September 4, 2018

Finding and unleashing your internal influencers


Laura Jameson, Senior Engagement Specialist.

To drive the change and create movements in the workplace, you need to tap in to the internal forces that have the power to cause a stir, uncover the real issues and represent the needs of your people; you need to unleash your internal influencers.

These days, it’s practically impossible to have a conversation about social media and not use the term ‘influencer’ in some way or another. In fact, social media influencers have become a powerhouse for campaigns, with many brands now considering them to be a vital tool in their marketing strategies. The numbers speak for themselves: in 2017, brands spent over 1 billion dollars on influencer marketing on Instagram – a figure that’s expected to double by 2019 – and the top ten influencers on Instagram reach over 1.1 billion followers, collectively earning 6.8 million dollars per post.

So, looking at the effect influencers have on external communications, how can companies identify and incorporate internal influencers in their own internal communications in a way that will successfully reach, engage and resonate with their teams?

What do we mean by an influencer and how can you find them?

Firstly, it’s important to differentiate influencers from the more traditionally used ‘champions’ or ‘ambassadors’. The main difference is that influencers are peer-nominated, rather than self-nominated, meaning they have more potential to engage employees and become a catalyst for change and/or movements in the workplace. Rather than being the highest performers, influencers are often considered to be those ‘in-the-know’, the ‘go to person’ and in some cases, the most vocal – and disruptive.

There are various ways to identify these internal influencers, none of which can be considered the ‘correct’ method. Our recommendation would be to crowdsource. By making use of the knowledge of the masses, you obtain a much more representative view that spans across the various levels of a business to discover the true influencers. ‘Snowball sampling’ is an example of this, a technique developed by McKinsey, where social groups that may be more reluctant to involve themselves in surveys were asked to nominate someone else, a friend or someone they trusted, to participate in a short survey. By evaluating the names that reappear the most, you are able to determine the most connected individuals: the influencers.

To exercise this practice in a more corporate environment, a few simple questions could be put forward to the people in your company: Who do you trust? Who would you go to with a question? The same process would then be applied to the answers given. By looking at which names appear more frequently, you’re able to see who the influencers are within your business, the ones with the real insider knowledge and connections.

What next?

After discovering your influencers, the next challenge is engaging them; finding ways in which you can unleash their true power; involve them in campaigns for a common cause; and use it to your company’s advantage.

I recently hosted a webinar with Staffbase where we discussed best practice and examples of success. Whether it’s bringing influencers together to ensure all your employee voices and opinions are heard or working with your influencers to shape strategy in action – there’s a role for influencers in pretty much any organisation.

Our past work with influencers also emphasises the importance of empowering your influencers, giving them the freedom to collaborate and co-create in addition to ensuring the communication is two way; they are the voice of a community and you should be prepared to listen to and create solutions from their input.

Each business is different, and the way in which you utilise the power of your influencers will depend on the outcome needed. Get the leadership team fully on board and keep the communication constant and you never know – your influencers’ skills may provide the key to a door you didn’t realise was locked.