Do you know how important social media is to your bottom line? Forbes did a study and found that 81 percent of U.S. respondents indicated posts from their friends directly influenced their purchase decision. This finding supports an earlier study done by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Lithium, a social media tech firm, which revealed 80 percent of respondents “tried new things based on friends’ suggestions.”
When working with local businesses on their social media strategy, I typically noticed that the brand would benefit from the employees sharing content about the business on social media for them. But rarely do I see anyone deploying this strategy. By now, most businesses should know that social media influencer networks are driving consumer decisions. So by using your staff to create a social media army, your business can create your own influencer network, growing your brand organically.
These numbers will give you a hint of the power of a staff-driven social media army. Let’s say you’re a restaurant with a total of 4,000 followers collectively on Facebook and Instagram. Now, let’s say you have 50 employees, each with (a relatively modest) 500 followers of their own for a total of 25,000 connections, which we’re going to cut that in half because they probably have a similar group of friends. So, by asking your employees to share, like and comment on company posts, you can boost your audience from 4,000 to 16,500–instantly. The more engagement (shares, likes and comments) your content gets, the more exposure your brand gets organically.
So how do you turn your staff into a social media army that grows your brand organically? Like all marketing strategies, there needs to be a plan in place. As you read on, I will lay out the plan and some strategies that I used to help a local restaurant/bar start to implement a social media army using their staff to grow their brand organically.
It isn’t just a numbers game, of course. A referral from friends and friends of friends are widely seen as more relevant and trustworthy than social media posts from business accounts. (It’s like when you use Google search, you never click the ad paid for by the business, you go to the one after it, which isn’t a paid ad.) Why? My results with these brands show that content shared by employees can get more engagement than content shared by brand channels and is re-shared more frequently.
After studying one brand’s social media account, I noticed an even more impressive thing. When employees share a post, the company not only expanded their social media reach organically, they start to create a bond between their staff and the consumer. Creating better social media engagement and better results.
Now while the numbers and engagement sound great, let’s come down to earth for a moment. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see this social media strategy going horribly wrong. Will your employees actually want to share your companies content? Will their followers even care? Who decides what content gets put out? You also could risk annoying your followers with too many posts. So here are my seven tips to grow your social media presence.
1. So you’re probably wondering by now where do you start.
Well, let’s start by finding your social media employee champions. First, put an internal questionnaire out asking if anyone would like to be a part of your social media army and get rewarded for promoting the company on social media. After you have a few sign-ups, these so-called champions will need to fit the following: Have knowledge about social media, be very active on social media (1-3 posts a day), have a following (500 or more) and be energetic and knowledgeable about your brand.
2. Employees have to want to share your brand’s content.
Your employee-driven social media army has to be voluntary, making someone post on social media will only turn into a bad post with bad engagement. This all starts with having the right company culture. If employees are engaged and enthusiastic about your brand, then helping the company get the word out is fun, as long as the process is easy. At the same time, by sharing a relevant post, employees can ideally build their own professional social followings, establishing themselves as influencers in their professional space. Making this a win-win for all involved.
Why should you encourage your employees to post on your company’s behalf? Let’s say you’re a restaurant with a total of 4,000 followers collectively on Facebook and Instagram. Now, let’s say you have 50 employees, each with (a relatively modest) 500 followers of their own for a total of 25,000 connections, which we’re going to cut that in half because they probably have a similar group of friends. So, by asking your employees to share, like and comment on company posts, you can boost your audience from 4,000 to 16,500–instantly.
3. The right post needs to reach the right audience.
In other words, audience alignment is key. Posting the right content on the right platform will generate the most social engagement. It’s simple, create content that is relevant to your brand, for the right social platform, posted by the right person, at the right time. Creating the perfect staff driven social media army.
4. To a large extent, employees should be creatively composing their own messages and sharing company content without any special prompting, just as part of their normal routines.
Of course, some groundwork is required to get to this point. I recommend putting your staff through mine or someone else’s basic social media training course to get everyone up to speed on the different social channels your brand uses. It is also key to lay out guidelines for how employees should talk about the company on their social accounts. At the same time, however, it’s important to offer employees suggested posts. This might seem presumptuous at first, but it’s not easy to come up with catchy messages or posts and your staff have other jobs to do. Sometimes you need to offer a little inspiration.
5. The sharing process must be extremely simple.
When it comes to getting employees to share a suggested post, it pays to minimize steps and make it effortless. A pre-drafting post is helpful but still poses logistical challenges. Well thank god for technology in 2019, there are apps that let suggested posts be pushed out directly to employees’ smartphones. Employees can then scroll through the proposed messages on their phones, tap to decide which social networks, to share on and done. The ease of just one or two taps makes this a fun and easy add-on to their job. It also makes a huge difference in participation rates.
6. Use your social army sparingly though.
It goes without saying that social media runs on trust. Your post will have an impact because they come from real people–in many cases people you actually know and whose views you value. Employers, keep this in mind when asking your team members to serve in your social media army. If your employees’ feeds are suddenly swamped with work posts, the brand’s credibility suffers and people simply tune out. So it’s important to use this strategy in the right way. It’s not really a matter of how many posts you send, as to what kinds of post you send. The best updates for employees to share are genuinely useful or entertaining. They align with company interests without being too promotional or narrowly focused.
7. Reward, reward, reward.
Creating an employee-driven social media army isn’t new, but social media has made it significantly easier to enlist your full staff as a marketing resource. So reward your social army. I recommend rewarding based on how a post does. The most likes will get a prize or the most shares get a prize. Applying the right strategy and a little technology to tap into employees’ existing networks can radically increase the reach of your social media post, so why not make it fun.
So start by simply asking staff members if they want to be a part of your social army. Then encouraging employees to share your company’s social media updates by rewarding them–when done properly this can dramatically expand a company’s total following, extending the reach and impact of its post. The best thing about this is it does not require you to hire more employees. The resources you need to execute your social media army are already on your payroll!
One of those apps that helps encourage employees to grow your social reach is Hootsuite’s Amplify. This app allows you to create pre-approved content that you can push out to your employees. Learn more at hootsuite.com/products/amplify.
Brian Larry is a father, entrepreneur and community advocate. Brian is the visionary behind ConnectLabs, a company that is hell-bent on connecting the community through people and technology. His background wasn’t always in technology but, five years ago, he saw how the world was changing in the way where people could connect to anyone in the world through technology. Learn more about him at connectlabs.io.