Why Every Employee is a Salesperson – The Power of Social Media

On July 27, 2009, in Social Media Marketing, by Mike D. Merrill (@mikedmerrill)

Word of Mouth MarketingI was at a GeekMeet event this week in Dallas organized by @thoward and was having a discussion with 3 gentleman from a large IT software and services provider. We had just met and were discussing social media and one of them mentioned that they receive emails from marketing asking them to update their social media status when there is an upcoming webinar or other event. While there are many debates about controlling employee behavior on social media and creating policies around it, I found this one a bit exciting and scary at the same time. Now here’s a company who may recognize the power of social media. But could they take it too far and just turn it into interruption advertising?

In this case, the company is outright asking it’s employees to share information with their personal social networks. I think for many small to medium businesses that understand social networking, they do this sparingly to control the noise ratio. As we all know, social media is about listening and engaging in a conversation with a bit of promotion mixed to attract people to our business so we can then interact when ready to consider a purchase. Well, not that simple, but anyone who shows up and sells right away turns off followers and connections. I am sure some of my followers may have felt spammed if they didn’t know me well. This begs the question, are all employees expected to promote the business?

Every Employee Is a Salesperson

This reminded me of the many times someone has asked at a conference or speaking event “How Many of You are in Sales?”.  A few of the folks raised their hand and then the speaker retorted “You are all in sales”. He or she then went on to say you are always selling for your company. Regardless of what department or role you have in a company, you represent the company to customers through every interaction you have in person, over the phone, and online. While it may not be your specific responsibility to bring in customers, hopefully you recognize that the more customers you acquire and retain, the better off you’ll be as an employee. Where do you think benefits and raises come from? This is especially paramount in this economy.

Now some of you might say, “my social profiles are my own and for my own use”. I agree. However, understand the reach you and your team represent for your company. Just imagine the ability to listen, engage, monitor and create conversations with customers, prospects, suppliers, and anyone else who comes into contact with your brand. I am not saying that your employees should be tweeting 20 items a day or bugging their friends about the latest webinar, but think of a few activities that could really extend the company’s word of mouth through your employees sphere of influence on social networks.

7 Potential Topics To Encourage Employees to Share

  1. Events: Have employees update their LinkedIn and Twitter Status with key events that would resonate with their network. User Groups and Industry trade shows are obvious, but webinars may also be appreciated. Additionally, have them indicate they are attending so this shows up in their news stream. Facebook represents a different audience and medium, so employees should do this sparingly as their followers may already be a fan of the company’s fan page.
  2. Extraordinary Promotions: If the company is offering a unique or extra special promotion worth generating awareness, encourage your employees to spread the word. Think 3 or 4 times a year, not once a month. You are probably already doing this through monthly emails newsletters.
  3. Company Awards: If your company wins a prestigious industry award or publication award such as “Best Places to Work”, make sure employees let folks know. Hopefully employees would do this on their own out of pride for their workplace.
  4. New Product Announcements: Depending on how many products you offer a year, this may also be something worth sharing. I don’t suggest posting every press release. Use traditional channels and media for that. Anything market changing or something that will be breaking news would be a good fit here.
  5. New Blog Posts: If a key executive pens a new blog post that is driving a ton of traffic or if a 3rd party influential blog raves about a specific product it may warrant a mention.
  6. Community Forums: Companies are always looking for ways to drive new and existing customers to self-service support forums. In many cases, this offers a better experience for the customer than tech support. Specifically if your company is a consumer brand with broad appeal this could be a good use of status updates.  You could get some new followers as well for helping folks solve their own problems. Analytics of popular posts would indicate what could be shared. Again, think once a month here and provide employees a range of topics that they may be comfortable sharing.
  7. Video: This may be included in any of the above, but video is demonstrating very powerful click thru and google juice so definitely worth sharing. Especially if they are funny and have a potential to go viral.

Now, I know there will be folks out there who completely disagree of this as a practice. I wrote this to spark a conversation. I encourage you to give me your feedback. These topics are pretty obvious. What are some other ways to encourage employees to promote awareness on social media in subtle ways.

Follow me on Twitter @mikedmerrill

  • http://www.insightandingenuity.com/ Gillian Verga

    Great points. One of the big differences between social media marketing and traditional marketing is that in social media, you’re trying to get other people to talk about you. Why not employees as well as customers?

    Of course the best way to do this is have a product or service worth talking about. To get employees to talk about their company through social media, genuinely and of their own accord, you have to make employees true fans of the company, just as you’re hoping to do with customers.
    .-= Gillian Verga´s last blog ..Fly Away – Social Media at the Airport =-.

  • http://www.insightandingenuity.com Gillian Verga

    Great points. One of the big differences between social media marketing and traditional marketing is that in social media, you’re trying to get other people to talk about you. Why not employees as well as customers?

    Of course the best way to do this is have a product or service worth talking about. To get employees to talk about their company through social media, genuinely and of their own accord, you have to make employees true fans of the company, just as you’re hoping to do with customers.
    .-= Gillian Verga´s last blog ..Fly Away – Social Media at the Airport =-.

  • http://www.kunocreative.com/blog John McTigue

    True, there are lost of reasons employees should be blogging, tweeting and posting comments for their businesses, but the question of which employees is a sticky one for most CEO’s. There’s the trust factor – i.e. which ones can be trusted to not saying anything damaging towards the company or its clients. There’s the quality factor – which ones know the products and services well enough to answer questions accurately. There’s the official factor – which ones are empowered to make announcements and “speak” for the company. All of this needs to be considered in a social media strategy and policy. It just takes one screw-up to completely disable the company’s social media initiatives. Careful planning and choice of spokespeople can go a long way towards preventing trouble.
    .-= John McTigue´s last blog ..Something I learned today about buying stock content/template site hurting SEO. =-.

  • http://www.kunocreative.com/blog John McTigue

    True, there are lost of reasons employees should be blogging, tweeting and posting comments for their businesses, but the question of which employees is a sticky one for most CEO’s. There’s the trust factor – i.e. which ones can be trusted to not saying anything damaging towards the company or its clients. There’s the quality factor – which ones know the products and services well enough to answer questions accurately. There’s the official factor – which ones are empowered to make announcements and “speak” for the company. All of this needs to be considered in a social media strategy and policy. It just takes one screw-up to completely disable the company’s social media initiatives. Careful planning and choice of spokespeople can go a long way towards preventing trouble.
    .-= John McTigue´s last blog ..Something I learned today about buying stock content/template site hurting SEO. =-.

  • Laurie Shook

    Well said. I agree that the examples given are excellent topics for employees to share. However, I would encourage any company that proactively encourages social media also include guidance on what NOT to do. For example, constant retweeting of competitor’s bad news can look a bit mean-spirited.

    Also, I think corporations need to be completely clear that this is a voluntary activity for employees who CHOOSE to participate. If there’s too much arm-twisting or the enthusiasm isn’t genuine, it is apt to be detected by the reader. It’s all about transparency, after all!

  • Laurie Shook

    Well said. I agree that the examples given are excellent topics for employees to share. However, I would encourage any company that proactively encourages social media also include guidance on what NOT to do. For example, constant retweeting of competitor’s bad news can look a bit mean-spirited.

    Also, I think corporations need to be completely clear that this is a voluntary activity for employees who CHOOSE to participate. If there’s too much arm-twisting or the enthusiasm isn’t genuine, it is apt to be detected by the reader. It’s all about transparency, after all!

  • http://www.colinalsheimer.com/ Colin Alsheimer

    Great post Mike! It’s true, in today’s economy, and with the increased use of social media for communication and networking, EVERYONE in the company is in sales. As you mentioned in your post, not everyone should be responsible for bringing in sales, but each employee has a personal network that can be an incredible resource.

    A smart company will realize this, and take steps to effectively (and smartly) leverage the aggregate power of each employee’s personal network to bring in new customers. As the saying goes – people do business with people they know.

  • http://www.leveltendesign.com Colin Alsheimer

    Great post Mike! It’s true, in today’s economy, and with the increased use of social media for communication and networking, EVERYONE in the company is in sales. As you mentioned in your post, not everyone should be responsible for bringing in sales, but each employee has a personal network that can be an incredible resource.

    A smart company will realize this, and take steps to effectively (and smartly) leverage the aggregate power of each employee’s personal network to bring in new customers. As the saying goes – people do business with people they know.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com/ mikedmerrill

    Thanks to all of you for commenting. I agree it’s up the employees to decide whether they want to do this and folks shouldn’t be penalized for not doing it either.

    Imagine if you could get your distributors and resellers to repurpose your content more easily vs. having to create their own email and direct mail campaigns.

    Mike

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill (@mikedmerrill)

    Thanks to all of you for commenting. I agree it’s up the employees to decide whether they want to do this and folks shouldn’t be penalized for not doing it either.

    Imagine if you could get your distributors and resellers to repurpose your content more easily vs. having to create their own email and direct mail campaigns.

    Mike

  • Pingback: Who Wants a Hug?

css.php