On the web as in life, what others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself and your products. But if endorsements matter, why do you not cultivate more of them? Why don't you help your employees become fans on social media? You may already be doing much of the necessary groundwork, especially if you're following any of these nine tips:
1. Engage face-to-face first. Don't expect loyalty, cultivate it. Spend time with employees, face-to-face if you can. And if you can't, host video town halls where remote offices and workers can dial in to hear from you and ask questions. The more your employees get to know you and your team, the more likely it is that they'll want to become advocates.
2. Take notice of small things. Does someone on your team have a sick pet? Is another celebrating a milestone anniversary with their significant other? Being the sort of leader who recognizes the things that matter to employees in their everyday lives is key to building the sort of loyalty that leads to advocacy.
3. Develop a recognition culture. Employees don't just want personal connections. They also want to know that their work matters. Help them feel the love by establishing a culture that recognizes good work wherever it's found. Also, don't focus on the form. A few kind words in the hall can be just as or even more powerful than a card or a small gift.
4. Take that culture online. In many cases, recognition works as well online as it does face-to-face. Say you spot a good, informative post from an employee on Twitter or Facebook. Share it with your corporate followers while giving credit to the employee who inspired you. They'll appreciate the kind words and be more likely to return the favor.
5. Be clear about your channels and strategy. Effective social media marketing requires planning. Pick the networks that you'll use most and develop a regular schedule for engaging online. Then, share that with your employees. The more they know about your marketing efforts, the more likely it is that they will join in.
6. Use hashtags to make it easy to join the conversation. Having a place to track social conversations is crucial. Unique hashtags can do that for you while saying something about your brand. Pick one to three that you'll use regularly and then share these "destinations" with your employees. You can also use them to mark posts aimed at recognizing employees for their contributions, creating a record of engagement and praise for others to see.
7. Engage online as you would in person. Too often we think of the Internet as a place where anonymous "trolls" lurk. Be the opposite. When engaging on social media, show the same level of respect and courtesy you would if the person you're talking with was sitting right next to you. Your employees and partners will notice the difference.
8. Invite criticism. You aren't perfect so don't pretend to be. Instead, invite followers and even employees to post criticisms of your company, your products, your services, or even your customer service. Seeing you act in an honest, transparent fashion creates room for your people to engage honestly as well.
9. Model the behavior you want to see. Teach your employees what it means to be a brand ambassador by taking on the role for other brands you admire. Whether it's an industry partner or just a company whose work and products you find interesting, take a little time to compliment, share, and promote another brand. In doing so, you'll be modeling the behavior you're looking for in your own employees -- and they'll be more likely to respond as a result.
Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions. Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau's employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.