In March we hosted Talent 2017, a skills festival for the digital sector. One of the festival’s supporters was JellyFish, the world’s largest boutique agency. Alex Bourgeois, social media marketer at the company, was kind enough to write a guest blog post following the festival. Here it is:
Reaching consumers online is as hard as it’s ever been and with the digital marketplace becoming ever so crowded, chances are it won’t get any easier. Whether it is on desktop or mobile, on social networks or websites, everywhere they go users are bombarded with commercial messages. And ad fatigue is growing – fast.
Here in the UK, eMarketer predicts that 30% of all web users will use an adblocking software by the end of this year, up from 9.5% just three years ago. Ads are deemed intrusive, mostly irrelevant and are today considered the least trusted source of advertising. If you’re a marketer yourself, this won’t sound like music to your ears but it doesn’t mean that marketing is dead and consumers don’t like a good brand storytelling.
What it means, is that marketers need to look at the sources that consumers trust and adapt their strategy accordingly. Despite having access to an unprecedented amount of resources, today’s consumers rely more and more on the ones they have always been in touch with: their peers. According to this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, peers are (scarily enough) considered as credible as “experts”.
If we consider marketing activities, people have little trust in those who will give a biased view of the organisation: marketers and members of the C-suite. Instead, consumers trust employees as they’re believe to be a more neutral source of information. They will say it as it is as opposed to official spokespeople who will use window-dressing tactics to sway brand perception.
If the chart above isn’t enough to convince you, I have a raft of stats to do the job. Content shared online by employees receives on average 8 times more engagement than when it is shared by official brand channels. Leads generated through employees convert 7 times more than any other type of leads. 78% of salespeople using social media outsell their social-sceptic peers.
I’m a marketer, what should I do?
Looking at these stats, it can be tempting send an email to everyone in the office urging your colleagues to start sharing everything that’s posted on your website. If that sounds like you, please close that email. It’s called “spray-and-pray”, and it seldom works.
People these days are savvy – they can spot a fake from a mile away and if they see a post on social that doesn’t look genuine, they won’t engage. Best case scenario they will ignore it, but it can also alienate them and they can start having negative views on the company but also the employee. Imagine one of your friends suddenly spamming you with work-related stuff, how annoying would that be? If you want your employees to start advocating for your brand, you need a well though-out approach.
First off, you need to select volunteers who are social media savvy. The important bit in that sentence isn’t “social media savvy”, it’s “volunteers”. Social media skills can be learned. A genuine interest in contributing to the company’s betterment? Hardly.
Indeed, you don’t want to force anything on the employee’s end as tensions will inevitably arise if you try to force it on them. Social media isn’t for everyone: a fair few (most?) employees wouldn’t be willing to promote their employer via their personal social feeds. And that’s okay.
Once you’ve gathered a few people, do not strong-arm them by telling them what to do. Instead, discuss how they can build their personal brand online through contributing to industry discussions on social, writing opinion pieces, networking on social and serving relevant content to their respective audience.
In other words, help your employees help others. Researchers at Wharton, Yale and Harvard found that performing occasional altruistic tasks not only contributes to the greater good, but also boosts their overall sense of productivity. Using social media proactively to contribute to their industry in one way or another will build employees’ profile and with it, the trust their followers have in them. With trust comes influence and once your brand is mentioned by your employees, it will reap the rewards.
As an agency marketer, I know for a fact that many brand managers are afraid to give more power to their employees. But with the arrival of social media, marketers have increasingly lost control over their brand so instead of trying to fight the new deal, they should fully embrace it and re-define their strategy. After all, 70% brand perception is determined by experiences with people – needless to say that employees represent a big chunk of that.
As public relations theorist James Grunig puts it: “Now, cognitive representations of companies are something that are forged by what members of different publics say, as opposed to something companies can control”. In the age of social media, your brand is what people say about it when you’re not in the room.
If you’re interested in hearing more insights from companies involved in Talent 2017, we’ve made a playlist of expert talks from the day. You can view them here.