A key trend that has been emerging is the growth of Social Media influencers and how they are disrupting traditional ways of the way businesses look at marketing, the authenticity of an influencer as a trusted voice can give brands a significant edge in competitive markets. Many businesses don’t yet have the maturity or in house skills to manage influencers directly, so the influencer marketing agency space is a large growth area.
As with any trend outside the workplace, as businesses evolve and look towards new technologies and ways of working there is likely to become a much bigger role for influencers inside a workplace as social behaviours start to influence the way people work in the future.
Internal Comms has its roots in marketing, and as the world changes around us it is important we looks at the trends outside of the workplace to innovate and evolve the role of Internal Comms inside an organisation.
In a social world, anybody can become an influencer. And that present challenges to the traditional organisational hierarchy that most business are built upon. This is likely one of the core reasons that many businesses are still struggling with the role of social in the workplace.
But adapting to a changing world is something businesses need to do to evolve and be fit for the future, and there are some really great business outcomes that can be achieved by building an internal influencer network.
One of the core reasons social media influencers are becoming so important to the marketing mix is authenticity, they are a trusted, neutral voice. Influencers grow a following by engaging communities and offering an insight into topics like travel, fashion, music or sport. Or they offer something unique that appeal to a specific audience.
Inside an organisation, authenticity isn’t easy to come by. Although employee storytelling and employee generated content are big on the ambition list for Internal Comms teams – it is the top down broadcast narrative that leads most organisational storytelling.
To achieve real authenticity inside an organisation you need your employees to become your storytellers. The strategic narrative needs to be told in a way that is digestible and resonates with people in a way that connects them to what they see and feel every day.
This is where an influencer network can have huge value. Employees from different levels across the business sharing stories, insights and knowledge – building credibility and an authentic voice that resonates with employee populations.
Expertise and knowledge shouldn’t be hierarchical in a business, yet many leaders may find the role of influencers a threat to traditional power bases. For an influencer network to really flourish, organisations need to radically rethink cultures and start thinking with a start-up mindset.
There will be many organisations that have social media influencers on the payroll but completely miss the opportunity of engaging these employees to become advocates. One of the reasons that influencers are becoming a bigger part of the marketing mix is that people interact socially with individuals over brands. There will be some circumstances where individuals in an organisation have a higher social profile and following than the organisation they work for.
Two of the reasons organisations are so keen on employee advocacy are authenticity and reach. The viral nature of social media can amplify a brand in a way no traditional marketing channel is able to do.
The risks with advocacy are that you can easily lose control of the narrative. With traditional channels, you are in complete control of the message and how they are translated to your audiences. With advocacy, you are giving your employees that control.
By building an influencer network inside your organisation, you have a group of employees that can become authentic advocates outside your business as well. These advocates will be credible and engaged employees that understand your story – and can tell in it a way that engages social audiences.
A flat structure is one of the quickest and easiest routes to innovation in an organisation. It isn’t just leaders or managers that can come up with brilliant ideas. They exist at every level, and often it is the evolution of an idea that leads to businesses innovating. That is why it is mission critical to businesses to create a culture of conversation if they want to innovate – empower employees to share ideas, and discuss them with colleagues to lead to great business outcomes.
An influencer network can be a critical and rich source of ideas in an organisation. Influencers inside a business will often be a leading voice in a community of practice or subject matter expert, and have great knowledge about the subject they are talking about.
The greatest potential of social in business is the breaking down of hierarchical boundaries – it can empower any employee at any level to surface an idea or create a movement inside an organisation.
Social can enable the CEO of an organisation to read and engage with a blog or post by a Contact Centre Agent – unlocking dialogue and conversation that can lead to new ways to break down barriers to innovation.
Fit for the future
Just investing in tech and digital experiences for your employees isn’t going to unlock the kind of behaviours that will make your business fit for the future.
The role of social inside a business is still a hot topic, but the world is changing and businesses need to adapt to that change. At some point, social will become a critical part of an organisations DNA.
Organisations can learn a lot from the role of social media influencers and the role they play in an evolving marketing mix. The outcomes that brands are looking for by engaging influencers are the same outcomes organisations are looking for inside – authenticity, engagement and loyalty.
Building an influencer network inside your organisation can deliver the same outcomes as the trends we are seeing outside.