Social Growth Hacking
Unlocking and Automating Your Untapped Army of Content Promoters and Distributors
As brands look to amplify the reach of their content, Cramer's own Brent Turner unpacks an underused approach that turns a brand’s employees into an army of content syndicators.
In today’s hyper-connected, sharing-driven world, brands are working harder than ever to stand out, drive engagement, and nurture meaningful relationships with prospective and current customers. To support these initiatives, a leading and successful strategy has been for brands to expand their investment in content marketing.
Yet, while marketing-controlled technologies are being updated and optimized for reach and engagement, brands are commonly overlooking a readily available opportunity: enabling their own employees to automatically share and post content on their personal social media properties. Companies of any size can meaningfully increase their content’s performance by simply involving all of their employees in the process.
Using a relatively simple set of free marketing technologies, brands of any type and scale can turn their teams into an Emailing, Tweeting, LinkedIn posting, Facebook-ing, Snap-ing, Vine-ing, Instagram-ing, Yammer-ing, Salesforce Chatter-ing army.
It Starts with Two Simple Technologies
The technology behind this solution is straightforward and based on two popular technologies: standard content feeds and automated workflow software.
Content feeds are any streamlined data-oriented files that are produced by a CMS. Commonly, these are known as RSS feeds, but they could also be any XML or JSON files produced the CMS. For most brands, their blog’s default RSS feed is the best place to start.
Automated workflow software first gathered industry attention in 2011 with the launch of IFTTT an acronym for “If This, Then That.” This was quickly followed by 2012’s launch of the professional grade (and Cramer favorite) Zapier. In June 2016, Microsoft got into the game with the launch of their own platform called Microsoft Flow. These platforms provide any non-technical user with an intuitive, streamlined interface that creates a “workflow” for transferring data between third-party web services. These workflows are then set to monitor for data changes. When data is new or changes, the workflow’s “automation” rules trigger the action, and the workflow automatically executes.
With these two technologies in place, brands can create workflows that range from simple to complex. Yet, one of the simplest workflows is also the most powerful: Every time a new item is published to their RSS feed, it is automatically posted to specific social media accounts. For brands, this simple workflow is also very common as they can use it on their brand-owned social channels.
Add Your People into the Mix
Once a marketing team has the RSS feed ready, their marketing automation vendor is selected, and is automatically posting new stories to their brand-owned social properties, the next step is to get their employees into the mix.
Since employees’ social media accounts are, by their nature, personal to each employee, we recommend brands train their employees on how to set up this next step themselves. While brands could centrally set up and support this, by disseminating the setup, brands keep the access, preferences, and governance of these often-personal accounts in the hands of each individual employee.
To being, brands can train and support their employees with a common three-step process:
- Sign up for IFTTT, a free and super intuitive option
- Within IFTTT, connect their social media accounts (i.e., Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Create the workflows
In IFTTT, workflows are called “Recipes.” They have a library of established recipes that are easy for a brand’s employees to duplicate. For example, this is an IFTTT recipe that automatically posts new RSS entries to specific Twitter accounts. IFTTT, Zapier, and Microsoft Flow all make this same set up easy for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Yet, once a brand’s employees get into automation, they could create workflows that trigger emails, send text messages, and even post to private enterprise networks like Yammer or Salesforce Chatter.
Get More Advanced
To drive mass adoption by employees, simplicity is best. The examples above are straightforward, quick to implement, and supported by large communities of users. Yet, to drive better performance and measurement, marketing teams can deploy advanced configurations for their brand-owned workflows and for workflows of key senior executives (i.e., CEO, CMO) and power users (i.e., heads of social media).
On the technology front, the most common advanced configurations are using Bitly for branded shortlinks, Google Analytics custom campaign parameters for stronger attribution reporting (a nice guide for doing so here), and Buffer for control over posting times and queues.
With content and workflows, brands can explore ways to repeat posts and gain more traction for older content. For example, here at Cramer, our CMS includes multiple alternative headlines for each story we post. Using custom workflows, we can automatically post these headlines across time. By using Zapier’s built-in delays function, our stories are reposted 10-14 days after going live, then again around the 25-28 day mark. With a simple set up, Cramer’s stories return to social feeds multiple times, each with new copy and each reaching new potential readers.
Addressing the Core Risk
While the technologies are elegant and the employee training is straightforward, there is one big risk for brands: lack of centralized control.
With this model, brands are creating an automated army of content distributors. Per our recommendation, even though this army is employees of the brand, each individual is setting up the automation up on their own personal accounts. By the structure of this setup, brands are establishing a distribution network that is not centrally managed.
In this model, brands do not have a “Delete Everywhere” button. For example, if a brand publishes content that needs to be retracted after it is live, the brand cannot centrally remove that content from each employee’s social profiles. Also in this model, brands do not have an “edit” button. In this case, if a brand publishes content and later finds a typo, the brand cannot centrally update the content across each employee’s social profiles.
Yet, for most brands, these risks are already well known. Many brands – especially growth and global brands – already have non-employee audiences that are quick to post, quote, and share content on their own. The brands cannot delete or edit content on these third-party platforms. Therefore, this core risk, while made more immediate by the brand's individual employees, is easily managed by brands who adopt this employee automation strategy.
A Networked Success
Since their arrival, social networks have been critical distribution and engagement platforms for brands. With content marketing and brand publishing now being a critical pillar of their strategies, marketers are placing a greater emphasis on expanding the reach and impact of their content. Yet, while many brands have influencer marketing programs, branded communities, and ambassador networks, their own employees are often an untapped opportunity for building their next content distribution channel.
From large global companies to up-and-comers, brands of all sizes, shapes, and industries gain from the amplified network effect of extended content distribution through their employees. And today, with the mass adoption of social media and the rise of elegant workflow automation software, brands can effectively and efficiently make it happen.