How to be a genius in a low status job

‘How to be a genius in low status job’ was the cheeky title of a quick blog post I wrote in 2006 after working at Headshift (now part of the Dachis Group, who specialise in employee advocacy) and just before beginning work at a startup which I helped take to $15m value (well at least on paper:-). Here’s the post:

So you’re near the bottom of the corporate ladder; use this to your advantage in the following ways:

1. Find out what’s really going on.

2. Look up some clever ideas on what this really means.

3. Figure out how to incorporate these ideas with your own day to day activities.

4. Change the organisation from the inside out.

5. Write a blog about it, maybe.

6. Finally, stop dreaming, wake up and go to work!

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Update 13 Feb, 2013. This individual approach, systematically applied to improve innovation within the enterprise for example, is now titled ’employee advocacy’ and measured with tools such as ‘eNPS’. A brand new tool to help make this happen, by giving all employees access to common content to publish on their social networks is called Addvocate:

Imagine you could join the conversation your employees are having about your brand, figure out who they are, and validate them for it. Addvocate makes it easy to track the social voices of your business, foster a sense of community, and empower that community to be heard.

It’s currently in ‘paid beta’ – as of 22nd January – launched by the former head of social at Salesforce, Marcus Nelson, with the added benefit that you choose how much you want to pay pay per user. And “Addvocate will honor that price for the next 6 months”. A similar platform (“Klout for employees of a brand”) is offered by Dachis. Called ‘Employee Insight’, it’s features include:

  • Profile, which showcases each employee’s brand-related social activity, including posts, followers, sentiment, and echoed signals.
  • Message Center, which helps brands mobilize their teams by featuring news, sharing best practices, and sending invites.
  • Leaderboard, which identifies and ranks top employee accounts, tracking signals, audience, conversation, and strength.
  • Portal, which mobilizes employee social efforts with best practices, social policies, program updates, invitations, and leader boards to accelerate participation.

I was just reminded about these employee advocacy services this morning in a discussion on the community manager forum e-mint about whether the good old days of community management were over. My reply was to the effect that far from over, the role of the ‘CM’ is expanding as a result of their supporting role with such expanding employee advocacy programmes:

The benefits of employee advocacy cannot be underestimated: Ramping community management up to the levels required to effectively engage millions of customers who are trying to interact with a company socially just can’t work. Using automated engagement tools instead actually kills the point (and much of the benefit) of being socially connected with the marketplace. And, as invaluable as community managers are, they have their own point of view that can’t possibly represent the entirety of the company. No, to accomplish this, employees themselves must be externally engaged in a proactive and strategic manner that maximizes the benefits of becoming a social business.

Apart from the value of such a programme to a ‘social business’ strategy it appears to me worth considering ways to start such an initiative with something more tactical, for example how that employee social content can benefit SEO. For this go no further for a good outline of the value of employee content to raising your site visibility than a recent e-book from Boston-based Catalyst:

While your content should live on your website, it should
also be shared across your social networks. Your set-up needs to identify who will share your content. While at least one person should be responsible for it, don’t overlook the potential to leverage employees in your content sharing efforts. This group is often overlooked for this purpose, yet these individuals are ideal because they care about your industry, have a vested interest in helping your company succeed, and are easily contacted. Try to have these folks share your content with their audience to help you get the viral ball rolling.

However, you have to be careful with tapping into
employees for this purpose. Not all employees will be
willing to share work-related content with their personal
networks. That is why a clear social media sharing policy
must be in place before your campaign starts.

So there are a number of cautionary notes to consider before undertaking employee advocacy. For instance, compare my 2006 post with this 2013 employee advocacy update. The former about ‘How to be a genius in a low status job’ is ‘bottom up’ in style, and the second clearly ‘top down’. Ideally, to have both ‘belt and braces’ you have the two approaches working in partnership. Otherwise, there’s always the risk the approach will back fire, create resentment and diminished performance, and end up on the scrap heap of failed ‘management/internal comms initiatives’:

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So clearly before implementing such a potentially valuable initiative, even within a company with a very entrepreneurial-style culture like eBay, there are a few basic issues worth considering:

1. Is employee advocacy right for your company, are there ways to reach customers within more conventional means worth considering first so it’s an evolutionary process?

2. If you already have a well supported social media programme, and consider employee advocacy is the right next step have you got the necessary policies, and procedures in place?

For employee advocacy to stand the best chance of succeeding it’s my belief that a development approach which includes both senior management and employees would yield the the best results, and spot potential problems earlier rather than later. To what degree does your strategy have that approach built-in from the start? Be honest with yourself, are employees simply consulted about the advocacy initiative, or are they actually invited to participate in its design and build? After all, as Naz Madjm (pictured, below), of SoMazi points out in a recent e-consultancy post on advocacy through social media, “winning the confidence and social voices of your staff, while a complex and delicate undertaking, is one of paramount importance in our interconnected world”.

Disclaimer: I worked with Naz Madjm on an employee advocacy proposal for News Corps. in early 2013. 

Helping your community manager to make money through influencers

As I understand it what Dr Michael Wu saying in his most recent blog is that using social network analysis (SNA) to find the right influencers to influence target users’ purchasing decisions (bearing in mind the value of the targets’ first online activity around a product as the indicator when to start the persuasion process) relies on the finding the right type of influencer – which is not the one with the most friends as the connection, or with the most discussions around a product, but the one with the most recent discussions about the product: relationship + product discussion + timely = best chance of success.

The Right Content at the Right Time: Influence Analytics 3 by Dr Michael Wu

What this strongly reminds me of is my own blog post (‘Greg is one way to make money out of social media’) about how communities managers can potentially play a role as influencers if done properly:

What I want to say for the benefit of companies trying to see how to make money from using social media in the marketplace is to see your own community manager if you have one, and other partner’s community managers, as influencers in their own right.

I pretty sure I’m not breaking any ethical code by saying that, after all your community manager isn’t just going to start spamming the community with product messages – that wouldn’t work. Quiet the contrary, what I’m talking about is the subtle, patient task of persuading members of a community of the value of a particular offering – which requires both intelligence & integrity.

Now after reading the latest piece from Dr Wu, this suggests to me is two things. Firstly that your community manager using SNA tools for large communities, or their inside knowledge coupled with community anayltics for smaller ones, can ‘lead the charge’ to find these right influencers.

Secondly it suggests that they themselves take on this role indirectly by nurturing debates around certain products, nurturing influencers who command attention, and then helping them reach the right users at the right time.

This avoids them directly playing the role of influencer as such, but does give them the power of delivering this tool as a means of creating revenue which has long been the holy grail of community management.

Practically realizing that tool is a combination of the SNA/analytics, plus consultancy work with the community manager to help deliver this.