The Role of Online Influence in Employee Advocacy Programs
Recently I had the chance to discuss online influence and what 3M’s has done to power employee experts to engage in the digital world. Greg Gerik who led 3M’s eTransformation team globally since its inception, shares some ideas on how employee advocates are encouraged to build their online influence, benefiting the company and it’s customers.
Below is the interview and full transcript captured at SXSWInteractive 2014 with Greg Gerik.
Susan: Hi I’m Susan Emerick, I’m here with Greg Gerik of 3M, where he leads the eTransformation team and drives innovation from Social Media to all things Digital. He’s also been a gracious contributor to our book The Most Powerful Brand on Earth. Welcome Greg!
Greg: Thank you.
Susan: I thought we would talk a little bit about influence. When it comes to social media and empowering employees at a company. You reference in book how important it is that every individual employee understands their own personal influence, I’d like to know how your program helps them grow that over time?
Greg: I think that one of the things 3M brings to the table is a very knowledgeable expert trusted advisor to our customers. It’s interesting to me the humbleness of the Midwest I think for our company lends itself to people just assuming they don’t have a very large sphere of influence. But sometimes employees need help to see how they can translate their offline influence to a digital world, getting them to the point where they understand that they can have a larger impact on our business, on their personal brand, on 3M as a whole and even on businesses that are not directly related to them, so it’s exciting when they see that. To be able to show that to them is the joy that I get out of that I get out of the work I do.
Susan: How do you incentivize and help employees build their online influence? What measurements do you use to incentivize them to keep going?
Greg: We take each on a case by case basis. We’re working with one division right now that has very aggressive sales goals and their rolling out some amazing new products in the architectural market and to help enable their team get to where they want to go we show them how they can leverage the content they’ve created, leverage the information they have about those products, and use that to make a deeper, richer connection with the customer – which they’ve always had, but now they can have in the digital world as well. It’s very rewarding and a good example of how we can do that. Setting measurements, of course you know is a passion of mine. We work with all of the teams to help them understand how they can measure progress against their objectives. They all have lots of objectives, but it’s about helping them measuring back to that object, not just awareness but what kind of awareness, not just impressions but what are they actually going to do for you or for the brand, the business, are you changing the hearts and minds of the customer? Are you there for them? That’s what matters.
Susan: Alignment to business goals is really, really important and unless that the foundation of how you’re enabling employee advocates you’re not going to be able to quantify any outcomes that are aligned to achieving those business goals. How do you address assumptions about digital? As you reference in the book, there’s a need to help people overcome dealing with their own expectations when they come to the table and really want to get involved. Could you tell me a little bit more about these assumptions and how you redirect?
Greg: People that are not expert level in digital as a whole sometimes come to the table with false assumptions about the industry, or false assumptions about who their customer is or where their customer is. In fact here at SXSW, I just had a great conversation with some people in the medical world that previously assumed that nobody was talking about digital and the Doctors and advanced practitioners aren’t the ones active in social it’s more the residents – but that’s not true. The data shows that Doctors at all levels are participating in conversations all over the place. Sometime publicly, sometime behind walled forums. When I think of my role, or the role of the Global eTransformation team as a whole, because I’m a small part of that team – when we work with our business groups, we encourage them not to think about the limitations but to think about the opportunities. There’ve been instances of communities or “walled gardens” of people having conversations that you can tap into because you can ask them for access, you can ask to be a part of the conversation, you can develop relationships within those forums and figure out a way to not offend the community they’re building but leverage it to support them and help them. Sometimes you’d be amazed at what simply asking a question can do. So being able to open up the opportunities to show the possibilities is a huge part of getting rid of the assumptions. People get very excited, business teams see oh wow we can do this – that’s out there, it’s amazing and then they want to do more and more. That’s really a blessing in my role.
Susan: So the future is very promising, things are definitely changing with data driven marketing. A whole new way that marketing and communications professionals have to be change agents. Think about enabling employees and what you can drive in terms of performance-based marketing. Thank you so much Greg for being here and for your contributions to the book.
Greg: Great book! Go out and buy this book!
Susan: Well, thanks, Greg. So nice to see you!