An employee talking to your customers about a product or service that they themselves contribute to is a potential gold mine for your company. Where else can you find someone who knows the industry you are part of, what your offering brings to that industry, and can get down into the nitty-gritty details that can generate and drive conversations with peers and customers? The fact that they can talk about the finer points means new content that is both highly relevant, but also new and insightful.
That “discussion” – aka engagement – the give and take interaction with people, is the Shangri-La for companies’ venturing into social media. Instead of only blogs filled with high-level topics that can be created by a marketing department, employees close to the product or service can talk about the inner workings or nuances. Why does that matter to you?
- SEO Benefits. New Content = New Keywords. Keywords and links are the SEO lifeblood that drives your website’s rankings on Google. The more unique the better. Exactly how many companies out there right now are talking about cloud computing and web services? Tons. And most of them are competing over the exact same keywords over and over.
- Recognition as a thought-leader and PR. This can come in many ways. It starts with linkbacks to tweets and blog posts. It can grow into recognition by traditional media and well-respected bloggers. Letting your expert employees go out and evangelize a bit can mean that when an article is written about your industry, you are among those mentioned. Most people’s research starts with the Internet. It’s the same for journalists and industry analysts.
In the end, what is created is a bridge between the different types of media a company can employ, or what Lee Odden recently called your Online Marketing Media Mix. Employees can help create the common thread between your typical PR Newswire style marketing release, to blog content and discussion of company products and the industry, to external recognition of your company’s expertise by third parties.
If this all sounds too perfect, well, naturally there are caveats.
1) Not every employee is the kind of person you want representing your company. Do they articulate their thoughts well? Do they get abrasive? I can think of more than a few people I’ve encountered during my career who had all the drive and love for what they did and would’ve made great bloggers, except for that problem of foot-in-mouth-itis. Not every employee is going to be a good fit for this role. An employee who has a habit of rubbing people the wrong way may tick off one or two customers face-to-face, but in the online world, a bad interaction can come back to haunt you again and again.
2) You don’t want your evangelist employees to turn into outright salespeople in the wrong forums. There’s a fine line between evangelizing and being a salesperson. There needs to be an understanding of the best practices for the forum that will be used. One common mistake that I see time and again are hard sell marketing tactics on social media sites such as LinkedIn. Usually these get shut down fairly quickly, but not without some not so kind remarks by moderators and others in the community. Social media, in general, is not the place for selling.
3) Have a Social Media Participation Policy which clearly documents your company’s policies.
Empower your employees to participate and engage on social media. They can be your best evangelists!