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Written by Aubree Smith
Published on January 22, 2024
Reading time 6 minutes
We asked 1,623 consumers who they wanted to see reflected more in brands’ social content. Their top answer: frontline employees. Not executive leadership, corporate employees, other customers or even social teams. According to Sprout Q4 2023 Pulse Survey data, 48% of respondents want to see the people behind businesses, not just those who run the brand account.
What’s driving the interest in frontline employee content? The demand for more authentic marketing from brands. According to the latest edition of The Sprout Social Index™, consumers believe they don’t see brands sharing enough authentic, non-promotional content or transparency about business practices and values. Fill this gap by tapping into frontline employee engagement on social media.
When brands make frontline employees the stars of their posts and campaigns, it spurs greater audience engagement and strengthens your brand reputation. In this article, we share examples of brands that have mastered getting frontline workers involved in social content, and break down how to build your own strategy.
Aside from being relatable, frontline employee content can look different depending on your brand, audience and, most importantly, employees. Here are different ways to approach employee engagement on social, and real brand examples to inspire your strategy.
For followers craving employee realness, lo-fi content is exactly what the doctor ordered. Like in this video from Mayo Clinic nursing. The video features nurses responding with contempt when someone off-camera describes the room as “quiet.” The “q-word” is bad luck in the nursing field—an omen that chaos is just around the corner.
Don’t EVER say the Q word #nursehumor #swearing #ruinaday #quiet #hospital #nursesoftiktok #healthcare #funny #fyp #mayoclinic
♬ original sound – Mayo Clinic Nursing – Mayo Clinic Nursing
The eight-second video appears to be shot on a phone, probably requiring minimal production lift. Yet, it received over 5 million views, nearly 750,000 likes and over 5,300 comments. Response to the video was overwhelmingly positive, with fellow medical professionals and frontline employees in other fields affirming the “q-word” phenomenon.
Why it works: Lo-fi content alone might not give you these performance results. The magic comes from tapping into the universal truths known by your employees on the front lines, and asking them to take the reins and capture content. Lo-fi content from the field gives customers and potential employees a realistic view of what your company culture is really like.
Every frontline employee has a story, and weaving their stories together creates the tapestry of your company culture. Lean into the emotional, inspiring stories unique to your team. In American Airlines’ series, GenAIRations, the airline shares stories of families who have built multi-generation careers at the company. Like in this video about the “Rodriguez Five,” siblings who followed in their father’s aviation footsteps.
Or this video of a single father whose hard work empowered his daughter to become one of the youngest Latina pilots in the airline’s history.
It’s hard to watch those videos without getting misty-eyed. The emotional narrative builds up to a key conclusion: The sky’s the limit for people (and families) who choose to build careers at American. The compelling series has been watched by 14,000 people on YouTube, and videos repurposing the content on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn gained nearly 9,000 engagements.
Why it works: A meet the team series like GenAIRations highlights the frontline employees who are crucial to shaping your brand and customer experience. Tapping into heartfelt stories like these can reinforce your people-first culture, demonstrate how much your company cares about its team members and humanize your brand.
It’s equally possible to highlight your frontline employees with light-hearted content. When Lyft rolled out their Women+ feature, a new program that matches women and non-binary drivers and riders, they promoted the launch with whimsical videos of what Women+ rides would look like.
In this video, Dana, who is a real Lyft driver, picks up two passengers. During the ride the trio listens to daily affirmations, experiments with gemstones and picks up milkshakes.
We’ve got a new feature that matches more women and nonbinary drivers and riders – Women+ Connect – and we’re expanding to 50+ new cities around the country. Is yours on the list? Let’s make more of these moments happen! Check out the link in our bio.
♬ original sound – Lyft
The TikTok video received an astonishing 24 million views, 117,000 likes and 653 comments (as of the date of publishing). Users were quick to praise the video and celebrate the new feature in the comments section, sharing their enthusiasm and eagerness to use it.
Why it works: The issue of women and non-binary people’s safety using rideshare services is serious. But by centering the experiences of women and non-binary drivers and passengers, Lyft was able to approach the topic with relatability, optimism and care. Frontline employee content enables brands to show their customers they understand their needs and concerns, and they can play a major role in new product promotions.
Some of the best employee content comes from companies elevating the day-to-day work of their frontline team members. When the Chicago Cubs baseball team posted a video of their hot dog vendors demonstrating their signature calls for National Hotdog Day, the video was a viral homerun, scoring over 42,000 likes, 900 comments and almost 5,500 shares on TikTok. The video even outperformed content featuring the team’s players.
Baseball aficionados and casual fans were quick to sound off in the comments with their love for the franchise and the vendors, and to vote for who had the best call.
Why it works: Wrigley Field is famous for its food and beverage vendors’ unique calls, but these frontline employees are often overlooked by mainstream media in favor of the players and coaches. By shining a spotlight on these hardworking employees, the Cubs reinforced why the work they do is critical to the park’s success. Which team members are the unsung heroes of your business? Elevate them in your social content.
Frontline employee engagement on social media starts with support from all levels of leadership. Some employees might shy away from the camera—afraid they don’t have enough training or media savvy. Others might not have enough time to prepare or capture content, and will worry about the time commitment of getting involved.
Here are actionable ways you can encourage frontline employees to participate in your brand’s social content, and reassure them you have their back.
There’s only so much you can capture from the corporate office. You need footage in-store, in your restaurant, on the factory floor, from the hospital, etc. For example, a majority of San Diego Zoo’s content is produced on site.
Happy birthday Neville! Pellet cake for everyone! 🥳🍰🦏
♬ original sound – San Diego Zoo
By sending your content and social teams to “the trenches,” it will make it easier to document the front lines, and build relationships and establish trust with frontline employees.
By deepening these connections, you can pave the way for frontline employees to capture their own content, like this example provided by an aquatic conservationist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s #GarWeek.
When your frontline employees do have content ideas to share, make sure they know where and how to surface them. This will reassure them that you see value in their ideas, and create an open dialogue where you surface customer insights revealed in day-to-day operations.
Finding the right people to spotlight can be a huge challenge in larger orgs, especially multi-location brands (like restaurant chains, airlines, retail, etc.) Marketing execs need to tap into their internal networks to generate excitement around this kind of effort and recruit “talent.”
Ask frontline managers and other leaders which employees they’d recommend be featured. They can help you identify team members who would represent your brand exceptionally well and be most comfortable in the spotlight.
With their input, you can pull off something like Flock Freight’s series “Humans of Trucking,” where they feature and interview professional truck drivers who have a strong relationship to their brand.
Ensure employees get the recognition they deserve for taking part in your social content. Share frontline employee social content and performance metrics internally. Send via email, Slack or your employee advocacy platform. If frontline employees don’t have a company computer, you could also feature it on screens around your facilities.
Finally, thank frontline employees for their time, and explain how their contribution impacts your company’s business objectives.
Frontline employees offer a rare authenticity that can help your brand stand out and propel your social media performance to new heights. Audiences are eager to see them in your content and, like the posts in this article demonstrate, that can translate to major engagement wins.
Looking for more insight into consumers’ evolving expectations of brand content? Read The 2023 Sprout Social Index™ to stay up to date on what consumers want from your brand.
Aubree Smith is a Content Strategist at Sprout Social with a passion for helping others grow as social media marketers. Her enthusiasm for guiding others extends beyond Sprout, as she is also a registered yoga teacher.
Read all articles by Aubree Smith
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