Can Social Media Really Boost Employee Engagement?

This is not a new topic. It’s something I’ve both been a part of leading at previous organizations, or been on the sidelines and in the mix of at others.

A recent Forbes article this Month, stated that according to research, 81% of Americans have a social media profile, and two hours are spent on social media every day by the average person.

While corporations aren’t using the typical channels to engage their employees, many are taking the features and functionality that make the top social media companies so successful and adding them to their internal communications and learning platforms. Over the past few years, thousands of brands have adopted turnkey platforms to activate their employees. And the majority of all employed individuals are on social media.

Here are just a few social media statistics from a WordStream article about social media:

  • More than 56% of online adults use more than one social media platform
  • 75% of male internet users are on Facebook as well as 83% of female internet users
  • LinkedIn boasts more than 450 million user profiles.
  • Almost 80% of time spent on social media platforms happens on mobile.

I’ve written and spoken about this before and I will again here: A Nielsen study showed that 84% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, colleagues over other forms of marketing.

Re-read that! It is incredibly important.^^^

Your company’s social accounts are important for sharing, interacting with customers/clients, and establishing a brand presence.

But it’s your employee’s social connections that can actually amplify brand visibility, increase lead quality, drive web traffic, and boost social recruiting – because their networks trust and listen to them.

Ways to Motivate for Engagement on Social:
Organizations can start engaging your employees through social media to show your employees how they can look great on social media through the company’s brand so they can engage and promote the brand along the way. Giving employees new and relatable ways for your employees to promote the brand whether through incentives, contests, or another motivator.

The key is not to force your employees to participate; give them a reason to engage at first, and then continue to motivate them to do so and recognize and reward those that do. Get them to want to be part of the conversation and social media is a simple, easy tool for them to use since they are already so familiar with it.

Before this type of effort, organizations need to have a social media policy in place, as well as a system to monitor and enforce those policies. Providing a clear and useful social media policy for your employees to follow will both protect them and the business.

A culture of appreciation leads people to work as a team, achieve more, and ultimate thrive. When recognition goes viral, participation soars.

Audience Building Is Not a Spectator Sport

Building an audience from scratch and fostering meaningful conversations is intuitive and normal for individual people, but an obvious challenge for brands. From traditional marketing tactics to experiential, digital and word of mouth (including social media), marketers can’t sit idly by and just expect that their customers are engaged with their brand, or that most of them even want to engage. Yes, social media allows millions of active users globally to compete for attention, but if all of us are now publishers, who really listens?

Are we all slaves to our digital platforms? Or can we go back to the basics? Define your audience, reach out to them in person and online, engage them with what they like and want, ensure authentic conversation, create experiences and share products that relate to them so they not only stick around, they bring more people along with them.

As technologist and founder of Kapuno (an online community platform for niche discussions), Cyrus Radfar says in his recent post, “Social media isn’t going anywhere, but as it continues to get harder and harder to win the channels, the social proof communities can provide will help niche communities work together to spread the messages they decide are important through the more mass-market feeds.” He closes with a call to action, “Find your community and help build it, because that is where the next generation is going when they realize that social media won’t afford them a voice.”In every conversation we have with our clients, whether we’re in the “nice to meet you” phase, executing mid-program, or recapping our work, we consistently reinforce how an engaged community is crucial to a brand’s Integrated Marketing Communications success.

Encouraging our clients to push through Integrated Marketing to what we coined as an Integrated Engagement Plan is an achievable goal if done right, and will complete the circle of consumer to advocate for a brand. Our formula: 

Integrated Marketing Communications:

  • Brand & Agency Collaboration
  • Aim: Ensure consistency of message & complementary media use
  • Marketing to Consumers

Integrated Engagement Plan:

  • Brand, Agency & Consumer Collaboration
  • Aim: Sustained “On-Brand” Conversation led by Advocates
  • Engagement, Amplification & Recruitment with Brand Advocates
  • Marketing with Consumers & Advocates

Community and audience building goes a long way when fostering authentic brand love. It also requires marketers to think and act differently, even in the planning stages.

Social May Win At Volume. But, What About Influence?

Research shows social media is often less than 5% of all Word of Mouth on a particular subject. With the many different ways to look at this, we decided to focus on volume over impact – with the recent topic of Scottish Independence, as well as the focus on Millennial culture and digital behavior.

After a robust social media blitz that indicated a potential separatist landslide, Scotland decided to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Appinions did some digging and noted that news versus social means different formats lead to different impact. Sometimes social can win the volume game, but still lose on the influence game; social can be efficient but not effective.

Above data via Appinions

The win at volume gets tremendous contribution from Millennials. In the last decade, this group is a paramount focus for brands and organizations. Rising into adulthood at the start of the century, their impact has proven to be a major focus to take fast action toward, from the White House and the auto industry to global and social issues.

As we start to plan our trip to Hollywood next month for the WOMMA Summit we reviewed our “A-Ha!” moments from the April 2014 WOMMNext event. Our attention returned to this data point: Millennials spend close to 18 hours per day on their smart devices (via Crowdtap). But for brands, Word of Mouth still overtakes all that time spent when it comes to influence and impact. Despite Millennials’ time in the digital space, still 84% of these Word of Mouth impressions from Millennials result from offline conversations, the majority being face-to-face, according to the latest research from the Keller Fay Group.

Escalate sees program-specific results that support the assertion that social media, while not a tactic to be ignored, is perhaps not as revolutionary a marketing innovation as some would have us believe. Through our experiential programs, we learned that:

  • Face-to-face recommendations for a client brand were 15X more likely to include desired key brand messages than social media recommendations.
  • Analysis of a one-month spike (>2X the next-highest month that year) in digital “buzz” about a client brand found that 80% of all digital “conversation” was, in fact, neutral in tone (for example: on Twitter, a simple re-tweet without a meaningful personal comment; a shared Facebook post with no point of view from the consumer)

As much as the research can be revealing, Millennials are still a very digital generation and sharing online is a part of their makeup. But, it’s not the only way they communicate, and far from the most common…or most effective. All marketing touch points need to be considered. Social is just one of them. In order to reach Millennials and make their way into their conversations, brands need to be as authentic and transparent as they possibly can. Otherwise, no matter what the the format, they’ll tune it out and the message can die. Brands need to consider all the channels, especially the real world.


image via WOMMA

As Millennials are increasingly tapped into digital media, the question isn’t whether they hear a brand message, but if they’ll listen, and talk about it with their friends.