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Employees as Social Media Brand Advocates

October 26, 2009

empty bus seats

Get the right people in the right seats on the bus.

Jim Collins often quoted mantra has worked well for years to describe how the best companies do business. And it’s true. Those of us who have had the responsibility of putting organizations together know just how vital it is to hire the right people in the right positions and have them committed to the same mission and goals.

But for many organizations, their actual mantra turns out to be:

Get the right people on the bus, and make sure their seat belts are fastened.

The need to control. Not exactly a corporate value that reacts well to this new marketing environment of technology empowered consumers. Control combined with senior management not getting the larger picture of what’s happening–that the very nature of how companies do business is changing–leads companies to restrict social media access for their employees.

This reaction to social media reveals a failure of management to understand how their employees are changing. As social media is democratizing the media and empowering consumers, management must realize that their employees are now empowered consumers themselves who may be able to advance their company’s brand in social media communities.

For profit corporations could learn a thing or two from higher education.

We encourage our employees to connect with our consumers. It’s integral to our mission and our business model depends on it. We achieve better results with our student-consumers when that interaction happens outside the classroom too. So, we develop programs to connect faculty and staff with prospective and current students, as well as with alumni, donors, community members, media, etc.

Because higher education already has these programs in place, colleges and universities are strategically positioned to initiate social media employee brand advocacy programs.

We already have community mangers across the campus. Think admissions, alumni relations, community relations, corporate relations, etc. Why not empower them as social media community managers–your brand advocates in social media–to listen to and interact with your various and multiple communities?

And why stop there? How about having other employees on campus who have professional communities to which they belong represent our campuses in those social spaces. Forrester Research is advocating such an approach for corporations. This is an easy transition for higher education.

Imagine the connections your faculty and staff could make in social media. Imagine channeling the energy of your technology empowered employees to advance your brand with your various and multiple communities out there.

Instead of working to stop this from happening–which is virtually impossible on a university campus anyway–why not work to empower your brand advocates to advance your mission and brand in social media? It’s within your reach.

UPDATE (April 7, 2010): Check out Christopher Penn’s post, Why Personal Brand is Essential To Corporate Marketing Success.

UPDATE (July 1, 2010): groundswell: Empowered Customers Need Empowered Employees Need Empowered IT

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