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Companies use employees as influencers

by drbyos

Dusseldorf More than 90,000 contributions in twelve years – Sascha Pallenberg is one of them Twitter almost to inventory. He posts, shares and likes in chords. His tweets are about sustainability, urban planning and new technology – not least since Pallenberg launched the Mobilegeeks.de blog in 2012 and expanded it to become a successful industry magazine. Self-employment ended three years ago, but not Twitter. Pallenberg is now posting on behalf of Daimler,

Jörg Howe, head of the car manufacturer’s corporate communications, had recognized how influential Pallenberg was on his social media channels and how popular he had become in his community at the interface between mobility and IT. After five months of negotiations, the blogger signed the employment contract, and since then he has been titled Head of Digital Transformation. Thematically, he continues exactly where Howe found him. A technology and car-loving journalist and networker as a digital brand ambassador. What a job.

Pallenberg is something like the personification of what the communications industry calls “corporate influencers”: employees who use their personal digital identity to distribute content in a way that is beneficial to the employer. His job is also to find influencer candidates in the group and to persuade them to voluntarily design posts or blog posts in the interests of their employer.

For Pallenberg, it is no problem that they sometimes gather only a few subscribers, followers or contacts on the platforms: “At Daimler alone, we have around 10,000 microinfluencers.” So private individuals who already have experiences from their own through their various channels Share everyday work. That is why corporations like Daimler are now specifically trying to support them – and to convey the most positive image of their employer. Whether this is always true is of course another question.

Training for influencers

Even if there are no reliable surveys of how many German companies are trying to do just that: One can assume that hardly any employer can get past the topic, and large corporations certainly won’t. The German postal service for example, training their managers in a digital influencer program. The Deutsche Telekom calls selected opinion leaders “Telekom Ambassadors”. The Kienbaum consultants tweet under the keyword #wepowerment.

And the auto parts supplier Bosch has launched an Ambassador Program and is looking for social media-savvy employees across the Group. The most important reason: simple employees who seemingly voluntarily and selflessly chat about their everyday life online are considered the most credible brand ambassadors.

Richard Edelman is the head of the world’s largest PR agency, which annually uses a trust barometer to measure who people still believe. Accordingly, trust in traditional media, social institutions, political power elites and in CEOs worldwide is waning.

The most trustworthy relationship turns out to be that between employers and employees, Edelman says in the report, that social media platforms have completely shifted the perspective: “Instead of orienting oneself to higher positions, i.e. looking upwards, many today orient themselves horizontally, So rather next to themselves. ”That is why employees become central figures for companies in the fight for credibility.

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HR professionals have known this phenomenon for a long time. Employees now play an outstanding role as advocates for applicants. “Anyone looking for a new job today builds on the experience of people who already have it,” says Eugenia Mönning.

She helped develop mail order company Otto seminars on corporate influencers. The mail order company relies on job ambassadors so that the youngsters get to know the company from its seemingly best side: Around 200 of the 5000 employees are currently participating, divided into six influencer teams with different profiles and tasks.

There are, for example, the so-called multipliers: they post, like, comment and share diligently on social media or even take over the company’s own Instagram channel. If you apply for a job, you will first have to deal with the contacts, who will answer questions from interested parties without having to officially submit an application or contact the HR department. In the case of job advertisements or on the website, their extensions are even listed. A team of so-called experts in turn gives lectures at recruiting events or conferences.

Such corporate influencers may increase the credibility of companies – but they are accompanied by a certain loss of control. People like Pallenberg or Mönning may look for suitable candidates no matter how specific. They cannot determine what subsequently comes out in the form of pictures, videos and tweets. But you can influence it very well – by training and accompanying the employees.

Bianca Bauer, head of internal communication and responsible for employer branding at Microsoft Germany, is concerned with this. In 2014, she started helping employees share company content. Initially, her department used its own software to provide daily suggestions for posts and tweets that her colleagues could simply copy.

Since the software company has taken over the LinkedIn career network, they have been using an app for this. Meanwhile Microsoft around 50 curators in Germany who produce contributions on various topics every day. In addition, Microsoft has Magdalena Rogl, a prominent brand ambassador who is known in the scene like Pallenberg.

Telekom also provides targeted support to employees in disseminating company topics – and at the same time systematically ensures that they don’t get stupid ideas. There is a conference call every morning, to which all brand ambassadors can dial. “There the team discusses which messages we can share,” says Winfried Ebner, who acts as spokesman for all telecom ambassadors, “and which topics we are holding back.”

Incidentally, says Ebner, the only issues that come up on the table are those that the press department is already discussing. Sometimes the influencers decide to express themselves before an official language regulation is found. “It doesn’t help if the company acts as a communication police,” says Ebner. Orderly loss of control is part of the deal.

Communication consultant Kerstin Hoffmann has written a book on how companies strategically build such digital brand ambassadors. Managers with whom she spoke about it repeatedly expressed concern that employees could publish something that the company would have preferred not to disclose. Therefore, guidelines are not wrong. But one thing everyone should understand, says Hoffmann: “Consistently positive communication seems rather unreliable and inauthentic.”

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This also includes overcoming fear of loss if a brand face leaves the company. In fact, all the effort of building a corporate influencer can be wiped out if it changes to the competition. Ultimately, it’s just not a new phenomenon, says Hoffmann. Employees with particularly good relationships with customers would have bridged large gaps in the past. Conversely, the following applies: Anyone who even voluntarily appears as a brand face probably has a particularly strong bond with the company.

At Telekom, several company-specific hashtags have been created, some of which collect thousands of posts on social media – without the communications or marketing department ever calling for them. Under terms such as #werkstolz, # weiljederkundezzahl or #lovemagenta, employees show ‧excerpts from their everyday work. The boundary between work and private life inevitably blurs – because all topics play on the same channels.

Corporate influencers are never on the road in private. Which is why they sometimes think longer about what they say, as Daimler Ambassador Sascha Pallenberg admits: “I now stay almost completely out of political or religious questions,” he says, “and I have definitely become more diplomatic.”

More: This text comes from the new ada magazine. If you want to understand tomorrow today, have a look: join-ada.com.

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