Why Loud-Mouthed Employees Are Good For Your Business

This article is part of DBA, a series on Mashable about running a business that features insights from leaders in entrepreneurship, venture capital and management.

Like it or not, your employees are speaking out on your behalf. In fact, according to a recent report by Weber Shandwick, 33% of employees worldwide admitted to sharing praise or positive comments about their employers on social media without any sort of prompt.

Of course, the mere thought of a rogue tweet about your brand, even if well-intended, may make your hair stand on end. But fear not, for loud-mouthed employees are proving to be particularly beneficial to the bottom line. Not only do the most vociferous among us humanize what might otherwise be a faceless brand, but they also help amplify its reach in measurable ways.

With this perspective in mind, your employees should be encouraged to speak out in even greater numbers through a formal employee advocacy program — the results of a coordinated communications effort will speak volumes for your brand. So, here’s how to encourage your employees to speak up.

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The focus shifts from awareness to engagement

To be clear, communications has changed. No longer can brands view social as just another secondary channel or afterthought outlet; instead, they must approach it as an important mediator in the modern era. In that light, brands need to get comfortable relinquishing some control, understanding that they are not on social platforms to solely broadcast their own messages but rather to facilitate conversations and human experiences.

Advocacy as a discipline has taken off with that objective in mind. Structured, thoughtful and open to personalization, advocacy provides a more effective — indeed, more human — way of getting people to acknowledge and interact with your business. Advocacy also arms your employees with the essential knowledge they need to become trusted corporate stewards and established industry experts.

The immediate benefit for your business is greater social presence and thus brand amplification. According to MSLGroup, brand messages are shared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees than by brands alone, increasing a message’s reach by 561%. These messages also resonate better with their intended audience. Edelman reports that employees are considered six times more trusted than the company itself.

Employees gain cred

Through advocacy, employees get something in return: They are deemed knowledgeable experts in their industries as well as their respective fields. This impacts every facet of your organization, including HR and sales, the critical growth arms of any organization.

Employees become HR heroes

With a smart advocacy platform, your organization can post job openings for employees to easily share across their social networks. Tied to a referral bonus, this can be particularly promising. Of course, the act of sharing an employment opportunity with a friend or acquaintance should be viewed as intrinsically beneficial itself.

What’s more, your company can grow its workforce in a much more efficient way, knowing it’s being served more qualified leads. Jobvite notes that employee referrals have a 40% applicant-to-hire conversion rate, while a majority of employers say referrals make the recruiting process shorter and less expensive.

Nokia provides a threefold strategy to help you get started with social recruiting: 1) understand social’s role in sourcing talent; 2) use social to spark two-way conversations within your community; 3) generate internal buzz to get your current employees sharing messages across their networks.

Sell like a superstar

Social referrals help sales in a similar way. By enabling your sales team to be more socially savvy, you can bank on better results. Weber Shandwick finds that socially encouraging companies are 72% more likely to boost sales, compared to just 48% for more Luddite entities.

IBM knows this well. The company tested a social selling program to reach prospects in the cloud computing space more effectively. This initiative included providing seven IBM salespeople with relevant content to share on LinkedIn to facilitate more one-to-one conversations with customers. The results of the six-month trial were impressive: The seven reps grew their direct connections from a collective 535 to 3,500 and increased their overall reach from 54,000 to 1.3 million. Even better, IBM boosted sales by over 400%.

Given that bonuses and commissions are so directly tied to closing deals, there is an obvious benefit at the individual level as well: Social Media and Sales Quota Survey found that 78% of salespeople using social media outperform their peers.

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It pays to be vocal

In spite of the growing volume of evidence supporting advocacy, some companies still maintain a stranglehold on their social efforts, effectively cutting off the voice of their people under the auspices of “broader business concerns.” This reticence is particularly prevalent within highly regulated industries. But many of these organizations, including those in government, are also coming around to employee advocacy as a powerful way to mitigate the spread of misinformation.

Any way you slice it, advocacy provides a promising solution to help your business grow from the inside out. Smart organizations will embrace the future of social by bringing new voices into the fold, especially the most prolific. Otherwise, they risk being drowned out by irrelevant chatter or, worse, their much more vocal competitors.

Source: mashable.com