Is This The Million Dollar Idea or The End of Our Society as We Know it?

Is transforming your employees into micro-influencers creating a reward transactional society?

While presenting at the Chief Growth Marketing Officer conference in NYC, someone presented a radical new idea that spurred negative feelings amongst executives in the room.

Interestingly, I was able to catch my own mind’s subtle dismissing reaction as I listened to this young presenter. I first thought that he didn't’ have a lot of experience and might not have attended any employees engagement conferences.

And yet, for the exact same reasons, he might see something that I don’t in part due to my own experience bias.

As I described in my keynote presentation on that day, and teach in my workshop, our minds resist any new ideas for the sake of survival: change means unknown, and the unknown is a threat to the existing order.

So I’m going to leave it to you to make your up own mind and tell me what you think.

A Simple Idea

The idea is simple: to tap into employees’ social networks by transforming them into social billboards using monetary incentives or perks.

If you’re not familiar with the evolution of influencers strategies, in the last couple of years key influencers have evolved from public figures and celebrities into micro-influencers sometimes with just 1,000 followers.

My 17-year-old daughter was offered to become a brand ambassador for a mingle clothing brand. All she had to do was to post a picture on Instagram of herself wearing the brand clothes, add specific hashtags to receive a 30% off discount on any future purchases and receive a small percentage for every friend buying a piece of clothing.

The next step after converting customers into ambassadors is to transform your employees into social billboards taking the influencers model one step ahead. In fact, converting your employees into micro-influencers can save you millions in advertising dollars and create organic brand awareness like never before. Employees are well-positioned to act as the bridge between a company and potential customers. Content gets amplified from friends and family sharing the post often without reading it because they trust or support the friend and family member.

Some companies are already doing it:

  • MillerCoors offers its employees to pay for a beer to a stranger in a bar about to buy another brand.

  • Another example is GE. Faced with a negative perception, the brand found that it was having difficulty recruiting for open positions and decided to start an employee brand ambassador program.

A well-thought and carefully crafted employee engagement program will have the marketing, HR, and legal teams work together and agree on various guidelines to manage the risk and ensure the brand voice.

Yes, but, are we building a Reward Transactional Society?

My first gut reaction was that, despite the enticing benefits and business model appeal, I felt we were getting confused and missing something very important: ethics and transparency.

I have worked for many early-stage companies and you could feel the team spirit. Everyone happily became a social billboard to spread the word and we all tapped into our friends and family networks. We all were salespeople sharing our excitement with the world.

When a company gets bigger, this feeling of empowerment starts to wear off as everyone slowly gets into their defined role and responsibilities, and the relationship becomes transactional: in exchange for a salary and benefits, employees do their job.

The digital generation is well aware of impressions, views, and likes and they know the power that they hold and represent to others.

So what is happening?

Is paying employees to use their social networks changing the relationship between employees and companies?

Are we slowly becoming a reward society and going towards a society of constant trade and fake posting similar to the reviews on Amazon?

Or is this a new area where leaders need to re-evaluate their core value, their ethics and find new ways to be transparent?

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