It’s well known that audiences respond better to content from their peers compared to content from brands. At your company, you likely have a plethora of subject matter experts with rich social followings interested in topics that your company is directly involved in.
If life was easy, you could ask your SMEs to share your content, they would, and in turn their audiences would engage with your brand—but it’s more complex than that (and for good reason).
In this #ContentChat community conversation, we engaged in a free-form discussion about engaging your internal SMEs to share content on social.
Q1: What is the current state of your company’s social sharing of your brand’s content?
For some, sharing of branded content appears to be on the decline. That said, it’s key for companies to also share content that isn’t branded but is still relevant for their audiences.
A1: Across my clients, I see a significant decline in the amount of social sharing of brand content. Even the most employee advocacy-focused companies seem to be struggling right now. I think it may be due to social media fatigue. #ContentChat https://t.co/1RrBpCw1e3— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
Can definitely see this, but I think the key is not sharing strictly your own content, something a LOT of brands and businesses tend to do. Sharing content that’s not branded that’s relevant to audiences is huge – it comes across as more genuine and not salesy. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
You think this is a world wide trend? #ContentChat— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) December 10, 2018
I am only working on social for U.S. clients. However, I have solopreneur friends outside of the U.S. who are definitely taking some social breaks so it very well may be. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
A1: I’d say our social sharing is fairly low right now – but that’s somewhat of our own doing. We don’t ask our employees to use their personal social accounts to share business-related things unless they want to. #ContentChat— Click Ctrl Marketing (@ClkContrl) December 10, 2018
For others, their brands and audiences are more eager to share content.
A1. Our organization (a publisher) does a good job (phew) of sharing content. Individuals are sometimes encouraged to but I don’t think they see strong returns, which can be disappointing. Broadcast posts are less compelling than posts to foster engagement. #contentchat— allison ryder (@allisonryder) December 10, 2018
A1: Fortunately many of our staff and our members are heavily engaged and invested in the nature of our content (hello, science!) so they will often share, particularly on Twitter and LinkedIn. For meetings and events we’ll also share recommendations for sharing. #ContentChat— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) December 10, 2018
A1: We like to have our team members share our social content with all their friends and followers – not to be the voice and not to engage our followers on socials but to share or retweet etc #ContentChat— Bernie Fussenegger 🐝✌️the7️⃣ (@B2the7) December 10, 2018
There are some things that companies can do to combat low posting or engagement, such as sharing a social media suggestion email.
A1 Every week we send an email update that includes social sharing suggestions. No consistency in what, where, or when people will share, tho. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
I have found that emails like this are consistently a solid way to make folks aware of the content the brand has available to share without being pushy. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
I’m also on a local board for a non-profit and going to suggest this idea for them to send something like this to all their employees and board of directors each week to help them get their social message out…thanks for the idea!!! #ContentChat— Bernie Fussenegger 🐝✌️the7️⃣ (@B2the7) December 10, 2018
If you try something like this (like Bernie is going to), create content suggestions that are flexible and easy for people to personalize.
Totally agree! Avoiding the click to share option means extra incentive to help our team make generic copy we provide their own when they’re sharing 📣 #contentchat— Right Source (@rightsource) December 10, 2018
Many non-marketing people on social media don’t understand the value of customizing social posts and adding relevant context. They just want to share something. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
You don’t have to solely rely on email to get the word out. Use tools like Slack to share social suggestions, or Buffer to facilitate the posting.
A1: We’re investing more into tools that help us consistently share branded content, like @buffer, and also having team members share content on relevant platforms like LinkedIn / Twitter as well. We’ve seen great results from it! #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
Employee advocacy solutions can also be your new best friend.
A1. We publish content weekly and send an email to the entire company with easy-to-share social links and suggested copy. Currently seeking out employee advocacy tools to help our efforts! We’ve demoed a few, but all ears if anyone has recommendations! #contentchat pic.twitter.com/sYvwbCudZ2— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
One partner company I worked with used @EveryoneSocial for employee amplification. Their comment: “It allows messages to be pre-programmed, makes it easier for employees and also keeps posts on message.”— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) December 10, 2018
I have no experience with it myself, however. #ContentChat
Even with the best tools, there are some other pitfalls you may run into. We’ll dive more into how to address these in the next couple of questions.
Agreed. Atho we struggle to:— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
a) encourage employees to find their own voice (suggested copy feels canned, esp if everyone is using it)
b) Get employees motivated and excited to actually share since they are so busy in their day-to-day
c) Track who is sharing what#contentchat
Q2: When a piece of content is published with an internal author’s byline on it, are they sharing it?
Although one would assume people would want to amplify their content, it doesn’t always happen (we dive into some reasons in Q3).
A2: Unless I directly send an email to the author, with their URL, and a request for them to share it on their social channels, it seems it doesn’t happen. Even when that content is created as part of a thought leadership program. #ContentChat https://t.co/gAoEwQX5wg— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
A2: We haven’t reached that point yet since our company recently grew from one full timer (*cough* the owner *cough*) to six, and we are still growing into blogging and article-writing. Our hope is that each author is proud of their work and shares it! #ContentChat— Click Ctrl Marketing (@ClkContrl) December 10, 2018
Authors that are more invested in their personal thought leadership are more likely to post the content, and their friends/colleagues are eager to reshare.
A2: They are and we’ve discussed internally the importance of not just building the Marcel brand, but the author’s personal brand as well. It helps build their credibility, their name, and reputation as an expert. It also humanizes / accesses the brand more as well. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
A2. So important 2 remind employees 2 build their thought leadership. I encourage them to write for our blog but also flex their writing muscles in general. I.e. I’ll offer to edit a Medium post for them. The benefits of employee thought leadership work both ways. #contentchat— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
A2: Definitely. We’ve also found that colleagues will share too when someone that they know personally has written the content, even if it’s out of their subject area because they want to support their friends’ work. The value of those personal relationships is huge! #contentchat— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) December 10, 2018
Amplify this human element the best you can—you can even try making team videos to connect a face to a blog.
We’ve started having our team do short #videos to accompany content that has their byline on it. Connecting a face to the blog post has increased both internal & external sharing! #contentchat pic.twitter.com/g2Qt6QWeQD— Right Source (@rightsource) December 10, 2018
Sometimes it takes a little incentive to get authors to take action.
We’ve also found that incentivizing helps. Not so much gamifying it but giving author’s a little extra for sharing content and shows them the mutual benefit for them and the brand. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
But if someone isn’t willing to share their content, they may not be the best for that (or any future) byline.
If sharing something with your own byline on it isn’t incentive enough, then give the byline to someone else who WILL share it. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
I am 100% with you on this, Martin. Because thought leadership strategies don’t work without the thought leader’s involvement. Content has to be distributed for it to have an impact. #ContentChat https://t.co/40Enveaqy0— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
Q3: When you talk to internal SMEs about the brand’s content, what are the reasons they give you for not sharing it?
Time is a common constraint, especially given the multitude of other business priorities.
A3: Usually it’s because they are just busy and forget, they are shy about sharing something they’ve written, they’re worried about bothering their followers, or they simply don’t know how / what to say when they post. Those are usually the top reasons. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
Q3: too busy to share or sometimes they like their accounts to be personal to them #contentchat— Research Geek 📊 (@Jake_pryszlak) December 10, 2018
But this could be an indicator that the individual doesn’t realize the value of social media in building both the personal and business brand.
A3a: As @martinlieberman noted SMEs often say they’re just not big self-promoters, or they don’t spend much time on social, or they are “too busy” which really means they don’t see the value to the biz + themselves in sharing the content. #ContentChat https://t.co/kqUK06eYbk— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
A3: I’ve been an internal SME and would typically share blog articles I wrote for my company on professional channels like LinkedIn & Twitter. That way, I continued building my personal brand since it was separate from other, more personal channels I use like FB & IG #contentchat— Holly Miller | Marketing Strategy Consultant (@millertime_baby) December 10, 2018
Some folks are eager to help, but hesitant to post because they need more resources to know how to do it well.
A3: The only resistance that I see is not a disinterest in sharing content, it’s that they don’t understand how to do so effectively. Actively teaching our staff to engage with our content and hashtags on social has been great in increasing activity. #contentchat— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) December 10, 2018
And others prefer to keep their social accounts for personal matters.
A3: I haven’t asked anyone in our office this yet, but the impression I get is it’s because they use their social for personal things only – no business. I’m hoping as we get into blogging and video, that more of our SMEs will share the content they helped build. #ContentChat— Click Ctrl Marketing (@ClkContrl) December 10, 2018
A3: Many times people want to keep their personal accounts separate from business activity. Most are good sharing links from other organizations but many time not our own business #ContentChat— Bernie Fussenegger 🐝✌️the7️⃣ (@B2the7) December 10, 2018
Related to answers we saw in Q1 and Q2, providing sample content or feedback on employee content can help them become more comfortable (and effective) with their posts.
We’ve gotten solid results by actually giving our staff and members tools for effectively sharing content and information. Sometimes we’ll offer drafted tweets or posts and encourage them to personalize them to their voice. The resources have helped! #contentchat— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) December 10, 2018
We’ve done the same as well with giving drafted tweets / templates. I also try to show what I’ve shared / said in my posts to give them a little fuel to get the creative juices going. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
Great ideas! We’ve also gone so far to create personalized graphics for those who are presenting at our events and ask them to share on social and add to their email signatures. Many do so because we’ve done the hard work for them. #contentchat— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) December 10, 2018
If you’re unsure of the reason your team isn’t sharing your content, ask them! Understanding the problem by using data is the first step in finding solutions.
A3. GREAT question… which I haven’t asked yet! I should definitely send an anonymous survey out to pinpoint specific issues while we are looking into employee advocacy solutions! #duh #contentchat pic.twitter.com/PKpOl84WdJ— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
Q4: What are some activation ideas you’ve tried that have gotten internal SMEs to share brand content?
Incentivization is one avenue, but it should be approached delicately.
A4 I hesitate to mention this, because I’m not a fan, but ex-employers have incentivized the sharing of brand content. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
Call it incentive. Call it recognition. Either way, people need *motivation* to take action. The first thing they taught us in teacher’s college (yes, I used to be one) is don’t motivate with ‘treats’. But you quickly learn it’s the only thing that works! 🤣#contentchat— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
Internal contests can be a fun way to gamify social sharing.
A4 When I was at @Achievers we shared our content assets on the employee engagement platform, and recognized employees who shared content. Having a leaderboard also tapped into the competitive spirit. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
A4: When have had internal contests that tracks how many likes, shares or retweets an internal SMS has received on the content they share from the brand #ContentChat— Bernie Fussenegger 🐝✌️the7️⃣ (@B2the7) December 10, 2018
But ensure you keep focus on your goals or elements that will lead to actual business results. Encouraging your employees to mass post your content with no value for their audiences is the wrong way to approach a contest.
Yes, but reward the results, not the shares themselves. Get people to put some thought into HOW they share. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
Also: If you reward people who share, they often just dump on social. But if people care how well shares perform, they might put in some effort. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
Again, make it as easy for them as possible. Share draft posts and graphics that they can customize for their audiences.
A4: Draft sample content/posts; give them templates for creating their own posts; give them graphics, images or videos that they can post.— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) December 10, 2018
A very successful tool for us was creating a handout that outlined best practices. When they are confident they will share! #ContentChat
A4: Pre-drafted tweets / posts, having the CEO share posts and tagging the author with a public nod, and also leveraging tools like @helpareporter (that can lead to great publication mentions) for our experts to “flex” their knowledge in a bit and share. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
I have found homemade brownies to be incredibly effective!— Right Source (@rightsource) December 10, 2018
But creating graphics for them that feature their headshots and a callout quote for them has also worked — again connecting faces to content! pic.twitter.com/Z96IUOk1r1
There may be some core culture elements that need changed to allow your team to truly thrive on social.
I think if a company truly wants to develop a workplace culture where social sharing of the company’s content is a key part of it, then they need to give employees time/ability to do so from work (i.e. don’t block the sites) and tie it into their goals. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
A4: It’s like the old “Office Space” discussion where the restaurant manager is concerned Jennifer Aniston’s character isn’t displaying enough flair on her uniform. She’s looking for specific direction and he wants her to embrace the culture. Interesting conflict. #contentchat pic.twitter.com/yaNOSv7hLY— Derek Pillie (@derekpillie) December 10, 2018
A4: I like this discussion because it really is where marketing, employee engagement and customer experience meets up… the culture at the company I think is going to dictate the answer (internal contest vs. organic desire to share) #contentchat— Derek Pillie (@derekpillie) December 10, 2018
And some content may be easier for team members to share.
A4: Our cultural and fun content gets shared by our team members. At least more-so than our informational content. For example, we had a Twitter poll asking for your favorite pie around Thanksgiving and it sparked some serious debate in our office and online! #ContentChat— Click Ctrl Marketing (@ClkContrl) December 10, 2018
I think many employees can intrinsically see that sharing company culture content is helpful in attracting new hires. It’s the content that drives business results that may not be a fit for their audience, or that they don’t see an immediate ROI on. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
Q5: What are some ideas you tried to encourage social sharing that didn’t work as well and need some tweaking?
While asking team members to post is necessary at times, you can’t assume they know exactly what you want. Social media guidelines can help with this.
A5: Simply asking “share this”. Sometimes employees need more process and guidance in how to share and when. If you don’t show enthusiasm in your employee’s, their content, and them sharing that content, then their own enthusiasm will wane as well. #ContentChat— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) December 10, 2018
A5: Not being clear with the guidelines or being clear on what to share…need to be consistent and very clear on the ask #ContentChat— Bernie Fussenegger 🐝✌️the7️⃣ (@B2the7) December 10, 2018
And even if you draft posts for individuals, they may not take it across the finish line and copy/paste and post.
A5: I’ve tried drafting social content for the SMEs to use as a starting point for sharing. But the people you need to do that for are still just not likely to take the effort of copy+pasting it and sending it out when they are on social. #ContentChat https://t.co/zBkPrORulm— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
Some workarounds to the above issue include “click-to-share” links, or simply taking matters into your own hands and posting on their accounts for them (after their approval).
A5. I find the click-to-share links are a tiny bit more effective. Any amount of friction you can remove (however) small helps! #contentchat— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
Take ownership of those accounts. Ask for the passwords and do it for them. (Which I hate, but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.) #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
Social media amplification emails may also falter if the ROI is less than desired.
A5. The ‘all staff’ emails. They are a ton of work for very little effect. Hoping an advocacy tool will help solve those problems! They look like they can also help with internal communication and info sharing which is a plus 🙂 #contentchat— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
You should never forget the company’s goals for social media and employee advocacy. This also means you should never make employee social media sharing of brand content mandatory.
Forget overall business goals (for a second, anyway). Why are YOU as an individual sharing something? That often affects how you share the content. #contentchat— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) December 10, 2018
This is also why I would never EVER try to make social sharing mandatory. Many of your staff members do not have an audience that is interested in your content. Flooding the social channels with content no one engages with doesn’t do you any favors. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
Sponsored posts are a valid option that could reach your target audience more effectively while you get your SMEs on board.
a5 There is the option to “promote” or “sponsored” posts – so you can pay to get eyeballs in front of it. Hopefully, they are your target audience that you are trying to reach. #contentchat— Debi Norton (@BRAVOMedia1) December 10, 2018
I love sponsored social content as a way to increase your reach. I wish more brands put some budget into pairing great audience targeting with promotional spend. I click on promoted content often but only when it’s interesting + relevant to me. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018
You can tackle social activity on a case-by-case basis, including a specific strategy for events.
A5: I’ve found encouraging social sharing during an event is tricky b/c you want an engaged audience but half are also on their phones. I try to use Twitter during the event & write sound bites of great tips, ideas I hear from speakers. That seems to get traction #contentchat— Holly Miller | Marketing Strategy Consultant (@millertime_baby) December 10, 2018
One time @kmullett had “tweetable” quotes from a presentation (back in the dark ages of the 140 character limit) loaded and had a “production assistant” share them from his account during his presentation (with the relevant event hashtags). It was pretty impressive! #ContentChat— Derek Pillie (@derekpillie) December 10, 2018
Other tricks included creating pre-composed quotes/lists/etc. with a “tweet/share this” links embedded in the presentations, each w/bitly links so I could track how many shared it from Slideshare or pdfs. 🙂 #contentchat— Kevin Mullett (@kmullett) December 10, 2018
Bonus Question: How do you keep your executives on the right track with social?
HERE’s an add-on question. For those at organizations, how do y’all ensure:— PathFactory (@pathfactory) December 10, 2018
a) your SLT’s social accounts are up to date; and,
b) your SLT are sharing company content as well as other content their audience would find useful
Any hot tips?#contentchat
An audit is the first step to understand where the executive may be lagging, and then you can identify an action plan.
Whenever I onboard a new client I do a social media audit of the brand accounts and the executive team. And then I put together a slide for each SLT member showing all their sites at a glance…with pointers on what can be improved. #ContentChat— Erika Heald | Content Strategy (@SFerika) December 10, 2018