How to turn your employees into brand advocates

Whether
you run a local restaurant or a global brand, your brand image should be one of
your top priorities. This isn’t something you can fake or build overnight.
Having a positive brand image isn’t about creating a recognizable logo or name;
it’s about reputation, and you can’t build or strengthen it alone. You need to
earn the respect and trust of your employees so they support and believe in
your company and its mission. Once you’ve established that trust, you can
empower your employees to become advocates and share your brand’s story with
their personal networks. Many people are passionate about their company and
want to talk about it, but they need to know the company supports and even
encourages those efforts.

Why should you encourage these employee
advocacy efforts? What do you
really get out of it? Engaged employees. Empowered employees. They live your
brand story everyday. They embody that story. If you give them the tools,
guidelines, brand-safe content, and support they need to be advocates, they
will present your brand story in a trusted, authentic way. If you empower your
employees to be advocates, you have a passionate army of ambassadors, who have
the ability to reach customers, influencers, journalists, and prospective
hires. With this amplification comes new leads, accelerated recruiting, greater
sales, and increased brand awareness.

When you develop a culture where
advocacy is a core piece, it’s easier to share important communications and
it’s more likely that employees will tune in to what you’re sharing. Once those
employees tune in, you can share your brand story and let them work with you to
define your culture.

If your organization needs
to make a large change, like a reorganization, the transition will be much
smoother if your employees are involved and invested in the company. Any new
initiatives that require communication to customers will be consistent with a
formal employee advocacy program, as employees will be aligned around company
communications.

Additionally, formalizing employee
advocacy is another way to give your deserving employees recognition and
rewards. You can use your platform to identify who your major supporters and
advocates are, and recognize them.  Employee recognition is one of the top
drivers of employee engagement and job satisfaction. The employees who are
already advocating will appreciate your support and you may even drive more
advocacy from other employees who see the incentives.

Supercharge your sales team

Encourage your sales team to use social
selling. After all, they have a built-in incentive to participate. You can give
them the knowledge and content they need to build credibility and strengthen
relationships with customers and prospects by sharing great content via social
media. Your salespeople will raise their own social profile as subject matter
experts while simultaneously keeping your brand top of mind with customers and
prospects. For B2B sellers, not only will they never miss an RFP or proposal opportunity
again, they will be seen as experts by your prospects and customers because
they’ve shared all of this useful content with them.  For B2C employees,
they’ll be able to share tips, offers, coupons and new products guiding
consumers to through the zero moment of truth. Most importantly, social selling
works. According to our social selling
report
, 42.3% of surveyed salespeople use social in their current
selling process with 5% of those attributing 50% of their closes to social.

Amplify Your Marketing Team’s Reach

Your marketing team can use employee
advocacy to be more involved in social and increase the awareness and reach of
branded content. And if you need to build a following around a specific cause,
or want to announce a product launch, your marketing team can spread the word
quickly. Amplify the reach of your company news while managing your brand
perception by making PR social. And if a crisis hits, (think rogue Domino’s
pizza employees,) you can give your employees crucial information and
guidelines so they can broadcast company approved messages fast and with a
broad reach to help shape the story with a more balanced perspective.

Customer Service 

Those outside of your organization are
on social, so to connect with them, your team needs to meet them where they
live. Your customer service team can better support customers by proactively
communicating and advocating on social. First, you can arm your customer
support employees with timely information empowering them with the insights
they need. Then, your employees can share important support information over
social media to help customers before they lob complaints at you. Customers are
thrilled with the proactive experience where you’ve anticipated their needs.
Your customer support team is happy because they have happier clients. It’s a
win-win all around.

Hiring Talent:

Another incredible opportunity is to
power up your HR organization, hiring managers and anyone involved in helping
recruit and hire new employees with social recruiting capabilities.
 Employee advocates are the best social recruiters if you make it easy for
them to share new job opportunities with their contacts, which will improve
your hire quality and retention rates while cutting your time to hire in half.
    

The All-Powerful Employee Buy-In

I’ve shared the benefits of employee
advocacy but in order to obtain those benefits, you need to gain your
employees’ support. How do you do that? Start simple. Identify those who are
already passionate about your company. A few may already be advocating on their
own and talking to their personal networks about your organization. To find
those employees, look at social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to
find out who’s talking about you and what they’re saying. You can also talk to
department heads as they’ll have deeper insights into which of their direct
reports are the most engaged already. Once you know who these engaged employees
are, you can establish a formal program.

Providing
guardrails

It’s important to provide your
employees with guardrails so they know what’s appropriate and how to behave on
social.  Provide all of your employees with an appropriately designed social
media policy and have a discussion around it so they understand the policy and
its purpose. You want them to create and share content and they need to feel
informed, safe and empowered to do so.

Encourage
Your Advocates

Once employees know that sharing
brand-safe content is supported by the company and they know what guidelines to
follow, you can start encouraging advocacy. You don’t want to push it though.
Advocacy should be an opt-in program with no repercussions for not
participating. Some employees just aren’t natural advocates, and that’s ok. You
can encourage your natural advocates to celebrate and recognize some of the
quiet do-ers in your organization who are delivering day in and day out.
 That being said, you can certainly recognize and reward those employees
who are talking about your company, spreading your brand’s message, and slowly
building up your reputation. This is an ongoing process so you should
consistently check in to get your advocates’ thoughts on the company and the
employee advocacy program, as well as frequently monitor how those outside of
the organization are responding.

While an employee advocacy platform
simplifies your advocacy program, it’s not something you throw into the wild.
You need to manage it consistently and keep checking in with employees and
external networks. Employee advocacy tools just make these steps easier for
you. Once you have laid the groundwork, by setting up a formal employee
advocacy program, you can continuously manage and strengthen your reputation
with the help of those who know you best- your employees.

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