While social media practitioners increasingly encompass a wide range of disciplines and titles — from community managers to paid social experts, analytics leads and more — your organization’s focus will depend on the needs of your audiences.
As strategic communications skills also become increasingly crucial to successful social media strategies, your employees should be one of those audiences on your radar, too. Activating your employees to become your brand ambassadors and influencers by weaving them into your social strategy can assist with employer branding initiatives, educational and reputational support, and much more.
Ragan and PR Daily caught up with Amanda Ponzar, chief communications and strategy officer at CHC: Creating Healthier Communities to ask her a few questions about how she approaches activating employees as influencers. Ponzar will be a speaker at Ragan and PR Daily’s upcoming Social Media Conference, which takes place in person Sept. 21-23 at Disney World in Orlando.
Ponzar’s responses have been lightly edited.
Ragan: Why did you get into communication in the first place? What drove you to it?
Amanda Ponzar: I’ve been writing stories and poetry since I was a little kid, even before I could spell, and I’ve always been into fine art, drama, singing, public speaking, etc. I never “got into” communications, it got into me, or was born into me. I wrote for high school and college papers and was an English major in college and assumed I’d go into teaching or journalism, but colleagues at one of my first jobs redirected me into advertising copywriting. I’ve been working in communications and marketing ever since, for more than 20 years.
What do you think is the most important part of a social media communicator’s role in an organization?
Social media is the fast and furious (and frequent) public face of an organization. Social media communicators must flex and move faster, swiftly adapting to news — global pandemics, tragedies, social justice, politics and more along with stakeholder posts — versus creating content calendars and sticking with them a year in advance. Compare that to a website that often gets a major overhaul every few years at best.
Social media shines when it’s “social” and personable, engaging with empathy and authenticity in a timely manner, whereas a website can be more corporate and static.
What tips or advice can you share so that organizations can make the most of their social media communications?
Posting regularly is important, along with understanding what channels work best based on the needs of your stakeholders. We’re B2B and relationship-driven so LinkedIn is pivotal for us, whereas TikTok or Instagram might be more important for a brand that engages with consumers or different generations. It may sound trendy and sexy to be on every platform out there, but unless you have a massive team and money to burn, narrowing your target is best.
Engaging your employees as influencers helps expand your reach on social media. And it always comes down to testing and measuring content and doing more of what works, as every company is different. Just because a celebrity does something and it works for them doesn’t mean it will work for your brand.
What do you see as the next thing for social media communications? What should organizations be doing now to stay ahead of the trends?
Visuals and video continue to be big, and authenticity reigns supreme. It’s important to follow the top brands and individual accounts to see what’s working and test it for your own organization. I don’t try to get ahead of trends; rather, I follow those who are doing great work to watch and learn.
At this year’s Ragan and PR Daily’s Social Media Conference, you’re conducting a session the rise of employee influencers. Can you give our readers a preview of what they can expect to learn?
Social media platforms have given individuals influence and the ability to reach your customers, prospects, and other stakeholders. This goes way beyond traditional word-of-mouth marketing, just telling friends and neighbors in your network. Employees can be your most passionate, knowledgeable, authentic ambassadors.
We’ll talk about harnessing employees to raise their voice in support of your organization and teaching them how to be more visible on social media. It’s truly a win-win, creating strong personal brands and executive presence for your employees while raising awareness and credibility for your organization.