Apr 15, 2010

In the age of Social Media Employees & Customers

Shiv Singh posts at his blog :Owning the Brand. Employees & Customers. This reminds me of the two blog posts I had made earlier on how your employees are the "new" media (think social) and are the new marketers for your firm.

If you understand them in this context. Else they will be "unused assets" :-)

The conversations reminded me of the above slide that was part of a presentation that I gave to a Fortune 20 company CMO two years ago. I used it to explain the fact that every employee is an interface to the customer and companies need to think about them as untapped assets to leverage. Her organization had well over 100,000 employees so explaining that each employee has an influence network of at least 20 people translating into a circle of 2 million people really resonated with her. In that moment she got social influence marketing.

As we move through 2010 and figure out how to leverage this hidden asset, the question is how do you manage your brand in a world where employees can (and I believe should) be your brand advocates. Is this even possible? Does it run the risk of doing more damage to your brand than you can handle? I don't think it does and nor do retail brands like Best Buy and Starbucks. Both are brands that I discuss in my book as ones that are leading the way with the creation of social voices - real people that speak authentically on behalf of the brand. Developing social voices has had another wonderful unintended consequence - the brands themselves have become social at the core or as I refer to them, they've become social brands.

So what's next? More companies in more industries are going to need to open up their brands to their employees and their external advocates. To let them share control of the brand. An industry where I believe we're going to see the next big move - hospitality. The industry is inherently about customer relationships. Every employee in a hotel chain for example, is going to need to be the social voices for the brand. The question is which hotel chain will be the first to do this?

When your employees are not just employees, how does that change the HR view you have? How does that change the Marketing and Communication plan that you draw up?

Do you want to empower and engage them - or do you simply say even if they are interested "This is not your job?"

Companies that will learn to risk and trust will succeed in this new age.