I know ‘crystal ball’ blogs aren’t to everyone’s liking but every year I like to take a moment to reflect on the year and look forward to the trends that I see coming ahead.
In recent months, there has been a flurry of conversation and noise around employee advocacy on LinkedIn – a topic our tribe has been actively involved in for some years now.
But the phrase "employee advocacy" is becoming ever more unpopular. It isn’t one that employees get excited about, nor one that means anything to anyone unless you work in the field of social media.
My journey into advocacy started in 2009 – I was fascinated by internal marketing, employee engagement, and the role of culture in high performing organisations. How the employee voice impacted customer experience. How the role of leadership influenced talent attraction and employee retention. How community and culture are connected.
But over the years, we got confused.
Employee Advocacy became a tool you bought, Social Selling became a trending topic with several names (e.g. digital selling, modern selling, virtual selling), Influencer Marketing became mainstream and today large enterprises find themselves managing several disparate programs running in isolation of each other.
For me, 2022 will be the year of consolidation, where culture and community will bubble up as priorities for enterprise organisations and social media will play an increasingly important role.
Here are my predications:
The War On Talent Will Be Won By Those That Put Culture Front And Centre
As “The Big Quit” is set to continue throughout 2022, organisations are looking deeper at their talent strategies exploring the connectivity between employee branding, employer branding, and employee experience.
The employee experience begins before candidates have even applied for a role. According to Brunswick, 65% of employees say it's important for leaders to actively communicate about their company online.
Creating an always on pipeline of talent will be essential for business growth. Allowing employees to play a part in communicating culture will be the difference between those organisations with a long pipeline of talent waiting to join and those with a short pipeline.
Consolidating The Social Media Tool Stack
During 2021 we saw Dynamic Signal and Social Chorus merge, Grapevine6 became LiveSocial under the Seismic brand umbrella brand and Smarp joined forces with Germany’s social intranet app COYO. We’ve already witnessed a lot of movement in the advocacy marketing, and I believe there will be more to come.
As social media continues to migrate over to the marketing and digital communications teams, organisations are rightly asking themselves “why do I have a social media publishing tool for my brand channels and a different one for my employees?”.
I believe we’ll see more organisations consider moving from standalone advocacy tools to more holistic platforms like Hootsuite, Sprinklr, and Sprout Social which offer all-in-one analytics across the social landscape.
Data, Insights And Benchmarking Will Drive Digital Investments
Peter Drucker famously said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. I’d like to expand on that with “if you can’t measure it, it’ll likely not get funding”.
According to BI-Survey.com 58% of executives say their companies base at least half of their regular business decisions on gut feel rather than on data and information. Laggard companies base 70% of their decisions on gut feel.
Data driven decision making (DDDM) is here to stay, so marketing folks need to get comfortable understanding the insights and be agile with their remedial action.
One-size-fits-all is not a strategy. When it comes to digitally activating your employees, a personalised approach to upskilling and enablement will be key in 2022 and beyond. For that to happen, organisations will need to keep a close eye on performance monitoring across the social landscape and benchmark against the industry and over time.
Optimising License Investments
The last two years accelerated investments in digital workplace technologies. Organisations equipped employees with licenses for content sharing (employee advocacy tools), influencer activation (B2B influencer marketing tools), and social selling (LinkedIn Sales Navigator).
According to Sugar CRM, 80% of companies spend at least $1000 on technology annually, per sales rep to equip them with the right tools to do their jobs effectively.
As face-to-face events start opening and people start meeting in-person, I believe 2022 will be the year when license investments will be carefully scrutinised and optimised. More focus will be put on reallocating licenses for better utilisation. We may even experience an increase in license fees as a result.
Pop Goes The Siloes
Okay, this is more wishful thinking but it’s absolutely where our customers are heading. I’ve said it a hundred times before, Social Selling won’t work without content. Content won’t be relevant without social listening and sale conversation input. Experts can’t be influential if they’re not in the right conversations.
If organisations continue to tackle these programs in isolation of each other, effort will be duplicated, and budgets will be wasted.
We’re working with more and more organisations that recognise (and realise) the benefits of pulling these individual programs under one holistic metaphorical roof.
Joining the dots creates value across the entire business and a competitive edge that makes organisations untouchable. I get asked the same question every week by senior executives:
“So, we train our employees to build their brand and make them more attractive in the job market?”
In my experience, the opposite tends to happen. The more you invest and empower employees, culture strengthens.
“No, you empower your employees to establish their expert brand and become influential in the industry.”
Different languages. One focused on fear - the other focus on growth.
Joining The Dots Between Culture And Digital Activation
2022 (and beyond) will be the year when we talk less about employee advocacy, social selling, and influencer marketing (okay, maybe not quite that one just yet). Instead, the conversation will begin to shift towards more about digital cultures and activating employee voices online.
We’ll explore more about the impact of social media on wider topics including;
- customer experience
- employee experience
- digital maturity
- change management
- expert influence
- digital literacy
- growth mindset
- learning and development.
Forget the tools. Forget the trending phrases. Digital cultures are only successful when you connect the dots and drive behaviour change throughout every single part of the organisation.
Top down, bottom up, and everything in between.
Employee Generated Content (EGC) - Embrace It, Don’t Downplay It!
Every week we see employees from major brands sharing ‘behind the brand’ videos on Tik Tok and Instagram – some not so good. Reputational risk is high on the agenda for corporations and the c-suite, but enablement is the key to building employee awareness and confidence on social media.
Our Employee Social Media Risk Report showed that 60% of employees who share or engage with social media content on a weekly basis, don’t fully understand their company’s social media policy.
I believe it’s time for corporations to own this topic and embrace the opportunity that comes with employees who are ready to experiment with content creation. It’s time to establish clear guidelines, enablement frameworks, and support structures.
It’s time to elevate the conversation, connect the dots, and take a holistic approach to digital business.
If 2020 was the year of digital adoption, 2021 was the year of digital confidence.
Employees are utilising social and digital media with newfound confidence but with little enablement support behind it.
Our tribe has led some incredible programs during 2021. I’m in awe of how our team co-innovate with our customers and am so proud of what we achieve together and the transformations that we see every single day.
I can’t tell you how excited I am for 2022. You will see some changes at Tribal as we develop our data and insights division, give our website a fresh look and continue to build our team of expert specialists and strategists.
But I want to end with a message to our entire tribe – core, extended, customers, partners – you are the reason I love what I do.
You challenge me, disrupt my thinking and keep me grounded.
Thank you for being part of my Tribal Impact adventure during 2021 and I cannot wait to be part of yours in 2022.