There’s a misconception that an influencer has to be an executive, but they don’t always have to be. Leaders are the most time-poor. They also have the least understanding about social media, especially when compared to the true experts who are buried within a company.
Activating the wrong people as influencers results in an uphill struggle. Trying to convince people – especially leaders and executives – who are short on time or don’t see the value in it leads to meeting cancellations, procrastination, and unsuccessful campaigns because they’re just not interested in becoming influencers.
Activating employees as influencers only works if they’re mentally bought into the process. In a lot of cases, leaders are told to establish themselves as influencers because it’s expected of them. In reality, they’re not always the best people for the job.
Employee influencers aren’t always the most obvious people – they’re not leaders or executives. They’re a few levels down the organisation; they probably don’t have direct reports. Solution architects, consultants, whatever language you use or industry you’re in, the best influencers are the people with established knowledge and expertise. They already have credibility but they may not have it with digital audiences. Yet.
Some employees may be reluctant to become influencers because of the time commitment that’s involved. Or they may think it’s about building their popularity to form a celebrity status. This isn’t the case, though. It’s not about being an Instagram superstar or getting authenticated on Twitter; it’s about building credibility for them and the business. It’s about scaling audiences to help people they can’t see face-to-face.
So how do you spot the people who would make truly great employee influencers?
They have niche expertise
The employees to look out for are the ones that already know their stuff about a particular niche. The world is already full of digital transformation experts or cloud computing experts. What we need now is people who specialise in digital transformation in the supply chain, or family law experts within a certain region, or cloud experts in manufacturing. The more niche, the better.
Their niche shouldn’t be forced just to make them an influencer, though. It should be something they already have knowledge and enthusiasm around.
If they know about something but aren’t that interested in it, they’re less likely to want to talk about it – or be interesting to listen to when they do talk about it!
They’re active on Twitter
An employee having a Twitter account is a good indicator that they’ll be open to becoming an influencer, particularly if they do a lot of retweeting and replying. They may not have many followers, but that doesn’t matter – this isn’t a popularity contest.
They may even crosspost from Twitter to LinkedIn, or vice versa.
Engaging with other people’s posts is a key part of being an influencer. It’s also a part that a lot of people neglect. Someone who’s already doing it off their own back makes a good candidate because they won’t feel pressured to do something they’re uncomfortable doing.
They’re engaging on LinkedIn
An employee’s LinkedIn usage is another good indicator. Their profile may not be fully optimised and it may read like a CV, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the content of their activity box. Are they liking and commenting on other people’s posts? Are they engaged in LinkedIn groups?
The employee in question may share content once in a while. If they do, it’s likely to be branded. That’s OK. It shows that they’re self-motivated to try. Self-motivation is a key trait in an influencer.
They’re interested in becoming an influencer
Talk to the employee to see if they’re actually interested in becoming an employee influencer. There’s no point progressing any further if they don’t want to do it.
Make sure they understand what the benefits of doing it are for them. Remember: it isn’t about popularity or celebrity status. It’s about building credibility within the industry. This will both build the business’s brand as well as the employee’s portfolio. Credibility within the industry can lead to everything from magazine interviews to speaking opportunities to pay rises.
But the people who want to do it will make it happen without these incentives, even if that means doing it outside of their day job.
It should be clear to anyone who’s interested what time and commitment is required from them.
It’s also important to mention how the business will help them. Will blogs be ghost written for them? Will someone find them contacts to reach out to on social media?
And what will be expected of them? Listening for industry trends to turn into thought leadership content, hopping on to sales calls, that sort of thing. The more details they have, the more likely you’ll be to find a candidate who’s the right person for the role.
If someone holds an internal reputation in a particular niche, it’s a good sign. It shows that people within the industry (even if they’re company employees) trust their skills and judgment. This is even more the case if they’re seen as the go-to person on a particular topic.
By turning them into an employee influencer, all you’re doing is building that reputation externally and digitally. It’s building on something that already exists, not creating something out of nothing. This means there are fewer steps that need to be taken to turn them into an influencer, making it an easier and more cost-effective process.
There’s a misconception that influencers should be the higher-ups within the company, but this doesn’t have to be the case. 61% of people trust people just like them, which means they’re more likely to buy from someone further down the hierarchy than a CEO talking about their own product or service.
Instead of trying to get people who don’t use social media or who aren’t interested in building their credibility to become influencers, build up people who already have the right interests, skills, and mindset. Social media activity, enthusiasm about the product, and knowledge on a particular niche are all significant indicators that someone could become a great influencer.
Once they’re onboard, it’s a case of building their skills with an activation programme and encouraging them to lead the way when it comes to your product and industry.