Online, employees can be more credible than their CEO! Now a reality, employee advocacy must also be steered. We provide some handy tips for any marketer.
According to the "Edelman Trust Barometer", when employee ambassadors talk about their companies, they could use their audience on social networks to benefit their employer's reputation. This raises a number of questions, though.
Is this a new source of value?
Like the good old ROI (which today's digital companies could consider moving away from), it is expected that performance indicators will change, naturally, as they adapt to new communication media, taking into account the individual component of online expression, both in terms of content generation and the (inter)action with it. Undoubtedly, employee advocacy is a new source of value to be taken into account. And as such, employees contribute to adding a human dimension to the dashboard that is only made up of figures.
It is time to integrate the fact that the internet produces a new reality for companies and to start to take advantage of employee engagement. As, much more than just a simple 'like', their actions, their credibility and their network can serve the company.
In a broader sense, several different teams now contribute to a company's image, including communications, human resources and purchasing. This requires careful management and precision.
Make your staff your in-house media team in 3 stages
This is an ambitious goal. It means wanting each of your employee ambassadors to integrate three components into their role: corporate, employer brand and business development.
To professionalise the actions of each ambassador, care must be taken to integrate different phases into their communication objectives:
- Occupy the field: establish a sort of charter for online presence by guiding the optimisation of their profile on social networks.
- Share convincing content: you can encourage them to regularly share their expertise online in their area of specialism and train them in social network sharing techniques. By sharing content, information and analysis with rigour and regularity, your ambassadors will be in a position to attract the interest of journalists and build a relationship of trust with them.
- Becoming an influential figure is the final phase. Once their credibility has been developed, they will be a natural authority and in the event of a crisis, for example, people will contact them as well as the head of communication. They will contribute to re-establishing an atmosphere of confidence.
It is a win-win situation. The employee ambassador becomes a recognised expert within their network and increases their number of leads in areas such as marketing, purchasing and HR, particularly from influencers, and this is a plus for the company.
For employee advocacy to be successful, motivation remains the most fundamental aspect. Only satisfied and motivated employees will become a good lever for your communications.
Social media and e-commerce: opportunities and risks
The huge popularity of social media brings new opportunities, but has resulted in some new stumbling blocks as well. What are the most recent trends? And how should you respond to them?
Social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. seem cutting edge, but the principle is as old as the hills: word of mouth, sometimes abbreviated as WOM in marketing. Even in the heyday of the mass media, positive recommendations from neighbours, family and friends remained important to a company's success. Newspapers, magazines and television advertising were the first channel introducing a new product to consumers, but word-of-mouth turned out to play a decisive role in what matters most: consumer behaviour. Consumers shared experiences and thereby affected the behaviour of their fellow consumers. Today, more than ever, they do so through social media.
Consumers persuading consumers
Social media are the contemporary, more sophisticated and super-fast successor of old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. They are a catalyst. Social networks allow people to exchange views, share experiences, express their dissatisfaction, etc. more quickly than ever.
In addition, more and more consumers are opting for a "social search" over search engines such as Google to find information. They consciously do not search the entire internet, but approach their friends on Facebook or contacts on LinkedIn or Twitter. It speeds up the search and makes the result more reliable. The idea is that if X thinks it is good/nice/beautiful, we will probably think it is good/nice/beautiful too. There is also the option to ask questions and really discuss the product or service you need information about.
Consumers talk about all sorts of products (offline and online), from new detergents to new car models. And it is not just young people who are sharing their experiences about products and brands. Young and old, male or female: everyone does it. All these recommendations between consumers are worth gold.
We can illustrate this with an example: computer manufacturer Dell assumes that 25% of its customers choose their brand after it has been recommended by another user. The average purchase value per customer is about 210 dollars. Based on this amount, the value of every recommendation is estimated at 42 dollars. The more consumers Dell can convince to buy its products, the more money it makes.
However, the reverse is equally true: bad word-of-mouth advertising can have devastating effects. Particularly in this age of social media, a bad reputation does not take long to spread.
Social media in 2014
Perhaps Facebook will no longer exist in ten years' time, but it will most certainly have been replaced by something else. Social media are here to stay. It is therefore important for companies to build a good social media strategy. They can start by thinking about which channel they want to use for which content and objective. What do you need to take into account?
- Content (the message to the consumer) is still the key part, but the importance of segmentation is increasing. The audience is varied, so not all content and every channel is suitable for everyone. As a company, it is best to divide your target audience into sub-target groups. You can then choose specific content and a channel per sub-target group.
- Create real-time content: define a number of key moments in the year in advance and use these wisely. The World Cup, back to school, the summer holidays, etc. are all events that happen regularly and companies can respond to in a clever way. The trick is to find a good link between the key moment and your product. Be creative in this respect. If a school bag brand presents its content at the end of August, it will have to use an original approach to avoid coming across as predictable.
- Social media are predominantly a mobile story: most consumers are switching to smartphones and tablets. It is no coincidence that the four best-known social networks are also in the list of most popular mobile apps: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. In any case, your content (both on the website and on social media) will have to be mobile-friendly.
- The importance of customer care is only increasing. Consumers will now use social media more than ever to find information, ask questions and make comments.
The conversation manager: essential and permanently online
Coordinating a company's social media strategy is a task in itself. Who will you use to handle this? And what about involved customers who suddenly get too involved?
Because of social media, the role of a traditional marketing manager is evolving more and more towards being a conversation manager: someone who facilitates consumer communication. This includes communication between customers themselves and communication between the customers and the company.
Some key tasks in the conversation manager's job description are:
- Uniting and activating ‘branded fans’, as they will recommend the brand to friends and family.
- Listening to what people are saying about your company and seeking their active contribution to your products and strategy.
- Creating content worth distributing in order to encourage discussions.
- Managing these discussions.
- Ensuring your work is very customer-oriented and customer-friendly through customer care, i.e.by responding faster and providing more than what the customer is expecting.
Some companies are big enough to hire a full-time conversation manager. In other cases another employee will take on this role part-time. A third possibility is using a specialised company.
Caroline Hombroukx, conversation manager at content marketing company Head Office:
“No matter which option you go for, communication in social media must come across as personal. There is definitely a reason why large companies such as Telenet and Belgacom have created a fictitious person to deal with their customers; Charlotte and Eva respectively. The conversation manager also has to know the company and its social media strategy very well. It may therefore be an advantage if someone in the company itself takes on that role. That person is right at the source and so can distribute information, take a quick picture and post it online, etc.
This task is not for everyone. A conversation manager must have experience with social media, have fluent communication and writing style and must be empathetic, positive and solution-oriented in his or her dealings with customers. Prior training is not a luxury, because the employee must be very aware of the company's content strategy. The audience is varied and unpredictable. You have to decide time and time again whether certain content is or is not suitable for your target group. It is also not a nine-to-five job: the online world keeps on turning even at night or at the weekend."
The advantage of hiring a conversation manager from an external company is that in principle the expertise is present. In that case the challenge is to know the company to such an extent that the customer has the impression that he or she is talking to a real employee.
Getting angry is out of the question
Traditional marketing and advertising are a one-way street. If they do not work, they are a waste of money. However, they are not likely to result in angry comments. A company venturing out on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, can be sure to receive comments and reactions. Including negative ones. Caroline Hombroukx:
“On social media the consumer is suddenly right next to you banging the table. It is important to respond well to that. Getting angry yourself is out of the question. You need to respond by showing that you understand and you are taking the question or complaint seriously. Everyone following the discussion must see that the company is providing a quick answer and is trying to find a solution. If a mistake has been made, you can acknowledge this openly and honestly. You can also show the problem as something positive: as an opportunity to improve your brand, product or service. Of course you must find a suitable solution in the end. If the person sharing the complaint becomes too negative, you have to try and divert him or her to a private channel: a private message on Facebook, a direct message on Twitter, an e-mail or a phone call."
An enthusiastic, understanding response also works well if the consumer is sharing something positive about your brand, company or service. Thanking the consumer strengthens the bond between the company and the customer. Caroline Hombroukx:
"The dialogue with the target group is an opportunity to improve your product or operations through constructive criticism. Make customers feel involved. It creates a strong relationship. If you are publishing a magazine or starting a poster campaign for instance, you can let customers choose the best layout or title from three options posted on Facebook, for example. Everything that engages customers can only strengthen their commitment."
Social media dos and don'ts
- The consumer is always right (even when this isn't the case).
- Be open, honest and friendly.
- Use a personal style.
- Respond quickly to any questions or reactions.
- Stay positive and be understanding.
- Do all you can to engage your customers.
- Come up with a free gift every now and then.
- As a brand, try to avoid political topics.
These 4 giants from Silicon Valley want to seduce your IT management
Already champions in everyday life, Google, Facebook, Slack and LinkedIn are adopting innovative and complementary approaches to convert companies. What strategies are they implementing in order to convince you?
Google: the value of data intelligence
Google is adopting an approach which goes beyond communication tools and suites of productivity apps/services. The company has largely transformed its business divisions so that they can exploit cloud infrastructures, big data, analytics and machine learning as a matter of priority. Two competitors are blocking it along the way: Amazon and Microsoft, but for different reasons. Developers have been using Amazon Web Services for a long time, which gives it a history of trust. Microsoft (Cloud, Office) also has a historical presence in IT departments around the world. In this approach, linked to the processing of sensitive data, Google still needs to evangelise: a company is not as easily convinced as a consumer, particularly when it comes to strategic or confidential data. Its weapon: the power of its artificial intelligence tools to process data silos.
Facebook: introducing WorkPlace, naturally
After more than a year of development with partner companies such as Danone, Starbucks, Royal Bank of Scotland and Booking.com, Facebook officially launched WorkPlace last October. This Facebook spin-off enables organisations to create an internal social network - completely private and secure - within an interface familiar to all employees in their everyday life, introducing head-on competition for already widespread tools such as Chatter (Salesforce) or Yammer (Microsoft). Unlike free Facebook, WorkPlace is billed monthly depending on the number of users: $3 for the first 1,000, $2 for the next 9,000 $1 for over 10,000 users.
Slack: real-time collaboration becomes mainstream
Despite the introduction of Microsoft Teams on its turf, Slack remains confident in its strategy of creating tools that allow greater communication and productivity within companies.
"We find this offensive both flattering as well as intimidating, given Microsoft's means, but we think there is sufficient space in the market for several players", declared April Underwood, VP of Slack at the beginning of November.
A market that Slack has largely contributed to opening and driving, by introducing the concept of real-time collaboration. Its weapon? Agility, despite its still limited size and its proven and copied tools. Result: 4 million active users everyday and constant growth.
LinkedIn: from B2B marketing for... Microsoft
Microsoft Closes Acquisition of LinkedIn at the beginning of December. The transaction, which runs into billions of euros, has been followed closely by the European Commission. Despite a strong position in the business, mainly at a human resources level, LinkedIn needs 25 billion euros from Microsoft to pursue its offensive in the domain of professional tools, in a hugely competitive climate. For Microsoft, the acquisition will enable the company to reach B2B marketing targets such as recruitment agencies, head-hunters and businesses. To explain the synergy sought in simple terms, the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, gives the example of a meeting where everyone present sees their LinkedIn profile, linked to their invitation.
Comment Twitter peut influencer la cotation de votre entreprise ?
Over de invloed van sociale media op privacy is al veel inkt gevloeid. Maar hoe zit het met de gevolgen voor de reputatie van bedrijven en zelfs voor hun beurskoers?
In deze tijden van real-time informatieverspreiding kunnen de gevolgen van een ongunstig bericht catastrofaal zijn voor een beursgenoteerd bedrijf. Zo werd de groep Vinci op 22 november 2016 het slachtoffer van een nep persbericht over een verworpen boekhouding en het ontslag van zijn financieel directeur. Hoewel de groep die inlichtingen vrijwel meteen krachtig ontkende, kreeg het aandeel op de beurs van Parijs toch een klap van meer dan 18% te verwerken.
Hoe het zo ver kon komen? Bloomberg nam de informatie onmiddellijk over en vervolgens werd het bericht koortsachtig gedeeld op de sociale media. Het persbericht zelf was naar de vorm immers perfect geloofwaardig. Meteen ontkende Vinci alles op Twitter en gaf het een verklaring uit: “Wij zijn het slachtoffer van hackers!” Het bedrijf maakt de zaak ook aanhangig bij de financiële overheden. Zo werkt dus de mallemolen van het ‘tweet risk’.
Hoe sterk is de band tussen sociale media en financiële markten?
Al in 2014 wijdden twee Amerikaanse onderzoekers, Vineet Bhagwat en Timothy Burch, samen een onderzoek aan dit verschijnsel. Zij onderzochten de samenhang tussen de evolutie van de beurskoers en informatie die op Twitter wordt verspreid. Hun conclusie? Een winstmededeling op Twitter beïnvloedt sterker de koers van het aandeel van een bepaald bedrijf. Bij een negatief resultaat herstelt het aandeel sneller dan wanneer het bedrijf afwezig is op het netwerk. Met andere woorden: Twitter is momenteel een middel om informatie te produceren en ‘de agenda van de media te bepalen’. Dit laatste komt neer op een poging om te controleren welke onderwerpen aan bod komen en hoe de journalisten deze informatie verwerken.
Barry Ritholtz (Ritholtz Wealth Management) zegt hierover:
“In dit tijdperk van de alles overheersende algoritmes moeten beleggers opnieuw de basisprincipes toepassen: geen aandacht besteden aan geruchten – praatjes, speculatie, foute inlichtingen – en zich concentreren op tastbare informatie.”