How to Turn Your Socially Engaged Employees Into Brand Advocates
As a die-hard Mad Men fan, I was sad to learn the show is coming to an end next year. In preparation for the final season, I recently started rewatching a few episodes and reminiscing over some of my favorite ad campaigns from the show. One ad, in particular, stills piques my interest the second time I watch its scene—the episode in which Don Draper and his team pitch a thoughtful print ad for Heinz ketchup.
But it’s not the ad’s wit or Don Draper’s charm that makes my taste buds yearn for the tasty condiment. Rather, it’s what my pals, social connections and influential contacts might have to say about it.
While the Mad Men-era advertising agency brings back some of those romantic feelings for print ads, snazzy taglines and retro imagery, the modern consumer is looking for a more genuine way to fall in love with your product. Your advertising and marketing may accurately describe what your product can do, but in the age of social media, consumers are more likely to trust what other people say about your brand.
According to a study by SocialChorus, 92 percent of people trust people they know, but only 14 percent trust advertising. Plus, 77 percent of customers are more likely to buy a product when its recommended by a trusted source. That’s why you need people to advocate for your company and your product, and who better than your most engaged employees who are active on social media?
"Employee advocates are socially engaged employees who create and share their employer's brand content on their own social networks," says SocialChorus. But, more importantly, “traffic generated by employee advocates converts more than twice as fast as that from traditional marketing tactics.”
SocialChorus adds employees can reach an audience that's 10 times larger than your brand, and content shared by employees receives eight times the engagement of content on branded channels.
If you’re ready to embed brand advocacy into your company culture and increase the engagement of your content on social media, here are four steps to get started:
1. Identify Your Most Engaged Employees
You may already know who your most engaged employees are right off the bat. According to the National Business Research Institute, these folks produce twice as much work as unengaged employees. These people may also stick out from the rest because they:
- Believe in your company’s values, mission and goals
- Want to work to make things better for their teams, employees and the company
- Understand your business context and the bigger picture
- Are respectful to colleagues and always willing to help
- Stay up to date with developments, news and happenings within your industry
These employees may already be active on social media. Search for them on various social channels, especially LinkedIn and any additional platforms that fall into your company’s social media strategy.
2. Equip Them with the Knowledge They Need to Engage
Knowledge is power, and those employees who are well informed on your company’s social media goals, strategy and policies will be empowered to have the greatest social impact on your brand’s advocacy.
Start by educating your employee advocates on your company’s social media strategy. Outline your target audience on various social channels and the company’s social media goals. Then, explain how those goals and your employees’ engagement efforts will support overall business objectives.
Lay the groundwork for success in your social media policy. “Social media policies prevent bad things from happening, but they also focus your efforts for maximum effectiveness, allowing more good things to happen,” says Casandra Campbell, a social media expert. Design your social media policy to “empower [employees] to take action and make the right decisions when representing our brands online.”
3. Empower Them to Engage with Content and Ideas
Once you’ve identified socially engaged employees in different areas of the company, equip them with the most relevant content to share and new ideas to pursue for user-generated content. Kathi Kruse, an automotive social media marketing expert, suggests reaching out to individual employees with ideas for social media contributions. For example, if you have an employee who loves video content, let her create “how to” videos or whiteboard discussion videos on topics customers are talking about. Or, if you have an employee who loves interacting with customers, ask her to contribute a series of Q&A blog posts that answer customers’ frequently asked questions.
Make sure your employees are aware of the content your marketing team is creating too. To make the sharing process even easier, draft a suggested tweet or LinkedIn update with the most relevant keywords and hashtags so employees can share your content even faster if they don’t have time to craft a custom post.
4. Get Employee Buy-In
If you plan to build brand advocacy into a long-term business strategy that’s to be ingrained in your company culture, consider developing an employee advocacy program.
With a formalized program comes strategies for motivation, such as gamification, and accountability, especially if you choose to incorporate advocacy into employees’ roles and responsibilities.
TopRank Blog also suggests identifying a company stakeholder to motivate your advocacy team, communicate with employees on social media goals and performance and train employees on social media best practices for sharing branded content.
What Are You Waiting For?
Your employee advocates have the potential to reach thousands of customers and drive thousands of social engagements, just by sharing your branded content with their connections.
If you’re not already sharing content on social media, you're missing an opportunity to generate valuable leads. Download this case study to discover how content increases new lead engagement when compared to non-content social media leads.
Jennifer King is a Brand Journalist with Kuno Creative, where she applies her unique skills as a journalist to develop engaging content for B2B clients. Her work has appeared in various publications including Lifehacker, Forbes and Great Place to Work. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa via photopin cc