When B2B companies try to tackle social media, their immediate challenge is to build a following with little to no existing social media presence. While getting existing fans of the business (family, friends, etc.) on board to follow the company on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook is an obvious first step, the next (and far more important) choice is to encourage employees to start supporting the brand social presence. In B2B situations, employee relationships are often what make the sales happen, so why not use your already-enthusiastic employees to build a more socially engaged brand?
For corporate marketing teams, this means that you need a coordinated effort to encourage employees to use social media at work and to begin building a sense of personal social influence that will drive traffic to the company profile. In a nutshell, if you want a strong company brand on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, then make sure your employees are there too.
So, what can a Director of Marketing do to start helping employees build their personal brand and social influence? In this blog, I lay out 5 tips that we actually use at Weidert Group and any marketing team can use to help guide employees to support their employer brand on social media.
Step 1: Identify Your Goal for Social Influence
How exactly do you want your own personal brand to portray you? Your role should be unique to your industry interests or particular areas of expertise. Perhaps you’re a senior consultant at a large firm who specializes in CPG innovations and solutions, particularly within the personal and household products area.
Once you have a handle on what your social influencer role might look like, write it down in one or two quick sentences. Having a written, detailed description of the role behind your personal brand will help you commit to staying focused on those few areas and will help segment yourself from others in similar industry positions. Your social influencer statement may look something like this: “Jane Doe is a leading consultant in the CPG industry, having experienced many successes in the household product area, particularly with products that are targeted to the 18-35 demographic. She has an enhanced understanding of female consumer insights and what motivates and drives their wants and needs in household products.”
Step 2: Curate a List of Favorite Content Sources
Regularly visit great publications and blogs to read up on what’s new in your area of expertise. Share the pieces that you find most helpful or interesting with your followers on social media. Make sure the sources that you’re regularly reading and sharing content from are reputable, high quality resources. These sources will directly influence your personal brand’s credibility and whether or not your prospects see you as a true influencer.
If you have a hefty list of helpful sources, save yourself the time and hassle of having to manually scroll through each website and browse for relevant content pieces by signing up for a free account with a content curating site such as Spundge or ScoopIt, or with an app such as Flipboard. Simply enter in a few keywords that match your interests and you’ll get a message with related articles sent straight to your inbox every day – you can’t beat that!
Step 3: Choose the Social Networks That Fit Your Needs
...and how heavily involved you’ll be in each. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the growing list of social networks that are available to join on any given day, but be realistic when it comes to social media and how much time you’ll be able to afford each individual network. Don’t overcommit to too many; instead, find out where your best prospects are interacting online and focus on those places.
Set goals for each social media network that you’ll be active on. Let’s say Jane’s plan is to focus on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. Some reasonable starting goals for Jane may be to grow her connections on LinkedIn from 302 to 600, her followers on Twitter from 214 to 500 and her followers on Pinterest from 145 to 400.
Step 4: Connect with People on a Professional Basis
...who are similar to you and have already built their personal brand and following. Follow them, share their content and engage in conversations with them when possible; doing so will encourage them to do the same with you.
For example, Jane can use this approach to work toward her social media goals. A good approach might look something like this:
LinkedIn: Search and join relevant groups and get involved in group discussions at least twice a week. Grow connections by engaging with other group members who show promise of being high quality connections.
Twitter: Share 3-5 helpful blogs or articles per day, with personal commentary when possible. Find and follow other social influencers and engage directly with them.
Pinterest: Create industry- and area-specific boards and spend time pinning helpful blogs, articles and content pieces. Engage with other pinners to grow following.
Step 5: Commit to your Personal Brand
Growing your personal brand and becoming recognized as a social influencer or thought leader is a never-ending activity that requires your ongoing involvement. Don’t just work on your personal brand when it’s convenient for you; schedule it into your daily tasks.
If you don’t have time to share quality content on social media on the weekends or if you plan a vacation, for example, use a scheduling service such as HootSuite or HubSpot’s Social Inbox to schedule out your social messages for that timeframe. Once you establish your personal brand and build a following, your followers will come to expect to hear from you and look forward to your thoughts and commentaries on the content that you share with them.
As with most things, remember that quality is far more important than quantity. Focus on finding and sharing high quality, helpful content. Ideally, you should share a combination of both your own and third-party content. Don’t share things just for the sake of sharing things. While it’s okay every once in a while to simply tweet out a link to an article with a headline, a true social influencer will include a brief teaser of his or her opinion of the piece or why they’re sharing it. After all, it’s your personal brand, so your voice, opinions and expertise are important to convey!