Brand Ambassadors: How to Unleash your Strongest Asset for a Competitive Advantage
Social media has become indispensable for business communications, but all too often brands fail to empower one of the strongest social assets: their employees. Considering that businesses with high employee engagement get nearly four times the revenue per share than competitors with less employee engagement, failing to create employee ambassadors is akin to telling top salespeople to stay home. Employees can expand brand footprint through positive engagement, anecdotes and thought leadership. And as they gain a larger social following, it often leads to the acquisition of new customers, organizational talent. Creating brand ambassadors takes more than giving employees Twitter accounts, especially since only 30 percent of Americans are engaged in their jobs, according to the 2013 State of the American Workplace report.
All hope is not lost, though.
Start from day one
The first day is a fantastic time to get people hooked. They’re excited about the company and their job, and want to make a good impression while learning about where they work. After day one, you can lose them as they bury their heads in their job and everything else moves to the back burner. Asking them to become a brand ambassador then is piling onto other duties. Set aside time in orientation to help new hires set up Twitter and LinkedIn profiles and even provide blurbs about the company and their position that they can use.
In addition to making social as easy as cut and paste, standard language across brand ambassador accounts ensures that employee profiles are optimized with the right brand message and keywords. It also helps people build brand associations from employee accounts.
Think it’s impossible? Not quite. When I was at PwC, the majority of employees had updated profiles that described the professional services firm similarly, providing a clear brand message that resonates and sticks with prospects. The consistency doesn’t just have to be the words. It can be a look and feel.
Look no further than the Twitter avatars of Carrot Creative, a Brooklyn-based digital media company. All of the employees use a cartoon portrait of themselves over a green background. The ensemble looks similar to the company’s logo and helps promote their brand.
Make sharing a habit
If companies really want to effectively use employees on social, they have to create internal behaviors that employees will use externally. Encourage social media use by creating forums for employees to interact. As the social habit becomes engrained, they’ll become more likely to use social media as a brand ambassador.
At Vocus, I often receive employee requests about starting a sports team, sponsoring a charity event or any number of ideas. I tell them to put it on Chatter, our internal social network filled with company news. If they can field a team or generate enough volunteers, we’ll happily help them.
Using Chatter does two things: 1. It empowers employees, making them take more pride in the initiative, and 2. Internal posts lead to external sharing.
People are creatures of habit. The more you create social forums for people to interact, the greater the chance they’ll take that behavior outside of the company.
Provide role models
Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer showed that people trusted regular employees (50 percent) more than they did CEOs (46 percent). When the employee has technical expertise, the trust level shoots to 67 percent. That’s great news. You have dozens to hundreds to thousands of trusted ambassadors. But it’s not an excuse to keep the C-suite off of social media.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a famous example and early adopter of Twitter for customer service. Back in 2008, AdWeek called him a “one-man customer-service machine,” organizing giveaways and resolving customer issues. Hsieh showed his employees how and when to use social media. Six years later, Zappos has become as famous for unparalleled customer service as shoes.
An additional benefit of C-Suite tweets is that when executives take the time to do social, it shows that everyone can find a few minutes to engage customers and prospects. Social role models don’t always sit in the boardroom, though. Employees in cubicles motivate their peers, too.
People, especially new hires or recent adopters, don’t respond and behave by a list of rules and policies. They watch people around them to see what accepted practice is. Play on this. Give accolades and recognition when you see good things happening.
Prepare now for the future
Having a group of brand ambassadors is critical for businesses today, but it will only increase in importance as social becomes more and more entrenched as part of the buying cycle. By 2018, the 75 million millennials in the U.S. will outspend every other generation, including baby boomers. Of those big-spending millennials, 63 percent use social media to stay updated on brands, making having an online social presence critical.
Empowering employees to become engaged brand ambassadors today will help your business prosper in the current and future sales landscape.