You've probably heard the terms, "Brand Ambassadors" and "Brand Advocates" with regard to your employees. If you haven't, now's a good time to start paying attention.
Last year, tech giant IBM made marketing headlines when their #NewWayToWork campaign was awarded Viral Marketing Campaign of the Year from the Annual American Business Awards of 2015.
While awards are great, the phenomenal ROI was even better, the campaign enlisted 1,000 IBM employees to become brand advocates on their own social media accounts garnering a whopping 141,000 clicks to #NewWayToWork campaign content.
If you've been working hard to leverage your company's social reach, you understand exactly how hard-earned those shares and clicks really are.
Related Article: How to Build Brand Advocacy in 5 Simple Steps
Employee Advocates: What’s the Big Deal?
If you're barreling along at status quo, you might wonder what the benefits really are to enlisting your employees in sharing your brand. And you might be concerned about what that entails.
Does your company need to monitor employee accounts? Does this necessitate extra expenditures or bonuses for employees? And what's the down side?
The down side to not enlisting employee advocates is pretty enormous. In fact, it's detrimental. Did you know that 53 percent of decision makers eliminated a vendor from consideration based on information they did or did not find about an employee online?
What that tells you is that whether or not you institute a company wide policy on social media use and presence, it's important to your company's ability to drive sales.
Whether you've initiated employee ambassadorship in your company or not, the odds are pretty good that some or many of your employees are already sharing things about it online.
Just like your customer base, your employees spend a great deal of their time on social networks. If they list their employer anywhere, they automatically become a front person for your brand. People associate what they say with your company.
The Benefits of Employees as Brand Advocates
There are a great number of benefits to be gained by reaching out to your employees to positively share your social media campaigns.
Your employees likely have more followers combined than your corporate social media platforms reach, so you're automatically reaching more people just in the number of followers.
Adding to that, many consumers tune out company messages unless they're searching for something specific or unless your social media platform offers them something by way of entertainment or value.
For many of your followers, your regular tweets, Facebook posts or shares won't show up on their news feed because one way Facebook determines what is seen is by how often said person interacts with it.
Your followers are more likely to exchange information with personal friends and individual colleagues.
Here are a few of the many benefits to enlisting employees to help spread your message on their social platforms:
Whether your corporate social media platform has a ton of followers or a modest amount, your employee's reach will extend it.
Many companies find that its employees can reach more people than the corporate platform alone. In fact, employee brand messages are re-shared 24 times as much as the same messages distributed by the company.
Related Article: Built In Brand Advocates: Gaining Followers Through Employee Socials
Your employees’ followers aren't looking at them as a company; they view your employee as an individual person and, often, a personal friend.
That automatically heightens their ability to garner better engagement in their posts and shares. Individual employees can garner up to eight times more engagement in likes and shares to company content.
Individual Employees Garner More Trust
People don't trust company social media platforms. It's not that they think you're lying but they know that your main purpose is to sell your brand. Not so with your employees.
They may represent your brand but they're also seen as individuals. Their followers take their recommendations in the same way they'd take a recommendation from a friend, with the added caveat that the employee comes across as an expert on your company.
All of this added trust means increased sales. In fact, consumers are up to 77 percent more likely to purchase a product based on a recommendation from a trusted friend.
What to Consider When Developing an Advocacy Policy
Once you realize the tremendous impact of employee advocacy for your social reach, you're likely thinking about the down side. And yes, there is one.
We've all heard about missteps online which can cost a person everything, including their career and reputation. And these things are not always, or even usually, cases of a person saying anything dramatically negative online.
It can easily be something captured by another person, which goes viral or something taken out of context. But, your employees will reflect your own company, so that's something to consider when developing your policy.
Your employees need to know what's appropriate and what's not by your own policy regulations. This will help put them more at ease in using their social media accounts with regard to work and might offer a bit of a refresher on the way things might appear online which isn't necessarily accurate to the reality of their person.
Related Article: From Like to Lead: Optimizing Social Media for Lead Generation
Some things to consider when developing your policy:
Incentives for Social Sharing
You can't make brand advocacy a mandate from your employees’ private accounts. They may not necessarily want to mix work with social media where they go to blow off steam.
A great way to encourage them is by offering incentives, whether you're offering a bonus or prize or some small token for participation.
Your employees should have a hard and set guideline on what is and isn't appropriate where your brand is concerned. Remember, their social media platforms might not be a place where they normally censor themselves in the same way they would for professional channels.
Resources and Training
You should offer training periodically and resources for your employees to use in nurturing their own social media accounts and growing your reach.
Your employees are your greatest asset at work but they're also your greatest resource in how well your reputation is built and received, in general.
Manage your reputation effectively. Today's social media craze has made the individual voice something far more powerful than it ever has been before.
Adding your employees' ability to connect on a personal level to your current social media strategy offers the best avenue to greater engagement.