Small Companies Unleashing Their Employees on Social Networks

More employees of small companies are advocating for their companies on social networks than their much larger competitors.

That’s what the Altimeter Group found in its recent survey of 140 companies. By ratio, smaller companies in the 1-5k range had one 1 out of 195 employees publishing compared to 1 out of 356 in companies with 100k or more employees (see graph below).

More flexibility, less red tape

More flexibility, less red tape, and evolving cultures may be among the reasons.

As I wrote in a post 6 Steps to Empower Your Employees as Brand Ambassadors, the internet allows companies to empower their employees to promote the company and its products. Small companies can’t compete with the monster advertising and social media budgets of their biggest competitors. But small companies can enlist an army of their own employees to go viral with positive comments on social networks.

I’m glad to see this happening and as the company’s web strategist, Jeremiah Owyang, said in announcing the survey results, “Over time, expect all ratios to drop, as a prolific next generation rises into senior roles. We’ll be measuring this periodically, but for now, I would assert that more employees will be using the official accounts over time, as the younger generation learns their way around the business, climbs up the ladder, and is granted ability to publish.”

The director of operations for Gunwel Associates, a boutique tax and bookkeeping firm with only four employees, wrote a post earlier this year, describing how his firm is building customer loyalty and attracting new customers through the activity of its employees on social media. As Christopher Sheehan wrote, “If you’re not connected then you must get connected…becoming active in social media can and will grow your business as well as build client loyalty. We’ve seen it happen.”

So let your employees publish, you big companies out there. Small firms are nipping at your heels!

"Altimeter research on employees on social networks"

Altimeter research on employees on social networks

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  1. Wow these are really interesting numbers. I wonder if the reason why larger companies do let their own employees do this is because of fear of some negative or legal backlash. Whatever the reason, they should think twice. Or not. It gives the little guy a chance to thrive.

  2. Although the survey is really small the results are interesting. Like so many other things in running a business if you get them in place when you are small such as with social media then it is a lot easier to manage as you grow. Perhaps that is one reason why the larger companies are hesitant as to get it in place is much more difficult with a larger number of employees.

    Perhaps they just need to look at one platform first instead of thinking they need to be involved with all the social media options.

  3. Susan – You make a good a point that applies to companies large and small. They think they have to be on all the social networks instead of rolling out a program beginning on one platform and then moving on to others. How simple to have a senior executive announce a new product line and then have his company followers retweet it.

  4. I believe the recently obliterated Borders Books admitted that lack of engagment in social media is what paved the path for their demise. I’d be curious as to why that “giant” didn’t engage. Clearly it makes sense to utlize loyal employees to have exponential reach with all their contacts. I recently finished reading the book Drive and am amazed to see strides in companies both small and large to tap in to the wisdom and strengths of employees already in place, not just to market, but to innovate.

  5. Keyuri — I think things started to go sour for Borders years ago when, instead of having their own website where you could buy books directly from them, you were routed to for fulfillment. I was pretty surprised by that. No doubt they were behind on leveraging social media networks and their own employees.

  6. It’s hard to believe some companies are still underrepresented on social isn’t it Jeannette? One interesting trend I’ve noticed is health insurance and drug companies don’t want to be part of social. If I were them, I get involved now before dissatisfied “fan” make their own pages. Another trend I see is those companies who don’t have to compete are also nowhere to be found.

    • Catherine — the highly regulated companies are all skittish about social media. But I think it’s just easier for them, an excuse not to have to do anything. One bright exception is Pfizer. I wrote about the company’s internal communications program in a blog post which is worth reading because they have such a great program. Here is the link Pfizer also re-purposes of lot of its content for its external website. So there’s hope!