Future of Work

Can social media be used to communicate your brand through employee voices?

Social media can impact how potential employees view your company.

Social media can impact how potential employees view your company. Image: UNSPLASH/Collins Lesulie

Lorena Blasco-Arcas
Associate Professor of Marketing, ESCP Business School, Madrid Campus
Almudena Cañibano
Associate Professor in Human Resource Management, ESCP Business School, Madrid Campus
Hsin-Hsuan (Meg) Lee
Associate Professor of Marketing, ESCP Business School, London Campus
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Future of Work

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  • As corporations struggle to attract talent, the role of social media in brand communication has become increasingly influential.
  • At the same time, organisations are losing sway over their brand because many brand-related messages on social media come from its employees.
  • Here are four potential benefits and challenges to consider to help your employees become powerful allies and brand advocates on social media.

In a very competitive job market where corporations struggle to attract talent, employer branding and brand communication have become key aspects to consider for corporations. We give employers a few tips to turn employees into powerful allies and brand advocates.

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Social media: contributing to the employer brand communication

Employer branding entails utilising marketing techniques to develop and disseminate a distinctive employee value proposition, which can attract and retain workers. Originally, this was a unidirectional process, in which organisations built and communicated their brand in ways that were almost entirely under their control. However, with the success and exponential growth of social media, things have turned around.

Increasingly, organisations are losing sway over their brand because many brand-related messages do not arise from the company but from its employees. People share their work experiences in their own social media profiles or in specialised review platforms such as Glassdoor, making their messages difficult for employers to manage. Yet, this information, which is readily available for job seekers, can affect their intentions to apply for jobs and join organisations. Indeed, more than 50% of job seekers look for company information in social media, and consider the employees’ voices more credible than the CEOs’ when it comes to talking about work-related aspects in that company.

As a result, employers are increasingly encouraging employees to contribute to the employer brand communication in order to reach new audiences and potentially interesting professional profiles beyond the company’s network.

How to build an employer brand through employee communication

Our own research in this interesting area pinpoints some of the potential benefits and issues to consider when leveraging employees’ social media communication to build an employer brand:

1. Identify those employees active in professional social media and monitor the content they publish

Needless to say, not all employees are regularly active on social media and not all the content they post might be relevant or benefit the employer brand dissemination. Companies need to identify and incentivise those whose content better aligns with the employer brand’s strategic focus and values.

2. Understand what motivates your employees to post work-related content on social media

Identifying why employees share company-related content is key, and goes beyond the reputational strength of the employer brand. Generally, we can identify two key motivations for employees to post on social media: motivations related to the employee’s organisational identification, and motivations related to the employee’s professional brand building. Understanding employees’ motivations will help the company to develop a better incentive system when creating an employee ambassadorship programme.

3. Consider that employees manage multiple identities on social media

Involving employees in employer branding can be challenging because they have multiple identities beyond being an employee. The increasing demand for employee implication in the construction of employer brands has coincided with the development of professional self-branding, and the effect of distinct employee self-branding communication toward the employer brand is still not clear.

In one of our studies, we extracted over 34,000 social media posts and, using text-mining techniques, we explored the use of self-referencing terms such as personal pronouns to see how employees express themselves when posting work-related content. Our findings showed that impersonal forms of communication – like merely sharing the employer’s brand posts on social media – predominate, but more personal forms of communication, using the pronouns “I” and “we” for example, seem to be more effective to leverage not only the employee’s professional profile but also the employer brand.

4. Closely monitor potential negative or harmful social media content

While employees might be interested in posting positive work-related content about their company in their social media sites, the emergence of company reviews and rating websites in which content is posted anonymously has increased the presence of negative content in these media. Careful monitoring and a clear policy on how to respond to those reviews help to diminish the potential negative impact on the employer brand.

Powerful allies and brand advocates

To sum up, in the current competitive job market social media communication is becoming a pervasive and unavoidable media to disseminate the employer brand, even more so to attract young talent. Employees in these media are powerful allies and brand advocates, but leveraging their social media posts for the benefit of the employer brand needs to be carefully managed to be successful.

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