When Employees Don’t ‘Like’ Their Employers on Social Media

Many managers would like their employees to be active in representing the company on social media, but employees are often less engaged than expected. How can organizations encourage employees to become brand ambassadors?

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More than 2 billion people worldwide are users of social media, making it a logical platform for companies seeking to attract potential employees and engage consumers with their brands. In addition to sharing information on brand activities through official social media pages or accounts, organizations also are represented on social media through the private social media activity of employees. In their private lives, employees play multiple roles. They are free to share brand-related information, make comments endorsing the organization’s brand, and display behaviors that are consistent (or at odds) with the brand values and promise. For companies, the social media behavior of employees represents both an opportunity and a risk.

When employees talk privately about their brands or the industries in which their companies operate, their comments often have more credibility with their network of contacts than when they speak about them in professional contexts.1 Depending on the substance of their remarks, this can be a plus or a minus.2 Many companies, including Patagonia Inc., an outdoor clothing and gear company based in Ventura, California; Société Générale, the Paris-based banking and financial services company; and Pernod Ricard, a Paris-based producer of wine and spirits, encourage their employees to become “brand ambassadors” to consumers and job candidates on social networks such as LinkedIn and share the company culture on Facebook and Twitter. Businesses such as L’Oréal, the cosmetics company, have even implemented programs to accompany employees, including top management, on their digital journeys and help them communicate creatively and efficiently on social media.3

However, our research shows that for many companies, the opportunity to use employees as brand ambassadors has been only partially tapped. Although employers expect their employees — especially younger ones — to follow the employer’s brand on social media, share its brand links, recommend its products, and recommend the company to job candidates, we found that on the whole, employees displayed very low brand engagement on social media. (See “About the Research.”) At a European consumer goods company we studied, for example, less than half of the employees followed the employer’s brand on social media. Managers at several companies we studied were surprised to learn that their employees were not following them on Facebook or other popular social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.



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3. L. Lammers, “Patagonia’s ‘Tools for Grassroots Activists’ Also Offers Lessons for Business, Marketing Leaders,” Feb. 29, 2016, www.sustainablebrands.com; V. Larroche, “L’Influence de la marque employeur sur l’E-réputation: L’Exemple de trois banques présentes sur le marché français” (“The Influence of Employer Branding on E-Reputation: An Example of Three Banks in the French Market”), in “Médias sociaux et relations publiques” (“Social Media and Public Relations”), ed. F. Charest, A. Lavigne, and C. Moumouni (Québec, Canada: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2015), 65-82; N. Mortimer, “How Pernod Ricard Is Planning to Use Its Employees as Brand Ambassadors,” Sept. 4, 2016, www.thedrum.com; and J. Simpson, “How L’Oreal Uses Social Media to Increase Employee Engagement,” Oct. 22, 2015, http://econsultancy.com.

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10. Wine and Spirit Education Trust, “Graduate Wine Ambassador, Pernod Ricard Winemakers,” n.d., www.wsetglobal.com.

11. P. Sánchez Abril, A. Levin, and A. Del Riego, “Blurred Boundaries: Social Media Privacy and the Twenty-First-Century Employee,” American Business Law Journal 49, no. 1 (spring 2012): 63-124.

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13. L’Oréal human resources representatives, presentation to authors, December 2015.

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16. Xiong, King, and Piehler, “‘That’s Not My Job.’”

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18. Sánchez Abril, Levin, and Del Riego, “Blurred Boundaries.”

19. J.P. Meyer, D.J. Stanley, L. Herscovitch, and L. Topolnytsky, “Affective, Continuance, and Normative Commitment to the Organization: A Meta-Analysis of Antecedents, Correlates, and Consequences,” Journal of Vocational Behavior 61, no. 1 (August 2002): 20-52.

20. C.R. Lages, “Employees’ External Representation of Their Workplace: Key Antecedents,” Journal of Business Research 65, no. 9 (September 2012): 1264-1272.

21. N. Bendapudi and V. Bendapudi, “Creating the Living Brand,” Harvard Business Review 83, no. 5 (May 2005): 124-132, 154.

22. P.R. Devasagayam, C.L. Buff, T.W. Aurand, and K.M. Judson, “Building Brand Community Membership Within Organizations: A Viable Internal Branding Alternative?” Journal of Product & Brand Management 19, no. 3 (2010): 210-217.

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25. Miles and Muuka, “Employee Choice of Voice.”

26. K. Ling, G. Beenen, P. Ludford, X. Wang, K. Chang, X. Li, D. Cosley, D. Frankowski, L. Terveen, A.M. Rashid, P. Resnick, and R. Kraut, “Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10, no. 4 (July 2005).

27. M. Feffer, “New Connections,” HR Magazine 60, no. 3 (April 2015): 46-52.

28. W.G. Mangold and S.J. Miles, “The Employee Brand: Is Yours an All-Star?” Business Horizons 50, no. 5 (September-October 2007): 423-433.

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Comments (2)
Urs E. Gattiker, DrKPI.blog #BrandBuzz #BlogRank
Dear Marie-Cécile
Dear Pamela

Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information. I especially liked reading the questions you asked your participants and the box giving us more details about Study 1 and Study 2.
I was wondering if you have published these data in a working paper or research journal?
I would love to read these to get more details
Can you please provide the details needed to get access to these?

Thanks so much.
sandy joe
You have shared great idea to increasing brand awareness by using Social media. Employee should participate to increasing visibility of their company services.