Identify the right employee advocates to get the most out of your social media advocacy programmes.
Social media advocacy has become a key mechanism in B2B marketing. Allowing employees to promote your brand, products and services could significantly shorten your sales cycle and improve employee engagement. It is also a relatively low-cost way to increase your brand reach.
However, engaging on social media isn’t for every employee. Participation must be optional, empowering employees who have a combination of skill, interest and credibility.
Social media advocacy, who will do it?
A good first step to selecting employee advocates is to develop a sound understanding of the appetite for social media participation within your organisation. One useful approach is to create a survey that asks employees key questions about their social media activity. The survey should find out some of the following things:
Social media platforms used
Frequency of use
Mode of engagement i.e. whether they create, engage or just skim content
Willingness to share content on behalf of your organisation
Keep the survey anonymous, identifying respondents by department/level, e.g. sales, customer service or team leader, manager etc. and by office location for instance. You can create your own questions or use existing ones.
Here are five ways to select employee advocates:
1. Credibility and influence
Employees who already have a strong presence on social media could be highly valuable to your social media advocacy programme. Such employees are probably well respected by their peers, and regularly engage online in a professional way. Moreover, they are likely to be not just content sharers but also content creators. This is a highly valuable characteristic as research has shown only 1% of social media users will fall into this category.
2. Involve senior leaders
You might find that the best advocates are your senior leaders. Whether you are bringing a new product to market or reinforcing your brand values, senior leaders as employee advocates could provide real impact online. Their participation also motivates employees, giving them role models that walk-the-talk. However, be mindful that getting senior leaders to actively engage online requires active support in areas such as time management.
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3. Some functions have more appetite
When it comes to social media advocacy, you can assume that employees in marketing, sales and customer support services will have more of an interest in getting involved. Therefore, engage these departments as advocates, at least to get the programme started. Depending on your industry, employee advocates in technical functions might be extremely valuable to engage. But don’t worry if technical employees e.g. engineers aren’t keen. There are several ways employees can get involved in social media e.g. “listening” in on online customer conversations and finding solutions to their challenges.
4. Engage where your customers are
Sometimes, it will come down to location. If your business strategy is to increase market penetration in a specific region, it might make sense to get mass social media participation in that region. The web is global, but there is value in a customer knowing that they can contact an employee who has shared some useful information about a product – knowing that the employee is local, and more likely to be able to meet them in person to discuss their needs. This might be just what a customer needs to make a final decision on a purchase.
5. Train existing social media users
Employee advocates should be social media users. Trying to convince employees to get on social media, solely for the purpose of becoming advocates doesn’t work. But not any social media user will do. Ensure that the employees have appropriate guidelines and training for how you want them to conduct themselves on social media. Also, consider focusing on one platform at a time e.g. LinkedIn or Twitter, providing not just education around social media policies but education on the idiosyncrasies of each platform.
You don’t need an army of a 100 employees to begin your social media advocacy programme. Ultimately, you should start with a few early adopters – then grow!
If you work for SalesForce, General Electric, or Hewlett-Packard, you are one of few employees who has a social CEO. You might take it for granted. But research shows that as at 2016, 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs had no social media presence at all. However, CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are active on Twitter. And General Electric’s Jeff Immelt and Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman have more than 100,000 followers on LinkedIn. It is not always possible for your company’s CEO to be a social media guru, but it does make the marketing team’s job a lot easier.
Social CEO Logic: Successful Employee Advocacy Is About Culture And Leadership
As I prepared to write my book, I interviewed social media and marketing professionals in ten companies. These companies included GE, SAS, and IBM. It became clear that some companies had a head start with employee advocacy. This was partly due to their inherent company culture and exemplary leadership. Leaders like Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff have done an outstanding job of being present on social platforms in a way that encourages his employees to follow suit. It’s a sign that says, “Hey, I buy into this!” Other companies have struggled to generate the level of employee participation required to make social media employee advocacy sustainable. Part of the challenge is getting their business leaders to walk the talk. Over recent years, more reasons have been uncovered as to why CEOs should be social that dispute some of the risks involved in putting one’s self out there.
Social CEO Problem: Research Shows It’s A Good Idea But It’s A Hard Sell
The 2016 Brandfog Survey on the Social CEO reveals the perception that executive participation in social media leads to better leadership grew by 15% between 2013 and 2016. Respondents to the survey also believe that it builds brand trust. This is probably why 85% state that having a socially active C- Suite leadership team can mitigate risk before a brand reputation crisis occurs. How might you encourage your CEO to be more social? A recent article on IF suggests that training your CEO is out of the question and recommends fitting social around the CEO rather than trying to fit the CEO into social. A fair bit of researching and convincing needs to be done to move a non-social CEO into social media. This is the reality.
Social CEO Reality: Your CEO Is Probably Too Far Away Anyway
Top executive support inspires employees. However, one global social media manager at a top social brand told me that it is more important to have a layer of middle managers that support social media employee advocacy programs. A social CEO might be just too far away to be an effective role model to those lower down in the organisation. In addition, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer: 52% of consumers trust an “average” employee more than a CEO, a statistic that rose 30% between 2009 and 2014. And this % has probably grown since then. Perhaps middle management is more influential—not just internally, but externally too.
Social CEO Trend Line: The Future Of Employee Advocacy
During the interviews, I found that managers reinforced values by talking about them and behaving in ways that supported them. Employees are empowered by this. With the appropriate guidelines and support, employees start to participate. A recent article in Fast Company shows that employee advocacy programs have grown by 191% since 2013. Perhaps we can expect similar growth in CEO participation on social media. Are you a social CEO or do you work for a company that has one? Leave a comment to tell us if it makes a difference.
LinkedIn made a bunch of changes to its platform, and many people hate it. My feelings are not as strong as some but I see how losing the advanced search function and having your most-used buttons vanish could be annoying. If your articles suddenly don’t do as well as previously, it could feel like a bad joke. If you hate the new LinkedIn, here are a few things you need to do now to keep going:
Make your website the centre
Here’s the thing: LinkedIn is not your website. Many treat it like it is, publishing all their best content here and depending on it for the majority of their sales leads. The space we use here is rented space. LinkedIn is free to do what they want with their product.
Create a website and use it. Have a blog and contact page. List your products, services and testimonials. Implement features for generating leads. These features could be newsletter sign ups or free e-books that require your website visitors to provide their details. Make it easy for people to get in touch on your website.
Don’t stop engaging on LinkedIn
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several people leave LinkedIn out-rightly. LinkedIn is still a crucial part of your online presence. Whether you are looking to grow your business, or find a new job, not being on LinkedIn puts you outside the professional sphere and makes it even more difficult to achieve your business goals.
Keep your profile updated in the new LinkedIn, and for goodness sake, don’t delete it. Use LinkedIn as a place to connect with potential business people and engage in relevant discussions. Continue to publish content but publish your best articles on your website first. After two weeks, you can republish the content on LinkedIn. The two-week timeline gives time to Google to index the content. If you publish the same content on several blogs in a short time, Google will penalise that content in its search rankings.
Download your LinkedIn articles
I started doing this few years ago. Most of my LinkedIn articles exist in PDF format somewhere else on my computer/cloud. It seems unthinkable, but what if all your articles disappeared…like the advanced search function did? LinkedIn is not your hard drive, and it certainly isn’t the cloud.
Go to your LinkedIn articles, right click and choose the Print option. Within the Print screen, choose Save as PDF instead of the name of the printer. Then save it. Remember you can do this for other articles you like on LinkedIn. Save it! Don’t rely on the new ‘Save Item’ option on LinkedIn.There might be an easier way. Open to better ways in the comments.
Download your contact list
This feature is probably already well-known and hopefully, well-used. Your contacts are available to download in CSV format. You can filter the list as you wish and build a database of your contacts outside the LinkedIn platform.
Download your contact list today, and do it regularly. Go to your settings and click on ‘Getting an archive of your data’. You will get more than just contacts. Your recommendations, experience, projects and so on.
Exporting your LinkedIn connections
Build your presence on other networks
When one platform is working really well for you, it’s easy to ignore other platforms. I was guilty of that. For a long time, I did very little on Twitter and Facebook for my business. But I started to see the advantage of having a presence across other networks. Each platform engages users differently, so get to understand how you can make it work. With other channels to engage LinkedIn connections and new connections, you build stronger relationships. And if the new LinkedIn goes cuckoo (again), you have other places to play.
Try Twitter or Facebook as a secondary platform. Facebook in particular, is getting better at helping business brands engage with customers. Create a business page and invite your LinkedIn connections to join. Facebook also allows you get away with less regular posts. However, if you’ve got the time and you can be succinct, Twitter is full of potential partnerships that could grow your business.
Meet your contacts offline
This should be the nirvana for social networking. You meet a connection in person. Yay! But many people don’t and more surprisingly, they don’t want to. Meet as many connections as possible for coffee. Obviously, try not to meet them all in one day.
Meet any connections that live in your city for coffee and a chat. Get to know their business and develop an offline relationship. This enables you make the best of LinkedIn and the hard work you’ve put into developing a network. When you visit a new city, put it out there and ask connections in that city to meet up. Over time, your online connections move into your phone contact list. Bliss.
There are other things you could do to grow and maintain a strong network. Attending events, taking speaking opportunities and joining a networking group are just some ways of engaging outside the new LinkedIn.
Look out for opportunities to speak about what you do. If public speaking is not your thing, consider a podcast series or video blogs so that your target audience get to really know you and can hear from you regularly, and you from them. Try Facebook Live, Periscope and Audacity/Sound Cloud for live videos and chit-chat.
Marketing is often on the bottom of the list for small businesses, and I understand that. The priority is usually to get business as quickly as possible, yet things like building a website tend to be nice-to-haves in some cases. I run a marketing consultancy but I haven’t been immune to the reluctance to spend on “marketing stuff”. In this article, I will highlight 10 essential yet cost-effective marketing tips for even the smallest budgets. These tips will help you build a foundation for your business. Many will cost you nothing, but they will make a significant impact in growing your business long term.
Cost-effective marketing tips for small businesses
1. Email Marketing
If you have a contact list of potential customers, email marketing could be a good way of letting them know about your business. You could start with a small list of people that know you and would not mind getting your email. For this, you don’t need an email marketing service. You could just use your email provider. Remember to keep your contacts’ emails in Bcc so that you don’t share their email addresses with your entire list. As your list grows, consider email providers like MailChimp, Mad Mimi and MailerLite. These all have free plans. The paid plans cost as little as £7 a month if you grow to a list of over 1,000 subscribers. If you get to that point, well done!
2. Business cards
Giving out your business card is a simple way of telling people what you do and how they can reach you. Thanks to companies like Vistaprint, you can get 500 business cards for £15. Other options are Fiverr, an online marketplace for your digital needs. Someone can design your card for as little as £3, and then you could print it elsewhere. I don’t recommend going too ‘cheap and cheerful’ with your business cards but don’t spend too much on it either. I changed my mind about my tag line a couple of times and that meant new business cards. Luckily, they didn’t cost much so I was able to make new cards to reflect my business’ value. Remember that as you evolve, your business will too. Make provisions for the changes that you might make.
3. Networking events
Networking events could cost anything from nothing to hundreds of pounds. The trick is to find those events that are relevant to your industry. When attending a networking event, don’t be shy to give away your business card. But also don’t worry too much about how much business you will get at the event. It could hinder you from just having a good time. You could be pitching all night! I’ve started to see networking events as an opportunity to just be known, help people put face to name. If new clients come as a result, fantastic!
4. CRM systems
When you think about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, you might imagine a complex database that does things that as a small business, you are not ready for. However, CRM systems are essential to build your business. One of the first things I did was get Highrise, a simple CRM tool that allows me enter details of new contacts, potential and existing clients. Within Highrise, I can maintain details of all potential and existing client interactions, from first contact to conversion. Needless to say, Highrise is free for businesses with less than 250 contacts. It increases to roughly £15 a month for up to 5,000 contacts. Another CRM system for small business is HubSpot CRM. It’s free, but I haven’t tried. If you have, let me know what you think!
Gone are the high costs of building a website. Tools like WordPress.org and Wix make it easy for novices to build a website. I built my first website a year ago, and it was my steepest learning curve yet! I plan to improve it with expert intervention soon, but as a small business owner, spending on a luxury website might not be an option. But you need a website. You also need to make it SEO-friendly so that potential clients find you for relevant services. These days, a decent website costs from £500 if you contracted a website designer. Try your hands on building one yourself but get feedback. One advantage I’ve found from building my own website is that I have access to the back admin and can always change elements of the site myself. This is invaluable for a business that is growing and evolving daily.
Blogging is even easier than building a website. Without a full blown website, you could use platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com to start writing blogs about your industry, and your solution. You could invite guest bloggers, people who have complementary expertise or a unique view about a subject that your target audience might be interested in. Blogging is free, and a good way to be online and findable. Not blogging about your business is like being on mute in a customer meeting. Why are you there??
7. Social media
We all know it doesn’t cost anything to be on social media. But it might cost a little to be heard above the noise. Still, you could do a lot with £3 on Facebook. The key is to truly understand your target audience and where they hang out. If your clients are not on Twitter, you don’t need to be there. If your small business works with other businesses, a LinkedIn business page could be powerful. Spend time testing different social media channels and see what brings the most engagement. Also consider how much time you have to spend on these channels. For instance, LinkedIn and Facebook tend to require less time while Instagram and Twitter are about constant engagement i.e. 5-8 posts a day for real impact.
8. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is another free tool that every business website should have. It allows you see the sources of traffic to your website, and provides analytics on your website visitors. Google Analytics will show you how many visitors come from social media channels, and from organic searches via keywords. This was valuable for me as I contemplated which social media channel to invest in. For instance, LinkedIn brings over 40% of my social media traffic with Twitter as a close second. However, organic searches is by far the greatest source of traffic to my website. Therefore, I might decide to invest in Google Ads for specific keywords.
PR used to be left to Public Relations experts. But with social media and fantastic new tools like PingGo, PR has been democratised. For £30 a month, you can write your own press release anytime you want! So if you win a new client, expand your business or launch a new product, use PR to tell your story. Identify relevant news outlets and start telling the world the good news.
Not all businesses will benefit from brochures because so much of marketing has gone online. Yet, I believe this shift has made brochures a novelty, and it could be intriguing to receive a brochure from a small business. The less we expect something, the more positive impact it could have on your customers. You get their attention. A well-designed 8-page brochure that simply lays out your value proposition, key products and services, pricing and contact details is a good idea. You could leave it in cafes, doctor surgeries, office receptions etc. It will cost from £150 to get one designed. Assuming you provide all the copy and images, all you have to do is print it. Online printers like instantprint could print 100 copies of a 8-pp from as little as £45 depending on size and paper quality.
Next time you think about marketing for your business, know that it doesn’t need to cost the earth with these cost-effective marketing tips.
This blog post is by Annika Rautakoura, Content Manager at Smarp. Smarp provides an employee communication, advocacy and engagement tool for building influence and engaging employees through content.
With digital and social media mowing the content landscape, content marketing has become the core of building up brand awareness and an online presence that drives business. The importance of content marketing has not gone unnoticed. Currently, 73% of B2B marketers include a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process. It is not simply a campaign (Content Marketing Institute). The focus of content marketing investments have shifted from just content production to content promotion. It’s a combination of these both that ultimately determines the success of content efforts.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term strategy based on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high quality content relevant to them on a consistent basis. “Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. And they will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ products”, says Neil Patel. Why is this? Let’s look at some of the reasons.
Content is a way to increase brand awareness by building a voice and authority online. It’s about creating an image of honesty and expertise in your respective field. How does this happen? Certainly not overnight. It takes consistency; being accurate and not misleading your audience. Posting on a regular basis keeps you visible to your audience, and posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content. In other words, audiences can expect you to provide certain types of content in a timely fashion. Trust also calls for grabbing the attention of your audience in the right way. You can do this by encouraging employees to participate in content production, connecting with the right influencers and giving shout-outs to brands and people with engaged audiences. When audiences spot your content through familiar or influential people, they are more likely to take that next step towards purchasing.
Content marketing is a way to start discussions around topics that are important for your business and attract the interest of people and organisations tackling with issues your services can provide solutions to. Researching your audience and targeting this audience based on what they’re looking for is the key to get leads. By having the right lead qualification processes in place and having different types of content to provide for leads at different stages of the purchase funnel, you can turn your leads into business. A well-established content strategy means that you need to work less to find leads, when leads will find you through the content path that you have laid out.
You can measure and adjust
Not investing in the right technology and tracking system for managing and measuring the performance of your content marketing efforts is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. There is little point in producing or sharing content with no means to adjust any setbacks or build on successes. Here are some tips on with content. Tip: focusing on conversions is valuable for witnessing the actual effects of your content, i.e. action taken after consuming it, whether this means subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an e-book.
Boosting thought leadership through content marketing
Investing in content marketing supports your efforts to get messages across to your target audience. You can also build up a brand image through stories that provide readers with something they can relate to. Content that showcases the company’s achievements. For instance, case studies and user testimonials focused on the client are valuable for highlighting the results of your business. Content that brands the company as an employer allows for more personal material, such as behind-the-scenes articles. If you’re not yet convinced on the importance of employer branding, remember that your current or former employees have as much power in sharing the word about your brand.
What type of content works?
Blogging – B2B marketers with using blogs generate 67% more leads (TechClient). The amount and intensity of blog posts is dependent on resources and strategy. More is more, but quality should always be kept in mind.
Social media – A foolproof way to drive traffic to your site and the content you produce. It’s also an easy way to showcase your industry by linking to relevant third-party content that you consider to be of value to your followers. Social media efforts should always be tied to your overall content strategy, so that they have a maximum impact for your marketing goals.
Visual content is gaining in importance. The use of visual content in articles published by marketers increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016. Social media tools like Instagram and Snapchat are alive and well, and increasingly investing in features for companies. Especially in the B2B industry, people wish to see products in practice.
What’s it all about?
Everything boils down to having a strategy and executing efforts with the goals in mind that they contribute to. It’s about experimenting and learning from your efforts, doing your best to educate and attract readers, and raising their interest with your expertise.
**Includes content marketing calendar template and
**FREE email course on developing your own market strategy starts 1 Dec, sign up here
You might ask, “What is content marketing”? A 2014 Forbes article defines content marketing as the creation and distribution of relevant content for a defined target audience. Over the last five years, it has grown as a marketing technique. It is useful for building credibility and attracting customers to your brand. Here’s a two-minute video where I give tips to get subject matter experts e.g. consultants started on using content marketing to build credibility around for your personal brand.
Bonus tips for a powerful content marketing strategy
Make a list of what you know e.g. web development, mobile apps, Java, SEO
Highlight which of these skills you want to be known for
Let’s say you choose SEO
Make another list of the elements of SEO you can write about
Your list might look like this:
keyword research responsive website design Google analytics Search ranking criteria Google Ads management Organic vs Paid search content optimisation
Now you have a list of content topics
You drill down further e.g. Google Analytics is a wide subject so you could focus on individual elements
For content marketing to be effective, consider the format of your content
Formats could be:
Articles (short or long form) Videos Podcasts Interviews Photographs Events/Workshops Links to other content on the subject
Schedule the content on a calendar
Add the format and date it should go out
Remember that you can publish the same content across multiple channels
Keep a day a week aside to use tools like Hootsuite or Edgar to schedule your posts