Lockdown, home office, social distancing… people confined to their bubbles are desperate for connectivity. The role of social networks during the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more and more important to stay in touch with the people around us. In an interview, Sarah Goodall, specialist for employee activation on Social Media, shares how digital connectivity can open up a whole new world – for people and for companies.
Sarah, how is the coronavirus affecting our professional Social Media activity?
There has been a massive uptake of Social Media by employees working from home: because they could not meet their customers; because they could not reach prospects at trade fairs and conferences, because teams could not meet face-to-face; because the chat at the coffee machine or in the hallway is impossible. Social Media gives people the chance to be connected: in internal communities and in external exchanges. As a result, organizations had to fast-track their plans to enable their employees to engage on social media, to be active in social advocacy.
Sarah is the founder and CEO of Tribal Impact Ltd., an agency that helps B2B businesses activate employees on social media via employee advocacy, social selling, digital leadership and internal influencer programs.
What exactly is Social Advocacy?
Social Advocacy is defined as talking positively about a brand you love on Social Media. If it is done by a company’s own workforce, it is called Employee Advocacy. This kind of advocacy has been a buzzword lately, and with the pandemic it has gained additional momentum.
What makes it so relevant to the corporate world?
In the past, companies ran brand channels on Twitter and LinkedIn, and more or less, that was it. But it soon became obvious, that people don’t want to follow a logo channel, they want to follow people; they want authentic content and genuine conversations! Employees create that kind of authenticity. So there has been a shift: encouraging Employee Advocacy, companies can highlight the talents and personalities of the people behind their logo. And this is where the magic starts: rather than just tell customers about their great experts, companies showcase them and let them shine.
And there is another trend that makes Social Advocacy relevant: digital buying. It has put companies in a glasshouse, because the information about them is all out there, freely available ….
….. the Tripadvisor syndrome?
Exactly. Just like you check out traveller reviews before you book a holiday, today’s professional buyers check out videos, visit expert profiles, study vendor information, talk to peers in other companies, and ask for opinions in relevant forums. These different sources of information make companies very transparent. It is therefore imperative that they take a proactive approach to managing their digital and social content.
Can individual employees really make such a big difference?
Don’t underestimate the reach through social advocacy: employees have thousands of contacts in the Social Networks out there, listening, sharing, commenting and making sure that your company keeps relevant. And while connecting with the customers, employees take up content too – and they do it faster than their marketing department. It also says a lot about your corporate brand, if your employees are happy to share professional information on Social Media. They convey a great message to the talent pipeline out there, attracting the bright professionals that you are looking for.
Many employees are nervous about talking shop on online platforms. How can companies enable their employees to be successful Social Media players?
It is important to realize that it is a journey of digital transformation which involves both: technologies and people. You need to set up a digital solution to provide attractive content to your employees: blogs, videos, company-related and non-related content. And once you’ve established the technology, you need to train the people, so that they learn how to share quality content that adds value to their networks.
What are the benefits for the employee?
Being active on social media has many advantages for employees. One of my favourite statements in this regard is that people e-meet you before they actually meet you – and it’s true! With the increasing importance of online platforms, your social media appearance has really become your digital business card. You need to build that brand and manage your reputation over a period of time. People don’t just want to hear you say what you have done and what field you are an expert in, they want you to show them that you are on top of the game; and that you engage in conversations related to expert topics. And there is one more great benefit to social advocacy: It will help you to build and manage your network.
What is so exciting about networking?
A digital network can open up a wealth of new opportunities: you might be invited to speak at a conference, contribute to a book, teach others, share knowledge, have an impact on people. Extraordinary things happen to you when you network. You can nurture customer relationships. You can get inspired. Networking opens your eyes and it opens doors. You experience the magic of being in touch.