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Lately, I've been perplexed by a paradox in the world of social networks and online influence:
Why are so few Singaporean brands gaining traction on social media platforms despite the huge number of Singaporeans online?
The answer I suppose is that there aren't enough people doing the job. Relying solely on your executive team is like trying to put out a raging forest fire with a water pistol. Most Corporate Comms and PR departments are also highly stretched and may not have the answers to the burning questions of consumers and clients alike.
You can of course identify who your most ardent fans and advocates are, and to get them to help seed and spread positive messages about your organisation. Enrol their help to "balance the forces of good and evil", and incentivise them to share stories of how they love, cherish and adore your brand (till death us do part).
Unfortunately, even your most die-hard loyal customer isn't going to keep talking about your brand. Hey, he/she has got social commitments to keep, children to feed, a day (and sometimes night) job to worry about, and a life to live.
However, there is a huge opportunity that many companies here are missing. This incredible set of "assets" is present in each and every organisation.
Yes, I am talking about you, the board member/boss/employee of the organisation.
Think about it. If every staff in a company of say 500 employees are encouraged, engaged and empowered to blog, comment and post about your brands, you would instantly get 500 "fans" or "friends".
These are not just ordinary members of the public. On the contrary, they would become your chief brand advocates - the true believers of your organisation and its products and services.
Board members and CEOs would exert even more influence, in view of the strengths of their networks and their reputation. A corporate chieftain with an unparalleled following in the industry can wield tremendous influence on behalf of your organisation.
The question, however, is that very few organisations have done it successfully, if at all. Why is this so?
First, the culture of the company must be suited for internal brand advocacy. Replace the climate of fear with an atmosphere of trust. Build esprit de corps and camaraderie amongst every member of the corporate family. Conduct frequent formal and informal sharing sessions within the organisation, to keep everybody abreast of the latest developments.
Next, your internal advocates need to know what the guidelines are. How much can they reveal about your organisation and its brands? What are the OB markers for digital discourse and when should they consult your corporate gatekeepers (aka Corp Comms)?
Establish a "code of ethics" and behavioural guidelines to make it crystal clear what would be encouraged and supported, and what would be discouraged. Having said that, treat each "transgression" with a light touch as opposed to a heavy handed rap on the knuckles. Remember that our goal here is to nurture brand emissaries not discourage brand dialogue.
Training and equipping is next. Where possible, help staff and board members to understand how social media works. Develop a programme to encourage digital natives (who are probably the younger employees) to mentor their analogue counterparts on the rules of the electronic engagement.
(Yes, this could be as extreme as getting young officers to teach their bosses how to blog!)
Finally, you should encourage your staff/board members/head honcho to go out there and spread the word. Institute common reminders and words of encouragement to seed their conversations online (and offline) with mentions of your brands. Make it easy for them to do so by offering rich content: text, photos, videos, apps, and other formats that they can easily embed on their platforms.
Of course, it is easier said than done. Dealing with internal stakeholders can be one of the toughest jobs in the world. I should know!
However, doing so successfully could reap huge gains in online influence and brand advocacy. Through the multiplier effect of staff networks, every message/announcement/update would spread a lot faster and wider through these multiple streams of information.
Would such an idea work in Singapore? Why or why not?
Labels: corporate communications, digital influence, employee communications, internal influence, social influence, social media, staff communications, stakeholder relations