More than 2 billion people worldwide are users of social media, making it a logical platform for companies seeking to attract potential employees and engage consumers with their brands. In addition to sharing information on brand activities through official social media pages or accounts, employees share brand-related information, make comments endorsing the organization's brand, and display behaviors that are consistent (or at odds) with the brand values and promise. For companies, the social media behavior of employees represents both an opportunity and a risk.
Some companies encourage employees to become brand ambassadors to consumers and job candidates on social networks such as LinkedIn and share the company culture on Facebook and Twitter. However, the authors found that in the companies they studied, employees on the whole displayed very low brand engagement on social media. Management was surprised to learn that their employees were not following the company on Facebook or other popular social media sites. When employees are not fans or supporters of the company's products, the authors noted, this can send an ambiguous message to employees' contacts and deprive the company of potential supporters.
So what can companies do? From their research, the authors developed a set of recommendations for encouraging effective employee branding on social media. The first recommendation is to empower a stable of employee advocates. The authors say employees born in the era of the internet (so-called "digital native") tend to be more active on social media and are more likely to become brand ambassadors for the company. The second recommendation is to outline the boundaries of employees' social media presence: When employees feel partly responsible for the company's success, they are willing to invest in activities to enhance the customer experience and are willing to exhibit brand-building behaviors through their digital networks and on social media sites. The authors also suggest fostering employee engagement with the brand to help employees understand the brand promise and have an emotional attachment to it. Another recommendation is to make content relevant and easy to share. Finally, companies should reward employee voice. The most effective rewards include listening to employee feedback, paying attention to employee suggestions, and congratulating employees on their achievements.