Small businesses and startups are known for a culture of innovation and a willingness to take risks in order to stand out. Just take a gander at Scratch Wireless, the latest headliner in SearchCIO’s Startup Spotlight video series, which is striving to disrupt the mobile market. Its “Wi-Fi first” approach allows customers to use certain mobile devices anywhere Wi-Fi is available. If it catches on, such an approach could change the monthly fee structures telecoms charge for data usage.
But along with this prized culture predicated on risk comes many challenges, including that many innovative startups vie for the same customers’ attention. In this crowded field, some SMBs are still struggling to develop their brand. And there’s one factor that exacerbates this problem, posits technology services provider EveryoneSocial.
The provider’s infographic, titled The Building Blocks of an Employee Advocacy Engine, argues that today’s most innovative businesses are plagued not just by “cutthroat competition,” but also by the large proportion of employees who lack engagement at work. Sixty-three percent of the 9,000 employees EveryoneSocial surveyed fell into this category; given that these same employees should be building the company’s brand, small business leaders looking to stand out must encourage them to become not only brand ambassadors, but also thought leaders, the infographic suggests.
Chris Lambrou, director of special projects for Midwest Real Estate Data LLC and a finalist in SearchCIO’s IT Leadership Awards, can speak to the importance of empowerment firsthand: He said his biggest career influence was the way his former employer, a Fortune 500 company, did business — by encouraging employees that their ideas were valuable. “Ultimately, it’s about understanding your self-worth that in turn makes you a better employee,” he said.
So where to start? With human-to-human connections, the infographic suggests. As Lambrou explained, “Group collaboration is what makes great companies so special — their ability to perform integrated, multifaceted tasks.”
The infographic stresses social networking tools for fostering team collaboration, urging businesses to provide employees with the resources to build their own follower base, something many employees already excel at in their personal social spheres. (And, perhaps, SMBs’ Agile nature could work in their favor around employee engagement and social media adoption, a characteristic tweet jammers during a social-themed #CIOChat said large businesses sorely lack.)
The infographic urges small business leaders to start with a structured employee-advocacy program, suggesting the following tips to get started:
- Clearly articulate a social media strategy that’s aligned with business priorities
- Draw up and pass around a “company-wise” social media policy
- Nominate and train individuals to pilot your social program
- Hold frequent training sessions
These recommendations aren’t unfounded. When given a choice between using traditional email and a social collaboration platform, those who chose the latter shared 38 times more content over six-month period than traditional email users, the survey found.
Employee engagement isn’t the only perk social platforms offer. “One of the things that big data and social networking allow all organizations to do is to identify opportunity,” Gartner analyst Raymond Laracuenta told SearchCIO. He advises SMBs to create “purpose-built social networks” and to use social to develop new products and services for target markets. “Really mining information from social networks … to collect data for other customers and for their prospects is probably one of the greatest opportunities for them,” he said.
So you think you can be an innovative disruptor that sticks out from the rest? It’s time to take a crucial step: Use social networking to engage your team and develop your brand — and then let your employees spread the word.