4 effective ways to grow a brand's social media reach

As we shift gears from social media 1.0 to social media 2.0, this next phase is becoming more interactive than ever before -- just like the AT&T commercial where "Faster is Better," "Bigger is Better" in marketing. Communication has moved from a ration of 1:1 to few too many, and with the power of social media, companies are enabling employees to share their voices and have true many to many conversations to communicate a company's message, brand, and thought leadership. While opportunities for maximizing social media are rapidly evolving, so are the challenges. The most common issues overheard from companies trying to messages out -- specifically through social channels -- are curating quality content and growing audiences.

For a majority of companies, social media efforts are assigned to a small team responsible for a single company voice. Basically this small mode of communication with the masses may maintain consistent messaging, but it can lack authenticity and a real human-to-human connection. Developing sticky content that drives people to share it with their own networks or take some other action continues to be an ongoing struggle -- one that's often lost as social marketers get caught up with trying to keep up with a set cadence for posting.

It's also becoming increasingly difficult to grow a company's reach given the information overload out there on social networks coupled with the limitations of having just a handful of individuals sharing content on behalf of an entire organization. It's even harder to motivate fans and followers without incentivizing them (over and over) in some way.

How can companies address these important issues to maximize social media efforts? Here's the next wave of many to many interactive social communications:

Leverage untapped networks

Most companies have a huge untapped network at hand -- the employees. Till now the idea of employee engagement through social media has been a behind the scenes means of keeping employees informed, connected, and communicating through internal social channels like Yammer and Chatter.

However, employees are typically proud of where they work and want to talk about what they do externally. That said, people are busy with their existing job responsibilities and it can be time-consuming to figure out relevant content to post. Plus many companies have not provided clear direction on how employees can engage in social media.

Enabling employees to share information about their company through the social networks -- they're already active in -- has the potential to amplify the brand on a significantly larger scale than what current efforts can accomplish alone. As described in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," you may see mavens emerge amongst employees that are extremely knowledgeable about the products and services they design and promote, and great with sharing insightful information, which in turn builds their own reputation as experts or thought leaders. The influence real people have with their own high quality networks is priceless, and these extended networks don't need the same incentives as other fans and followers -- given the established relationship with employees.

In fact, according to EveryoneSocial's data, 100 employees, on average, command a network of friends and followers of over 90,000 people, and they can generate 13,000 brand impressions and 6,100 clicks back to their site per month. That's powerful.

Get over the fear of losing control

This is a big one. The reality is that companies don't truly have control over every aspect of communications beyond the messages pushed out given the interactive nature of social media in today's digital world. Conversations are happening with and without companies. This is both a challenge and an opportunity that requires changing a mindset and empowering others with the right tools to speak about and on behalf of the company.

While some Fortune 1000 companies like Dell and Adobe are emerging as leaders mobilizing employee advocates as evangelists, fear of losing control of communication is still a key concern paralyzing some. In the big picture though, better equipping employees with simple tools, brand-consistent content, some accountability plus some freedom to share their own thoughts on things can not only create an even more high performance organization, it will also help companies compete as more and more organizations employ this strategic social media tactic.

Establish the rules for engagement

Granted it will be important to provide a policies and procedures framework to guide employees with how best to communicate about the brand and company values. It's key to leave some room for original ideas and authenticity so that messages can be infused with an individual's personality and perspective. With that, providing support and resources for how to manage conversations, or advice on when it's better to step back and disengage is essential to helping employees inspire productive dialogues across networks.

There's no doubt a bit of a culture shift that may also need to happen if employees have been previously discouraged to share information via social channels. When you take away the taboo and provide the tools and encouragement, you'll find that there are a lot of people that will want to talk. Even those that don't regularly engage in social media will have context for how to do it appropriately and effectively when they do.

Provide quality content

Now back to the hot topic of content. In general, creating relevant content for social media channels is challenging and there is still a lot of experimentation going on. Some product deals and promotions are okay, but if overdone, it often comes across as noise similar to how verbatim marketing messages are perceived and ignored by the very people a company is trying to engage.

Quality content are the blog posts, videos, news articles, and photos that we like to consume and want to share with our networks that will potentially share with their respective networks. A blog posts lifespan is around a year but for a Facebook post or tweet, it's maybe a couple hours or less before it gets buried. Though this is obviously a very short window of time, it still has potential to benefit the company if done well.

To sum it up, more is better. Great content drives trust, authority, and ultimately sales -- add an army of employees sharing this content with some direction and simple tools and listen to the social media volume turn up overnight. Ironically, letting go a little can actually increase a company's influence.

Eric Roach is co-founder and CEO at EveryoneSocial.

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