In the past few years, employee advocacy has become the new buzzword in human resources. Now, it's also taking corporate communications by storm. Encouraging your employees to be your champions could be the perfect answer as journalists increasingly seek out real stories on social media.
Companies like Cisco and Danske Bank are already experimenting with social media takeovers by their employees. While it may be a bit soon to sack your spokesperson, it is definitely time to give your employees the forum they deserve.
Related: You Can't Achieve Big-League Success With a Minor-League Social Media Strategy
A source for journalists.
A national survey of reporters at all large and midsize U.S. newspapers has revealed how reporters use social media to source stories. More than 20 percent say that Facebook is either an "important" or a "very important" tool for their reporting. And Twitter is held in the same high value by one in two journalists. They use it to find story-relevant information, conduct background research and find sources.
Of course, we could just keep on using our corporate social media accounts to send out boring press releases. But that's not what the media wants. For journalists, employees are more authentic and more powerful sources of information than a spokesperson or even the CEO.
More trusted, more effective and more reach.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer report , your employees and peers are considered to be more credible than your CEO or board of directors. They are obviously viewed as trustworthy sources for topics such as the treatment of employees or customers, but, surprisingly, also for information about financial earning and operational performance, business practices and crisis handling. Keep this in mind when you have a press story, whether it is on television, online or in print -- nothing is more effective than the voice of your employees.
Collectively, their voice is also louder. Employees typically have a social media following that is ten times larger than that of their employer. Research by LinkedIn reveals that every six pieces of content shared by a LinkedIn member influences six profile views, two new connections, three company page views, six company job views and one company page follower.
Trust your employees.
The fact that your employees have become powerful communicators connected to your brand also carries risks.
Some employee stories created a buzz online and in the media that was less than positive for their company. From a Yelp employee who complained about her low paycheck on the story sharing website Medium , to a Taco Bell worker who tweeted pictures of himself urinating on food , to a cop who posted Vines while he stole cocaine from the evidence room . This is the kind of negative attention companies could do without.
Some companies, however, understand how to use their employees' communication power to their advantage. As Rachel Miller revealed in a post on the Influence website, even an organization that handles sensitive matters, Great Britain's National Health Service, has taken the initiative.
In her blog, Miller highlights a pertinent quote from Dean Royles, ex-chief executive of NHS Employers -- "We trust our employees with patients' lives. Why wouldn't we trust them with social media?"
The NHS encourages its employees, and even patients, to communicate on all social media. But it has also been smart enough to provide employees with a comprehensive guide and videos on how to do it .
Related: Employees Are Your Biggest Brand Advocates
Social media takeover.
Other companies take it one step further by letting their employees take care of the corporate social media account. Just as we have seen big brands experimenting with giving celebrities access to the corporate Instagram account, companies are giving the same accessibility to their employees.