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Are your workers undermining your branding efforts on social media?

3 min read


Jason Seiden is co-founder of Ajax Social Media, a workforce marketing firm that helps companies communicate to, with and through their digitally active employees.

Workforce marketing firm Ajax Social Media wanted to know what happens in companies that encourage employees to use social media to drive business, so we looked. Specifically, we looked at digital agencies, since these are the firms we figured were most likely to be on the cutting edge of new communication platforms. In fact, we didn’t look at just any digital agencies, we looked at the top 50 digital agencies, as measured by Ad Age, according to the firms’ 2010 revenue. We researched these agencies on LinkedIn, including both their corporate pages and the 51,608 individual profiles their employees had set up.

Before we talk about what we found, we have to talk about what we actually looked at. See, we figured that any firm that has its employees engage on social media in any serious way is going to prepare those employees first. These are serious companies we looked at; we figured we could safely presume that they wouldn’t just let their employees run amok in a public forum. So what we did was measure how well prepared employees were for the task of engaging productively on social media. Specifically, we measured the degree of alignment between how each agency articulates its brand promise at the corporate level, and how its employees articulate that same brand promise at the individual level. We did this by scoring key words and phrases and then looking at how often those words and phrases appeared on people’s profiles.

Unfortunately, we never got to see what happens when a company encourages its employees to use social media, because it turns out that our “safe presumption” was really bad. Agency employees, on the whole, don’t look anything like their employers online. They look like 50,000 free agents.

Here’s what we found:

  • On average, only 10% of employees had any brand-specific keywords on their profiles at all.
  • The firm with the lowest level of employee-brand alignment “boasted” 0.11% alignment. In other words, roughly one-tenth of 1% of the firm’s employees said anything at all about their employer on their LinkedIn profiles.
  • “Digital” was used by 61% of companies but only 17% of employees. That’s a gap of 72%!

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Our take-away

While we hear managers wonder aloud if helping their employees establish credible online profiles will cause employees to leave, we have yet to hear managers wonder aloud what their fear-driven inaction is encouraging employees to do. Based on what we found, it’s certainly not causing employees to sing their employers’ praises online.

In the absence of a formal, broad-based workforce marketing campaign, employees appear likely to forgo compelling, brand-aligned language in favor of résumé tripe like “Innovative problem solver with a passion for results.”