Companies do not need influencers. The employee is the best ambassador of the brand
The opinion of employees in social media about their company is one of the most reliable sources of information about the employer. Employee postings about the organization are also a magnet for business partners and job candidates - it is estimated that eight out of ten people trust the recommendations of ordinary employees, not their bosses. This is a reason to start the image efforts from inside the company.
This is what the team of scientists and practitioners in the field of marketing and HR claim - Prof. Grzegorz Mazurek and Prof. Paweł Korzyński from Kozminski University and Prof. Michael Haenlein from ESCP Business School. In this European Management Journal article the researchers, on the basis of the results of their own researchentitled "Brand building through employee activity in social media", analyze the role of employees in supporting companies' activities in social media.
- Many bosses are wondering how to bring about a situation where employees will speak well of the company outside of work. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of "employee advocacy", popular in Poland as well, i.e. making them ambassadors of the company, enters a new level, namely the area of social media - says Prof. Paweł Korzyński, research project manager.
The hypotheses were verified by researchers on a group of almost 100 academics from 19 countries, who have published articles in 50 renowned journals according to the Financial Times ranking. - We believe that these individuals act as representatives of the university in stakeholder relations. Thanks to this they have the greatest influence on the way the environment perceives the institutions in which they work. The research confirms that academics willingly engage in communication about the employer's brand in social media, where they are often "first contact" persons, e.g. for students - explains Prof. Korzyński.
Voluntary promotion is a credible promotion
The authors of the study write that with the development of employee advocacy there is a growing awareness that they can bring more benefits to the company than just brand awareness campaigns.
- Voluntary promotion of the organization by people who work in it is primarily credible. The research shows that ordinary employees are 8 times more trustworthy than e.g. directors, also inside the company itself - convinces Prof. Korzyński.
Companies have ways to persuade their staff to publish positive content about brand activity. These are often special programs that provide an award system for the most committed employees.
- However, the results of our project clearly indicate that in order for people to do so voluntarily and to derive satisfaction, it is necessary, among other things, to involve them in decision-making processes, build a relationship based on trust, as well as provide a sense of efficiency and real influence on the future of the organization," as emphasized by the Professor.
Initiative in the hands of employees
At the same time, experts warn managers that their intensive activities can do more harm than good to strengthen the company's image. Research indicates that too much company content can harm the creation of staff involvement. - If, as a result of such communication, we even feel "obliged" to post on our profiles, we perceive the pressure as unnecessary control, which we do not want to experience. The ideal situation is when the employer leaves employees free to take the initiative themselves and their actions are authentic. At the same time, the boss can maintain this enthusiasm and show that he appreciates the team for their efforts in building the brand. This is all about having fun," as explained by the researcher.
To be or not to be... a brand ambassador?
Researchers conclude that employees are an important link in the process of strengthening the corporate brand in social media. The results obtained thanks to well thought-out employee advocacy programs confirm the thesis that employees are the greatest capital of the company.
- Instead of creating costly advertisements or engaging opinion leaders to promote them, it is enough to look around and ask yourself which team members could become brand ambassadors. Our analysis shows that a person with an extensive and diverse social media network is best suited to this role, making interaction with potential company stakeholders more likely. Secondly, he or she must be up to date with current events and take an interest in the company's activities as a whole, e.g. by observing social media profiles, participating in discussions under the posts and interacting with these contents using various reaction buttons," the professor says.
According to the researchers, on the one hand, the results of the project can be a guide for marketing and HR managers who want to use the potential of social media more effectively.
- However, on the other hand, this knowledge may also be useful for small companies, which due to the lack of large budgets for promotional activities should think about building the strength of their brand online through employee advocacy in social media - claims Prof. Korzyński.