Turn Employees into Social Media Advocates

Good morning Internet fans, it’s Ryan Perry with “Simple Biz Support.” Today is Wednesday, April 29th. I can’t believe it’s the end of the month just about. It is Social Media Wednesday, therefore I have Sarah Giometti, with…

[chuckle] I was going to say with social media Wednesday, but you’re actually with Provaro Marketing. Good Morning Sarah.

Sarah Giometti: Good Morning Ryan, how are you?

RP: I’m doing wonderful, thank you very much. Today, the keyword is “leverage”, and how do we leverage social media by turning our employees into social media robots, so they can continually promote and really just spread the word of what a great company we are?

SG: Well, we don’t want to turn them into robots, where they’re just automating and throwing out crap that you don’t want people to know. But you definitely want to turn them into… ‘Cause they can be your best brand advocates. Hopefully your employees absolutely love where they work, and they tell everybody… They already tell everybody in their life how awesome their job is. Why not take advantage of that and leverage it on your social media accounts?

RP: Right, so let me ask you this: So is this something I should just go into the office tomorrow and go, “Hey, I saw this great webinar and you know what, I think I’ve got employees… I got 10 employees here, I’m just going to make it mandatory, everybody you just need to start telling everybody how great our business is.”

SG: No. Please do not go do that, you…

RP: Okay, so what do you recommend… For a business owner it can be a little daunting. As a business owner, I have some concerns. One, if it’s my company, I’m always worried about my brand, my credibility. Then, living in California, we’re such a lawsuit happy place, I’m worried about that. So what are some steps that a business owner should take in order to move forward with it? Because I think this is a great idea, and I’ll play a little bit of devil’s advocate obviously this morning. It’s a great idea because if you can leverage the people that you have that are already engaging in social media, all you’re doing is boosting your visibility online and getting that brand recognition out there, especially from people that really do enjoy working for you, could be huge, and it seems like a no-brainer. But there are some pitfalls you got to be careful of.

SG: Right, you do want to take a strategic approach to this. But, when social media first came out, we went through the era where corporations instantly were, they removed all access to it. You weren’t allowed to touch it during the work hours, and we’re seeing some companies… I was reading a case study this morning about Zappos, how they encourage their employees to be on Twitter. And they’ve taken a very strategic approach to it, but they’ve leveraged their employees, their following, their time on Twitter. They’re leveraging that to increase their brand, increase their exposure. And so, it is that devil’s advocate that you want to step back from the restrictions and see how you can take advantage… ‘Cause your employees are probably on there anyway, and picking the platform you want to be on, Twitter’s an easy one, because you can do the hashtags and tagging of the people from any profile. Whereas on Facebook, you can’t tag people from a business page. And so, Twitter’s a really easy one to encourage employees to use, because they can interact with each other, they can… And Zappos encourages people, or encourages their employees to tweet during the day. What are you doing at work? Sharing out resources that their customers might find useful, things like that, where they’re advocates, but you definitely want to take a strategic approach.

SG: First, you want to have a training program, of some sort. Come up with a do’s and don’ts, the what they’re allowed to do, what they’re not allowed to do. And it also goes back to, if you already trust your employees to work for you, you should be able to trust them to represent you properly on social media.

RP: Right, and I’m going to cut in real quick and just say, one of… A word that comes to my mind is culture. If you have good culture in your business, and culture starts from the top down, with good culture you shouldn’t really have to worry about too many things, depending on the size of your business, if you… And I always tell people, especially small business owners, they’re always worried about “Oh, I’m going to get a negative review on Yelp.” Or, “Somebody’s going to not be happy with my service.” Whatever. And the reality is if you do something long enough, something bad will happen, and that’s okay, because this is life, things do happen. We’re all adults and it’s really, it also turns into a great opportunity on how do you handle that negative situation? That will say more about a business and their culture than just all the fun, fluffy, light stuff that we would want to have pushed out every day.

SG: Right, and if… Hopefully your employees don’t mess up, but if an employee messes up, own it, fix it, if they put a wrong picture on, take it down, apologize, and move on. Because that’s all people want, they just want you to go “Yep, we screwed up, sorry, we’re human, here’s our apology for it, we’ll try not to have it happen again.” But we’re human, our employees are human, it’s just this part of being in business. But you definitely want… They’re on there so let them promote you, let them promote the company culture. Do you guys do a team lunch once a month? Post pictures on that, because it reinforces that your company is run by people, not by robots. And we buy from people, not from businesses. So utilizing your employees on your social media, as part of your social media strategy just reinforces that you are human and this is who you guys are buying from is, here’s our team. So there’s a lot, there are more benefits in encouraging your employees to utilize it than negatives.

RP: Right and I think a lot of times, depending on the size of your company, if there’s a couple layers of separation between say upper management and the front line employees, those front line employees are going to have their ear to the ground. They know what’s going on, they know what the interest is, they’re intuned with your client base because their interacting with them on a regular basis and if you’re looking for content, those are the people that you should really be looking at because again, they’re working directly with your clientele.

SG: Right and so, yeah, they’re the best ones to send information out to solve problems. They should be the ones handling customer service responses, not you, as the business owner, since they’re interacting with your clients on a regular basis. So, we’ve talked about it before, leveraging social media for customer service, utilizing your employees on social media is just another way to do it because your customers can not only follow the business but they can follow the employees as well so as the employees are putting out information about the company, education, things like that, your customers are getting it from multiple avenues and so you’re just reinforcing that brand exposure.

RP: Right. And beyond sales and branding, in a good economy most businesses are growing, when they’re growing they need to hire and it would be nice to be able to choose from high-quality candidates and a lot of times if you have a very, if you’re employees are public, like you talked about, the barbecues, the luncheons, the group activities that you’re doing; that’s something other people want to be a part of and so when it comes time to hire, you’re going to attract a higher quality of people just because of the social engagement, the positive social engagement that they’ve seen online so, just because we’re down to about five minutes, so the first step is you need to create some sort of guidelines as far as why you’re doing this. Number two you mentioned, you need to have some basic training and there are people out there that do this for a living, you could Google it, but it really boils down to good culture. What are some other activities you talked about like the lunch event, what are some other activities that you would recommend for business owners to think about if they’re considering doing this? That they could have their employees do for them.

SG: Well one, pick employees who want to be on social media. Obviously it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, so don’t try to force it on every single employee. Pick the ones that are excited to do it and are willing to represent your company online but the things that, in part of your training and your guidelines ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’, you can give them ideas of what to post. Before and after pictures, do you own a hair salon and you’ve got a bunch of stylists, that’s an easy one to go, “Hey, Melanie just did her hair. Here’s the before, here’s the after,” and as you’re promoting each of your employees work, as the customers see and go, “Ohhh, I love that. I’m going to come by for that.” So being creative about, and that’s how you’re being creative, showing your product is a great way to have your employees and giving them the ability, the access, and the permission to promote their work, their colleague’s work, things like that and celebrating hitting milestones so if you and I were co-workers and you had done something great, it’d be awesome if I was able to turn around and tweet, “Congratulations to Ryan for hitting this goal.”

RP: And the other thing that just dawned on me, if you’re tweeting, as an example, people would be using their own personal profiles, correct? Not logging into the company.

SG: Yeah, it’s a combo of both but most of this is using their own stuff and creating company hashtags so then as your customers and followers, as they start putting the pieces together, are following multiple employees and the company, they can follow the hashtag on Twitter that we talked about. You put the hashtag and it brings up all the tweets so then they can see all the stuff that your employees are doing so you can create custom hashtags that every employee is using and that’s part of the training that you give them. But yeah, they’re doing this on their own personal profiles so your creating brand advocates that you already, owns not the right word, you already have them in your bag of tricks so why not take advantage of it and use it.

RP: Right. Alright, totally, and the other, I was thinking, I don’t know why dog groomers popped in but you were talking about a salon with a hair dresser. Somebody comes in, you can do the before and after of their dog, especially if it’s one that’s like super shaggy. If you are involved in non-profit events, Relay for Life, any activities like that where as a group your business shows up and supports, that’s definitely a great opportunity from the business side to be promoting that activity on their business account but then also let their employees know that, “Hey, if you want to share and promote… ” especially from a team branding or team building point-of-view, I could see where that would be huge.

SG: Absolutely. A lot of companies, the employees get together and do some sort of charity or volunteering together as a group. And so you want to show that because, again, it’s that human side as the company culture that we not only work together, we spend our off hours together working within the community and helping our community and that just endears you to your customers and future customers even more. And, it’s like you said for hiring, it also endears you to future candidates for hiring that they’re going, “Wow, that place looks really awesome. I want to work there.” And those are the best candidates to have. The ones that come in and be like, “Can I please work for you, ’cause you guys look amazing?” And that’s what you’re trying to show and same with the customers buying from you. “You guys are awesome. I want to support you.” And that’s where price goes out of the window kind of, that the price matters less when they love the company and the culture and you’ve built that loyalty. And so, encouraging your employees to show stuff of their own lives and the things they’re doing together, yeah, it adds to team building, it adds to your brand exposure. It adds to your company culture. I really can’t… Unless you unfortunately have a vindictive employee, like there are so many positives to utilize them.

RP: Right. Yeah, and I think the key thing is just company culture. As a business owner, if you’re in business to do good, support, nurture and grow people, then I think this is a great opportunity. If you’re in business just to get as much money out of people, to use people as much as you can, this may not be the best opportunity for you. So, you know, I think the first place you need to start as business owner is just think about your company culture. You know, if somebody, if a friend asked one of your employees what they thought of their boss without you around would it be positive. If it would, definitely a great idea. And we’re just about out of time, so if you can kinda wrap up some of the quick points of what you should do and what you should consider before rolling out a program like this. But I think it’s great for leveraging.

SG: Absolutely. Really where you can start off is ask your employees, do they want to participate in this? If you have buy-in from them saying, “Yeah, that would be awesome. I’d love to do that.” Then, you start from… You build… You create the guidelines, the do’s and don’ts, kinda the rules, how to participate in it. You put together some sort of training program or you bring somebody in to train your employees for you on how to do it and then you give them tools in order to do it and monitor it. Especially if you’re using something like twitter, it’s all public so you can go and kinda keep an eye on what’s going on. So, I definitely would say take advantage of the fact you have employees who like you, like working for you, and let them help you tell the world how awesome you are.

RP: Right, perfect. And then, I don’t know Kerry Rego, Kerry Rego Consulting. Do you know if she’s still doing that type of employee-employer, type training?

SG: Yeah, she does. I do as well.

RP: Okay. Oh, okay, I didn’t know that. Something you learn everyday.

RP: Wonderful. Alright. Well, Sarah, thank you very much. I don’t know what we’re doing next week but I know we have something cool lined up. What are we doing? We’re going to talk about social media tools. It says 44 social media tools. Hopefully, we’re not going to cover all 44 tools, though.

SG: No, no, no, we’re not. But I was looking back and noticed that we hadn’t really talked about tools or if we have it’s been a while. So, talk about some tools that make doing your social media a lot easier for you and less time consuming.

RP: Okay, great. And that will be next week. As always, Sarah, I appreciate your time and I hope you have a great week.

SG: Thanks, Ryan. Hope you have a great week, too.

RP: Alright, bye.

SG: Bye.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.

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