10 min read
Have you ever felt that your social media presence is inauthentic and untrue?
You’re not alone. Countless businesses around the world struggle to put forth a more honest and authentic face to their social presence.
This can often be attributed to a disconnect between the business’ lived values and its stated values. Put simply, when your people believe in different things than what your ‘About’ page says, conflicts arise.
The sum of your employees’ belief is your “social culture”. Whatever your people think, believe, and do eventually percolates into your culture.
Understanding this social culture is vital to crafting a better social media strategy. Once you understand the unspoken behaviors, social patterns, and norms of your business, you’ll have a much easier time creating a strategy that is authentic, honest, and approachable.
So how exactly do you zero-in on your business’ social culture? And what can you do to incorporate it into your marketing? I’ll share some answers below.

 

Uncover Your Authentic Values

While a founder or CEO might talk about a “fun-loving” culture loaded with foosball tables and free beer, it also evolves as employees live within it. The C-suite might have a vision, but the actual culture is set by the collective experience of employees at any levels.
The first step is to understand what your values are. We don’t mean the inflated jargon on your company page. Actual values. The pulse and the personality happening inside HQ walls – what Gartner calls the “How we work” aspect of culture.
gartner culture graph business social culture
The four attributes of business culture, according to Gartner (Image credit)
Doing this will allow you to:
  • Discuss what needs to change
  • Pinpoint action items
  • Benchmark progress
  • Develop a long-term, authentic social strategy
While there are certain metrics you can track to quantify your culture, much of it boils down to the subjective “lived” experience of your employees. Thus, to uncover your authentic values, you have to do something old fashioned: ask questions.

1. Interview employees at every level

To define culture, you need to uncover the tangible and intangible elements that make up your company culture. Interview senior leaders about their beliefs and values.
How do their responses fit with what is written in marketing materials and web copy? How do rank and file employees feel about the culture? What about entry-level employees?
Here are some questions you can ask:
  • What would you tell a friend about this company if they were to start working here?
  • What would you most like to change about this company?
  • What is the best part about working here?
  • What kinds of people fail here?
  • What kinds of people do really well?
This exercise often brings up some surprising results. Businesses often find that there is a big disconnect between the belief systems of senior leaders, junior employees, and the company.
But as they say, you can’t treat what you can’t diagnose.

2. Consider emotions and what goes unsaid

To truly understand your organization’s lived values, there needs to be a basic level of trust. Do people seem engaged and happy or do you get the sense that people are holding back?
As you talk with staff, look for areas that bring up emotions. People don’t get upset or express excitement if something doesn’t matter. Take note of which questions get a rise out of your interviewees.
This is a tough exercise; you need to essentially zoom-in on the non-verbal, “felt” part of working at your business. Be prepared to fill-in-the-blanks and draw conclusions from intuition.

3. Take stock of the environment

Walk around the office and look for visual signs of culture. If people feel comfortable and fulfilled, you’ll see people happily chatting each other up, sitting in common areas, and chatting on Slack. Happy employees like to make their desk feel like home, too. Are there knick-knacks and photos displayed?
A few places to look for “cultural clues:”
  • Where are your offices located?
  • Open plan or cubicles?
  • How much space do people have to work?
  • How is the office decorated?
  • Do people oftenly engage in small talk?
  • Or, is email the preferred mode of communication?
  • Do people keep items on their desks? What kinds?
  • How are common areas used?
  • How do people interact with one another?
office green chairs open space business social cultureOpen office spaces can foster collaboration, although some employees might find them distracting (Image Credit: MIDINation via Pixabay)
In the end, it’s that overlap between the what junior employees, middle management, and the C suite believe about the brand that represents the culture. If there’s a disconnect in your branding materials and the internal culture, something needs to change.

 

Ensure marketing alignment

According to Rare Consulting, 86% of customers believe brand loyalty comes from likability. And while likability is hard to measure, it boils down to showing some humanity.
This humanity is nothing but a manifestation of your social culture. If you can foster a connection between your marketing (i.e. how you present yourself) and your social culture (i.e. how you truly are inside), you will find that your business comes across as more authentic, trustworthy, and of course, likable.
How exactly can you do this? I’ll share some answers below.

1. Gain buy-in from C-Suite

Employee advocacy” is when a business’ employees promote its brand. Like when your friend from Google won’t stop talking about the amazing perks and the super smart people he works with.
As with most things, employee advocacy stands to be more successful if your leaders set the tone.
Bring the C-suite into the fold in your company communications. Get them to adopt the company’s cultural identity clearly. This helps to illustrate that a push toward social culture and employee advocacy isn’t just a chore for junior employees; it’s an organization-wide effort.
Just look at Google’s senior leadership as an example. If you look them up on Twitter, you’ll invariably find that they all refer to themselves as “Googlers” before anything else.
googlers google employees business social culture
This sends a clear signal to everyone within and outside the company: that they are proud to be a part of Google, and that you should be too.

2. Build employee advocacy into your strategy

Successful employee advocacy isn’t just about coining branded group names (your Googlers and Zapponians and IBMers). It’s about connecting it to your broader marketing efforts.
Look at Starbucks as an example. Obviously, the coffee empire has the budget for a whole army of social media strategists, but they also have an established employee advocacy program that encourages staff to share their own content, with some guidelines in mind.
starbucks image social media business social cultureStarbucks’ employees posting positive things about their job comes across as far more authentic than any HR-driven employer branding campaign.
If this makes you nervous, consider this: employee-generated content earns 561% more reach than messages shared by “the brand” and is reshared 25 times as often.
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Employees need to want to share the content—so again, this means that leadership works hard to create a positive, fulfilling internal environment.
  • Don’t overuse employee advocates— the reason employee posts are so powerful is, they come from a real person. Overly promotional content erodes trust in the same way as an influencer overdoing the #sponcon.
  • Make it easy—Give employees access to shareable content they can post in a click or two.
  • Revisit your social media policy— If your social media policy is all about telling employees what not to do, they won’t become willing brand ambassadors. Hold training about creating on-brand content but keep it simple and let staff express themselves.

 

Audit your social strategy

To truly zero-in on your social values, you need to understand where you currently stand versus where you should be.
According to a survey from Inventis Digital, only about 46% of professionals perform regular audits to ensure brand values are communicated consistently across social media channels. Worse, that same survey found that only 25% of respondents felt that they were able to manage digital channels effectively.
The result? There is often a big gap between what you believe and what you show.
To audit your social strategy, look at the following areas:

 

What kind of content do you share on each channel?

The first step toward running your social media audit is to run a complete review of every social media profile you use. You’ll want to take to the spreadsheets, as there’s a lot of data to consider.
As you comb through the channels, you can categorize which types of content you share as:
  • Blog posts
  • Educational content
  • Entertainment – i.e. memes and GIFs
  • Company culture content – i.e. behind the scenes images, employee posts, pictures that show what it’s like to work at your company
  • Videos
  • Promotional
Note the frequency of each content type as well. Add them to a spreadsheet, like this:
sheet with content types business social culture

 

How is each type of content performing?

Next, take stock of which types of content perform best and break it down by platform.
Which pieces of content receive the most engagement? Do educational posts lead to more conversions than product promotions?  
If no one is clicking on promotional content, it might be smart to focus on more videos or employee content. From there, use data to inform your content mix moving forward.

sheet with content types and results business social culture

 

Who creates the content?

Where content originates makes a difference when it comes to showcasing company values.  If you’re outsourcing content creation using a freelancer or an agency, it’s challenging for an outsider to convey the intangibles that make up your culture.
Internally, you’ll want to have a team on the case. This doesn’t mean all of your content must be done in-house.
Instead, it’s smart to identify your social media savvy staff and invite them to direct the social-first initiative.
Add this information to your social content audit spreadsheet as well.
sheet content types and results business social culture

 

Who approves the content?

How many people need to approve the content before it goes live? What’s your approval process?
A social-first approach requires speed and a dash of spontaneity. When many people get involved, editing and approval chains can slow things down if they’re not properly planned. We recommend building a workflow that’s ready for the high standards your company needs to live up to.

 

Bringing it all together

Creating a social-first culture isn’t easy. You must first understand your true values, then you have to ensure that your people have the freedom and the incentive to share them. Finally, you need to bridge the gap between where you currently are and where you should be vis-à-vis your social content.
This is a lot of work, but if you put in the effort, you’ll find that your social media strategy is authentic and honest. The rewards are plentiful – you’ll stand out in a landscape crowded by copycat brands. More importantly, you’ll be able to leverage what you already have inside – your culture.

 

Jeff Sullivan is a marketing manager at Workamajig where he helps creative firms manage their businesses better. When not geeking out over the latest in social and SEM, he can be found plucking his guitar and fiddling – hopelessly – with the piano

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