By Lindsay Faria, Director of Partner Marketing, Barracuda MSP
Studies have shown that businesses are starting to increasingly rely on social media to help build brand awareness and drive the sale of their products and solutions. For example, according to a recent Forrester report, 98 percent of sales and marketing leaders see value in social selling in the short and long term, and 49 percent have already developed a formal social selling program. Many Channel companies would agree with the potential benefits of social media marketing, but they also acknowledge they’re a long way from realizing its full potential.
The first step is easy: create an account. It’s free and takes just a few minutes to get started. But, just having Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages doesn’t generate great results. You need to engage with your audience with a compelling message. Where MSPs and resellers commonly struggle at this stage is they place their social media responsibilities solely on one person, whether it’s the owner, sales manager, office admin, or someone else on the team, and hope for the best. Even if this person consistently follows all best practices (i.e. concise, well-written messages with clear calls to action), it can be a slow-moving process to build your followers and generate significant engagement.
Savvy organizations are taking a strength in numbers approach by enlisting the help of their employees to amplify their social media efforts. By asking them to follow, share, like, comment, retweet, and more, they can exponentially expand the company’s social influence. In fact, research from Hootsuite estimates that 92 percent of your employees’ followers will be new to your brand. This strategy, also known as employee advocacy, is a great way to promote tradeshows, internal events, and blog or website content, all while strengthening your company culture. Encouraging employee advocacy gives employees the opportunity to share their knowledge and passion for the industry and why they’re proud to work at your company.
It can also help your organization attract new talent. LinkedIn and the Altimeter Group found that socially engaged employees were 58 percent more likely to attract talent to their company, not to mention 57 percent more likely to get increased sales leads and 20 percent more likely to stay at their current company.
Without a solid plan, however, employees may feel annoyed about being constantly reminded to create pro-company posts, and MSP business owners may find the thought of this to be daunting, initially. Here are three tips to follow to increase your chances of building a successful employee advocacy program:
Tip #1: Communicate Your Social Media Guidelines
If you’re going to make it official, you have to spell out your company’s expectations of acceptable employee behavior and what should — and shouldn’t — be posted on social media. For example, a few of your rules could include not posting pictures of onsite visits and not sharing financial information or competitive strategies. Sit down and develop a style guide on how you want employees to advocate on social media. How often should they do it? What are the best times to do so? Set clear guidelines and then give them space to represent your brand authentically.
Tip #2: Make It Clear What You’d Like Employees to Share
As much as you’d like employees to create crafty messages in their own words and update their followers on a regular basis, you’ll have a much higher success rate if you prime the pump by letting them know exactly what they should share. Social media management tools like Cision Social Software and JMRConnect CEI (Connect. Engage. Influence) take this concept one step further by enabling a company representative to serve up the exact message you’d like employees to share, by sending them the message and allowing them to review and post “as is” or add their own comments and post with the click of a button. One MSP who used one of these tools claimed that combining employee engagement and social automation resulted in total earned media value of more than $59,000.
Tip #3: Monitor Your Responses (and Respond Accordingly)
Those who aren’t used to social media marketing may be surprised to find that it’s often more responsive than traditional marketing such as print or banner ads. Make sure you’re monitoring responses to all your social media activities and paying attention to anything that’s being said about your brand, so you can respond promptly and in the right way. The thing to remember, is that social media is all about two-way engagement. The idea is to create conversations, so if you’re receiving great feedback, be sure to reply, like, share, etc. If someone uses social as a platform to give you negative or constructive feedback, let them know they’ve been heard, thank them for the input, and schedule the appropriate follow up action. Also, pay attention to which employees are getting shout-outs, re-tweets, and other positive responses. When employees go beyond their day-to-day roles to become leaders in social media advocacy and they have a direct impact on sales leads, is there some kind of bonus or other reward you could give them? Positive reinforcement plays a key role in building a sustainable employee advocacy program.
As consumers and businesses increasingly use social media to inform their buying decisions, social media has evolved into a powerful lead generation and sales pipeline tool. MSPs and resellers that want to stay ahead of the curve are using social selling strategies to better engage and build relationships with prospects and customers. By getting employees involved and engaged in the process, they can more quickly expand their influence and reap the benefits this unique channel has to offer.
Lindsay Faria is a seasoned marketing professional with more than 13 years of experience managing marketing programs for growing, cutting-edge technology companies. She currently leads the marketing efforts at Barracuda MSP, where her team is dedicated to providing tools, resources and content that enables Barracuda MSP customers to be more successful, and ultimately grow their businesses.