Make Employees Part of Your Social Media Program

Earlier this week I read an article on re/code about a company named Dynamic Signal. As described by re/code writer Peter Kafka, Dynamic Signal helps “companies turn their employees into social media promoters.” Kafka goes on to describe the company’s offering in more detail:

“The theory: If Company X posts something on Facebook, it may not have much weight. But if Company X’s employees post something … well, that could be an ‘untapped organic marketing channel’...So Dynamic Signal provides software that helps encourage employees to chat up their employers online, tracks what they say, and suggests stuff they ought to share.”

Dynamic Signal isn’t the first company I’ve encountered to offer a service like this. GaggleAMP provides companies with something similar, though they tout their product for use not only with employees, but also with customers and partners.

The concept of social amplification software products like these seems good in theory, but that’s where it stops.

The “encouragement” given to employees is typically a pre-written piece of content for social media channels. The marketing, comms, PR or social media person drafts this content and the social amplification software sends it to employees so they can then post it to their own personal social media networks.

These social amplification companies sell the thought of employees taking that “encouragement” from the pre-drafted content and modifying it to fit themselves. However, that rarely happens. Rather, what typically happens is they take the pre-written content and publish it verbatim.

So now there are hundreds of posts from your employees that say the exact same thing. People notice and realize exactly what happened - employees were told to publish something. That power from the “organic marketing channel” that Dynamic Signal touted is lost. Anyone who notices the exact same post from multiple employees won’t think of that content as organic, authentic, transparent or credible. They’ll see it as a mindless copy and paste.

Social amplification companies like Dynamic Signal and GaggleAMP end up not being encouragement for employees to participate in social media, instead they serve as a crutch for lazy social media behavior.

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One could argue that these software products are doing exactly what they said they would do - amplifying a message and increasing your company’s share of voice. That’s true, but is it really helping?

Share of voice is one of the most misunderstood metrics in marketing. It lacks any indication of the feelings of the viewer or reader. A company like Nike could spend a ton of money and receive the highest share of voice for a term like network security. Does it matter? They’re lacking credibility and expertise to go along with this high visibility. It’s an oversimplified example, but the point shines through. Share of voice is simply a vanity metric for CEOs. Alone it does not sufficiently prove your company is reaching more relevant people than your competitors.

Coming back to amplification software tools, does it help if all they’re doing is amplifying messages and extending reach? Are they providing any assurance that you’re reaching the right people because of their tool?

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Social media amplification services like Dynamic Signal and GaggleAMP are not the solution to getting your employees more involved in your social media program. They’re more like a half-assed solution that has the potential to cause more problems.

(For what it’s worth, there is one type of business where it makes total sense to use these amplification tools - franchises. Franchisors draft content as part of their marketing agreement with franchisees and the franchisees can then use that copy verbatim on their own local channels.)

If you want to involve your employees in your social media program, there isn’t an easy way out. You have to invest in them by training them so they’re able to do it on their own, comfortably using their own voice. That’s the only way you’ll see sustained success.

What I hear from a lot of companies is that they know their employees won’t do it on their own. They’re not interested, don’t have time, don’t have product expertise - the list could go on and on. A social amplification service isn’t going to truly resolve any of those excuses.

What To Do

Start small. First train the people who are interested. If you have five people who want to help, you’ll see more success working with them than trying to force it on 40 people who aren’t interested. It often helps if some of the people in that initial group are influential throughout the rest of your organization. These influential employees aren’t the ones holding the biggest titles or receiving the most pay; they’re the ones who are the most connected within your company. It’s the people who don’t simply come to work and go home, but establish relationships with others, especially those outside of their working group.

As you train these influencers, they can serve as models for others as you incrementally change the culture of the company. Others see them doing it - and see the positive feedback they’re receiving for doing it - and will be more likely to give it a try themselves. You also have to continually shepherd these influencers as they get comfortable with increased social media participation. Give them content ideas - don’t draft the content for them - but make them aware of upcoming announcements, campaigns or initiatives. Let them know how they can contribute. Provide them with the top three messages. Guide them so they can participate on their own terms.

It’s also important to remember that not all of your employees are product focused, so you don’t want them all talking about your product online. If someone’s an engineer or product manager it makes sense for them to do so. However, if they’re in finance or marketing, they shouldn’t be forced to talk about the big data platform you create. Allow them to talk about their discipline. It allows them to become more established and influential with peers of their job function, which in turn helps your company with things like recruiting and employee satisfaction.

Incorporating employees in your social media program is a good thing. Don’t turn it into a negative by trying to go the easy route with a social amplification system.

This post is syndicated from its original publishing on LinkedIn.