When you hire someone, you expect that they’ll always have your company’s best interests at heart. Unfortunately, there are many instances where employees either intentionally or unintentionally represent your business in a way that can cause harm.
The internet allows more people than ever to represent and talk about their employer. While online conversation can yield positive outcomes such as more traffic, better brand recognition, and exposure, if a company doesn’t know when an employee is talking negatively or representing them in a bad light, it can turn into a PR disaster.
To prevent this, it’s up to management and company owners to monitor employees’ education, online practices, and in-person interaction with colleagues and clients. This also needs to be a two-sided issue. Working together with your employees as an open form of dialogue will help prevent them from feeling like management doesn’t trust them. Marketing a company involves more than just the employees in the marketing department.
Hiring new employees is a significant investment, especially if they need additional training in order to represent the company well. With the online marketing industry changing rapidly, it can be easy to fall into a routine of strategies that were originally “best practices” but have now fallen out of favor and are frowned upon.
For instance, the search engine marketing industry has continuously shifted its views on exactly which techniques are considered “white hat” or “black hat”. Keyword stuffing and having a block of text in the same color as your website background used to be a great way to increase your search engine rankings. However, savvy SEO professionals and search engines alike are now condoning these types of practices due to their manipulative nature.
When an industry is constantly changing, re-education is a necessity. Regularly attending webinars, subscribing to top industry blogs, and attending conferences can help professionals stay informed about changes in their industry. Regular education results in better marketing, as better educated employees will be able to represent your company more competitively.
Besides their education, employees’ professional and personal social media accounts, websites, and blogs may also represent your company, especially if they mention your company by name publicly anywhere online. Because most people use at least one social networking site (with Facebook being the most common), it’s crucial that companies know what their employees are saying about their business.
Simply setting up an exact-match Google Alert (the business name in between quotation marks) is a good starting point. This will notify you of all mentions of your exact business name across the Web, once Google has indexed it. Also, if a company name is regularly misspelled, creating an alert for common misspellings can help find other mentions as well.
Companies should also monitor social media and message boards using services like SocialMention Sendible, and Boardreader (this can be part of a customer sentiment monitoring strategy as well.) Social media and online monitoring can help companies figure out how to improve job satisfaction and improve processes, based off what their employees are saying online when they think no one is listening. If employees are commenting about the same negative things (such as lack of communication or being overworked), it may be time to analyze what the problems are and how to resolve them.
Upon interviewing and hiring a new employee, the hiring manager should review the candidates’ social media profiles to see if they have a history of expressing negative sentiment about their employers. If they have previously talked badly about a former employer, it’s likely they’ll do it again. On the other hand, if a candidate regularly shares relevant industry content, but also mixes in appropriate personal messages (like vacation updates or birthday photos), then it’s fairly safe to assume that he or she knows how to represent themselves online professionally.
In addition, whether a person is on the clock or not, their real world activities can have a reflection on the company, thanks to the internet. For instance, recently, a photo was leaked of a Taco Bell employee licking some taco shells. It isn’t known whether this photo was taken while the employee was on the clock or not, but the photo went viral and made national news, negatively affecting Taco Bell’s image. This is an example of why companies should be aware of how their employees are representing themselves online.
While most of an employee’s public online activities can be monitored, what they may be saying or doing in person could also affect the company. If an unhappy employee spends his lunch breaks complaining to other co-workers about his job, that could affect everyone’s attitude. The same effect may also extend to his social circle. If “Steve” told three of his cousins how much he hates the company he works for, and then those three cousins each told another person not to work at or purchase items or services from Steve’s company (and they each told one person, and so on), the multiplying effect could be damaging to Steve’s company.
This is why it’s crucial for companies to make sure they’re listening to their employees. Many employees simply want to be heard, which makes them feel more respected. Studies have shown that company culture and employee engagement have a direct effect on work productivity and performance. While companies shouldn’t feel as if their employees are holding them hostage (e.g. give us free soda or else we will complain to everyone we know), it’s important for top-level executives to realize how crucial employee happiness and job satisfaction is to their bottom line.
Thanks to the internet, company marketing goes beyond a branding campaign or new product launch. From the way an employee implements their assigned tasks to what she is saying about her employer on Twitter or to her friends, employees can directly affect a company’s image. It’s a fine line between hovering over your employees to make sure they aren’t saying anything bad about you and trusting them enough to represent your company well.
Striving to have the best company culture that keeps employees engaged both in the office and within their industry is a strategy that will always pay off. Just think of it as the biggest marketing campaign you didn’t know you had.