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Not long ago, companies would get really nervous when their employees’ LinkedIn profiles would become very active or they’d set up a professional blog; the thinking behind this being that the more visible an employee is, the more poachable he or she becomes.
Fortunately, brands have begun to understand that they need a better retention strategy than hiding employees in the cellar. The even better news is that quite a number of businesses have started to see the benefits of encouraging employee engagement online and they’re now promoting employees and their stories, turning them into brand ambassadors.
Today, we’re looking at how we can promote brand ambassadorship across a company, regardless of its size and the budget you might have available.
Motivate before you ask
A lot of times, marketers and HR professionals start planning employee engagement initiatives under the assumption that people will automatically participate – because something is happening – or have already resigned themselves to a limited participation – because you can’t please everyone.
Both of these assumptions are true, however, you don’t have to box yourself in by accepting relative failure from the get-go. It’s called engagement for a reason. The trick is to figure out what could motivate someone who rolls their eyes at your emails and scoffs at every initiative they run across? Recognition and exposure.
There are many things that could motivate an employee to engage with the brand they work for. You can provide them with all sorts of gifts and perks but, if you’re low on budget, you can always leverage the reason why they participate on social media to begin with, and that’s exposure and recognition.
Brands like Adobe use hashtags to drive and keep track of employee participation on social media. This provides them with a nice chunk of social media posts they can then curate, display in their offices, newsletters and other internal channels to showcase the potential notoriety brand engagement can provide.
Happy to see my Bloom wallpaper up and with air plants! Every plant photo in the collage was sourced from #adobestock and then cut out in #photoshop 🌿🌱🍃Thanks @laceadace for all your help on the install! • • • #environmentalgraphics #wallpaper #airplants #plants #botanical #collage #adobelife #bloom #creativity #art #design
Dropping a post like Anny’s into an internal newsletter under an “Around the office” section, will tell this brief episode of Anny’s story in Adobe not just to the people passing the wallpaper every day but to those a continent away, as well.
Make it easy to contribute
The process of changing something as small as a phrase on your company website can be as simple as edit and publish, in a small business, or, in a much larger one, it can get as intricate as propose, verify, share preview, wait, edit again, share preview, repeat ad nauseam and publish 5 weeks later. This can put a damper on the spirit of even the most motivated person, who’s job it is to get this done.
For employee engagement to bring any consistent, long-term benefits, it needs to be authentic. People have to genuinely want to be part of this, have the time and freedom to enjoy the experiences they will then talk about on social media.
The bigger the company, the more well-documented a process they’re looking for. It’s somewhat understandable because the more cooks you have, the bigger the odds of the menu getting botched. In this case, however, the more guidelines and tools you put in place, the more you lessen the odds of anyone contributing. Would you post about the awesome hackathon you organised for your company if you had to go through 30 pages of guidelines, use 3 different tools to make sure the right people were in the know and wait 2 weeks for someone to give you a thumbs up? I wouldn’t.
When producing a video, you might think you need fancy cameras, a filming crew, a week of filming and a month of editing. Sometimes you do and then other times, things can be as simple as sitting down, figuring out a script and handing an employee a smartphone.
I’m not saying you should throw the rulebook out the window and hope for the best but focus on educating employees on really big issues, like security and confidentiality, and let their imagination do the rest. This is where hashtags come in really handy, because they help you keep track of how employees are telling their story online and step in, not necessarily to give them a slap on the wrist because they’ve used a less-then-ideal caption but to promote the stories you deem ideal. This then allows you to use positive reinforcement to drive your desired style of storytelling.
Get to know your employees
You might think that, by virtue of working together, you’re all energetic, thoughtful, honest and whatever other brand values you’ve slapped on your walls but people aren’t that flat. In fact, some of the most creative and interesting people out there don’t fit neatly in such a one-dimensional drawer. So who are the people you employ? Who are they really?
Sherlock Holmising your way around your employees’ social media profiles won’t just give you great content to boost the brand, it will also show you who these people are, what they really care about and the language they speak; which in large companies is a very rare and valuable commodity.
When you take the time to understand your people, you can be proactive about the things they genuinely care about, instead of wrecking your brain what to do next to make them happier and engage better with your brand. If you know you have a massive pool of pet lovers, you can plan for Bring your pet to work days instead of a boring Pizza Friday. Even better, you can begin posting your own behind the scenes photos with your employees’ pets at work.
It may not be the most artistically stunning image, it’s not even the most mind-blowing caption but it’s got a very important thing going for it. It’s real and it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than exactly what it is – a picture of an out-of-control-cute puppy snoozing on someone’s laptop at Hootsuite.
Nothing makes an employee go Yeah, thanks but no thanks when it comes to social media than misappropriating their content and giving them instructions on how to feel about their work. If they’ve found a funny way to deal with a power outage and posted it on social media, don’t stomp your foot that it’s unacceptable to show the public you’re not perfect. Instead, give them kudos for contributing to a human look at your organisation. Nobody’s perfect, not you and certainly not your company. Learn to deal with it instead of sweeping it under a flimsy rug.
Most people don’t set out to bash the company they work for through social media, unless the truly have a bone to pick and nobody’s listening to them internally, but that’s an entirely different conversation. We generally share the things we care about, the things that motivate, inspire and make us laugh. Yes, that includes finding the funny in a clogged toilet or lame ad in the elevator.
You could look at Danielle’s post as a great working experience, where she gets to do something she really cares about or, if you’re dead set on nitpicking, you could think that she’s got it too easy and gets paid to ride around on a bike all day. The point is, you can find a negative angle in anything. There’s almost always a potential to spin things into something that could have a negative impact on your brand. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
To get a more objective perspective, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Would I want potential employees to think they can do something that really gets them excited at my company? Yes?! Cool, then run with it.
The Bottom Line
Brand ambassadorship is about sharing an experience we really believe in and would whole-heartedly encourage others to become a part of. For celebrities, who practice being authentic like you do your gym routine, it can be considerably easier to just jump in and talk about how great working with a brand can be. People, however, have begun to notice and tend to look at celebrity endorsements with some degree of skepticism. For regular folks, like you and I, it’s not just harder, it’s a little less acceptable.
Employee engagement initiatives, therefore, have to draw on the interests, behaviours and style of communication your employees are already displaying. Use the most positive examples to slowly inspire other to join in while rewarding their efforts with the freedom to express themselves and recognition for the work they put into polishing your brand’s look.
Brand ambassadorship and employee engagement aren’t about generic team buildings and getting people to care about the priorities of your company. They’re about finding a common denominator between a business and its employees and getting together on the fine line that makes both tick.