A major challenge for business owners and marketers is coming up with relevant content that customers either need or want to engage with.
Taking a collaborative approach to these challenges often produces outstanding results, and you’ve got your best “brand experts” at your fingertips. Employees have the knowledge your customers need, and their seasoned expertise fosters more trust than any ad you’ll ever run.
Employee-generated content is so powerful because there’s a personality layer in each piece. It helps your organization to provide varied, expert information that matters to your customers.
Consider your own experiences as a consumer. If you go to Lowe’s and ask the guy in the red vest how to work on a project, you listen and believe it more than if you just read something on the company website.
Developing an environment to engage employees in content creation is no easy task. There are certain components that must be present in your organization in order to set up a protocol for capturing your employees’ knowledge and expertise.
- Culture must be part of your marketing toolbox. A happy, healthy work environment cultivates happy, healthy employees. Happy employees deliver outstanding customer experiences.
- New media marketing buy-in must come from the top and permeate throughout the management levels.
- Communication channels must be open for exchanging information no matter who’s involved—from the CEO to part-timers.
When you’re ready to engage employees in content creation, you’ll need a strategy and a system to be successful. Here are seven steps to start you on your way:
1. Always start with real-life, amazing customer experiences.
Authentic customer stories and anecdotes should make up the cornerstone of your content strategy.
Build a culture that rewards and supports the kind of experience you want your customers to have.
2. Establish a WIIFM mindset.
Employees are not just sitting around waiting for you to give them more work to do. Ultimately, they’ll have to understand and embrace how providing content helps them, not you. That’s where WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) comes in:
- Have them Google themselves. More and more, customers are Googling salespeople and other employees. Do your employees know what’s out there? Do you? Presenting a positive persona is essential, and contributing content is a great way to look good.
- Provide incentives. The right mix of rewards gets employees eager to share their ideas. Some people like money, so give them a spiff for every piece of content published. Other people relish status, so a month of parking by the front door might be cool.
3. Encourage growth of employees’ personal brands.
Great brands start from within. Your company’s brand is only as strong as your people make it.
Each employee has a personal brand, whether they know it or not. If they’re not proactively managing it, then they’re allowing others to define it for them.
Don’t risk your reputation by ignoring this company asset. Instead of letting your employees’ brand be dictated by others, provide resources and guidance to help them build a strong personal brand.
4. Weave content participation into their job description and pay plan.
Incentives are one way to reward employees for content they create. Taking it a step further by incorporating content creation into their daily activities can not only boost your marketing success but also pave the way to more sales.
More positive exposure through content drives traffic and conversation for both the organization and the employee.
5. Recognize and reward authentic four- and five-star reviews.
Online reputation management is a component of content strategy and marketing. Reviews tell the stories of your customers’ experience. Salespeople often see even more sales because they’re mentioned in a positive review.
In sales meetings, acknowledge employees named in four- and five-star reviews. Recognize and reward those who’ve received positive mentions. Discover and discuss why someone was mentioned in a negative review. Then, reiterate the WIIFM component for those employees who aren’t participating yet.
6. Make submission easy.
It’s nice to imagine that the “Field of Dreams” mantra “If you build it, they will come” applies in your efforts to engage employees in content creation, but that’s a pipe dream. If you build it, you must make it easy for them to deliver it.
Not everyone is tech savvy so keeping it as simple as possible works best. Here are some cost-effective solutions that are working for our small-business clients:
- Dropbox. Simply create a folder in Dropbox for content and share it with each employee/content creator. They can submit pictures, video, audio and written docs. Cost: about $100/year for Dropbox Pro account.
- WordPress. Create individual user accounts for each employee and give them “Editor” status. They log into WordPress and add their content as a draft. Cost: nearly zero if you’re already using WordPress.
- Email submission. Create a specific email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) for submitting content, so there’s a hub for your marketing team to access great material.
- Weekly brainstorming. One of our clients has a team of very creative salespeople. They work in the same office together every day and come up with new ideas for content.
7. Track and analyze to show evidence and reinforce the value.
Once you begin to publish employees’ content, you should monitor and gauge your results. Set goals, and define the key metrics that represent success to you. Reaching your goals will reinforce value and provide evidence that you have real experts delivering the greatest customer experience.
When you engage employees in content creation, they have a vested interest in your success. They will be your most committed and enthusiastic ambassadors. Affording them the opportunity and support to be visible spokespeople on behalf of your brand drives employee engagement, inspires collaboration and improves customer experiences.