Can you afford not to empower your team to build their personal brand?
Contributor Mary Wallace describes the elements you should put in place to help your employees become your company's most effective advocates.
The United States economy is growing at a rate of 2.9 percent, and unemployment is at its lowest rate since 2000, according to government statistics. As a result, we’re seeing a greater number of open positions, a trend exacerbated by a decreasing average employee tenure.
Not only is the cost to companies significant, but more and more pressure is applied to the staff who remain. Employees, forced to work longer and longer hours, are turning in an average of 47 hours per week, a 2014 Gallup poll found.
In this environment, empowering employees to create and grow their personal brands is a win-win for employees and employers alike. Not only will this help companies retain their valuable team members, but it will also add to the authenticity and volume of your company’s story.
If the average employee has 350+ social media connections, and they post about business on social media, they will each generate 12 or more clicks, according to research from Smarp. So if just 12 employees engage on social media, that’s 144 clicks to the company website!
The net result across all employees is an exponential increase in site visitors — audience members who are prequalified to be interested in your solutions, thanks to their personal connections with your employees.
The ripple effect is even more positive. With the increased engagement, you’ll likely rank higher in search engines, which in turn produces even better results. And if you help educate your employees on the tactics that help to build their influence, the “social selling” impact can be gargantuan.
Keep your best employees excited
In corporate America, it’s common to see rock star employees leaving to work for themselves. By striking out on their own, leaders can constantly work on fun and interesting projects instead of the more boring, mundane everyday work.
To combat the exodus, companies are creating specialized jobs outside the traditional structure. These positions suit rock stars’ abilities and nurture their passions.
Regardless of whether you create specialized positions or not, empowering and encouraging employees to create a personal brand can be a springboard for job personalization and ownership. Even better, asking employees to write articles as thought leaders can push them to search for new and better ways to get their job done.
Imagine if thought leaders stayed instead of strayed because they felt a greater commitment to the company and their job. At the same time, those employees could be creating and growing their personal brands through a social media presence engineered to be a gateway to build relationships with other thought leaders.
Positive feedback provided by likes and followers validates accomplishments, regardless of whether those achievements are cutting-edge new developments or routine maintenance. The feeling of value and recognition of their expertise helps foster emotional investment with the company, reducing churn and the costs associated with rehiring or open positions.
Reap the marketing benefits of personal brands
The impact to marketing is like hot fudge dripping off an ice cream sundae. Not only do employees’ personal brands add credibility and authenticity to the company story, they also add significant depth because the personal brand stories are so real. These are the stories that help differentiate the company from the competition.
When employees embrace their roles as thought leaders, they share their passion for their jobs and the amazing things happening at work. These stories, even if the company’s function and value are solely in the background, makes the marketing organization glow with joy.
Another benefit of personal brand stories is the increases in volume and velocity of communication that involves the company. Social messages like tweets and Instagram posts not only increase the depth of the employee’s personal brand, they also increase the company’s connections and help drive traffic to the website.
Content, the foundation of today’s marketing, can also be harvested from stories that start with an employee’s post. The best part about the content created this way is that it more closely aligns with real-life stories, especially when it comes from team members who are working directly with customers.
An infrastructure for personal brands
Developing a culture where employees are invested in their personal brands doesn’t happen overnight. Getting a program started includes convincing employees of the benefits of a personal brand, defining rules, creating a measurement program that includes rewards for success and providing the tools to enable this brand-building.
- Make sure your arguments for personal branding activities highlight the benefits for the individual employee. These include an enhanced resume, more connections and giving back to the community. There’s no need to detail those realized by the company, as such arguments aren’t as compelling.
- You can also help ensure personal branding is successful by defining policies for the team’s personal brands. For example:
- Those who want to pursue the concept should alert their bosses.
- Personal brand styles should align with those of the company’s brand (if the company is cutting-edge, don’t be conservative).
- The employee’s social media presence should be defined as representing personal views and not the views of the company.
- Clear guidelines on what can be communicated are essential. For example, confidential or propriety information should not be shared, and views provided should not diverge 180 degrees from the views of the company.
- Additionally, support your employees by providing them with guidance on appropriate tools. For example, provide a list of commonly available tools the team can use, like Hootsuite, TweetDeck and BuzzSumo. You could also provide worksheets that help them brainstorm what they want to express in their personal branding efforts.
- Using internal content platforms like Jive is also a great idea. Not only do they provide a great place for staff members to stretch their wings internally before going public, they are also great resources for curating content.
- Put metrics in place to track what’s working. Use gamification to drive participation. If you’re tracking externally, encourage the team to use consistent hashtags. If you’re tracking internally, use the metrics provided in the content platform.
- Reward team members who are recognized externally as thought leaders or whose posts drive the most conversions back to the company’s website. The rewards should focus not only on the business, but also on the impact to each individual.
Encouraging the development of personal brands — especially by leadership — is a must-do for all companies large and small. Employees can reap the benefits as they grow and expand while receiving acclaim from peers and other industry leaders. At the same time, the business receives attention created from employees on social media, adding authenticity and connection velocity to the company’s story.