communicate in real time. For instance, one employee
told us he had discovered an ad posted on You Tube by
his employer only after it had already been posted for
several weeks. Information needs to be updated frequently and shared with employees. In addition,
companies can provide tools and assistance to help
employees generate content. L’Oréal Canada, for example, encourages employees to develop creative
content on social media using its “content factory,”
which maintains an online library of video tutorials,
product pictures, product reviews, and testimonials to
facilitate employee engagement with customers.
5. Reward employee voice. Research indicates that
employees respond more positively to intrinsic psychological rewards such as public recognition than to
extrinsic rewards such as bonuses, which can even
have negative effects. 24 Moreover, employee branding
on social media is effective only if the employee’s voice
is seen as authentic and sincere. The most effective rewards are straightforward but often overlooked. They
include listening to employee feedback, paying attention to employee suggestions, and congratulating
employees on their achievements. 25 The consequences
of ignoring these potential rewards can be serious.
For example, we spoke to a manager who did not feel
she was adequately recognized for supporting her
company brand on her personal blog. Her response
was to tone down her testimonials and hold off from
sharing company news via her blog and other social
Many companies use extrinsic reward systems to
encourage employees to participate in internal social
networks. Some companies award employees points
when they post comments or for the number of shares
or “likes” they receive on their posts. 26 However, such
systems carry a risk that employers will be seen as ma-
nipulating employee voice and intruding in employees’
private lives. The power of employee brand building
lies in giving employees freedom to express themselves
within the boundaries outlined by the organization.
For example, employers might find ways to link their
social media advocacy to an incentive system for
employee referrals. For instance, Shore Tel Inc., a tele-
communications company based in Sunnyvale,
California, tracks incoming candidates via links
employees share through their personal social media
accounts. 27 Shore Tel employees report valuing a
privileged relationship on social media with top
management, and this experience encouraged them to
share or retweet information. However, such a system
is only possible if top management leads and champi-
ons brand-building behaviors on social media.
If employers want employees to be constructive
and engaged on behalf of their brands on social
media, they need to respect the personal nature of
how employees express themselves on social media.
The company’s interest in employee branding
should not extend to policing employees’ behaviors
online or requiring access to their colleagues’ social
media profiles. If and when online-community
managers encounter anonymous employee comments on sites such as Glassdoor, rather than be
defensive, the can address the comments with transparency while emphasizing organizational safety.
The foundation of employee branding is mutual
trust and respect between employer and employees.
Implications for Companies
During our research working sessions, managers at
several companies expressed concern that their employees were neither fans of their Facebook pages
nor following their employer brand on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. In today’s social media-focused
environment, employees are often a valuable source
of information for both customers and job candidates. At a time when organizations everywhere are
encouraging customers and other constituencies to
recommend their brands on social media, not being
able to present the voice of your employees may
communicate lackluster enthusiasm on the part of
employees toward the company.
Past research indicates that organizations seeking
to become leaders need to clearly state what is expected from employees and train them adequately
on brand values and heritage. 28 Further, we recommend that companies find ways to integrate social
media into internal branding strategies and training.
In branding goods and services, the entire workforce
needs to be trained to deliver the brand promise and
engage actively with potential customers and job
candidates on a day-to-day basis.
Marie-Cécile Cervellon is a professor of marketing
at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France.
Pamela Lirio is an assistant professor of international human resource management at the
University of Montreal’s School of Industrial
Relations in Montreal, Canada. Comment on this