One of the countless things that internal marketing departments frequently overlook is their own staff's social graph. More often than not, every company has staffers with active social media footprints. Brands need to understand that no matter how robust their corporate social graph is, it will only get them so far.
Creating genuine trust comes not from a business or brand, but the followers who declare their undying loyalty to the product, service or education of that brand. What better way to tap into this belief than to reach out to the employees that have the ear of their own social collective?
Advertising agencies and marketing departments often forget that these employees have spent a big chunk of time creating their own personal brands, and therefore cannot be forced into representing their employer. The solution is for your business to "pitch" (and incentivize) employees to further extend your marketing messages through their social conduits.
There are a couple of steps you can take to ensure you get off on the right foot with your employees as well as protect your messaging:
- Create an internal digital media kit for your employees:
- This media kit should include a respectful and formal document outlining how incredibly impressed you are with their external effort as it pertains to their personal brand. Follow that with copy that requests employees to use their audience as a marketing vehicle should they be willing. Lastly, this page should reflect your business's willingness to support the bloggers' content as long as they do not cast the product/service in a negative light.
- This document should contain high-rez logos and photography, supporting metrics/testimonials, and easy cut-and-paste descriptions of your product and services. This due diligence provides a streamlined way for them to take advantage of grab-and-go marketing materials and messaging that are brand compliant.
- Make sure that within this digital media kit you also include any type of marketing messaging or primary calls to action as they pertain to specific product sets. It is your responsibility to empower a staff blogger to speak on behalf of your brand. Make no assumptions.
- If you have any specific hashtags or relevant information that would be good fodder for for a specific employee's blog, make sure that staff member is in the loop. Treat them much as you would a VIP client or any prized relationship.
- A page regarding your company's social media policy should be created and maintained by the HR department. That document should also list a reminder regarding intellectual property and the sensitivity of internal information. A word of warning in doing this program at all is that it's a symbiotic relationship. It is possible for it to backfire and become a point of crisis. Remember: Anyone who has a large social graph and an understanding of how to influence that audience can be your greatest ally or your enemy depending on how they are treated.
- Some businesses are even seeking out influencers and hiring them with the dual caveat that they produce content for both the brand site and through their personal brand. This is good idea as long as you both agree on the amount of content, and and if brand guidelines are clearly established.
- Seek to create some type of mutually beneficial relationship with these employees. They've taken a great deal of time and crafted this personal brand for themselves. Their willingness to explore and further exploit that messaging on behalf of your business or products is something that should both be incentivized as well as recognized.
- To the point of recognition, be sure to outline the external brand that is created by that individual, even if it doesn't directly relate to your business or objectives. Example: You might be an athletic shoe company, but recognize you staff member as a mom blogger/triathlete with the individuality that she deserves. This not only seeks to show that you care about your employees, but you recognize their personal/external accomplishments.
Many businesses will see the above list as an exorbitant amount of work that needs to be compiled into an internal blogger outreach program with no proven ROI. But remove all doubt. I can assure you that the time taken to prepare a well-crafted opportunity in an external social graph will reap endless rewards in the collective growth and enhanced thought-leadership.
Do you have an internal blog that you extend through your employees' external social graph? Has it worked for you? What challenges have you faced in implementing this strategy? I look forward to hearing from you all.