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Company Branding and Employee Social Networks

Company Branding and Employee Social Networks

By: Emily Bennington, Monster Contributing Writer

We all know social media has become a powerful megaphone. The average Facebook user, for example, has 130 friends while the average Twitter user is closing in at around 127. As a result, with little more than a few keystrokes, individuals have the capacity to reach hundreds — and in some cases thousands — of people in their networks.

If the Holy Grail of marketing is word-of-mouth, this begs the question: Why aren’t more businesses actively seeking to build a “brand army”?

Consider this: If 100 of your employees or recruits posted something positive about your company right now, their message could potentially reach 13,000 social media users. That is significant leverage! So how are most organizations responding to this opportunity?

By creating strict social media guidelines that limit the ability to discuss or represent them online.

“Many corporations are scared of letting their employees loose on social networks, preferring a ‘command and control’ management style,” says Dan Schawbel, Personal Branding Expert and Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC. “Businesses want to get their message out in a controlled manner but many fail to recognize that, because of social media, they have already lost control.”

Schawbel says this fear prevents many organizations from empowering their employees and recruits to talk about them online. Still, a few trail-blazing companies are taking a different approach, with positive results.

Recognizing that employees (and these days, just about everyone else, too) are actively using social media sites, these employers have implemented programs that make the company a partner in their online behavior.

Mobilizing with Online Engagement
Accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)  is one such company. Coming out of the recession — and a few lower-than-normal recruiting cycles — some students approached PwC recruiters looking for advice on how to stand out in the tough, crowded job market. In response, PwC launched Personal Brand Week, a five-day intensive on how to create and manage a positive image — with considerable focus on building a strong web presence.

Now in its second year, PwC’s US Recruiting Leader Holly Paul says Personal Brand Week has not only helped PwC locate talented new hires, it’s also significantly increased “online chatter” around the company as well.

This year, Personal Brand Week added a contest in which students could submit a short video making their best “elevator pitch.” The videos were uploaded to PwC’s Facebook page where users were encouraged to vote for a winner. For Twitter promotions, PwC used the hashtag #PwCBrandWeek, allowing followers to track and comment on the events in real time.

When the dust settled, Paul says PwC received more than 10,000 votes on 181 elevator pitch videos. In fact, since Personal Brand Week launched last year, the company’s Facebook fan base has grown more than 400% — triple the growth of their primary competitors — all by reaching out through social networks and giving users the means to spread the word and enhance PwC’s company brand.

Employees: Your Brand Advocates
An employer who understands the power of harnessing their internal network is global facilities company Sodexo. Arie Ball, Vice-President of Sourcing and Talent Acquisition, hired a photographer to take profile pictures of her staff for use on their social networks. She also had Soxedo’s design team insert the company logo into each one.

As a result, employees received a professional photo, while Sodexo garnered additional branding online. “We encourage our team not only to be brand ambassadors for our company, but to build their personal brand as well,” says Ball. “This helps create authentic relationships and ultimately strengthens the credibility of the company brand.”

Ball says the photo promotion has been successful in part because Sodexo works hard to maintain a company culture where employees are proud to align themselves with the organization. “It’s truly a win-win,” she says.

For businesses looking to create their own social media wins, Schawbel recommends a three-step process. First, draft general social media guidelines that provide basic ground rules for what can and cannot be discussed about the company.  (Note: It’s always best to consult your legal team when writing official guidelines.) For PwC’s elevator pitch contest, the firm posted entry rules on their Facebook page which outlined acceptable format and content.

Once these parameters are set, Schawbel says employees and others should be encouraged to talk to managers about their blogs and online profiles, and feel comfortable doing so. “Finally,” adds Schawbel, “it’s important to offer solid training on your corporate message so employees can actually promote your company and be consistent in their delivery.”

In other words, perhaps it’s time we all approached social networks from the standpoint of what our employees SHOULD do — versus what they shouldn’t.

Legal Disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.

Author Bio
Emily Bennington
is co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job (Ten Speed Press, 2010). She is a frequent speaker to students and organizations on the topic of career success and Founder of Professional Studio 365, which provides onboarding programs for new grads and their employers. Emily is also a regular contributor to the college section of The Huffington Post. She can be reached via email at emily @ professionalstudio365.com or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.