Why companies should treat their employees like influencers

Why companies should treat their employees like influencers

Influencer.

There’s that word again...a word that, if you asked us 10 years ago what it meant to our businesses, we’d look at like you had glitter coming out your nose.

There’s no way around it -- working with influencers is a high priority in this digital age. Whether you’ve hired an official "Influencer Marketer/Influencer Partnership Manager/Influencer Babysitter", or added the duties to an existing role, chances are you have someone dedicated to maintain relationships with influencers in hopes of increasing revenue and sales.

But while all of the sales managers and marketing directors are out there looking for the next social-media-personality-for-hire, many companies are missing out on the “influencers” right under their noses. These are the people they’re already paying to support the brand’s message: their employees.

Employees are often overlooked as an additional way to promote a brand simply because they’re only seen as the “behind the scenes” folks. They’re paid to do a job: clock-in, do work, clock-out, repeat. Some are lucky if they happen upon free donuts in the breakroom or receive a holiday bonus. They’re staff, and companies leave it at that.

By not engaging employees, though, companies are missing out on a viable opportunity to further promote their brand. Employees should actually be your number one group of influencers since they’re the ones not only talking about your company the most, but are the most invested in the company since hey, you help pay their bills.

Work may be 9-5, but thinking about work is 24/7

When you go to a social event like a dinner party or happy hour (let’s be real, we really only go out if there’s food and booze!), what are the main topics of conversation you find yourself having? Family, recent travel, the new iPhone -- maybe Stranger Things or This is Us -- and definitely work. If you're meeting a new contact, they’ll without a doubt ask what you do for a living.

Chances are if work is going poorly for you, you’re going to rant about it for a while, turning off the guests from your company (and maybe you, ya negative nancy). But if work is going great, the topic changes to how awesome your company is. This in turn can influence the other guests at the gathering to choose your brand over a competitor’s because they see how proud you are of it.

Let’s take a more daily occurrence into consideration: You get home from work and what’s the first thing you ask your S.O.? If it’s not, “What’s for dinner”, it’s probably, “How was work today, dear?”.

How annoying is it when S.O. always responds with “Work sucked”? It makes you want to rip his/her hair out. It also makes you not want to use the brand your S.O. works for because they’ve personally hurt you via putting your S.O. down in the dumps (and leaving it for you to clean up).

The point is even when they’re not working, employees are still talking about work. This is free exposure - and in a world where time is money, money is time, no company wants to fork over the kind of budget that would be needed for all these additional hours employees are promoting (or demoting) their company’s brand.

Hashtag share the wealth 

Why sugarcoat it? Influencers get free sh-t.

Free merchandise, free meals, free travel -- sure, it’s in exchange for social media promotion, but still, they don’t take out their wallet for even a candy bar.

And while it’s financially understandable why not all 5,000 employees will receive an all-expense paid trip to Mars, companies can’t forget to share the free perks with their workers -- who probably also have social media platforms they love to use.

Free perks shouldn’t mean tacky items. Handing out pens with the company logo on it isn’t going to show your employees you appreciate them, and therefore, won’t make them want to use it, talk about it or post a cool photo (even with puppy and Valencia filters available). If you can’t provide all employees the same product your influencers receive because of budget constraints, then still try to stick to something that’s cool and “in”.

For example, if your influencer receives the 14k gold water bottle slash cell phone case slash digital watch that retails for $100, maybe give your employees the stylish stainless steel water bottle people rave about that only goes for $30.

That’s something they’ll be proud to use and want to post on their social media -- a cheap plastic bottle isn’t going to make the insta-cut (aka no additional promo).

If you’re going to go the clothing route, make sure it’s something that’s in-style. No one is excited to receive a plain t-shirt with a company’s logo and info on it -- you’re not giving those to your influencers, right? Then don’t give them to your employees. Instead, if you provide them an (insert style that’s cool now) jacket with a small company logo on it, they’re much more likely to wear it. The more people wearing the items, the more walking billboards and social posts stuntin’ you have, the more exposure you gain.

Location, location, location 

Companies use influencers because of their reach -- they have millions of followers watching their every move on social media, wanting to dress, eat, live like them.

For companies with a national reach, this is great! It gets them seen across the country/globe to millions of potential consumers at one time. Those consumers can purchase the product from anywhere and it’ll arrive on their doorstep in 5-7 business days.

But what about local or more niche companies? Maybe someone who don’t necessarily care if someone from California sees their product because it can only be shipped within the state of Massachusetts? Sure, your company can pick more localized/micro-influencers -- OR, your company can utilize your employees because chances are, since they arrive at work M-F, they live locally. They shop, dine, hang out locally and interact with other local people who they can influence to love (or hate) the company’s brand on and off of social media.

Employees are the ultimate local influencer!

In the end, it’s all about employee appreciation. While influencers are somewhat optional for building a successful business, employees are extremely necessary for making a business grow and last.

If you treat your employees the same way you treat your influencers, they’ll be happier, more productive, and you’ll find they’ll even be promoting the company and brand on their own time (without that high influencer pay-out).

Lindsay Salandra (@lindsaysalandra) has worked in entertainment public relations for six years in New York City. She loves to travel, eat, bargain hunt, and pet any puppy that will allow her to.

Photo via Pixabay

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