Millennials will soon make up nearly half of the workforce, which means it is critical to develop a strategy now to attract, retain, and most importantly, ENGAGE these employees. Engagement can be measured in a few ways, let’s specifically focus on how to engage your millennial employees to become brand advocates for your company.
Social media expectations
Millennials, most commonly defined as the generation born between the early 1980’s to early 2000’s, have grown up with technology. While this experience will vary greatly from someone born in 1980 to someone born in 1999, I can give the perspective from the “average” millennial - born in 1988. As a kid, the most tech-advanced options available were Sega (I remember racing the clock to beat levels of Sonic because there was no Save functionality) and tamagotchis. It's not a wonder so many of our generation are avoiding having children - we couldn’t even keep those damn electronic animals alive for more than three hours.
However, in our teens and 20’s, technology has progressed at an insane pace - with social media emerging in the form of Myspace and then Facebook. I remember when Facebook first launched - my freshman year of college - and it was only for college students. It was basically a repository of every drunk shenanigan and awkward conversation that occurred. It was completely meant for personal use by college students to foster a community at your school - and (GASP), there was no such thing as Facebook ads, company pages, or messaging platforms. Social media was inherently personal and there was no worry that Grandma or your future employer would see into the depths of your personal life.
Millennials are scared of messing up?
I recently came across an article that stated that the number one reason millennials are hesitant to post content to their own personal social accounts that their company puts out is because they are scared they will do it wrong. At first, this was surprising to me. In fact, I doubted the validity of this statement so much that I put a feeler out on my social networks - hoping to invalidate this statement. I specifically asked other millennials what makes them hesitant to post their company’s content to their social accounts - and the answer was resoundingly - fear. Despite how intimately familiar we are with these platforms - and how comfortable we are with them in our personal lives - using them for work is a whole different ballgame.
As social media has matured, so has the audience. We’ve all seen the negative impact our personal social media accounts can have on our reputations and how quickly a brand can go under fire for an unsavory tweet or post. It’s been drilled into us and those behind us that we must keep it clean on social. We must be professional on LinkedIn. Facebook is only for personal content. Twitter is for old people (I disagree with this statement but that’s what the young kids are saying these days). There are so many rules when it comes to social media etiquette. It’s hard to know all the rules and understand the “right” way to post content - especially when it talks directly about the company you work for.
Activating millennials in your organization
So how can we fix this conundrum? We have at least 50% of our workforce who have an immense amount of social power at their fingertips. According to the Pew Research Center, all of the top social media networks are used heavily by millennials.
We can activate this group of potential brand advocates within our organizations in a few ways:
1. Train them
If the number one fear this generation has about sharing company content is that they are going to do or say something to violate brand guidelines, show them how to do it effectively! Host training sessions and provide guidance to employees on how to weave company content into their overall personal brand and the content they share on social.
Some employees have only ever used social accounts for personal efforts and haven’t considered building a following on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram for professional purposes. Teach them why it is important and the opportunities it can present for career development and networking. Help them learn how to blog for business and share their thoughts and expertise on key topics to build their personal brands. They need to understand what’s in it for them.
If you’re a small organization, pull together a weekly email or document of the top content to promote on social, preferably with visuals and associated hashtags, that your teammates can share on their networks. Encourage them to start following industry leaders for thought leadership.
If you’re a larger enterprise, consider investing in a platform or system that enables sharing of content across your organization. Platforms like Linkedin’s Elevate or Voicestorm. One successful example of this model comes from IBM. According to AdWeek, IBM utilized the Voicestorm platform to create 1,000 brand advocates to easily share promotions on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, while they could also privately pass information back and forth to help their marketing and sales. Late last year they launched a new marketing initiative called #NewWayToWork, which accrued 120 million digital impressions and drove 141,000 clicks to campaign content thanks largely to Vociestorm.
3. Encourage and reward efforts
Incentives are always a good way to increase participation and engagement. It can be as simple as recognition via a leaderboard for achieving the most shares, like, impressions, etc. It can be something with monetary value attached, like a quarterly drawing or gift cards. There are many ways to encourage millennials to participate, but once it starts producing value for them via their own digital eminence, those rewards will matter less as they see the value it can have long-term for them to be socially engaged in their professional communities.
3. Help them craft their personal brands and share content with that unique perspective
I can't stress enough the value of millennials building their personal brands early in their careers. By helping them understand what they want to be known for, it can help them decide when and what to post to their own accounts.
For example, I work in a large B2B tech company with many products, announcements, and press activities happening every week. Do I share it all on my social account? Absolutely not. Do I share everything that my business unit puts out? Absolutely not. Do I even share every piece of content I create for the business? Again, the answer is no. The reason being that the audience my company is trying to reach is not the same audience I am personally trying to reach. This may not be the case for everyone and it will vary based on what social network you are talking about.
My filter for sharing content that my company puts out on my social networks is three-fold: 1. Do I find this interesting? 2. Will MY audience/followers find this interesting? 3. Do I believe in it? If I can’t say yes to those three questions, or minimally 2 of the 3, it goes nowhere near my social accounts. Because, at the end of the day, what I put on my social accounts reflects on ME and that is what is most important.
By helping millennials in your organization understand what they want to be known for and the type of message they want to put out to help build their careers, it makes it easier for them to share company content because it reflects on them in a way that builds THEIR brand as well as yours. Find that synergy!
4. Put out quality, interesting content
Millennials are most likely of all generations to unfollow brands on social if the posts are annoying. Don't be annoying and don't ask them to be annoying. Share how lives or the world are changing because of what your company is doing. Share interesting case studies or fun facts. Highlight the company culture, behind-the-scenes videos, employee spotlights etc.
5. Don't expect your employees to be PR vehicles.
Some large companies will compile lists of who they consider to be their top "social influencers" and then ask them to share major press releases or news articles highlighting great things the company is doing. Be careful in how you proceed with this tactic. I was once asked to share a piece of content from my company on my social networks that I felt very strongly against. It addressed a controversial topic that impacted many of my coworkers in a negative way - but the blog spoke of it in a very simplistic, light-hearted way. I refused and it actually made me angry that I was being asked to be a vehicle for what was clearly a PR stunt. Don't ask your employees to share content that is purely intended to deflect negative attention. It will do more harm than good. It always goes back to my three guiding principles: Do I find it interesting? Will my followers find it interesting? Do I believe in it?
Brand advocates at your fingertips
Millennials are digital natives and have the potential to build personal brands online unlike any generation before them. If you want to be a piece of that story, help them learn how to be social influencers and provide them with the type of content their networks will eat up. Give them opportunities to blog for your organization and build their expertise so they can simultaneously grow their professional brand while advocating for yours.