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May 21, 2013

Employees and social media: 4 types of content count

Every company dreams of having a small legion of employee-ambassadors. After all, employees can and do have a huge effect. The company’s reputation gets a positive push. It suddenly becomes easier to find employees. Customers themselves share their feedback about the company more readily. Having active ambassadors amongst your employees is a big advantage in these digital times.

Each company dreams of this, but just about every company is afraid of it as well. The doom scenarios are never far away in this type of discussion.

A great deal is required in order to successfully activate an employee: you have to train people, set clear objectives and a lot more. In this article, I would like to address one aspect of this discussion, namely the different types of content.

employee activation 4 content flows 

Make agreements about four types of content

There are four types of content that are important when preparing a strategy to develop active employee-ambassadors.

  • Corporate communication: these are all the official communications of a company, e.g. financial results, acquisitions, hirings, dismissals, crisis communication… All of this official communication is obviously the responsibility of the corporate communication department or the management. Employees can naturally share the official communication, but they don´t initiate it.
  • Customer service: many questions and complaints of customers appear on Twitter and Facebook. Obviously, these questions must be dealt with as quickly and as well as possible. However, it is not the intention to have employees open up a personal helpdesk. Once they start doing this, they create expectations that they might not be able to fulfill. Hence the good decision to have questions and comments handled by the customer service or the webcare team. Employees can play a role by, for example, taking over a weekend or evening shift of a digital customer service team. But even then it is best for this to happen with clear agreements within the company, not spontaneously.
  • Commercial content: this content is created by the social media team or by the marketing/communication people. The content is made to be shared by consumers. Naturally, it’s fantastic when such content is also shared by the employees themselves. After all, how can you expect customers to be enthusiastic if your own employees aren´t? The interesting thing is to find a system where you can easily get the content out to the employees and they can also easily share the content externally.
  • Informal content: informal content includes all the little things that describe day-to-day life within a company, e.g. a funny event in a meeting, a new Christmas tree or some other striking small event. This content is created by the employees themselves, who then immediately share the content on their own social media channels.


Developing informal content

Of these four types of content, the informal is perhaps the least clear, since this is a new form of content that was inconceivable earlier. It is important that the informal content makes the company values tangible. If you want to emphasize the familial aspect as a part of your culture, it is useful to display images of fun moments where people are experiencing something together. If you want to highlight the innovative character of your company, you look for images from the R&D unit or people who are brainstorming together about a new concept.

Informal content mustn´t have too many restraints imposed on it. Just a single rule and a single objective: the informal content has to make the company values concrete.

Informal content is a useful communication technique for giving your company a human face. Moreover, it lets you make what you stand for very concrete. There is probably no better way to put your culture in sharp focus than via your employees.

Do you see any other content agreements that are necessary in order to make a high-impact program? I’m always eager to hear new insights and ideas, so thank you in advance for the responses.


Marc Jadoul
Marc Jadoul 

Steven. There may be a 5th category worth considering. It’s about sharing, republishing (re-tweeting, re-blogging, ...)and commenting on company (the categories you mention in your post)and non-company content (partner content or any other 3rd party stuff that may be relevant for your customers and your business). As a complement to the informal content category it’s a means to show that your company and your employees are following up and engaging on society and industry trends.

Pieter Collier
Pieter Collier 

This is of course the content that is what one ‘traditionally’ expects to come from a company, but just as traditional marketing it is very much “one direction” information. Other content that should be added is much more engaging… there is always information that is of interest in the field of interest of the company that can be discussed and shared. It brings ‘intelligence’ of the market and what lives in the field into the company. Shewing it, digesting it and sharing it can be an extra added value and puts your company in the field as an engaging team and on top of the market. Next to that user feedback should be not only reacted to (crisis management) but also reacted upon. Social Media is much more then one direction marketing but is all about engagement!

Aniana Taelman
Aniana Taelman 

My view is that besides the necessary content shared by the communication team itself, focus should shift much more towards content generated by the employees themselves. Whether you have a company size of 500 of 10.000 employees, inspire a certain group of employees to become a role model and show the others how useful it can be to share their own insights, their own experiences, their own know-how, their team’s results, their new clients or info on people joining their teams. Moreover, also personal experiences, fun things happenning in the workplace or feedback after an event they attended, may all be useful to share with their colleages.
Employees are more inclined to “engage” on news coming from their colleagues rather than on official posts from the communication team. This interactivity (sharing, liking, responding, ...) between people leads to “engagement” within the company and “feeling of belonging”, cause even if your colleague works in another office or country, it feels like you’re in direct and personal contact with them through the interactivity made possible by the right social media tools internally.
Once employees get the grip of interacting with each other internally amongst themselves, they will take the step outside the company and have no fear to engage with their clients. And that’s the final goal: preparing your workforce to engage with clients in this digital world.
But it all starts “inside” the company and therefore focus on “content” generated by the employees and possibility to “interact” will be key in the field of communication.

steven van belleghem
steven van belleghem 

Thanks for the great comments. Good points!
I fully agree that next to the ‘What’, the ‘How’ is crucial for success. Content without engagement is not the goal.
And I also fully agree that employees should create content on their own. Employees should be able to create their own content that fit in ‘informal content’ and ‘commercial content’. It does make it more authentic when employees are involved.
Thanks again for the great discussion.

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