There’s no shortage of benefits to turning employees into influencers, but there’s a particular group of employee influencers that are in a unique position to advocate for your brand: subject matter experts.
Your organization’s subject matter experts, or SMEs, are key to promoting and strengthening not only the company brand, but also its employer brand.
Let’s take a look at this powerful group of people within your organization and explore ways to tap into their influence that’ll simultaneously advance both the brand and your SMEs’ careers.
What’s a Subject Matter Expert?
A subject matter expert (SME) is a person who’s an authority on a particular field. These individuals are sought out to offer insights, solve specific problems, or meet challenges unique to their expertise.
In addition to having a deep understanding of their subject matter, SMEs are also often skilled teachers who are able to effectively share their knowledge.
This allows them to support their companies’ needs, as well as influence those outside the organization. Often, subject matter experts are thought leaders and innovators who create and share content that builds their personal brand.
Benefits of Activating Employee Subject Matter Experts
How exactly does empowering your company’s subject matter experts help the organization? Here are some of the top benefits.
Increased brand authority and reach
When your employees have thousands of social media followers eager to read their thoughts, or when your people speak at conferences or appear on industry podcasts, the company benefits as well.
After all, your subject matter experts are affiliated with you, their employer. So when your people look good — and when the organization supports them in sharing their expertise — the company brand looks good, too.
This expands brand reach and grows brand authority, which makes sense since your company employs the very people who are authorities in their respective fields.
More influential content
Forward-looking companies understand that great content is essential, and they know it’s important for their employees to create it and share.
And your organization’s subject matter experts are the very people you want doing this consistently. Why?
Because they’re true employee influencers with a depth of knowledge and unique viewpoint, which enables them to develop and disseminate content that not only builds their own personal brand, but also supports corporate goals.
Plus, people want to read real stories from real people, so you want your SMEs sharing their personal experiences with your audience.
Your subject matter experts are often your thought leaders who can craft content that puts your organization on the map.
Improved employer brand and better recruitment
Today your employer brand, or your company’s reputation, is crucial for success.
It’s what makes your company stand out and attracts and retains top talent.
When potential employees see that your company invests in its employees, elevates them as thought leaders, and allows them to build their personal brands, they’ll be more likely to apply for a position at your organization in the hopes of becoming your next subject matter expert.
More advocacy power users
Your subject matter experts are primed to become your advocacy program’s power users who will inspire and lead other employees by example.
As SMEs create and share content in your social-sharing program, they show other users that they value the company’s advocacy efforts. Plus, they give users a glimpse of how they, too, can benefit from becoming an employee influencer.
How do you become a subject matter expert?
The good news is anyone can become a subject matter expert. In fact, you might be one already! But the best ways to strengthen your expertise is following a few simple steps:
- Grow your knowledge in the areas that interest you.
- Continue to find educational opportunities.
- Test out new ideas and strategies.
- Be an authority via social media, website, podcasting, etc.
- Be authentic and human – show your personality!
5 Ways to Develop and Support Subject Matter Experts
Here are some steps you can take to empower your existing subject matter experts and activate new ones within your organization.
1. Provide learning and development opportunities.
Current and aspiring subject matter experts need to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, so it’s essential to provide them with the resources to do so.
This could involve attending industry conventions and events, taking classes or seminars within their specific fields, or giving them access to programs like LinkedIn Learning where they can learn new skills like social media strategy or public speaking that’ll help them flourish as SMEs.
Unfortunately though, 78% of subject matter experts say their employers don’t have development programs designed to help them advance within their specific function.
2. Offer employee coaching.
Every employee can benefit from one-on-one coaching, but this is especially important for subject matter experts.
A coach can help SMEs identify areas for improvement and outline steps to help them outline steps to achieve success.
While managers can certainly coach subject matter experts themselves, employee influencers often feel more comfortable being vulnerable and setting personal goals with someone they don’t report directly to.
Your organization can also tap into its SMEs’ knowledge — and give them an ego boost — by offering them the opportunity to be coaches themselves.
Marji Marcus, an associate client partner at Korn Ferry, says these kinds of initiatives “recognize the deep expertise these individuals have and offer them opportunities to grow their contribution within their own functional areas.”
3. Recognize and reward them — don’t just promote them.
The primary reason SMEs leave their employer is because they’re not recognized for their expertise, according to a Korn Ferry survey.
And more than half of the 731 executives surveyed said their organizations don’t have ways to encourage or reward their subject matter experts other than promoting them into management positions — which many SMEs simply don’t want.
“Many specialized professionals — scientists, analysts, designers, engineers, accountants, architects, doctors and consultants among them — are more interested in developing their professional expertise than in pursuing a general management career track,” according to the report. “They find little to no appeal in a path that would take them out of their area of specialization.”
Instead of relying solely on raises and promotions, companies should identify other ways to recognize and reward SMEs.
This could involve investing in specific education or training initiatives, allowing them to head up special projects, offering them speaking or media opportunities, and more.
4. Help them get their name out there.
Promote your subject matter experts — and your company — by giving them chances to share their expertise with the world.
You can do this by featuring them at company events and webinars, asking them to write for the company blog, quoting them in press releases, and more.
5. Invite them into your employee influencer program.
If your SMEs aren’t participating in your employee influencer program — or if you don’t even have one yet — you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity.
An advocacy solution like EveryoneSocial is exactly what subject matter experts need to empower them to create and share compelling company content.
High-growth companies are well aware of this. It’s why 31% of them have a formal employee advocacy program in place — more than double the average of other organizations.
Let EveryoneSocial Activate Your Subject Matter Experts
EveryoneSocial is designed to turn your employees into influencers, so it’s the perfect tool to activate and empower your company’s SMEs.