One of the most common objections I get when pitching a company about using social media to amplify their brand message is,
“We don’t trust that employees will say what we want them to.”
To which I like to ask, “I’m guessing that’s a general statement, and that you actually have a few employees whom you would trust. What if you could figure out exactly who they are and then engage them?”
Because of its inherent transparency, social media is more than a new communication medium for connecting with customers, prospective employees, and stakeholders. It’s a powerful game changer that lays bare the frequent disconnects between what we project to the world and who we actually are. And, it’s a feedback mechanism that shows leaders exactly how corporate messaging is—or isn’t—tricking out through the organization, and which employees and managers are most likely taking things seriously.
In a way, social media is a lot like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, pulling the curtain back to expose the old man behind the pyrotechnics… in other words, it lets us get past organizational pomp and circumstance and get down to brass tacks.
Here’s an example of how it works: Let’s say a company’s leaders claims to value customer service above all else. By auditing the language on employees’ LinkedIn profiles for keywords related to customer service, we can find out how many employees self-identify with that value. Slicing search results at the executive, manager, and contributor levels can further help identify where communication or cultural roadblocks might be.
Access to this type of feedback, at the scale it is now available, is unprecedented. Used to be, tight controls and expensive communication channels effectively bottlenecked all brand communications at PR. The outside world had to make do with marketing’s highly polished copy—there was no way to validate if the message was authentic. Company insiders weren’t much better off: with limited organizational visibility beyond their direct chain of command, employees who perceived a gap between what they were being told and “reality” had to choose to believe executives, their manager, or the grapevine. Now, anyone can validate a company’s message simply by auditing employees’ online communications.
With a little creativity and a few 3rd party websites, we can track both sincerity and engagement.
What this means is, companies have better tools—in this case, social media—that they can use to become “more perfect.” Companies can ferret out executives who give lip service to principles, while identifying individual contributors who truly believe in the cause and would make wonderful ambassadors.
Companies can engage their employees more authentically than ever before, and along the way find and engage those employees who can be trusted with the corporate message. Companies can use this approach to amplify and authenticate their messages. Companies can engage in what we call workforce marketing.
All it takes is a shift in perspective, and the flexibility to view social media as a communication channel with a powerful, built-in feedback loop for leaders.