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Social business is currently in the mainstreaming phase. Most companies have figured out that social media can help build consumer relationships, especially when integrated with marketing campaigns. However, social media marketing still falls short when brands fall back to a stance of being a monolithic logo that communicates in corporate-speak. Recent kerfluffles involving Chipotle and Bank of America demonstrate just how much consumers dislike being reminded that there’s actually a wizard behind the curtain.
Fewer companies have embarked on the aspect of social business that can create sustained business value, but has a greater degree of difficulty to achieve: internal social business. The guideposts to creating value are hiding in plain sight but many brands lack the self-confidence to allow their employees to act as public brand ambassadors. According to Forrester Research, “only 41% of respondents in a recent corporate survey believe their CEO is setting a vision for brand building across all consumer touch points.”
After all, when the media loves telling the stories of how rogue employees at Domino’s, Taco Bell, and Subway have embarrassed themselves and the brand, the natural corporate reaction is to lock down, not open up. These public gaffes get magnified in part because the brands have little in the way of an advocate base to defend the brand, thus the negative signal broadcasts loud and clear.
Companies would be wise to inspire employee advocates as a counterweight, before crisis hits. Buy the air conditioner before the heat wave or the generator BEFORE the snowstorm, not after, when prices are marked up and inventory is impossible to find.
Forrester recommends that brands enlist an army of brand advocates:
As with any initiative, success with employee advocacy requires attention to people, process, and technology. The first two aspects are touched on above; the third covers a small emerging market with tools that can create powerful leverage for brands when placed into the hands of the right users. That is, users who are trained with the right mindset and operate within the boundaries of a brand-appropriate set of policies and guidelines.
Easier said than done, right? Social business may be mainstreaming, but it’s still early in the phase. Businesses need to look past the external hits and misses of social media marketing and focus internally to unlock long-term sustainable value.