They say your first clients are your staff members.
In the past, companies would often overlook the crucial role their employees could play in influencing current and potential customers. Businesses have now discovered the powerful impact of empowering team members as brand advocates.
It is not a random act of corporate kindness.
Every time brands make the wise decision of involving their employees in sharing content or fronting a campaign, they are tapping into valuable social graphs and organically built credibility.
It all comes down to one key business ingredient: trust.
A global authenticity study by public relations and marketing agency FleishmanHillard compiled insights of more than 290 companies and brands in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and China – including giants Nestlé, Samsung, Bayer, Adidas, General Motors, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Airbnb, and Unilever, as well as a further 200+ businesses. This study revealed that consumers are three times more likely to trust a company employee rather than a CEO when it comes to sorting fact from fiction regarding a brand.
Results of employee advocacy can easily outperform well-crafted automated campaigns using external tools. Take the 2019 Dynamic Signal Customer Impact Study: it reported that employee advocacy programs resulted, on average, in a 106 percent increase in social media reach, 39 percent increase in brand awareness, and 12 percent improvement in online reviews.
Here, 10 professionals share tips on how to bring employees to the heart of your branding and communication.
1. It starts with the hiring process
“Brand advocates are most efficiently made during the hiring process, that is, an organization should hire, whenever possible, people that already believe in the product/service they provide. And converting people that already work for you into ambassadors is best done by appealing to a common sense of purpose within the organization.”
Austin Denison – Management Consultant and author
2. Know your brand’s purpose and values
“Guide employees on how to represent the brand, its purpose, and core values. From customer service representatives to employee LinkedIn or social posts, every member of your team can help create a one-to-one dialogue with consumers to build a positive word of mouth.”
Kathy Oneto – Chief Strategist at The Agency Oneto
3. Give away items that employees will be proud to use
“One of the easiest and most powerful ways to turn employees into brand advocates is to give them company-branded swag. It could be as simple as a t-shirt or water bottle. Consider putting together a swag bag for new employees. Make sure to include items that employees will actually use and be proud to show off.”
Matt Satell – Growth Manager at Mechanism
4. Blogging can be an authentic brand advocacy tool
“Employees are more effective advocates than the company itself.
To get them authentically advocating for you, give them something they’ll want to promote in a way that is enjoyable. For example, give them the opportunity to write for the company blog with a by-line. If your budget allows, print custom swag with your logo on things they will actually use, like a wireless phone charger or a leather notebook.”
Nicole Meyerson – Founder of Meyerson Engagement
5. Emphasize their potential influence on your company’s success
“When your staff believes in your brand and the solutions you provide, their enthusiasm is contagious. Passionate employees create passionate customers.
To transform your employees into brand advocates, help them understand how powerful their impact is. Emphasize their potential influence on your company’s success. Consistently remind them that their voice and perspectives matter, and they’ll be all-in.
6. Reward employees for re-sharing content
“We are most definitely integrating brand advocacy into our marketing to create alignment between the brand and the people who make it what it is. I think it is also important to provide real incentives by adding friendly competition into the mix to get your staff members re-sharing things, from the brand to their personal channels”.
Daniel Koffler – Founder of New Frontiers Executive Function Coaching.
7. Make social media part of the business’ culture
“Don’t forget about your closest, least expensive, and best influencers: your employees! First, you must give your employees direction and education on how to use (and how NOT to use) social media when representing your organization. Then, give them examples of copy to share, links to your social accounts weekly, and make it part of their routine and the company’s culture.”
Christina Hager – Social Media Strategist at Ovations Digital
8. Match employees’ contributions to good causes
“Leaders can model how to embody a purpose, such as feeding programs, by matching employees’ contributions to a hunger fund, for example. Companies should also involve their staff when rewarding clients with personal and meaningful small gestures, such as getting team members to sign “Thank You” cards to valued customers”.
Vincent Lee – Art director and author
9. Frequent and clear communication is the key
“First, you need a brand that’s worthy of advocacy. This means having a clear brand purpose and message, something unified that everyone can get behind. Once this is established, you need to communicate it frequently and give your employees a reason to believe it. It has to permeate into everything you do as a company, from top to bottom.”
Nate Tower – Director of Marketing at Perrill.com
10. Celebrate their successes
“The most important aspect of activating your employees as brand advocates is to empower them by giving them the information and tools they need to effectively advocate on behalf of your brand. Having an honest and open dialogue about your brand’s strategy, objectives, and core values lets them know that you value their input and opinions. It is also imperative that you recognize their efforts and celebrate their successes, as this encourages other employees to take the initiative to promote your business’ brand as well”.
Nahamani Yisrael – Consultant at Digital Marketing Agency Nahamani.org
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