As technology and innovation constantly change the day to day world we live in, companies are constantly tweaking and adjusting their strategy and objectives to leverage this change. The question is, how does a small business or enterprise constantly change while providing value for current customers, leveraging new technology to create new customer experiences and also recruit and retain employees to innovate faster and cheaper. The answer to these questions are often linked to company culture, community engagement and utilization of data and cloud technologies. These concepts aren't new to today's businesses who seek to become a "social business" but implementing and scaling these massive business shifts have proven to be difficult.
There is no easy button for becoming a social business and although startups have the easiest path as they can focus on establishing new philosophies and experiences, the starting point and foundation for businesses of all sizes to become a social business are the same, the employees. Great companies are great because of great employees and companies who become great social businesses will be great because of their social employees.
Employee advocacy and employee engagement programs are often viewed as massive projects that halt productivity and innovation, therefore scaring leadership into throwing money at "buzzword bandaid" initiatives such as social media marketing, social selling and influencer marketing. Each of these initiatives are vital for a company to be a social business but without a strong employee advocacy and engagement program, the change and success will be difficult to scale and be limited to short term objectives. For a company to become a social business and reap the benefits, it must start by creating and empowering an employee community, then leverage this community to scale, recruit and engage their community.
Being Social isn't new for Businesses
Many have stated that "Social Media Marketing" and "Social Selling" are both buzzwords that in 10 years won't be used, and I believe that idea isn't far fetched not because social networks will disappear or these skill sets won't be needed rather marketing and sales have always been "social" and the idea of leveraging social networks will be implied. So if marketing and sales are naturally social why is it so hard for companies and brands to transition into a social business. The simple answer is that change is scary and when that change includes exposing your good and bad experiences while relinquishing power to the consumer, brands are essentially increasing their vulnerability by 100%. To leverage this data, engagement and vulnerability, the company must build bridges between silo'd departments and require open collaboration and teamwork.
Vulnerability and Employee Advocacy are Social Businesses Leverage Points
Being vulnerable and empowering employees as industry thought leaders may sound like a recipe that scare stockholders, yet in 2014 it's quite the opposite. Thanks to the transparent real-time social world we live in today, many leaders and brands are struggling to find ways to build up the trust and authenticity they've lost over the years. Brands and leaders who are delivering on their promises and have nothing to hide, are empowering employees and leveraging this new vulnerability to relate and engage with their internal and external communities amplifying their story and creating loyal advocates. This upside and relationship with the community far outweighs the risk and worry of employee mistakes or successful employees leaving the company.
Where does Employee Advocacy link to today's Social Business Initiatives?
- Social Media Marketing
- Content might be king but understanding community problems, amplifying content to target audiences and social content engagement are multiplied with employee advocacy.
- Social Selling
- Strengthening personal brands, establishing the company as a thought leader and providing situational awareness with employee advocacy increase the scale and success of social selling initiatives.
- Influencer Marketing
- Understanding who is influential, where influence can be a factor and how the community is influenced is provided in real-time, as employee advocacy allows employees to be active in the community and build strong community relationships.
- Product Feedback
- To innovate faster companies can leverage employee advocacy to better understand how products and services are being used while also becoming voice of customer.
- Customer Service
- Customers are more likely to sympathize and forgive a person compared to a brand or logo, employee advocacy humanizes the brand-customer relationship.
- Majority of new hires are referred by existing employees, with employee advocacy the company culture and benefits aren't something a brand puts on their website rather demonstrated by every interaction a recruit has with an employee.
The crazy thing is, today's employees are sharing and posting on social with or without brand support. The most common argument for why leadership doesn't empower social employees and promote their personal brands is "They're afraid they'll get too big and outshine the brand!" Brands who invest and promote an employee's social brand not only build trust and industry thought leaders but if they happen to leave, they do so because of the company not despite it! What better success story, recruiting use case and employee motivator could you ask for than having your most successful employee go on to do bigger and better things. Thats advertising, marketing, sales and recruiting value money can't buy.
The great social businesses of the future will invest, empower and utilize employee advocacy programs, focusing on creating a collaborative, social and transparent culture that create new community experiences. These community experiences linked to business outcomes will amplify the long-term success and scale of social business initiatives like social media marketing and social selling. The question isn't will a company become a social business, the question is will a company leverage it's greatest asset to become a successful and innovative social business for the long-term.