Randy Ksar is a digital and media strategist working with clients on branding and employee advocacy planning. He helps his clients develop social strategies that incorporates employee advocacy.  He has been working in the industry since the 1990s where he began with building the digital brands of companies. Randy recently joined AMP UP Your Social Media’s host Glenn Gaudet to discuss how companies can get their employees more involved with the branding process and thus engagement between the company and the community.

Listen to the Podcast or scroll down to read the full podcast transcript

“Empowering employees with authentic content to share with their network serves as the key engagement strategy for successful engagement.”

Randy discusses authentic social media engagement with and by employees:

As a company begins to create or expand an employee advocacy program, they need to know where that fits within the company strategic plan. Also, there should be some effort to ensure that the strategy is unique and beneficial to your company brand. That is, it isn’t just doing what every other company is doing.

As you establish your employee advocacy program, remember the following:

  • Employees are already talking to the people in their network – even if there isn’t anything formal set up for employee advocacy. They are often seen as a trusted representative of your company simply because they are employed by your company. Their network wants to see what they say before they make purchasing decisions.
  • You cannot expect to have 100% participation from your employees once you set up a formal employee advocacy program. Set goals and hope for increase over time with the development and expansion of the program. Early expectations can be as low as 10% until you get your employees ramped up.
  • Create content that employees want to consume and share.  Employees don’t want to be handled. They want messaging that is authentic and that allows for personal connection, and not just a retweet. Though, simple retweets do have their place.
  • Empower employees to communicate with their network as they see fit, within company guidelines, of course. Since employees know their own networks so well, they should have the power to share their information in the best way for their network.
  • Social media engagement is not just about sharing content. It also includes following and participating in discussions from other community members.
  • Engagement is not a one-way street, from the company out but also from the community to the company – often by way of its employees.
  • Everyone has a personal brand and the company should encourage employees to build up their personal brand. No matter how active an employee is with social media or employee advocacy practices, they are part of the fabric of a company. Basically, employees are part of the company brand and have an employee brand of their own. Both are essential to the success of any social media strategy for a company. It begins with everyone creating a LinkedIn profile that connects the personal brand with the company brand.

Randy would love to hear from you! Search for him on the web, visit his company’s website, or find him on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn).

Subscribe and get the AMP UP Your Social Media podcast on iTunes or listen below. Tweet about the show using #AUYSM or Tweet at us @AMPUPSocial. AMP UP Your Social Media is a proud member of the FIR Podcast Network.

About Randy Ksar

randy ksar.jpg

Randy Ksar is a Digital Marketer, Content Strategist, Podcaster, and Speaker. He works directly with clients on their digital PR and Marketing needs in his role as Vice President at Voce Communications.

AMP UP Your Social Media is sponsored by:

  • GaggleAMP – Empower your employees, partners, and resellers to share your social media messages.

Full Podcast Transcript

Glenn:      Welcome back to another episode of amp up your social media. My name is Glenn Gaudet and today I am speaking with Randy Ksar. Randy, welcome to the show!

Randy:     Hey Glenn! How is it going?

Glenn:       Fantastic! Well now withstanding a little challenge I had yesterday but we won’t get into that right now. Randy tell our audience a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Randy:     Sure. So, my is Randy Ksar and I work at a company called Voce communications which is a product developing company and we are PR firm. I focus on the digital and social side where we work a lot with clients on their social strategy, their employee advocacy plans and our reach as well as personal brand training. So, we are doing a gallon of things. My background has been in digital and social since the mid-90s.

Glenn:       Oh awesome. So, what was it that first told you that social was going to be big for business?

Randy:     Well my background, I first started in digital so I was building and designing websites in the 90s. Back then the only way you can really communicate digitally that customers actually were doing, there is this little thing at the bottom or footer of any websites, the contact us or the info@comapny.com. And that’s when I first started seeing people actually communicate with the brand and the website wasn’t just another book. It was something that people were communicating in and people were actually using it. So, that’s where first kind of a community engagement really started happening for me. From a social perspective, the notion of developer evangelism and community and social started happening in the early 2000s for me through discussion boards, through forums and then social sites as I guess we know it now started happening when i worked at yahoo, I started there at 2005 and Facebook started coming and My Space was really big and that’s I would say you know for everybody that’s listening, the most common thing would be in like 2005 year.

Glenn:       Yeah and you know it is interesting because the evolution of social has been you know we need to have a company profile, we need to do this and now where we are at, I think you are doing a lot of work with your clients around this. Their employees now are starting to become not only socially active which they may or may not have been in the past, but active on behalf of the company.

Randy:     Yeah, I know the stuff really changed. I think the notion of evangelism has changed over the years. I think back at the day’s companies were afraid to have any employee speak on their behalf. For the PR perspective, it was always the media trained people and nobody else could talk about the company.

Glenn:       Exactly, I remember those days.

Randy:     Yeah and the reality is that people are already talking. Whether they were online, whether they are in person, I mean it was just a matter of fact and so over the years people have learned that the culture of trust within the company is something that employees actually strive to look forward in the company when they look for a job and once that culture is printed from executive levels down, you start seeing that employees feel comfortable and they feel like their parts are bigger than just a normal day job. So, that’s what we have been seeing over the years and how we have been helping train executives, all the way to developers, whatever it might be.

Glenn:       I think it is pretty interesting at least from our side, what we see is a big impact for the employees is they start to generate a following on to themselves and they become more influential themselves. Even while they are doing this on behalf of the company. So, there is a really a win-win there. When you are working with your clients, what are those kinds of things that your kind of need to get your employees to either understand or do in the beginning just even before they become part of the crew that you are talking about.

Randy:     Yeah it is great question and I think the first steps, one is just what you want to be known for? You as an individual. So, disregard the company and who you work for really. What do you want to be known for and the world out there right? Because you as an individual, you have your own personal profiles. LinkedIn, twitter, whatever that might be. And you need to be comfortable with what you are talking about and so that’s the first thing. It is a hard question because some people like depending on which organization they come from right. They could come from a sales background, they can come from a support background, from a marketing background and I think the key thing is spend some time thinking about what you career aspirations are and how they related to your day job now and you kind of map those two together and from a store perspective, that’s what is going to get you there and that will help you as an individual feel much more honest with yourself as you share the content out. Whether it is stuff that you believe in, whether it is stuff that your company as a part of. Because at the end you want to be yourself right. You want to be as authentic as possible. I think that’s the key thing that we are talking about from a social strategy perspective.

Glenn:      So, when you go to a client and you are dealing with a client let’s say a hundred and thousands of employees, how do you have the conversation you just had with me?

Randy:     Well, I think it is a matter of one understanding what the company objectives are. What are they trying to do? What is their goal? So sometimes we start off with may be the launch of the product and you need to get that evangelism to who has built the product out there from PR perspective but also from a social perspective and because the way that people build relationships and the way they are going to get to their KPIs is by that individual who built that product, get them to be authentic with the shared content and really kind of behind the scenes because for instance we can take an example if someone were downloading a piece of software, surely we can have nice page with all the featured bullet points of benefits. But if you are let’s say a developer, well developers are really board like marketing. So, they want to hear from people that used it, from the people that built it. So, that’s where the employee evangelism and employee advocacy comes into play and where people can really kind of separate themselves from the marketing side of things to more of the personal brand and the way that they can build the relationship with actual end-user.

Glenn:       So how do you balance that? Because in very successful organizations who have these kinds of employee advocacy engagement programs, they have employees that really like to share the content and consume the content. And then with other it is a resistance and frankly because of the content, because of the company that hasn’t figured out the right content strategy yet. So, what kind of guidelines or recommendations you make for clients to think about how to create content that the employees want to share?

Randy:     Yeah and I think that’s the key thing. You as an employee don’t want to feel like you are being handled by the social media manager or the marketing person. You want to be known for strength card that’s authentic, as you as an individual that you believe in. So, you are not hitting the retweet button.

Glenn:       But sometimes retweet is very appropriate right.

Randy:     I think sometimes it is but at the same time I would recommend people to add their own commentary towards it like how they are involved in this product or if they are part of the team then congratulate the team that was a part of this that built this product.

Glenn:       But part of that is you know the ability to give them a starter right. So, one of the things we do when companies can package content up for their employees, it also gives them the ability to make edits to that so they have kind of foundation they can work from and a lot of people need that little starter to really understand what to say and may be how to say or at least what is the length they should point them to that kind of thing.

Randy:     Yeah, I think that works with whether an employee or doing with blogger, you want to be able to empower them right and I think empowerment is key for the content perspective. So, employees, they want to share authentic content, they want to be able to can be adapted towards their network. They are the ones who know their network and know their network best. So, I think that would be the key thing. Give them like you said starter point be able to share edge within certain guidelines. I think there are certain guidelines that you should have when you are starting off as an employee advocate you know, you still need to adhere to all the social media guidelines that you set forth. As well as understanding what the product really is because if you're not part of that team that actually shared it and you're starting to add your own particular perspective that might not be the right fit for you.

Glenn:      Right. So is there a sense of-- I don't know some guideline or some format that companies should be thinking about when they're thinking about sharing content with employees to share?

Randy:     That's a good question. I think there are some best practices that you follow in terms of what employees would more or likely share. I think it's a lot of the, the how-to articles. It's a lot of the kind of behind-the-scenes. If they are sharing something that's part of a bigger marketing campaign, the content needs to resonate with their audience. So if you as an employee, sorry as a social media manager that's trying to run this advocacy program, you need to put some thought into what type of content works best. And what type of format works best - -

Glenn:      Yep.

Randy:     So, you know, I usually have a mix of say -- a blog post that was written by an employee and how that as a good marketing, that was a good piece of content. And then maybe a video that goes along with it, and then maybe a tweet that could go along with it. So, I think as long as you give people the opportunity to share the content that they feel is right for their network, then you'll be in good hands.

Glenn:      Yeah I think there's a, a really interesting thing that a lot of companies forget about, so they get really excited about getting employees involved.

Randy:     Yeah.

Glenn:      And they get really excited about having them share content, but a lot of times they forget about the other aspects, you know, social media engagement itself, so it's not just about sharing, but it's also it's about following certain people. It's about responding to certain content that other people put out there. So, what kinds of conversation do you have with clients around that? 'Cause I know just, you know, just constantly putting out content and not having some sort of an engagement strategy to surround that .

Randy:     Yeah.

Glenn:      I think it's short-lived.

Randy:     Yeah, no I agree. I think engagement is kind of key towards whether you're an employee, whether you're a company brand. You know, so there is a good mix of original content as well as curated content. And then there's a mix of content that can really engage with your audience. So if there are opportunities to ask questions to your community that always works well. If you have a community yourself in terms of a form, you can always include that within a particular content for advocacy program, and that can kind of jump start a conversation. Also, the content that you create that kind of jump starts it whether it's a video, whether it's a podcast like we're doing now that always works well and can get people to start thinking about it.

                  And then lastly, I think it's a matter of really trying to figure out just the best way to create the content that's for the employee. I think I said this already, but if you can find a way  to get them, to amplify certain content in a way that makes it authentic and makes sense to the community then they're gonna get the engagement through natural means.

Glenn:     Yeah and I think that that's another area that companies need to at least prepare for and set their own expectations. You're not gonna have 100 percent of your employees do anything.

Randy:     Yeah.

Glenn:      So why would you expect a hundred percent of your employees to share every piece of content that you want them to share, right? Yeah it's just not gonna happen. And you can't set your success criteria to say well if this piece of content wasn't shared by a hundred percent then I failed, no, quite the opposite. If you get 10 percent, 20 percent, 40 percent to share that the act of sharing is the power of it and so do you see that with some of your clients in terms of just make sure that you level set expectations?

Randy:     Yeah, I mean the KPI's are definitely something we talk about early on. I think by having an advocacy program the stats show that it is gonna be a higher, click through in terms of the content, because these employees have a very engaged network already.

Glenn:      Right.

Randy:     So, that's without a doubt. But in terms of the same expectations early on is definitely key in you hope that, you know it’s a long story, right? I mean for any employee that's starting an employee advocacy program, if they're new to social and they're just getting ramped up,  it's not gonna be something that's you'll start seeing results right away, right? So, I think you need to build up that personal brand. So that person can feel authentic, can feel trusted and is not just someone that's retweeting stuff, but actually is engaging like we talked about before. So you definitely need to give that advice and counsel to the employee to not just go in and just like share, share and share, but to be able to empower them to, feel like they can actually engage with other people that they're meeting, correct? 'Cause all this is it's a community.  So they need to feel like it is a community that they can actually engage with.

Glenn:      So I'm curious from your agency perspective, and I'm gonna ask you to put your agency hat on around this, which is if I'm a company when do I think about using an agency versus doing it myself?

Randy:     I would say the strategy portion is really important. And not just from an employee advocacy program, but how does employee advocacy fit within your overall P.R. program?  It is one of the channels. And it's something that should be thought of early on, and not be brought on after the fact just because some other company is doing it.

Glenn:      Right.

Randy:     So I think that's where we can come in and we can take a look at the data and insights of your current program and how that can affect your employees and the overall advocacy program. Whether it's employees, whether it's sales people, whether it's external partners, whatever the advocacy program might be so that's how we can help. And, and how we can really use the data insight to make a better decision on not just starting a program or not, but also what employees are out there that are already doing it, and how are they doing it? How are they being successful? Or how are they not being successful? And how could this content that we're building for them how can that help them achieve what they wanna achieve?

Glenn:      Yeah I think that's a powerful thing about having an external voice as part of your team to come in and give you perspectives not about your existing company, but maybe what some other companies are doing as well and what learnings people got from that. So I think that's pretty powerful. Randy as we wrap things up here I always like to ask, if there's one thing that our  listeners could put into action today that would really impact their social media marketing, what would that one thing be?

Randy:     I think everybody here has a personal brand. Whether they feel like they're an introvert or extrovert, I think people need to realize that your personal brand is being searched on. Whether by evangelists out there, your customers, your peers and so the first thing that I would do is optimize your LinkedIn profile, something as simple as that. Go to LinkedIn, get your good mugshot up there, get a good headline, get your good summary, add some links to it, right? It's an interactive resume, for most people they don't realize that when you search for , say an executive's name, that's usually the first thing that comes up is your LinkedIn profile.

Glenn:      Right.

Randy:     And as journalists, as customers are looking to make real big business decisions on whether to purchase a product or not they also look at who's behind the company. And that's where we always recommend that people take a look at their executives and their LinkedIn profiles and their personal brand and make sure those are updated with a sense of - - with a hand touch to it as well.

Glenn:      uh hmm

Randy:     So that's what I would recommend anybody listening to this podcast to start with that and to put some thought into to how others are looking at you from a kind of a Google search perspective if you will.

Glenn:      Yeah, you know and if you're using a browser like Chrome or something go into the equivalent of an Incognito Mode.

Randy:     Yeah.

Glenn:      Because when you search yourself as yourself you don't always see the same thing that somebody from outside of you and in your company would actually see. So, I think that's a great.  Randy, if somebody wants to get in touch with you how do they reach you?

Randy:     Yeah you search for my name on the interwebs, that definitely will come up but yeah I'm on LinkedIn, you can also go to Voce Communications website, that's Voce, V-o-c-e communications.com or porternovelli.com. And then lastly, I'm on Twitter @djkasar can find me there.

Glenn:     Awesome, awesome! Randy, thanks so much for being on the show today.

Randy:     No problem. You're welcome.

Glenn:     And thank you for listening to another episode of "Amp Up Your Social Media."