|What about monetary incentives? Do you think these will taint or complement the positive effects of the rise in social currency?|
The Short Answer
That is my sole conviction. Just as the practice of paying bloggers in dollars to endorse products is a thorny and questionable issue, providing employees with monetary incentives to engage on the social web comes with considerable risks to reputations, both employer’s and employees’. The integrity of the corporate and personal brands will be questioned. Don’t forget, we are dealing with social media, everyone is ready to pounce on you at the whiff of a questionable practice or the slightest mistake (see Google search results on ‘I Hate Tiger Airways’).
Furthermore, to quote Daryl Tay:
‘Will paying get the same kind of emotions and authenticity? Will your paid post even be remembered a week from today?’
But I know you will still ask, why would employees openly and willingly talk about their employers on social media when they are not compensated for it?
Let us assume my argument here for ‘happy employees make the best brand ambassadors’ is true and that you buy my theory that employees are the best assets for ‘spreading the employer brand love’.
High Pay = Employee Ambassador = Result of Love & Belonging
Let’s look at it from another perspective, ‘Will high-paying employees be brand ambassadors for their employers on the social web?’ I sincerely doubt it. With the internet as a window to opportunities, employees are increasingly mobile. A high-paying employee paid to market or promote the employer’s brand are compensated to do so. But what about the rank-and-file? What will trigger employer brand endorsement? What can we cultivate internally within the employee network and ecosystem to encourage employee ambassadorship?
Love and Belonging
Now, you may ask, how can I justify that? Let’s go back into history and revisit the work of Abraham Maslow, in particular his theory on ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory’ (credit to @thangdynasty again for putting this into my view). Here is the most common representation of this motivation theory:
In short, Maslow theorised that we progress through different levels of self-need in seeking satisfaction and motivation. But only if a more pressing need is fulfilled first, for example, food and shelter before employment, family before friends.
So What Does Our Employment Address?
Our safety and security needs. All of us probably feel we are not being paid enough (who doesn’t?!) but ultimately our family and our own’s safety and security are ensured by the monthly salary we receive. The salary pays for our property and daily expenses and keep us on a social equilibrium. Can this sense of security be replicated in every workplace in the world? More likely than not. So what else do we seek for happiness?
Love and Belonging As Social Glue
If Maslow is right, we yearn for love and sense of belonging. Put aside family and friends you grew up with, we are more than likely to seek fulfilment in these needs through our colleagues: fellow employees we spend most our daylight hours with. Discounting colleagues you’re in dispute with and office politics aside, there is very likely a group of colleagues at work you would consider as ‘friends’ (if you don’t, then I’d suggest you re-look your relationships in the workplace.) All of us wants to belong to a group or be affiliated to like-minded individuals.
When we have determined these friends and established trust, what do we do next?
We literally get into each other’s Facebook and we establish Twitter communes. Vice versa.
Managers and leaders cannot pretend that this does not exist. Because it does and it is happening everywhere. Even in the most unsophisticated of workplaces.
Employees Are on Social Media and They Are Happy
Now that we have established the fact that employees use social media to interact with one another (sense of belonging) and with their family and friend (love and friendship), we can now firmly conclude that social media is not going anywhere because these online social channels fulfil and satisfy employees’ needs for belonging and affiliation. Belonging can actually means multiple choices of lunch partners to hang out with. So these positively equate to the following:
Employees Are Happy on Facebook Because They Belong
Employees Bring ‘Facebook-Happy’ to Work and Hang Out with Happy
Happy Employees Spread More Happy
So here’s the good news and conclusion: Employees are more than happy to hang out on social media with their colleagues. And employers don’t have to pay for it because their self-needs for belonging will take care of that.
Now The Bigger Picture
The not-so-good news:
Employees are not talking enough about their employers’ brand (or products) because they are told not to mix work with personal.
Employers are not seeing the big picture on employees engaging on social media and the opportunities that it represent.
|Another big missing link I see in organizations – strategy to harness the informal networks. Most likely your people are already in various social networks and connected informally with your clients and prospects. Why not tap on that opportunity and provide them the relevant context, engagement opportunities and (if possible) relevant content to ignite a conversation!|
And Belinda’s response highlights the exact sentiments I would expect from many business leaders today:
|Indeed! Power of the community comes first from within. Like it or not, employees are ambassadors of your brand and they can make or break it with the things they say and do online. However, that calls for a very top-level intervention and most companies aren’t ready to dive into something like that, which potentially changes the business and internal communications framework.|
The Business Leaders Challenge
If you agree with Anol’s and my own argument that ‘happy employees can be the best brand ambassadors’, then the immediate challenge for business leaders is to identify the value of social media internally and how it can contribute to their organisation’s growth and visibility. We have all heard about the huge buzz that is ‘social media: the weapon of unhappy customers’ but what about ‘social media: the ‘creating happy employees’ tool’?
cultivate social engagements from within the workplace by providing access to social platforms
extending trust and empowering employees to engage in conversations that involve the employers’ brand
use employees’ social media engagement as a tool for promoting the corporate brand
use social media as an internal culture- and team-building tool
What are you thoughts? If you are a manager or a business owner, then I would love to hear your opinion on this issue. Do you feel there’s value in social media for your employees and your brand? Or social media is more risk than necessary for your business?
*Image credits for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: The Skool of Life