I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak at the recent Hootsuite executive breakfast in Singapore – “Advocacy & The Bottom Line – How to Make it Work” with Nishan Weerasinghe from IBM, Roger Graham from Hootsuite, and Roger Pua from LinkedIn.
A lot of great content was covered by my fellow speakers, and my goal was to really hone in on the opportunity for employee advocacy. I absolutely know that one of the greatest opportunities businesses have is to harness employees – the reason your customers do business with you – as genuine advocates for your brand. It’s critical to understand this is not just as promoters of your content, but as creators in their own right.
The impact of an effective employee advocacy program is immeasurable if you get it right, and now is the time to train and then trust employees to be the advocates for your business. The important point, though, is this is not just your most senior executives. It’s time to embrace all of the talented people you have on your team. The average person has (on average) 500 social connections, and because people trust people more than brands, that makes employees a very important partner in the always-on digital world.
I discussed a lot of what I presented in this blog – Content Marketing is Fundamentally About Business Transformation – which I wrote it last week. I find that writing blogs before a presentation helps me to hone my thinking.
Anyways, there’s a few additional points I wanted to pull out from my presentation, that further extend on the discussion in the initial blog post.
2016 has definitely been the year businesses are focusing on influencers. B2C brands have been doing it for some time, and B2B is trying to get it right. As someone who is considered an influencer in my field, I am often on the receiving end of brand invitations. Some get it right and some get it very wrong. The important point, though, is that in Asia we have a series of disaster stories, because the brands want to control the influencer, and that’s just impossible.
And this is a key reason why I believe it’s time to focus on another audience – the employee influencer. While you should never try to control anyone on social media, at least with this audience you do have some involvement in how they represent themselves – by giving them effective training and guidance to be successful.
That is why I believe now is the time of the employee influencer.
“There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.” The Cluetrain Manifesto
I shared this quote from Clutetrain Manifesto because it really spoke to me. Please check out the site, because it’s awesome. However the core message I took when reading it is this: the world is open and public, but business is still operating behind closed doors.
Some key points, inspired by Cluetrain Manifesto, about how us, the people, have changed:
- We are in the midst of a global conversation and none of us can underestimate its power – yet brands continue to ignore this phenomenon
- We are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge – yet brands can’t keep track of what we are doing or how we are doing it
- We are faster AND smarter than most companies – and brands continue to focus on the platforms we are doing it on, rather than paying attention to why
- We are having conversations – open, honest, funny, straight-forward and sometimes horrible – there’s definitely a lot of horrible ones at the moment
- But they are genuine human voices
- What does business do? It continues to speak marketing – not human – and in campaigns or quarters
- Businesses send out brochures, CTAs, PR, or insist on sign up forms….
- And you know what, the consumer just doesn’t care
And that is why employee advocacy and social selling is so critical. It unleashes the humans of business and it’s the greatest opportunity today.
And let’s not forget about the target audiences today. You, me and every consumer on the planet.
I don’t know about you, but I spent more time watching the democratic and republican convention speeches in the last two weeks than I ever have in my life! How can your brand compete for attention in the midst of how your consumers are participating online at that moment in time? Whatever is distracting them.
Quite simply, your brand has to be excellent within the global conversation and you do that by thinking of the customer first and always. That’s where brands are not seeing the light, because they are still doing business as usual.
But of course it’s business as usual. We know how to do that right? We know how to measure it!
Six levels of content marketing
I know I’ve spoken on this before, but it’s critical and maybe you’re a new reader. Please skip ahead if you’ve read it before.
- Level one, two and three is where too many companies still sit in Asia
- Level four scares me because brands are feeding employees marketing content to share on social channels and it’s not good content. It makes the employees look bad and it makes the brands look bad. The good news is companies are realizing employee social channels are a valuable amplification channel. The bad news is companies are not respecting the value and integrity of employee personal brands
- Level five is where we need to be focused. The is where the brand elevates the employee brand above the company brand. It respects the value of the personal brand of its employees and works with them to be the super stars of business. This is where we need to be
- Level six is my nirvana. I’ve never seen a business exist in its own silo. All businesses are part of an ecosystem. From the connections and communities of its employees, to its customers, partners, influencers and so on. The future will see content marketing as an ecosystem of business serving its combined audiences. That’s my prediction anyway.
It’s critical to offer practical steps to success, and here are eight.
- Define a content strategy – if you don’t have a strategy, you will fail
- Define your audiences – I say audiences because it is not singular. Customers, employees, influencers, potential recruits, partners, etc… Also work out where they are. Customer’s come directly to you in the last 8% of their buying journey. How can you capture their interest during the 92%?
- Content hub – what is your com? Or CMO.com? A hub is a place you can drive customers to. It’s how you measure and understand impact. It makes it easier for your customers to find you. Another prediction – today’s Websites will sit in the backend of the content hub. I’ll let you know if any of my predictions come true
- It’s all about GREAT content – no matter what you do, if the content is poor or your employees aren’t proud to share it, then you are wasting your time. Being awesome is all that matters
- Build a great team – writers, editors, photographers, designers or social animals who will find the stories in your business. Look within your company and without
- Invest in tools to simplify – there are many great tools out there. I use Hootsuite to manage my presence and was very impressed when I saw Amplify the other day. Definitely check it out. Whatever you use, make it simple for employees to get involved and support you
- Find engaged employees – start with those already doing it. But you’ll uncover surprising stars too – in my training I have taken people from doing nothing at all to becoming super stars on social media and with content. Sometimes you just need to unlock the potential and it’s not always obvious.
- Reward/celebrate – it doesn’t have to be much – $100/blog, annual awards, monthly stars. Just make sure you honour your super stars, because they are the future success of your business
We have gone well beyond business as usual. There is a lot you can change, and I know you are constantly working out how to be relevant in this new world. So I leave you with one priority for right now – make your employees the stars of your show. I know that businesses who really understand and embrace this opportunity will achieve significant competitive advantage. And those who wait, will lose out.
What do you think? Does your business embrace employees as the stars of the show? Or are they still holding back, afraid to open this door? Let me know.
Silhouettes of a concert photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
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