There are still companies who are tardy to the social media party. It’s not a bad thing. Businesses have either thought social media was going to exit as a one-hit wonder or they were laying-in-wait until it became absolutely apparent that they needed to jump in.
What fascinates me is that the companies who have an interest in building an online presence via social media – seem to forget that they have some internal work to do before hitting the very public social airwaves.
Getting on social media is the easy part.
You want to be on social? No problem, head to your platform of choice, create your free account and get posting. The problem for businesses is that they jump on this bandwagon of social expecting that doing so and directing their employees to talk them up on social media is the holy grail to their success. If you are doing this or plan to deploy your company’s brand to the digital and social airwaves – please stop!
You want to be a beloved brand on social media, but your employees really want you to treat them like human beings.
Clearly, there’s a disconnect here. While you are spending top dollar with a PR or Marketing firm to expand your reach to social media, have you forgotten your employees in the process? You just spent tens of thousands of dollars on hiring outside firms to make you look good, yet your employees haven’t seen a proper raise in years – priorities much?
Customers won’t buy from you just because you have a social presence and your employees will not say positive things about your company just because you demand they do so. While it may seem that social media is a good place to “keep up appearances”, it really isn’t. This doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, but rather that people expect a real depiction of how you operate, what it’s like to work with you etc.
If the morale within your company is suffering and you choose to overlook it and head to social media – you are setting yourself up for failure. Not only are you making it harder than it ought to be for employees to share their experiences, but you risk your employees airing out your dirty laundry on social.
A mini case-study…
I was on Instagram recently and I see one of my former employers’ promoting some sponsored posts. Somewhat intrigued, I click on one of their ads to see what they are promoting. After reading the caption, I move on to the comments just to see what people are saying. Throughout the comment section is comment after comment where employees are bashing and making fun of the company for stretching the truth about how they operate. Not only were there employees on this thread, but there were people who have applied to this organization and were treated indifferently.
For the next hour, I continued to click through their sponsored posts, finding only one that portrayed a positive image and lacked any apparent bashing. Unfortunately, for this company their intentions were undermined by their lack of attention and effort where both employees, candidates and customers were concerned.
Let’s examine where they went wrong and how you fix it:
1) The morale in this company is poor and they blatantly overlooked it. As I mentioned, I worked for this company once upon a time. The morale sucked then and as I hear it – it is worse now. There’s not enough PR in the world to fix the fundamental issue of employee’s loathing where they work or customers being disappointed with their experience with you. It’s not a travesty that you have been wrong in how you operated. However, it is a cardinal sin when you know you aren’t doing right by employees and customers and refuse to fix it. Check-in with your employees, triage the issues and take action to fix it prior to heading to social.
2) They are doing a lot of pushing and not enough listening internally or on social. If I am the one managing the social media for this company, I would have retreated by the third sponsored post where employees were lambasting me. This company continues to put out more and more ads with the same result. The question here isn’t who can I fire for making us look like jerks on social media, but rather are we listening to our own internal airwaves like we should be? Companies spend a ridiculous amount of time, money, and resources pushing out engagement, post-service, pulse surveys. All of this knowledge gathering that we do every year and yet we aren’t hearing our customers and employees like we should. Less push, more listening would have helped this brand in launching successfully into the digital sphere.
3) Employee Advocacy under duress never works. This company was actually an early-adopter of social media. They were one of the ones who had the budget to explore what digital branding could do for them before it became the hot topic that it is today. Long before we had experts and established standards for social media – it felt wrong to push employees to talk you up on social. I will never forget them talking to us about the magical number of times they wanted us not only to be engaging on social on their behalf; but also directing the message. Personally, I hated my job with them at the point that this was deployed. Having them tell me that I had to say “nice” things about my experience and the company on social was not only a lie – but made me feel sick to my stomach. Social sharing should be organic and not forced. Would you want to recommend a place where you had a bad experience? I’m guessing your answer is: “no”. The same applies to your employees.
The purpose of having an online presence is to further your visibility and authentically connect with audiences and communities in a way you wouldn’t be able to ordinarily. Social is about reciprocity, transparency and being genuine. It is not only wise but recommended that you take the time to deal with any internal demons that may surface and undermine your efforts on social media. You may not be able to thwart every heckler or angry customer, but you will at least set a solid foundation for your brand to grow and thrive.