Since Russ Fradin initiated Dynamic Signal following the $300 million acquisition of his previous startup, Adify by Cox Enterprises (which Cox has since shuttered), he has transitioned away from paid media and helps brands tap customers’ social media influence.
The idea behind Dynamic Signal is to simplify the process by which passionate customers can advocate brands on social channels, and to make it easier for brands to track these engagements and turn them into opportunities.
Over the last year Dynamic Signal, of which Fradin serves as CEO, branched out into a new subset of community engagement: employee advocacy, a business that now drives half of Dynamic Signal's revenue. AdExchanger caught up with Fradin to discuss the shift, why it made sense for his firm and how it is transforming the way his customers leverage employee influence.
AdExchanger: Is employee advocacy for companies that want to engage employees internally?
RUSS FRADIN: [Dynamic Signal’s solution] is not an internal thing at all. This is not a competitor with Yammer or Jive. In fact it is the exact opposite of that. This is for companies to help their employees gain stature and share more interesting thought leadership content or product-related content on their Twitter and their LinkedIn in a way that's legal, in a way that's compliant, in a way that doesn't violate any FTC laws, in a way that's rewarding and in a way that's authentic for the employees. This is an enormous opportunity we've really only scratched the surface of.
What problem does this line of business solve for clients?
How do companies partner more effectively with their employees to help them build their own personal brand? That's been a refreshing change: Companies have realized that their employees are their biggest assets. They shouldn't be shutting them up on social media, they should be partnering with them and working with them and rewarding them for that.
We went after this opportunity when we realized there was this big use case for our platforms beyond just the customer advocacy, when our clients would start asking us about rolling out our tools to their own internal employees. We've seen enormous opportunity from companies as small as 20 people to as large as 400,000 employees. Employee advocacy has turned into something that's grown like crazy for us and very quickly become half our business.
Do employees really want to participate in this kind of advocacy?
We were talking to the head of comms at a big CPG company. That person told us that they were doing an employee survey and 70% of their employees said, “We'd love to talk more about company X, but we don't know what we're allowed to say and we don't want to get fired.” Your employees can be your best advocates. We've taken some of those relationships and helped them go from “I don't know what we're allowed to say and I don't want to get fired,” to ”Man, if I share something that shows up through this platform, I know I won't fired and I'm going to get thanked. I might even get rewarded.”
So the goal isn't for them to become shills or mouthpieces, but for companies to push employees’ content so they can authentically talk about parts of the companies that they love.
When rolled out the right way, employees are loving this. One of the consistent things we hear all the time is customers will say that the people that love it the most are midlevel and junior employees, because not only did it drive value but it also helped them get recognition in the organization.
What's the most obvious way customers use employee advocacy?
When sales people use social media, 78% of them outsell their peers and beat their quotas. It is hard enough helping a small sales force of, say, 10 people take advantage of that. But if you're a company and have thousands and thousands of sales people, how do you actually get them to effectively use social media? That's been one of the biggest use cases for our platform, social selling. We have helped plenty of clients roll this out to their sales force.
What about other use cases?
We've had other examples where it was initiative-specific. For instance, when they're trying to get everyone in the company to talk up a big event or conference. What they're doing with us is running contests and leaderboards with their employees because they're able to track [whether] this person's tweet drove Russ to register for XYZ Conference, or it was this other person's Facebook post that did it. When you track to that level, you can drive great rewards. But it all starts with the convenience to push the message to the employee, compliance to make sure the content is approved by legal and then credit for the employee when that sharing is successful.
Another use case has been social recruiting, getting people to share job listings on their LinkedIn and so on. If a listing pops up on your phone and in one second you could share that job listing, and then we tracked and knew it was thanks to you we drove six referrals, you as an employee would do that all day long.
We've also done work around thought leadership. So the goal is not to sell a product, but help our employees gain Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter followers, because the more we can help them talk about interesting things, the more it improves their brand and value to us.
What kind of technology investment did it require to branch off into employee advocacy?
It uses some of the same technology as customer advocacy, but if you get into the weeds you realize that to really be great on the employee side you need a type of technology you don't need on the customer side.
For technology that people are going to roll out to 400,000 employees, there's a huge amount of effort you have to put on the back end for the nonsexy element of security. For instance, you have to support single sign-on. Larger companies don't want employees to create new usernames and passwords for this and they want to be able to automatically lock employees out of the system when they leave the company. So there's the whole security and compliance element.
Another thing is we made a major investment in partnering with Adobe to do a full, end-to-end integration with Omniture that required no work on the client's part. So that means if you share a piece of content, your employer doesn't just know that it drives likes and tweets and favorites and clicks, they know what happened post-click, thanks to things like Catalyst.
We've also made a heavy investment in mobile. About 90% of the sharing happens as a result of something happening on mobile devices.
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