Face it: Employees are talking about your brandyour companyon social media.
In fact, half of the messages, pictures or videos employees post in social media are about their employers. With nearly 120 million full-time employees in the U.S., that means 60 million employees choose to talk about their employers online.
The good news is that their messages are overwhelmingly positive.
The bad news is that much of this employee advocacy is happening beyond the awareness of employers. Many employees are sharing about their companies on social media without training or guidance on brand-safe content.
The key is to understand why employees would advocate for their companies. What's in it for them? How do you make it feel natural for them to advocate? How can you motivate them to do it well?
First, help employees understand what your company stands for. All peopleand particularly Millennials, who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025want to find fulfillment in their work and want their contributions to make a difference in the world.
A sense of fulfillment is unattainable, however, if the individual doesn't understand his or her company's own mission and why his or her work matters.
When employees in the dark are finally empowered to talk about their companies on social media, they build that understanding. When employees view great content and then share it, it fulfills this intrinsic desire for understanding and purpose in work.
This sets the stage for you to tap into three motivators that can make advocacy central to your culture:
Employee advocacy develops an understanding of the brand, and this produces a sense of pride in sharing. According to Gallup Inc., Americans spend on average 47 hours of their week working. They want friends and family to know what they work so hard at and why it matters.
This is why employees especially enjoy sharing corporate social responsibility initiativeslike sus-tainable environmental practices, volunteering and donation programs. Even videos of employees at work on the latest initiative, or a testimonial about a company that is using your product, can stoke feelings of dignity and gratification.
Your employees want to share what makes them proud to work because it is core to their identity and sense of meaning in life.
When social content recognizes individual employees and teams, they and their colleagues want to share. It's like giving a friend a big digital high-five.
The social relationships within your company matter to people, and this is why recognition matters. Besides an appearance in social content, recognition can take many forms, including acknowledgement from managers and executives.
When executives retweet an employee's comments, shout out over Facebook or post a story about how one department just invented the next big thing, employees remember it and feel appreciated. Recognition helps employees remember that they are the voice of their company.
If an employee helps to drive awareness, leads, purchases, new hires or key partnerships through social media activity, is that not a sign of an innovative, future leader? Why not look at social media as a proving ground for leadership potential?
Social media is simply a communication medium, and when employees show command in its arena, they are really showing potential to lead others. The companies that see social media as a training ground for professional development will motivate employee advocates to meet their full potential.
Acknowledging people with training opportunities, inviting them to lunches with executives, gathering high performers together and promoting leaders all demonstrate that employee advocacy is valued.
Likewise, referral bonuses for employees who successfully share job opportunities on social media send the same message.
Rewarding people for being outstanding connectors and ambassadors for a company just makes good business sense.
Everyone in your organization knows that social media is important. It continues to be a frontier where the opportunities for employees to create value are largely untapped.
When you train your employees, provide them with great content to share, help them cultivate understanding and pride and then recognize their advocacy publicly and with advancement, they become an even more powerful asset for your company.
When you link social media to advancement, I promise you, employees will want to be trained and given tools to succeed.
Social media is the arena where individuals canthrough the power of their own voicestand out on an enormous scale.
An as an employer, what could be a better way to identify leaders who can really represent your brand to customers, partners, job candidates and the press?
Empower advocateshelp them discover deeper meaning and opportunity in their workand they will power and empower your brand.
Dave Hawley is vice president-marketing at San Francisco-based SocialChorusat www.socialchorus.coman advocate marketing company. He wrote this piece for Advertising Age magazine, a New York City-based sister publication of Tire Business.