one of our local television stations on that newfangled, gimmicky thing called the Internet. I was impressed with his understanding of technology’s impact then and I continue to be impressed with his approach today.

So his talk about turning your employees in to brand advocates captured my attention.  For some time now the conversation about social is how to reach influencers in your brand’s space and work with them to become brand ambassadors.  The conversations around employees using social for business were often met with “they’re not trained to do it,” “I can’t have my team on Facebook all day, they won’t get their job done”  or “we just don’t want them to do anything wrong so we don’t let them at all.”

Jay’s entire talk was debunking those objections.  Employees may be the most useful and influential social media advocates you have.  Advocates are known to care deeply about a subject and don’t hesitate to talk about it, share their views and work to engage others to think similarly about the subject.  This loyalty is ongoing and persistent. And is done for no other reason than deep-felt passion for the cause.

Traditional brand influencers’ loyalty tends to be much more circumstantial.  We certainly want these types on our side as well, but an influencer doesn’t often feel the passion in the same was as advocate does.

Employees who like where they work want to go out of their way to draw attention to the business. Jay took a look at 40 of the top companies to work and many of these companies are also known for their successful social engagement.

Jay believes there are three distinct reasons why employee advocacy is not optional:

  • Human conduit – social media and email are the only forms of marketing that collide. Because people use both to communicate with close friends and family.  Who would you rather hear from about a new product or service –your family member that works for that company or the sponsored post you see from the brand on Facebook?  Your success will depend on your employees, not necessarily on branded company efforts. And as Facebook continues to find new ways to monetize the experience, the personal connections become increasing more important.
  • Human trust magnet – 92 percent of Americans trust recommendations from family and friends contrasted with 42 percent from advertising. Stands to reason that since your employees have family and friends they have a much higher trust factor than the corporate message would. Other findings indicate that 95 percent of millennials say friends are the most credible resource and that 41 percent believe employees are more trustworthy than the CEO or the public relations department.
  • Human amplification engine – your power is in your people.  A company will realize about 10 times more reach based on your employees reach vs. what you can do through your own company brand.

So what it boils down to is this - if you are trying to reach more people, you have to reach at the individual level, and the best way to do that is to empower your employees to use social for you.   “Social power belongs to the employees and is loaned to the brands.”

Jay believes that social media has become a skill, not a job. Today every employee is in marketing or customer service – your job title is irrelevant. If your employees are brand advocates – they will share, some saying more than 6 times as much as the company pages are doing, so let them.  Your business is dependent on it.

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

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