How to Extend Your Social Media Marketing Reach by Harnessing Employees’ Networks

Imagine a world where marketing wasn’t the only department tweeting, or commenting on LinkedIn discussions, or reading the company Facebook page.

You can turn this dream into reality by taking a few basic steps you can begin incorporating your colleagues into your social media marketing efforts.

Before you can do this well, those colleagues need to have an established, authoritative, and consistent social voice (see Tweet This, Not That). Mixing in “Redundant White Paper Title” with their photos of their kids in Halloween costumes isn’t going to get the job done.

So, to leverage employee social media advocacy you need to start with the basics:

  1. Establish a social media policy in conjunction with HR, compliance, and, if necessary or appropriate, the C-suite.
  2. Educate other employees about it.
  3. Provide the tools they need to put it into practice, including software and appropriate user names.
  4. Wait patiently, and monitor/encourage their engagement.
  5. Use these networks to exponentially boost the reach of your message.

As a bonus, this collaboration benefits not only your social reach but also the level of satisfaction your colleagues report with their professional lives. [link to other article]

Step 1: If Your Company Doesn’t Have a Social Media Policy, Get One

However social they might be on their personal time, employees are usually timid about getting professional on their social networks for fear of censure. A clear and explicit policy is an easy remedy for this, but most companies don’t have one.

In fact, “in most organizations, social media is an isolated endeavor — usually associated with the marketing department. This type of structure is inherently limiting. It reinforces the notion that social media is a promotional activity and ‘someone else’s job.’”1

The Altimeter group surveyed 114 organizations and found that only 43% of respondents felt that their company’s culture had a high level of trust and empowerment that was highly supportive of employee engagement and advocacy.2

But social media involvement is a two-way street; marketers want more voices, but management must weigh this against the possibility of negative attention on social networks.

Once again, a clear policy is the solution. Here’s a lawyer-tastic template for making one that can help you strike that delicate balance between risk and reward.

Step 2: Educate Your Colleagues About Social Media

Once you have a policy in place, which should have the thumbs up from HR, you’ve got to disseminate it. This means a training for all employees; whether it’s mandatory or voluntary will be up to your organization.

The purpose of this training should be to, “mitigate social media risk with education on corporate social media policy.” The subject matter will be broad: what employees are, and are not allowed to do with their social media profiles.2

It may be helpful to divide your rules into two categories: one for personal profiles and one for business.

If you’re passing out new Twitter handles that include your company’s name, you’ve got the right to be pretty controlling of their activities under that name.

On the other hand, if you’re expecting employees to use their existing social networks for business activity, you’ve got to accept a much more limited role in regulating their activity.

Whatever your strategy, be clear in training. You can incorporate this into the new hire orientation going forward, but you’ll probably need to devote a lunch hour to it for existing employees.

Step 3: Provide the Right Tools and Training for Success

This scattershot approach probably won’t entice 100% of your colleagues to engage with your marketing message on social media, but for those who are interested, make sure you provide the right tools and further training.

Altimeter reports that, “more than 60% of companies report having no program or only ad hoc social media education programs.”2

Don’t be one of those companies.

Topics for ongoing training can include best practices, your preferred link shortener, social media management platforms, and/or the best way to get started..

The important thing to keep in mind is that employees who will be expected to drive specific business objectives with their social activities should get even more training to enhance their skill set.

You can tailor these trainings to specific needs of your users; maybe everybody’s comfortable with Facebook but you need to set up a day-long Twitter “bootcamp.” Whatever you decide, make sure the education is ongoing.

Social media changes constantly, and you need to ensure your messages and tactics are adapting accordingly.

Step 4: Wait, Monitor, and Encourage Social Engagement

At the outset of your efforts, monitor just two primary initial metrics: action and network.

Actions are simply things that employees are doing on external networks: posting, commenting, retweeting, liking, etc. Unless you’re using company-owned social media accounts, this will most likely be self-reported data from your colleagues.

Most social networks make it easy to report on your activity, so asking for these few data points won’t be too demanding for most employees (especially after you train them!).

A person’s network is their reach across all social networks, which you can measure simply by adding up their followers/fans/friends/etc.

(Some companies also have internal networks on which employees engage with one another, but we’re limiting this discussion to customer-facing social networks.)

What you want to see is an increase across both metrics over time, and wherever you see a lag you need to reach out and encourage development:

employee engagement

Step 5: Use These New Connections to Extend Your Marketing Reach

Your goal is not to have a unilateral message emanating from marketing to everyone’s networks. Instead, you want employees to organically share your brand’s content because it’s genuinely useful to their network.

The Altimeter group’s report puts it well:

“It’s tempting to think of employees all amplifying and parroting the same marketing message — this is especially true from a legal perspective within regulated industries. A better approach is to understand the underlying motivations for sharing, which is about how the sharing helps the audience being shared to.”2

Provide your now-expert-level colleagues with a stream of useful content, encourage and reward their disseminating it on their social networks, and enjoy an exponential increase in your social media marketing reach.


1. The Biggest Missed Opportunity in Social Media
2. Strengthening Employee Relationships in the Digital Era

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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