Smart employees understand the power of social media in creating real business value and relationships with customers, the press, analysts, and all other stakeholders. But many employees haven't realized that they've also been marketing their personal brand at the same time they've been pushing their company's. By participating in social networks, employees have already cultivated a network that can help serve them today, six months from now, and throughout the rest of their lives.
Building personal brands and strong networks is critical right now. The economy has made the job market so cutthroat that there are 5.4 candidates for every open job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you aren't meeting and exceeding corporate expectations, you may turn into a job seeker before you know it. To stay competitive in this environment, the two most important words for employees are "value" and "visibility."
My advice is take advantage of the fact that branding has been transitioned solely from the grasp of companies and their "official" brand messengers. Regardless of your job title, social media allows you to assist your company like never before, while also garnering some career protection for yourself. Here are five new roles that you can play for your company. You should consider at least one.
Messenger: How is your company going to get its message out there without an extensive marketing budget? With social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you are able to take press releases and other corporate information and push it out to your own networks for free. As an employee, you can hold our own viral campaign by tapping your fellow employees for support, enabling them with a sharable message and link, and then empower them to promote. Just like you, they have their own personal brand, with a following of friends that can carry your message to an even larger audience.
Spokesperson: Every company has at least one "official" spokesperson, whether it's the CEO, the vice-president of marketing, or one or more subject matter experts. Social media has given rise to a world where anyone can become a spokesperson for their company, whether endorsed or not. There may be corporate policies in place that prevent you from being aggressive online, but as long as you are transparent and use common sense, your company should sanction your participation.
Typically, employee bloggers have to cite a disclaimer on their blog, stating that "The views expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or its clients." Even though you have a disclaimer, you still have to be a good corporate citizen!
Employees can speak positively about their company and track down various PR opportunities that may surface on social networks, where journalists are requesting sources and story ideas. Working with your PR agency or corporate PR team, you can help spread the word about products, services, and thought leadership ideas. In return, you will become a more valuable player and your personal brand will grow both inside and outside of your company.
Supporter: Tools like Twitter have been leveraged at many companies as support center vehicles for answering customer complaints and/or questions. Typically, one or more individuals are dedicated to this type of position as a New Age customer service representative. You don't have to be in customer service to aid your company. You're already using social media tools to communicate, so why not respond when you come across a customer or potential customer who is looking for answers? It's a great opportunity to foster a stronger relationship between you, them and your company.
Salesperson: Employees, especially at companies that have reduced salaries due to the poor economy, should strive to find another revenue stream. One way this can be achieved is to actually bring in new business to your company, even if your current role has nothing to do with business development. Employees should describe what they do for their companies on their social networks and blogs, and then reach out to their network of potential buyers. People purchase based on trust and relationships, and since your employees have established this rapport for years, it only makes sense that they can help you close deals.
Guardian:Brands, whether corporate, product or personal, are being mentioned online, whether you like it or not. Fortunately for companies, employees are already using these social networks for professional and personal motives. Employees can assist their companies by setting a comprehensive Google alert (google.com/alert) for their company's name, in addition to their own. They can also perform Twitter searches to view any and all commentary that is taking place about their company.
As a value-add, employees can share their findings with the "mother ship" or respond to questions and/or comments about the brand themselves. The more employees that become brand guardians, the safer the corporate brand will be.