Enable Collaboration and Relationships
Executives seem to be listening. IBM’s worldwide survey of 1700 CEOs reveals that business leaders see customer centricity and employee engagement as integral aspects of the same transformative mission. According to the report’s authors, CEOs now see technology primarily as an “enabler of collaboration and relationships”. Furthermore, they see a need for internal collaboration tools that their workers can relate to.“To connect with the new generation of employees,” one CEO acknowledged, “we will need to change communication methods. We are the e-mail generation; they are the social network generation.”
If CEOs take to social media, they can not only close the trust gap with customers, but also engage employees. A large majority of employee respondents to BRANDfog’s 2012 CEO, Social Media & Leadership Survey believe that CEOs can use social media channels to build better connections with customers (89%) and employees (85%). Their visible leadership is critical to the success of social initiatives, whether customer-facing or internal.
Social media use for internal collaboration engages employees and makes them feel like true stakeholders in the brand that management would like them to promote. Therefore, any strategy for employee advocacy on external networks should take into account how the psychological conditions for advocacy are created on internal networks. Internal networks also directly support external employee messaging. For example, collaborative tools such as Yammer and Hootsuite Conversations amplify employees’ reach and impact on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
This dovetailing of internal and external social tools is accelerating the creation of the “extended enterprise”, a business with blurry organizational boundaries. Networking technologies not only bring employees closer to customers, but connect them to business contacts in the enterprise’s extended value chain, including suppliers, vendors and agencies. In this light, the distinction between business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing starts to recede, and employee advocacy looks a lot like internal branding. Organizational permeability presents challenges and opportunities that each enterprise has to weigh as it formulates a social strategy.