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The Rise of the Social Employee: SXSW 2016 Session Recap

sxsw pederson photo 1Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting at SXSW on the topic of the Rise of the Social Employee: Rewards and Risks.  With my background in social media analytics and helping brands structure for social success, I was excited to share some of the learnings I have gathered over time watching brands struggle to find their social voices, at both a corporate and employee level.
Today, it seems that brands are even more focused on empowering their employees with social access, but many are confused about how to do this in a way that mitigates key risks.  This session, with 100+ participants, was a perfect venue to discuss ways brands can reap the rewards of their social employee base, and protect their reputations at the same time.
Here are my key recommendations for leveraging your social employees in a thoughtful way: 

Have guardrails and a disaster plan in place

You cannot control everything that is put into the social sphere.  That means that things can and will go wrong.  Show your employees how to leverage social channels appropriately through your social media policy (using specific scenarios and examples), evolve your policy to match technology and know your brand values and voice when responding to a disaster.  Remember that you can often show more about who you are as a company during times of crisis, rather than throughout the course of business as usual.  

Let your social employees’ voices be heard

Encourage your employees to speak up, to share their experiences and welcome others to the company through internal and external social channels.  When you encounter negative feedback, try to get to the root of the issues before just deleting the comment and moving on.  Listen to your employees’ ideas — your next best product might come from your newest employee!

Social championship starts at the top

Executives should lead by example when it comes to leveraging social.  Not only do employees think that C-suite participation in social media leads directly to better leadership, but they will also learn to follow the good example of the managers above them.  Show them how to listen to and serve prospects and encourage fellow employees through social channels.  
It was clear that while many audience members were excited about “the social employee”, many were still wondering whether it made sense for their own brand, from an ROI perspective.  
To capture the power of social, I shared this paraphrased analogy from Mark & Cheryl Burgess, authors of The Social Employee to inspire:

Think of your corporate social media presence like a baseball, and your social employees like a bag of marbles.  They may weigh the same and be roughly the same shape, but there is one big difference: surface area.  The marbles — your social employees — have roughly 300x the surface area compared to the baseball.  In social speak, this means that they have roughly 300x the first degree connections of your corporate social media assets.  Rolling out a new campaign?  What better way than to allow your social employees to share your brand messages with a touch of their own voice directly to their massive, and personal, networks.

sxsw pederson photo 2_mrrobot
After talking tech, look who I bump into–actor Rami Malek who plays a ‘techie’ on USA Network’s “Mr. Robot”.

While my time in Austin was short, it was both inspiring and eye-opening.  Not only did I get to speak with dozens of other conference-goers who were passionate about content marketing, social recruiting and expanding digital access to employees of all types, but I also got to see social bring together individuals from around the globe…in person.

Thank you to all who attended for helping to make this 2016 presentation a success!
Sarah Pedersen (@sarahcpedersen) is Director, Customer Success at Hearsay Social. 
To learn more, visit www.hearsaysocial.com.

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Sarah Pedersen

Sarah Pedersen leads Hearsay's product marketing organization. She works closely with product, customer success, sales and marketing leadership to effectively position Hearsay's products and services.

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