Long gone are the days when brand auto responses were socially acceptable. And by socially, I mean on social media. We call them consumers, but at the end of the day, the people who flock to a brand’s social channels are part of an audience, a community, if you will. They choose to dedicate however many minutes — and in some cases hours — each day to following their beloved brands, for whatever reason, and can all too easily get lost in a number.
Like many people in a social strategy leadership role, I’ve spent much of my career working with clients and colleagues to demystify vanity metrics, teaching what success actually looks like — numbers that actual have strategic implications versus what’s just shiny but ultimately without long-term brand value. And the reality is, for so many brands, the community gets lost in the numbers.
As we push brands to embrace engagement as the lead performance indicator, we have to identify opportunities to recognize and reward the “every-follower” — the person who’s not necessarily an “influencer” (its own class of buzzword that requires clear definition), but has nonetheless made the conscious decision to follow and actively react to a brand’s social story.
- Start Simple: People don’t hear the words “thank you” often enough. Not every brand action on social needs to be draped in pomp and circumstance. If your main goal is to showcase appreciation for your community, start by saying it with words.
- Say it with a Surprise: Don’t be afraid to go that extra mile for a person (or people!) who has been an especially active and supportive member of your brand’s social community. Surprise them with something offline, like a handwritten thank you note and their favorite product from your portfolio, or even something brand-agnostic based on what you know from being a careful listener and community manager.
- Build Sustainable Relationships: Nurturing your existing community is as important as growing it. Establish a regular community management routine that involves not just “listening,” but learning — about your audience, their interests, their motivators, and their values. Get to know the people who believe in the brand messages that you’ve worked so hard to craft. Their follow, like or retweet is their way of saying “we care,” and as a community manager, it’s your job to look for ways to keep that message reciprocal, and ongoing.
The phrase “employee engagement” can be far-reaching; workflow communication tools (think Slack, Yammer or Lync), internal social networks (Facebook at Work, Chatter, Voice Storm or Gaggle), newsletters and training programs could all qualify as employee engagement tactics. Some organizations employ a host of these tools, deploying them in tandem to build an internal community that exists outside the formalities of e-mail. While an engaged employee doesn’t necessarily create a happier employee, it’s certainly a start.
Recalibrating an entire corporate communication framework won’t be easy, and it’ll probably takes months (if not longer) before it feels like you’ve reached the new normal.
Take baby steps (H/T to Dr. Leo Marvin), and start with what you know.
- Be critical. Map your way to a solution by being open and honest about what your company needs. Outline organizational weaknesses and strengths. Gathering this feedback and insight directly from employees will only make your engagement more effective.
- Understand the difference between engagement and retention. Don’t confuse retention efforts like in-office perks, discount programs, etc. as engagement efforts; let’s be honest, free snacks and drinks make us more tired than they do motivated and empowered.
- Build functional focus groups. Bring groups of employees (at all levels!) together to hear from them — what would they use? How do they communicate offline? What would they not see value in? In addition to help shaping the suite of tools used by an organization, listening to employees will also help shape the way you serve content for sharing, informing everything from word choice and format to frequency and calls to action.
- Set realistic goals. Having a strong employee engagement strategy won’t necessarily help put a stop to turnover and cross-office drama, but it will help build a more informed, transparent organization-wide communication system. Know what you expect from employees, and what they expect from you. Over time, you can use metrics from your tools to refine and optimize your approach.
- Remember to recognize and reward. Tools aren’t cheap, but recognition is. The time it takes to publish a motivational, congratulatory or other such shout out on an internal communication channel is negligible, but the recognition of a small win could have long-term productivity benefits.
- Create guidelines that encourage participation. Inviting employees to contribute to company-wide channels might seem harmless, but fear of censorship and moderation might be roadblocks. Establishing clear community guidelines (no profanity, bullying, etc.) will help set clear, non-intrusive boundaries without hindering contributions. Employee engagement tools also tie in nicely to broader corporate incentive programs. Have a company store? Encourage shares and submissions for credit toward a purchase.