Why Investing in Your Employees' Personal Brand is Good for Business
Social selling is powerful. If your employees can leverage their personal brands, reputations and networks to promote your corporate brand, you’ll increase brand impressions and engagement and ultimately realize better ROI out of your social program. But how do you get your employees to leverage their personal networks to build your corporate brand?
It’s a fair question. Your employees value and protect their personal networks, which they work hard at building through authentic relationships. Why would an employee leverage the power of their own network to promote your services? What motivates an employee to advocate for their company? How should you respond if employees or representatives don’t want to post your content?
Getting the most out of your social selling program through employee engagement means answering these questions, and answering them well.
Don’t use incentives
We’ve seen a lot of different motivation tactics used in social sales; from offering incentives such as raffles to win movie tickets to making social sales a mandatory part of employment. These tactics have one thing in common: They co-opt an employee’s personal brand and networks to achieve corporate brand objectives.
Does this strategy sound familiar? By employing these kinds of tactics, brands are treating social selling as a form of paid media. Instead of buying advertisements in Facebook, they’re paying (or mandating) their employees to put corporate content in front of their personal networks.
These methods might see some success. After all, advertising still exists for a reason, and when those advertisements come from people rather than promotions they might be better received. But social selling is effective, in large part, because it isn’t advertising, so if you want to maximize its potential you need to treat it differently.
Instead, add value
So why can’t you treat social selling like a paid medium? The core idea of social selling is simple: help, don’t sell. The focus isn’t promotion, the focus is adding value through education, entertainment, and building genuine relationships. If you are forced to compensate your employees to post your content on social media, it’s probably because they otherwise see no benefit in it for them, and that means you aren’t providing value.
The most successful social selling programs approach content the same way that enterprises approach employee training. When you train your employees, you’re making an investment in their knowledge equity and in turn they use those skills to benefit you. When you provide employees with good content, you’re investing in their relationship equity. You’re no longer just using their network, you’re helping them add value to their network and helping them grow their audience. That makes their brand stronger, which makes it more valuable to you. It also means they’ll be more willing to post content now that they see value in it.
If you add value, your employees won’t post to win rewards, or because its mandatory – they’ll post because your content improves their personal brand.
So how can you invest in your employee’s relationship equity? Here are three steps that will help you get started.
1. Encourage third party sharing, and make it easy
Employees often perceive social selling programs as nothing but promotion – it’s up to you to change that perception. A great way to do that is by providing high-quality content, related to your business that someone else wrote.
Nobody knows everything, and citing other sources improves legitimacy and makes the promotional content that you do eventually post more credible and, thus, more effective.
If you want to see the best results, help your employees find great third-party content. You know the best, most authoritative resources in your industry, so build pools of relevant content for your employees. Encourage them to post that content, and make it easily available through whatever curation tool you use.
By providing this content, you’re helping your employees deliver value to their audience, and that will make them more willing to incorporate you into their personal brand-building efforts on social.
2. Educate, entertain, and then promote
Once again: help, don’t sell. Great social sellers only promote their business directly about once every 10 posts, but that doesn’t mean only one out of 10 posts comes from your business!
If you provide content that isn’t directly promotional in nature, but adds value, then you can build name recognition and trust for your corporate brand without asking your employees to over-promote. Teach people something new. Give them a useful anecdote. Make them laugh. Build content that doesn’t sound promotional when you read it, and your employees won’t feel like its promotional when they post it.
3. Encourage employees to build a unique presence
Many employees are hesitant to associate their social media presence with their business because they don’t want to lose the personalization and authenticity that makes their digital brand their own. Whether it’s due to restrictive rules, a lack of content, or other problems, many social accounts used for business purposes end up looking the same, and that reduces the willingness of your employees to participate.
Two good steps to overcome this hesitation are:
- Make it clear that personal content is a good thing, and;
- Encourage your employees to use their own content sources in addition to your own.
Sharing personal content, such as hobbies and personal interests, allows your employees to be uniquely themselves online, and letting them source their own content adds a personal spin to business-focused posts.
These steps can be a challenge in regulated industries, but investing in compliance software and workflows that can overcome these challenges will help your employees use social media for business without feeling like they sacrifice their unique brand.
Compensation schemes are a waste of an opportunity. Instead, give your employees content that helps them build relationships. The better they are at building their network, the more valuable their network is to your brand.