What content do employees want to share on social media? And why do they think that it's valuable to share this information there? Surprisingly, no one has ever thought to ask non-C-level employees their thoughts on sharing content-until now. Trapit, a company that enables social media content sharing by employees, commissioned what it calls the first survey of rank-and-file employees about their thoughts on sharing company information on social media.
Takeaways from the survey-and what the results mean for businesses looking to improve their employees' advocacy on social-suggest that employees see great value in sharing via social media and that companies have some catching up to do to take advantage of this eagerness.
When asked what benefits their company would receive from social sharing, 75% of respondents perceive a benefit, while 10% see no value. Specifically, 43% say it would increase brand awareness; 21% believe it would aid brand credibility, while only 11% say it would increase sales. (Trapit notes that this last number is not as surprising as it seems, since marketers are still trying to nail down the ROI from social media.)
"Employees are supportive of social media and acting on social media on behalf of their companies. They think there's real tangible value in that. Where they are feeling underserved is in the infrastructure and structure around that. So they're looking for process, but they are also looking for tools and a solution," says Hank Nothhaft Jr., Trapit's CEO and founder.
Another finding is that 55% of employees think it best to share third-party content as well as their company's content marketing. And 34% say that they are most likely to share news articles about their company via social media.
Nothhaft says this indicates that employees are calling for "help on the content front. They want a stream of content from whoever is running the program so that they can be active on social, build their personal brands while promoting the company, but not spend their whole day farming for content on their own."
Corporate white papers and promotional materials are not enough, according to Nothhaft, as employees want an expansive mix of content. "They're not interested in just being corporate shills; they want to be interesting and engaging to their network and be credible," he says.
Nothhaft suggests providing employees with a good selection of content, including "both directly promotional corporate assets, but also industry news analysis, research, [and] thought leadership to round out their profiles and their personas on social and to get some authentic engagement going versus just relaying more advertorial," he says.
In addition to assistance with content, employees also want insights into the results of their social sharing activities, Nothhaft says. Employees will stop sharing on social if they don't see some kind of personal ROI for their efforts, Nothhaft states, adding that companies need to start measuring the impact of social sharing.
As for how businesses should react to the survey results, the report says that "too many companies are still winging it." Social selling and employee advocacy are "in the top three initiatives" for the sales and marketing arms of many of the Fortune 1000 companies that Trapit targets, he says.
Many companies are currently "kind of dipping their toes in the water," and Trapit sometimes finds itself in the role of educator when meeting with them. Nothhaft tells companies, "If you are serious about launching an employee advocacy program or social selling program and you are going to invest in it, then do it the right way. Put in a structure and a process."
For a large organization, it's impossible to manage social selling and employee advocacy without a software solution. "We definitely think you need that kind of infrastructure in place to manage a process particularly across a large organization, and of course, that's also the only way to get some insights and measurements into your efforts," Nothhaft says. "There's no way to do that manually anyway."
The right software is key, but it's only part of the equation. Companies that just deploy software and hope employees will use it are bound to fail, according to Nothhaft. "Content is such a big aspect of this, so if you're not prepared with the content strategy, you're going to fail. So content strategy is as important as the tool you select," he says.
While most companies are just dipping their toes in the employee advocacy waters, some industries dove in headfirst. Nothhaft says that technology and communications companies are leading the way. Financial services firms are also using social selling software to market their products. "It's a great way to reach out to prospective customers and share perspectives and research on financial planning and things like that," he says.
Nothhaft states that large consulting and law firms are naturals for social selling and employee advocacy, and some of these companies have shown a great deal of interest in the software. As for the future of social selling and employee advocacy, he sees a time when every employee becomes a "social ambassador in one form or another. Whether it's a very programmatic approach to selling on social or a more general promotional brand awareness, cultural awareness of the broader employee. I think it's just a matter of time before that is ubiquitous across all industries," Nothhaft says.
Social selling is starting to gain traction at "progressive" large companies, according to Nothhaft, and companies are starting to realize that if they don't already have a plan, they risk falling behind. "I think every employee or every device will be social, and there will be some sort of software enabling app," he says.
The Trapit survey indicates that employees see value in sharing company-generated and third-party content on social media; it's time for companies to provide the tools and content to let these nascent social ambassadors loose.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)