The power of employees on social media

By Laura Scales, Social Media Marketing Manager, First Tennessee Bank

Perhaps, you’ve seen the “employee takeover” trend on other social media sites. A company gives a set of its employees the “keys” to one or more of its social accounts for a day. They post throughout the day, showcasing customers, community involvement, even their own sense of humor.

At First Tennessee, we thought: why not us? Even though most banks are conservative by nature, we’ve worked hard to create a culture that values social storytelling and celebrates employee advocacy. So, we were excited to see what could happen.

The work began with detailed planning about each takeover. We are a bank, after all! To lay the foundation, we sorted through numerous considerations:

  • Which employees and markets should be involved?
  • What channels should they take over?
  • What types of content make sense?
  • What were the brand values we wanted to illustrate?
  • How frequently should each team post?
  • How do we ensure channel security once the takeover is complete?

Answers to those questions helped shape the direction as we moved toward selecting the employees, communicating the plan, and walking them through expectations. However, once those expectations were set, our corporate social media marketing team took a step back. Why?

Authenticity and employee excitement about the opportunity are essential for success. Our employees are some of our most powerful advocates. They believe in what we stand for and how we serve our customers. They also know our customers and communities better than anyone. In this instance, we knew that our job was to simply unleash the power of these voices to tell our story.

As we suspected, our people were excited and engaged from the start. They went to work immediately developing content ideas and working with their teams to plan out their individual takeovers hour by hour. The idea was to have them draft the takeover plan in as much detail as possible, even creating the post copy ahead of time so that our legal department could approve it.

On the day of each takeover, one lead employee would have access to the social media channels on which they planned to post that day. As their takeover happened, that person would be responsible for posting.

The results exceeded our expectations. The stories they told with each takeover were uniquely local and strongly reinforced our brand commitment to our communities.

A few teams surprised customers with gift cards. Others paid off layaways at local stores. Some paid for gas at stations around town. Pitching in and giving back was the theme throughout.

Perhaps, one of the most memorable moments was our Knoxville team’s idea to buy a new winter coat, hat and gloves for Ricky, a beloved newspaper seller they’d often seen working outside in inclement weather. The touching video of Ricky opening his very personalized gift received the most engagement of all the posts in the series.

Speaking of engagement, we saw a lift across the board in each channel. Comments, likes and shares all saw an uptick as our takeovers took off.

There were also benefits we didn’t anticipate. Though we had expected the exercise to be a unique way to give back to the community, we had not anticipated its benefits for internal team building. First Tennessee has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best employers, but the internal feedback we received about the social media takeover consistently highlighted how much fun the participating teams had executing their takeovers and how they helped strengthen relationships among team members.

In fact, even employees who weren’t directly involved—but followed along from their personal social media accounts—bonded with their colleagues and shared pride in the posts.

Moving forward, we’re already looking for opportunities to implement more employee participation on social media. Given the overall success of the employee takeovers to build camaraderie, humanize our brand and tell our story both creatively and locally, we know these events are just the beginning. Our plan is to continually develop new ways to showcase our people and to put their voices and talents out front on our social media channels.

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