On February 9, 8th graders in Wisconsin were treated to a career fair Q&A over Google Hangouts. Okay, that’s not so crazy. Still a bit of a switch from a traditional career fair, but we all know that video calling is a thing (and has been for a while.)
But get this: the subject of this career fair Q&A was a Social Media Manager. It never really occurred to me that kids as young as 12 would be considering a career in social media management.
The lucky kids were shown a potential career path that didn’t exist 10 years ago. And to walk them through the ins and outs of this line of work was one of our amazing program managers, Ryan Peña of MentorMate.
MentorMate is an integrated strategy, design, and development firm headquartered in Minneapolis. They specialize in creating mobile and web apps, and they plan, design, develop, and staff projects for big ideas, so you could say they know the digital landscape pretty well. Some notable clients of theirs include Jostens, Thomson Reuters, and NASA (Yep, that NASA.)
Ryan brings years of experience in account management and social media management to the table. But within two minutes of talking to him, you’ll know that his experience goes far beyond the expected social media expertise. Instead, Ryan tends to see the broader picture of how social (or any digital communication tactics, really) play into the larger picture of the changing workplace.
When asked for his opinion on what some of the biggest challenges facing digital communications, Ryan told me:
There are so many channels. There’s so much communication that can happen! Whereas 5 or 10 years ago, it was more apt to be a phone or email conversation. Or if you’re a local business, face-to-face interactions too.
All of these mediums are still here, but coupled with loads of other stuff. Social media presents all of these other ways to communicate with a business or service.
Let’s say a customer sees something on Facebook about your company’s culture, and then later sees your company discussing a new industry trend on Twitter. And THEN, they can see an ad for your company on Instagram. Maybe even retargeted with web ads, too.
There’s so much communication happening everywhere. The biggest challenge with that, too, is facing smarter consumers who know when they’re being “sold” something. How do we get through to these savvy consumers?
The Future of Social Media: Different is Better than Better
Scrolling through MentorMate’s website, you’ll see the quote “opportunity belongs to the innovators who think 10 steps ahead, not 2.” I asked Ryan what 10 steps ahead looks like in the world of social media.
Part of our mission at MentorMate is always thinking 10 steps ahead – we try and incorporate that in everything we do. One of our speakers at MobCon, the founder of blab.im, was quoted as saying ‘different is better than better’ – and it resonated with me in the same way.
Lots of companies are striving to be better at what they do, but what if they tried to be different? What if they challenged industry standards by doing things differently?
Thinking in terms of 10 steps ahead for social media – I think it relates to the challenges we identified earlier. With consumers becoming so savvy and so particular about how they receive their information, we need to be thinking about how to reach them in more efficient ways in a manner that they actually like.
Employee advocacy is definitely one of those spaces. It’s putting social media into play the way that it should be used, and that is: like-minded individuals who already have an established relationship with one another, advocating for something they’re passionate about – that’s what employee advocacy offers.
With the challenge of all these different accounts and networks, and with all of the endless advertisements, there’s a unique opportunity: being able to target the right people (your employees, your advocates), empowering them with content that they enjoy, and encouraging them to share it. The result will be so much more favourable, simply because that extended network cares on a personal or professional level about what that person has to say.
Employees and Social Media
Ryan said that he had a sneaking suspicion that this interview would move into questions surrounding the role of employees in social media. Yep, he called it.
I think it all starts with culture. When we’re thinking about asking employees to participate in a brand, we have to ask: do your employees like what they do? Do they enjoy working there?
I don’t think any company will have 100% answers for that, but regardless, that’s what should come first and foremost – employees.
Even looking at Glassdoor or something similar to learn what former employees are saying is invaluable information to have, because quite frankly, if you’re going to approach employee advocacy blindly without even a sense of what your employees feel about the company, then a tool might even be a bad thing. It might be a total flop.
Granted that your employees love what they do – they will be your biggest brand advocates because they get what they’re doing and they want to talk about it. So the benefit to having employees involved in brand building online is twofold: it helps us organically, and it builds our employees’ personal brand.
But you have to tell them what’s in it for them. You want to get away from sending out an email announcing a new tool where the reaction is an eye roll and “Ugh – I don’t have time for any more tools.” So here’s what’s in it for them: they not only get to be a cheerleader for the company that they love working for, but we’re also helping them build a professional brand.
In fact, when we launched our employee advocacy program here, I had a few people take me up on the offer of learning
how to go beyond this tool and really dive deep into online profiles. That included making sure that your profile is set up correctly, and answering questions about how to ensure that the content you’re putting out there is reaching the right people. It sparks those questions of how to manage a personal brand online. These conversations may not have happened before, and we love seeing our team really get involved this way.
On that note, I asked Ryan for his thoughts on how to encourage those employees who may not fully understand how to engage with their employer on social media.
I think it’s important to educate employees on the purpose of each network. For us, (even though I only believe in people-to-people), we’re a B2B company. Therefore, we see the most success on LinkedIn. Although most of our team uses Facebook, we tell them how to leverage LinkedIn for the best impact, and how to use Facebook for MentorMate culture posts (like the career fair I was at this morning.)
I remind them that any time they share any content, it’s their face on someone’s feed next to content about who they are, what they care about, and what they’re advocating for. It’s where you’re building your brand. If you don’t know how to use LinkedIn or Twitter, this is a way to get started. Then all of a sudden, you have a stake in the game and you’re having conversations.
It’s all about taking it one step at a time.
One step at a time, eh? Hmmmm. I asked Ryan what he thinks are the necessary skills to bring outdated employee engagement processes into 2016.
I think we’re still at the point right now where businesses might hear “employee advocacy” and not really understand what it means. There’s still a little bit of newness to it.
But assuming that there’s no groundwork laid whatsoever and that this company wants to modernize, I think they’d need to be a cheerleader for their organization. They’d need to find new and creative ways to rally people who (at that moment) may not care about new things.
Someone who’s going to be a huge pain in the ass – but with the company’s best interest at heart.
The next thing, I think, is the ability to make people feel comfortable one-on-one. At the end of the day, there are some things that people are going to feel hesitant about (like privacy or concerns about sharing certain content), who generally don’t post a lot in the first place. I think someone who can get down to the individual level with employees and talk these things out is a huge value to the company.
Finally, someone who’s very good at not spending money!
…Hear me out. We don’t always have the money to reward our top team members, so I think someone who can think of fun and creative ways to engage their people will go a long way. We print off goofy certificates, or we go to the dollar store and buy air guitars* for our “employee advocacy rockstars.” Being creative on a tight budget while still making people feel recognized is huge.
*Editor’s note: Ryan immediately corrected this statement to “inflatable guitar”, but for journalistic integrity, I’ve kept it in the text 😉 Besides – we had a good laugh over what handing someone an air guitar would look like.
— MentorMate (@MentorMate) February 9, 2016
The team at MentorMate had already been evaluating some employee advocacy solutions when Ryan came on board, and ultimately decided to partner with PostBeyond.
Employee advocacy was an idea that our marketing department had decided was imperative – we knew we were going ahead with it. We knew it was a no brainer.
We chose PostBeyond chiefly because it’s so easy to use. Our marketing department is loving it, so we have strong advocacy for employee advocacy in that sense. It’s currently expanding into our sales department, and it’s going to be huge for them. We can’t wait to get the rest of the sales team on board.
We knew, without a doubt, that this tool made sense for us.
Again, the ease-of-use is the best thing. But for program managers like me, there’s so much you can do in the backend. If you’re looking for insights – they’re there.
From a more holistic standpoint, what matters most is the experience that employees have with it. It’s easy for software to lose sight of user experience by adding too many features or options, and then what happens is the people you want using it (your employees) don’t know what the heck to do with it. We’ve found that PostBeyond took the approach of “let’s make sure that the end user (the employee) has a very simple experience while still giving them the functionality that they need.”
Things like queue settings, instant sharing by clicking an icon, the leaderboard – all of those features are great and easy to use.
There are a lot of employee advocacy platforms out there, and they’re all becoming more popular. My advice to companies who are evaluating which one to go with: do your homework and don’t go exclusively off of what features the platform offers. Think about what’s going to be best for your employees.
You know your team better than any platform does, so think about how this will work for them. Go with the right tool that’s going to give you the analytics you need to talk to your executives and show them how it’s working from a data standpoint.
Finally, make sure it integrates with your current toolset. Hubspot, Google Analytics – PostBeyond offered those integrations, which is so important to us for reporting. There might be a tool out there that offers some form of employee advocacy software, but does it actually deliver what your company needs from a reporting and metrics angle?
I’d recommend PostBeyond because it gives our organization exactly what it needs for successful employee advocacy.
Within the first four months of implementing the platform, Ryan and the MentorMate team saw a significant increase in website traffic from PostBeyond. To them, it validated the need for employee advocacy.
Once you implement this kind of program, it’s up to you to keep that consistency up. After selecting the right tool, you’ve got to make sure your employees understand the platform and are reminded of the value. That’s where we’re at right now – expanding it across our teams and making sure that each employee sees what’s in it for them.
We’re so, so excited for where this is going at MentorMate.
How is your enterprise embracing social media in the workplace? Are you encouraging your employees to get involved online?