An uncomfortable reach

An uncomfortable reach

Asking employees to share your social media updates can boost your marketing message. But is it an invasion of privacy?

October 23, 2015

Encouraging employees to share your company’s message over their personal social media networks can provide a quick, easy boost. Think about it: if a snow contractor has 100 employees and each of them has 100 followers, that translates to instant access to 10,000 people.

The strategy of “amplifying” key company messages has benefits other than the brute force of more numbers. Word-of-mouth messages from friends and colleagues are generally seen as more trustworthy than social media blasts from corporate accounts. If a snow contractor posts that its removal methods are the best, you shake your head and say “Yeah, sure. Of course they’d say that.” But if your old college roommate or hiking buddy tells you that removal method is amazing, you believe it. When the message comes from someone you trust, it carries more weight.

While this strategy is unquestionably effective at increasing your reach, is it the right thing to do? There are a few ways it could backfire. Many employees consider their personal Facebook page sacred, and would react with outrage to the mere suggestion that perhaps they should promote their employer’s marketing message.

Ryan Holmes, the CEO of the social media dashboard Hootsuite, says it’s an open secret among many of the world’s largest companies that their biggest social media asset is already on the payroll.

Holmes uses the employee amplification strategy often at Hootsuite, and he shared five lessons learned in a blog post. Read the whole post here:

It absolutely has to be voluntary

Holmes is clear on this point. Employees should not be compelled to share or disseminate company messages on their personal social media accounts. But he also says the employees must actively want to share. Employers can show interested employees the potential benefits of establishing themselves as experts in their professional sphere.

Audience alignment is key

Employees must have an audience that actually cares about the messages they’d be seeing. If your inventory manager is posting availability updates and only his Aunt Flo in Arizona is seeing them, that’s not effectively amplifying.

Consider social media basic training

The idea of using social media “professionally” is foreign to many employees. Some basic workplace training can go a long way toward breaking the perception that Twitter and Facebook are time wasters and show employees how to build and nurture a network of professional followers.

Messages need to be easy to share

When you do have important news you want to get out and you want a signal boost, you need to make it as simple as possible for your employees to help you. Alert them directly through email, with pre-approved sample Tweets or Facebook posts.

Use this strategy judiciously

When 75 percent of consumers say social messages directly influence their buying decisions, this kind of marketing is gold. Don’t kill the golden goose. Using it too often can build resentment among employees who feel their personal lives have been hijacked by their job. Reserve this strategy for messages that deserve it – not just bald-face company promotion. Your employees’ followers must continue to trust them. If a particular post or tweet seems disingenuous, alarm bells start ringing in their heads, and the faith is lost.