Social media marketing should be a multi-layered endeavor. Of course this means that a company’s strategy will generally involve accounts on different platforms as well as engagement with different groups, trending topics, and so on. But often it also means that the strategy continues down from the corporate level to the level of individual departments and then individual employees without those departments.
Many large companies have separate social media accounts that are tailored to the interests of customers or partners to only one branch of their operations. Retailers with locations in various different regions may be well-served by maintaining corporate accounts for consumers who are interested in the brand, while also tasking local teams with running more narrowly-focused accounts to keep customers apprised of specific sales, promotions, changes in hours, supply issues, and product availability.
This sort of multi-faceted social media marketing strategy can help a company to develop a broader audience, though it also presents the company with the challenge of fulfilling different customer expectations at different levels. The person following a local affiliate may not be automatically drawn to the account that represents the entire company. Of course, a truly comprehensive social media marketing campaign will strive to direct local audiences up the chain, in order to communicate a more controlled brand narrative while fostering loyalty.
This is a difficult outcome for large companies to pursue effectively, since it involves managing a potentially limitless range of smaller accounts under the umbrella of one large account. Past a certain point, this type of management becomes pretty much impossible, and that in turn reveals the importance of creating a corporate culture that allows the company to entrust some aspects of social media marketing to individual departments, and even to individual employees, with minimal supervision.
While the discussion so far has been about large companies with more personnel than they can possibly manage, there is a larger lesson here about social media marketing which is applicable to practically any company with more than one employee.
Every Employee an Ambassador
There was a time when it was commonplace for employers to try to keep employees off of social media. Nowadays, that is probably a fool’s errand at best, and a foolish goal at worst. Not only is it practically inevitable that certain types of employees will check social media during downtime in the workplace, it’s also quite possible that they’ll use social media for certain work-related communications.
This is something that modern companies should actively encourage, on the understanding that every time an individual references their employer on a personal account, it is an opportunity to broaden the employer’s social media without investing even an additional dime in marketing. Of course, the desire for control is unlikely to leave an employer’s mind even after they begin thinking in these terms. On some level, that is a valuable impulse to follow, but only to the extent that it lets the employer shape workplace culture in a way that increases the likelihood of employees referencing the company in a positive way.
As the above discussion of larger-scale social media marketing indicates, it is difficult if not impossible to efficiently manage online communications down to the level of the individual. Even if a company has only 25 employees, the best it can hope to do is create guidelines for representing the brand and hope that those employees have a sufficiently positive view of their company that they feel compelled to follow those guidelines on their own accord.
The Value of Dedicated Staff
Obviously, one way of securing positive brand engagement from employees is simply by treating those employees well. But even happy employees do not necessarily care about the brand they’re supposed to represent, or about how it’s perceived among the general public. To increase the odds that they do, an employer needs to start early, often at the point of hiring.
Well-selected staff has always been of the utmost importance for a company’s success. But prior to the era of social media marketing, it was possible to separate that staff from advertising and public relations unless that was specifically their department. Today, every employee is a potential vector for social media marketing, and that makes it more important to find employees who are not only capable of doing their jobs well, but also sufficiently enthusiastic about the outcome that they will have some inclination to discuss the work in their private lives and on their personal social media accounts.
This is not to say that employers can ever afford to simply leave employees to their own devices and remain content as long as they aren’t defaming the brand. Rather, companies of all sizes should attempt to actively engage their employees on social media, and to find a good compromise between corporate-controlled branded messaging and completely organic references to the brand by enthusiastic employees.
Facilitating Employee Engagement
Toward that end, employers should begin by establishing connections with as many employees as possible, as early as possible. Those connections should never feel like an obligation on the employee’s end, since this might start things off on the wrong foot. But when employees’ social media accounts are out-in-the-open, employers should follow them and take note of who follows back, since each reciprocation represents a genuine opportunity for organic social media marketing.
Once those connections are established, there may be many ways of engaging the relevant employees in ways that are personal but not pushy, so as to encourage them to share their innate interest in the brand. Tactics include tagging employees in photos and hopping that they’ll repost them, inviting them to take part in polls and other activities ahead of the general public, and making them aware of forthcoming social media marketing campaigns that will feature content provided by individual employees.
It’s worth mentioning that even the best tactics are more likely to fail than to succeed at driving employee engagement. Studies show that only three percent of workers actually post content that furthers their companies’ social media marketing. But studies also show that when they do, public engagement is eight times greater than when the brand message is coming straight from a company’s account.
With statistics like that, employee contributions to social media can be thought of as a sort of lottery jackpot. You’re unlikely to win, but it’s silly not to take your chance when it costs nothing at all.