Gone are the days when consumers fully trust in the marketing content brands release into the world. In fact, research found only 55 percent of consumers considered a company’s marketing materials to be a trusted source of information when making a buying decision. Fortunately, there are other ways you can get your marketing message in front of the right person at the right time AND in the right way. How? Employee brand ambassadors.
While marketing professionals often forget about staff, those who work for a brand can be a powerful marketing channel. Staff are well-positioned to act as the bridge between a company and potential customers while helping to build trust and credibility. With this in mind, it's foolish to overlook staff as brand advocates.
Although any company employee will have a perceived bias for their organisation's product or service, internal brand advocates from outside the sales and marketing teams have a sense of authenticity about them. Additionally, the fact that they are willing to endorse a product and personally vouch for a brand validates that brand.
When cultivating internal ambassadors and advocacy on behalf of your brand through a formal employee brand ambassador program, the extra training provided—including ensuring they are kept up-to-date on the latest content and product enhancements—can benefit existing customers as much as prospective clients. The same cues that employees watch for with prospects can help them provide exceptional service to existing customers, including providing them with new tools for software adoption, adding a module to address a customer’s new business focus, or even a hands-on refresher session on your product’s functionality. The more staff know about the resources available to them, the better they can create a personalized and curated experience. This personalization can, in turn, strengthen and increase the longevity of their customers’ brand relationship.
Although employee brand ambassadors can be a successful part of the marketing mix, there needs to be some groundwork to ensure a successful brand ambassador program. Start with doing an employee engagement pulse-check. If your staff are are unmotivated, a brand ambassador program is unlikely to take off. And with only 32 percent of U.S. employees engaged, according to Gallup, (a number that’s been flat since 2000), it’s likely that most companies’ uninspired workforce won’t support a brand advocacy effort.
But, once you’ve identified a core group of engaged employees, a small pilot program with internal brand advocates can likely bring others onboard. Pinpoint the natural leaders, regardless of title, who consistently drive collaboration on their teams. Reach out to them and gather input on what a compelling brand advocacy program would look like, then put their suggestions into action on a small scale. For example, you can start with a weekly email highlighting a few key pieces of content and provide click-to-share links that can quickly populate a message on the social channel of the employee’s choice. The easier you make it for employees to share content and engage with prospects, the more likely it is they will participate. This type of content can also significantly help employer branding initiatives too
You have an engaged employee base and an awesome product, so the employee ambassador program is guaranteed to be a raging success, right? That depends entirely on its execution.
I worked with one leader whose point of view around employee advocacy was, “if they (employees) don’t want to share our content, then they shouldn’t work here.” If that’s your point of view around employee brand advocacy, I encourage you to take a step back. Is there significant value in an entry-level customer support employee sharing your bottom of the funnel analyst report in their Facebook stream? Possibly, but it’s more likely that they’re annoying their friends with irrelevant content.
Instead of having an expectation that your workforce is sharing all of your content across their channels, ask them to share the content that most resonates with them. Some may choose to share projects they worked on and are proud of while others may share job listings or the latest blog posts. Allow employees to take on only what feels like a natural fit.
Speaking of good fit, although employee advocacy platforms have the benefit of making it quick and easy for employees to share corporate content, they may also result in a deluge of status update spam. There’s nothing authentic or compelling about a prospect seeing four of your employees posting the same canned message and link in unison across social platforms. Or even worse, a company leader whose “set it and forget it” approach means they’ve shared the identical generic pitch for the annual customer conference every day for a month on their social channels. There’s a fine line between automation being a helper and hurting your brand. Whenever possible, make it easy for employees to customize their social messaging when sharing content, so you don’t fall into this trap.
And last, but not least, make sure there’s something in it for the employees for participating, above-and-beyond corporate profits. Award the most active employee champions of your brand with a symbolic award or even, an invitation to your annual President’s Club. Use a leaderboard to make each employee’s contribution transparent and encourage friendly competition. In these small ways, you can integrate brand ambassadorship into the company culture, and increase its effectiveness.
For a head start in getting your employee ambassador program up and running, download Meltwater’s employee social media playbook template.