This is a Guest Post by Andrew Young.
You want to promote your product using the mysterious world of social media.
You’ve heard it can get you free marketing (you’ve even heard it can help you recruit).
Each of your employees has established a personal brand online and you want to tap into that.
Here are five strategies that will not only help into the marketing potential of social media, but can also help develop deeper company ties and a stronger sense of culture within your organization.
Step 1. Set Some Ground Rules
Even if you’re not harnessing your employees’ Facebook and Twitter pages to get yourself great PR, you still need a social media policy in place.
Why? Because, like it or not, they’re going to talk. This conversation is going on already. When you get hired, when you get promoted and even when you get fired, all of these milestones end on Facebook to elicit congratulations or condolences from family and friends.
This is doubly true for LinkedIn, where every detail of an employee’s profession life is displayed in plain view.
With this in mind, establishing what is appropriate and what isn’t is key to avoiding embarrassment.
While you don’t want to stifle your employees, ground rules help.
A simple talk about things like not bad mouthing the company and what constitutes sensitive information that should not be shared will go a long way.
It’s easy to forget that privacy means different things to different people, so it never hurts to have the conversation.
Step 2. Relevance is Key
Before you get started, there are a couple of roadblocks to avoid. It’s very likely your employee base (especially your younger employees) have a social media presence already but it’s not as simple as asking your employees to start posting your press releases.
If I’m a sales guy who trains dogs in my spare time and I have 10,000 followers on Twitter who wait with baited breath for my next update about dog training, how is that going to translate into interest regarding a link about a software upgrade?
Worse, that out of context posts risk alienating followers which means they will be less receptive to your message later. You have to build up to it by getting your employees to think that talking about work on their social media sites is something they should be doing.
Step 3. Break the Ice
As a rule, I would suggest that the first thing your employees post about your company should not be a link.
What I mean by that is no press releases, company websites, promotions you’re running or even job postings.
Those are all great things to go up online but they shouldn’t be the first thing.
Followers need context. Ideally, the first thing your employees post is that they’ve been hired, but if that’s not the case, here are a few tips to get the ball rolling.
- As I mentioned before, have the social media conversation. Just doing so will put it in their minds that talking about work is allowed and even encouraged.
- Do cool stuff with them. I am friends with several of my coworkers on Facebook and it is not uncommon for me to see pictures tagged by my peers of them having sharing beers in our office after a busy Friday. We have a fun as a company and we’re happy to talk about it.
- Educate them. There’s nothing better for getting an employee interested in a topic than having them learn about it. Professional development is a big priority for employees and younger employees especially. At the very least, if they take a course, they will update their LinkedIn profile with that information. Ideally, they’re learn something so cool that they’ll want to share it with their social media groups.
- If you want to get really creative, do. At my organization, we integrate our employee recognition software directly with our employees’ social media pages. Our staff has the option of sharing the praise and recognition that they have received by posting it directly to their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
This list is by no means exhaustive; what you’re trying to do is build a rhythm where your employees talking about your business and your product is natural and expected.
The worst thing in the world is the jarring link without context, posted and ignored.
4. Start a Dialogue
Now that your employees are receptive to promoting your brand, this is when you can start to benefit from all your hard work.
For all posts related to your company, you want to make sure your ratio of self-promotion to content never leans too far in the direction of self-promotion. Put another way, in social media, there are asks and there are gives.
When you post a link soliciting job candidates you are asking for something; when you post something entertaining or fun or useful, you are giving something back. Never ask too much and never get your employees to either. The audience will tune out.
Instead, you want to engage with your audience. Retweet your employee’s posts about doing an activity as a company, tag them in fun pictures on Facebook, give them credit when you post content to LinkedIn.
By establishing a relationship with your staff online, you’re expanding the reach of your brand. Even better, you’re providing them with recognition and validation for the work they’re already doing. This has the added benefit of encouraging other employees to step up and help out.
Now when you post a whitepaper with some thought leadership in your field, the links that are posted are part of a larger story about your company and you’ll have a much more receptive audience.
5. Maybe it’s Not so Free
Social media may seem like a quick fix, but it can actually be a lot of work.
What you will find is that the effort put in is well worth it if you do it right.
It may not be free, but it’s certainly cost effective.
Who knows? If you do something cool enough, one of your employees’ posts might go viral. And you can’t buy that type of press.
Andrew Young is part of the product team at Achievers, an employee recognition solution that helps companies reward and recognize their global workforce to reinforce key behaviors and drive employee engagement.