A Plea for the Social Employee

Jannis Blume
Feb 25 · 4 min read

My timeline on LinkedIn is increasingly turning into a vanity fair for my contacts and theirs.

Especially at a time when good, fruitful conversations — conducted virtually — are becoming increasingly important, we should not squander the chance to do so.

It is time to change course.

Most of my contacts’ posts on LinkedIn are advertisements: either for themselves, for their products or events of the companies they work for.

And in between: Sponsored Posts — purchased ads. My timeline on LinkedIn resembles an endlessly long advertising board.

Rarely is there a post among them that stimulates an exchange of views or thought, or offers a special insight.

Even in the few groups I am a member of, there is almost no exchange anymore.

It used to be different. There were still passionate debates, struggles for interpretative authority, and a willingness to help when someone asked for advice.

Then the groups still offered something like utility — a usefulness for their members. And these in turn were driven by their eagerness to be useful for others.

That changed when LinkedIn decided to shift the focus away from groups, back into the Timeline, where Sponsored Posts can be played out.

There is obviously no money to be made from the eagerness of the few who dare to get involved in the groups.

Since then, the timeline has degenerated more and more into an accumulation of the vanities of my contacts: Showing what one has. Showing how you want to be seen by others. LinkedIn is becoming more and more like Instagram.

There is not much left of utility. A missed opportunity. Too bad!

According to Mark Burgess, author of the best-selling book “THE SOCIAL EMPLOYEE,” 90 percent of people no longer trust ads, but they do trust the advice and recommendations of professionals and peers.

“Word-of-mouth” — personal recommendation — is 10 times more effective than a traditional advertisement.

Social Employees convey an authentic corporate image to the outside world and thus help to find new talent and prospects for the company.

All they need to do is talk about their company’s topics, their projects and their work, and continuously exchange information on this with their networks.

They are more than classic brand ambassadors: social employees can mediate between the interests of the outside world and those of their companies, initiate conversations and influence public opinion without falling into advertising mode.

Social Employees also have a great interest in learning how outsiders view their work, their products, their companies. They are open to both praising and critical voices, and they learn from the experiences of their customers and colleagues.

To illustrate the importance of employees as brand ambassadors, Mark Burgess uses a memorable image by comparing a baseball to a bag of marbles.

The baseball represents a company’s marketing power on social media. The bag of marbles represents the company’s employees who carry their company’s messages on social media.

The baseball and the bag of marbles have about the same volume and weight. Thrown into water, they would displace about the same amount of water.

If we compare the sum of the surfaces, the marbles together provide about 300 percent more surface area than the baseball. This larger surface area is the potential that can be generated and lifted by Social Employees.

Corporate Marketing vs Social Employees

Just like the marbles in the bag, Social Employees are in close contact with their communities, they rub and turn and are thus constantly on the move. They interact permanently with their neighbors and thus unleash unimagined powers.

Let us always remember: Markets are conversations, they take place between people. Whether information, opinions, perspectives, arguments or humorous comments are exchanged, the human voice is open, natural and unaffected.

Whether it’s conversations between talent and company employees, or between vendors, prospects and customers, they’re gaining momentum on social networks like LinkedIn.

Good conversations require listening to each other and establishing a shared context.

At a vanity fair, on the other hand, everyone talks at cross purposes and most of all about themselves. Business cannot thrive like that.

“The net is a machine for recognitions. But with every sharing, the danger of inflation also increases — everything becomes more and more unimportant, arbitrary. Share only what is valuable IN RELATION to specific people.”

– Futurologist Matthias Horx, from his blog post „The Creep of Concepts“ (in German: „Das Kriechen der Konzepte“)

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