If you follow #ContentMarketing on Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen post after post about why employees won’t share your content and how to get them to do it. And, while there are any number of reasons your employees aren’t helping you out with social sharing, most of those posts leave out the real reason. I don’t know if it’s because people don’t see it or just don’t want to acknowledge it. Either way, it’s the proverbial elephant in the room.
First, though, let’s take a look at some of the commonly stated reasons…because, while they’re not the main issue, they are valid:
They don’t know whether they’re allowed to.
This is especially true of people like me, who grew up in an era of corporate secrecy that would have made the NSA proud. If you weren’t officially authorized to speak on the company’s behalf, you were supposed to keep quiet — and woe to those who didn’t. Transparency just wasn’t a thing back in the day, and that culture still casts its intimidating shadow in a lot of places.
You haven’t asked them to.
And it may have never occurred to them.
It’s too hard.
Most of your employees don’t want to copy and paste, reformat, etc., even when it comes to their personal stuff. If you don’t make it almost as easy to share as not to share, they probably won’t.
All valid reasons. But here’s the real reason:
Sharing your employer’s content is spammy and weird.
Why do brands think it would be natural for their employees to share their social content? The most common explanation goes something like this: “Well, if they work here, they must be passionate about what we do. And since people choose friends with similar interests, their friends will be passionate about us, too.”
With all due respect…I call BS. While that may be true for cool tech startups, in larger organizations, there are many, many jobs that have nothing to do with the core product or service being sold. Every large organization needs IT, accounting, loss prevention, HR, etc., whether they’re selling nails or dog food. It’s perfectly conceivable that someone who hates dogs could work as an accountant for a dog food company….and, in that case, their friends would likely think it’s weird for them to share content about the top 10 best dog toys.
Similarly, several of the agencies I’ve written for actively encouraged writers to share their published work…but that just didn’t make any sense. It would have been one thing if the content had a byline, because then my friends would understand why I was sharing it. Otherwise, the ones who weren’t annoyed enough to unfriend me would be wondering why the heck I was sharing posts about cold-water survival suits or rooftop equipment supports. I envisioned a collective “Huh?” every time I thought about sharing my work. So I didn’t.
The real reason employees won’t share your content is all about context and relevance. If social media had been around when I worked at Graceland, I would have been happy to share content. Even if my friends weren’t Elvis fans…it’s Memphis. Elvis and Graceland are just part of our local culture, like New Orleans and beignets, or Chicago and pizza. So sharing that content would have been natural. But when I worked for an automotive company and wrote about the process of changing from one type of refrigerant to another…nah, I wouldn’t have shared that content. Because my friends would have no reason to be interested in that, and it would have been annoying and spammy.
That’s a bigger problem than you can tackle with incentives and contests for employees who promote your content the most. What brands really need to do is show employees how the content is relevant to their personal social networks. And that means looking it from the perspective of your employees and their friends, and then giving your employees a relatable reason for sharing. A few examples:
Why should your employees’ friends care about DNS attacks?
Because it’s really bad news for the companies that are attacked. And that could be their employer. Or their bank. Or their favorite clothing store. Even if they don’t know what a DNS attack is, they can certainly understand that a successful attack could disrupt their lives. So you give your employees some suggestions for a “What would happen if…” context they could use to frame the content before sharing.
Why should your employees’ friends care about arctic survival suits?
Well, new IMO regulations stipulate that all cruises going into polar waters have to provide a survival suit for every passenger. So, if your employees have friends who like to take cruises, they might be seeing a price bump. So your employees could share your content with a comment like, “If your next cruise is more expensive, this may be why…”
Why should your employees’ friends care about content marketing?
The hoopla over “fake news” has made everyone skeptical. Tips on how to distinguish “fake news” from valuable information is something everybody could use.
Those are just a few examples, but you get the picture. If you want your employees to share your content (and you should), you have to give them a reason other than spamming their friends. Because that’s what’s keeping them from clicking those “share” buttons. They don’t want to be like the person who’s flooding their friends’ Facebook pages with posts about the awesome essential oils they’re selling. It’s imperative for your content to offer real value to your customers, but if you want your employees to share it, you have to give them a legitimate excuse….uhm, reason. It has to seem natural. If you can do that, you should see a big increase in social sharing.
If you want your employees to share your content, you have to give them a reason other than spamming their friends.