In 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled on the use of social media by public companies. This ruling allows companies to “use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to announce key information in compliance with Regulation Fair Disclosure (Regulation FD) so long as investors have been alerted about which social media will be used to disseminate such information”. Though this event was significant at the time for corporates, employees have long been taking part in the democratisation of information via social channels. As we have seen an increase in the the proliferation of social media over the last few years, traditional marketing channels have been scarred, and the evolution of the consumer from digital to connected left a lasting impact on the way we used to interact with consumers.
- Any social media, or brand, manager today will agree that competing for consumer attention, and building the organisational social graph, remains a cumbersome task with limited or slow growth being realised, especially in the communication and services industries. Although there are many reasons for this, one of the primary reasons is the empowerment of the consumer through the mobile device, and the dynamics that are driving the marketplace as a function of this.
The Millennial Consumer, Employee and Corporate Social Presence
With reference to the Millennial workforce and consumers in his book “What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences”, Brian Solis, maintains that they are “more connected on Facebook than average users, managing a social graph of 696 Facebook friends versus the 140 maintained by everyday people”. In addition, a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts amongst F500 companies in 2014, concluded the following key findings that is indicative of the social presence of corporations today:
- In 2014, 157 companies (31%) had corporate blogs showing a decrease of 3% in use of this tool in the past year.
- Companies blogging include two of the top five corporations (Wal-Mart Stores and Exxon Mobil), leaving the other three (Chevron, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway) without a public-facing blog.
- 413 companies (83%) of the Fortune 500 have corporate Twitter accounts with a tweet in the past thirty days. This represents a 6% increase since 2013.
- Facebook, in its second year on the Fortune 500 list, has the highest number of followers on Twitter, followed by Starbucks, Microsoft, Walt Disney Company, Whole Foods Market, Inc., Nike, Inc., and Intel Corporation. They also have the most Facebook fans along with Coca-Cola, The Walt Disney Company and Starbucks Corporation.
- 401 companies (80%) of the Fortune 500 are now on Facebook. This represents a 10% increase since 2013.
- In the past year, Foursquare enjoyed the largest increase in adoption (42%), while Pinterest use increased by 27% and Instagram by 12%.
Source: Barnes, and Lescault (2014). The 2014 Fortune 500 and Social Media: LinkedIn Dominates As Use of Newer Tools Explodes
The Engaged Employee as a Social Channel
With the increasing presence of organisations on social media platforms, and as most employees today have access to social media today, organisations should consider establishing an Employee Social Brand Ambassador Programme (for lack of a better name) that actively involves engaged employees to distribute the organisational brand, and relevant media content to their personal and professional networks, expanding the reach of the organisation online. However, this involves building a trust relationship in this era of transparency, accountability and authenticity with the employee.
This Employee Social Brand Ambassador Programme could be structured in various ways to build brand awareness from the inside-out, using committed employees as a channel into the marketplace. Some ideas that could form a part of such an initiative could include:
- Practically train participative employees on how to distribute company content and adding their own comments to promote the content
- Invite employees to invite their online connections to join the organisation’s online community (by liking the page or following the company)
- Having professional profile pictures for enrolled employees taken with brand content in the background
- Developing an employee loyalty programme for enrolled employees, linked to points, possible discounts, etc. on an exchange basis
- Monitor active participation of each enrolled employee (linking it to the loyalty)
- Establishing an employee social media group as a content distribution channel
These are just a few ideas, but overall, the number of employees participating in such a programme, is a good indication of the level of employee engagement and the level of affiliation employees have with their employer. Engaged employees will share the social experiences, turning detractors into promoters. In turn, this will reward the bottom line of the organisation, and experience is at the heart of most large organisations today.
References consulted for compiling this article:
Barnes, N.G. & Ava M. Lescault, A.M. (2014) The 2014 Fortune 500 and Social Media: LinkedIn Dominates As Use of Newer Tools Explodes. Online. Available at: http://www.umassd.edu/cmr/socialmediaresearch/2014fortune500andsocialmedia/
SEC. (2013). SEC Says Social Media OK for Company Announcements if Investors Are Alerted. US Securities and Exchange Commission – Press Release, pp.1–2. Available at: http://www.sec.gov/News/PressRelease/Detail/PressRelease/1365171513574#.UfVqOtIwd4k
Solis, B. (2013) What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (Kindle Locations 487-498). Wiley. Kindle Edition.