It's Not Only OK for Your Employees to Engage Through Digital -- It's a Must Here are five ways to boost staffer engagement -- and your bottom line -- through social media and other digital outlets.

By Len Devanna

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Engaged employees are key to a companies' success. Studies suggest that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by as much as 202 percent. Put simply, we all want to feel like we're part of something bigger -- and that we're contributing to a grander mission.

Digital offers many ways to engage employees. Inside the business, we can leverage the power of community to ignite global collaboration, enable bi-directional communications and further cement a sense of team across disparate geographies.

The external opportunities are equally as more interesting. After all, who's more familiar with your products and vested in your companies' success than your employees? So how do you knock down barriers and enable engagement between internal and external audiences throughout the customer journey in a meaningful and constructive way?

Related: Poor Employee Engagement Is the Biggest Retail Fail of 2015

1. Educate your employees on your overarching digital strategy.

There's nothing I can do to help if I don't understand the mission and the goals. Taking the time to educate your workforce -- or at a minimum, customer-facing functions -- on your digital objectives goes a long way in helping them feel included and empowered.

You might be surprised when they start advocating for your strategy and sharing it with their colleagues. Inclusion is a powerful way to instill a sense of ownership.

2. Identify your subject matter experts.

I've helped a number of companies with workforce activation over the years. There's a ton of energy and passion inside the business -- the trick is finding it and activating it. A tried-and-true tactic is to create an internal wiki that anyone can edit. Allow employees to self-identify their areas of expertise, their preferred social channels, the types of questions they're willing to handle, their geography, etc.

This has a few valuable benefits. First, it tells employees that digital engagement is OK. It's stunning how many folks feel constrained to do anything work-related on social. It also helps employees start connecting to one another, advancing the sense of tribe. Lastly, you're going to walk away with a list of your most passionate employees who are more than willing to lend a hand when needed with external digital engagement.

3. Activate them in a prescriptive manner.

Do you have a product launch coming up? Perhaps a major event? If you're like every other company on the planet, you'll blast your message through your owned digital channels with moderate success.

Just like in the physical world, our online networks often consist of people like ourselves. In other words, the organic reach of your employees to highly relevant audiences is likely larger than what you have through traditional company channels.

Enable your employees to take action. Tell them about your key messages, your target audience and your desired outcomes. Arm them with content they can share and links you can measure. Help them understand your overall objectives and provide them with the relevant information to take your message organically throughout their networks.

I helped a Fortune 500 company conduct a test a couple of years back to compare the cost of 1,000 impressions for a physical airport advertisement versus what we were getting by simply enabling and activating employees. The airport banner came in at roughly $70, while organic reach through employees was a whopping 17 cents. To be clear, I'm not suggesting you stop all traditional advertising and shift everything to employee activation. But, if it's not in the mix, you're missing opportunity.

Important note: DO NOT mandate this stuff. It will have the exact opposite effect you're going after.

Related: 3 Ways to Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

4. Connect important conversations.

So now you have a list of your most socially active employees who are willing to help when needed. Given that you're using a wiki to gather this information, it should always be up to date thanks to the power of the crowd.

Now, think through the lens of the customer journey. As an advanced brand, you understand how customers discover you online, how to best engage with them, how to enable a frictionless transaction and ultimately how to enable customer advocacy at scale post-purchase.

Now imagine being able to deploy the right employee to engage in the right conversation at the exact right time in the customer journey. They may choose to engage directly or redirect the customer back to formal channels. The point is, you're building your army of internal advocates and leveraging them to help drive improvements throughout the customer experience.

This is gold.

5. Celebrate the wins.

With regards to digital, most brands are still working to figure it all out. Unfortunately, there's often a big disconnect between company and employee. While the brand is trying to amp up digital engagement, employees are unsure about their role. Are they allowed to participate on digital? Will they get in trouble? You'd be surprised how many times I've run into good-natured people who have identified a frustrated customer online and done nothing about it due to uncertainty.

As you start getting some wins under your belt, celebrate these new-found heroes. Let the rest of your team know that this is OK. Highlight the examples, and show how prescriptive activation can radically improve the customer experience. If your employees start feeling like they're generating brand value, they're going to feel a lot more engaged than they would otherwise.

In conclusion, it's far too easy to stick to traditional tactics for audience engagement. It's even easier to stick to the old-school broadcast model. With a ton of real-world experience transforming companies from digitally agnostic to highly engaged brands, I can personally attest that the rewards at the end of the journey are absolutely enormous.

Related: Employee Engagement Is More Important Than the Customer

Wavy Line
Len Devanna

President of xInsights

Len Devanna, president of Trepoint, has worked in digital marketing for 25 years. He has helped startups to $180-billion companies transform and integrate how they serve their audiences through digital media.

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