"More than 4 billion people around the world now use social media each month, and an average of nearly 2 million new users are joining them every day.

The world is spending more time on social media too, with the typical user now spending roughly 15 percent of their waking life using social platforms."

source

Mentioning the word "influencer" in a business context usually results in an eye-roll. The reason being, we all jump to the image of what you see in the press about what's going on over on Instagram. However, is this really the case? Can one be an "influencer" in a social world for business?

If we look up the meaning of influence we are presented with a number of variations, however here are two from the Cambridge University dictionary:

and

both have subtleties in their nuance, however, fundamentally they end with the same outcome:

Influence/Change the behaviour of someone.

In a business context, where might you want to influence people to do something?

Your employees.

Recruiting.

Marketing.

Sales.

Your Shareholders/Investors.

Your future Investors/Shareholders.

Your suppliers/supply chain.

I would suggest to you, in every facet of business someone is influencing or being influenced to do something, behave a certain way, think a certain way. 

With the above in mind, how might we consider this in a business context and leveraging social/digital/collaboration platforms - they are all blurring into one. 

The starting point remains fundamentally the same.

This is done at a person to person level.

You need to have a "brand" - they are looked up to, they are respected, they are listened to, they are human.

You need to have a network/audience/community/group to talk to.

You need to have something to talk about.

With 4bn plus of us on social media networks and a smartphone, every single one of you has the opportunity to do this. 

Why is this relevant for businesses, small or large? 

You have an influencing machine within your own business that can act as the voice of the business for you.

As this piece in The Financial Times says - employee accounts can, and do, outperform the corporate marketing machine.

Why?

It's real. Believable and relatable to other people who identify with that person.

"Hey - they are just like me, if they are enjoying working at that business, it must be an ok place to work"

I am not referring to employees churning out the corporate message, I refer to employees giving their own views on things. Much like packman123 was doing at Amazon, it showed working in the warehouse as not as bad as maybe we read in the press. 

Try this.

Go to Instagram, you don't need an account, you can do this in a browser. In the search bar search in Instagram for the hashtag of your business eg #microsoft or #standardandpoors 

Do the same on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, you may well be surprised at the number of conversations/posts/pictures that are already out there, especially from your employees. 

If you are a leader reading this, don't freak out (most do when I show them this) - think about this. How can you harness this in a way to become more effective? Without losing the authenticity of course. 

Brands are looking more and more to user-generated content (UGC) - why?

It is more relatable to see a rough and ready photo/post from someone about the product/brand/service with a personal view than a glossy/polished marketing piece that paints a perfect picture (#filter).

I hear your inner monologue. How can you prove this works?

Fair question. 

First, you need to have a clear outcome of what you want to achieve. If you don't, nothing will work.

Let us refer to the earlier list :

Your employees.

Recruiting.

Marketing.

Sales.

Your Shareholders/Investors.

Your future Investors/Shareholders.

Your suppliers/supply chain.

If we were to consider recruitment. You want more direct hires to reduce your spending on external recruitment consultants. Outcome.

How?

Think about packman123, how can you tell a story of what it is like to work at your business? Behind the scenes, candidate testimonials of the recruitment process, client testimonials of working with your employees.

If you want to hire more engineers? Ask your engineering team to engage with this content, give them permission to have a voice. Not all will or feel confident in doing so - hence the need for coaching and mentoring. Leaders need to also lead from the front on this. 

You have to be able to answer the WIIFM - What's in it for me.

Attribution. Every direct application that comes in. Where did they apply from, what was the start of their journey, from which platform, coach the team responsible for recruiting to ask the question. 

Was it a job ad? Which one? Where did you see it? Was it a referral? Was it a post on social? Which one. 

Track the conversion of these hires, then calculate the savings. There is your proof point. 

This can be applied & tracked to almost every journey to your business. Yes of course this requires some technology investment to be able to do this, however, for the most part, that investment will be made back and some, over time from the savings you can make, pipeline/business closed you can generate, the investment you get, employees you retain and more. 

Of course, it can also support the overall brand, vision, and purpose of your business.

This can also be tracked overall for broad performance metrics through "Share of Voice" - ask your marketing or PR team, they may already do this, see how you might use this data for your desired outcomes.

Onalytica

is a business worth considering who is able to do this at scale.

Here is an example report they published at the end of 2020 focussed on Professional Services:

You can try this also with Google Trends and see who your brand is performing in search - will give a basic indication of awareness. For more in-depth analysis, check out Answer the Public.

I hope this has given you some ideas and food for thought. The over-arching term for this is Employee Advocacy. Not everyone will but into this, and nor should they. However, I guarantee you will have some Influencers within your business, with the right guidance, mentoring and leadership can become one of the most powerful marketing assets you have. 

What is so brilliantly simple is that all of this stems from the 3 same things:

Personal Brand

Network

Your story.

Understand your desired outcome, mechanically you are not asking employees to do anything different. The outcome drives the content/stories/conversations online they are sharing and engaging with.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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