You’ve read the blogs, seen the studies, attended the conference sessions, met with your CMO and, yada yada yada; developing an employee influencer program is high on the To-Do list. You have some budget, you are putting together a task force and you may even be evaluating agencies. But, in reality, you are starting from scratch and have no idea what to do. Oh, and the kicker? You have to use social media as the main amplification lever—a nut that has yet to be cracked on a corporate level.
Take heart, it is not as daunting as it seems. I hope these tips set you in the right direction.
As with any program, the first order of business is setting your goals and defining your strategy. Decide on your primary objectives—building awareness, amplifying your content, demonstrating industry expertise, employee recruitment, social selling, etc. Then, begin to identify and activate your influencer team. Here are a few criteria to help find the faces of your brand:
- Has some comfort level with social media. Now this is a plus and not a necessity. You might have a very engaging employee that is willing to try, but needs some basic training. Or, you might have some employees already engaging externally on their own with decent networks and tend to focus on topics relevant to your brand (balance of professional and personal).
- You want them to be genuinely passionate about your brand. Authenticity IS required.
- An expert on your products and services, and hot issues impacting your customers. Ideally, you’re looking for people that can speak to pertinent industry topics and aligned corporate vision.
- Great communication skills are a must. You can ghostwrite content, but they need to be able to have a conversation.
- Can dedicate the minimum time
- Eager to participate (start with your hand raisers).
Second, meet with them and get their ideas. The key to any employee-based program is to build it with them. Obviously you can’t execute on every idea, but they will feel a higher level of ownership and investment because they were consulted first, rather than told later. Hear their concerns. One of which will be the time required. Most people are stretched thin so it is critical to provide them with support. That’s where your own task force comes in; one of its key roles is to be the arms and legs. Still, be honest about the time involved (this will vary based on scope of program and how much training is needed upfront).
Third, think through the rules of external engagement (same concept as brand guidelines for Digital teams) and it would be good to give Legal a heads up at this point if you haven’t already. It is likely that your corporate social media policy needs to be reviewed and updated. Then your employees need to be actively engaged and retrained. It has been our experience that it’s best to involve Legal early so that you don’t get held up later.
Fourth, do not ‘yada’ the ask. You need to have a well-defined and transparent mission for your employees. Communicate expectations, engage with them on a regular basis and reward their participation through recognition and status. You’ll need an internal form of reputation management or even a gamification system to best achieve that.
Fifth, think about the channels you want to break through. Twitter and LinkedIn are no brainers for B2B, but consider YouTube. A Google study from 2015 reported that “Seventy percent of B2B buyers and researchers are watching videos throughout their path-to-purchase”. In addition to B2C, Instagram is being effectively leveraged by B2B brands as part of their employee influencer programs. IBM is a good example. Now, your employees don’t need to be omnipresent. Pick 1-2 social channels that make the most sense for them and you.
Finally, you’ll want to think about how to measure your efforts. You’ll want to consider some individual performance metrics (this helps in rewarding behavior) and provides some healthy competition to motivate others to succeed. The other part of the equation is gauging whether or not you are moving the needle on your overall program objectives. Do some initial benchmarking so that you have a starting point and then set some goals.
To recap you need to get your arms around the why, who, what, where and how:
- Why is this a business imperative and to what end?
- Who will be great faces of your brand?
- What are your employees charged with doing?
- Where will they be engaging?
- How well the program is performing?
Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.
Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.
She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.