10 Ways to Unlock Your Built-In Brand Ambassadors
Intuit founder Scott Cook is right on the money when he says, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is. It is what consumers tell each other it is.”
Brands benefit from strong word-of-mouth marketing and positive affinity from consumers, but creating that kind of buzz is tricky and time-consuming—unless you deploy those often overlooked brand ambassadors otherwise known as highly engaged employees.
What Is a Brand Ambassador?
No, we’re not talking about smarmy salespeople extolling the virtues of the bass-o-matic ‘76. Brand ambassadors include anyone enlisted by a company to represent and help maintain its brand identity, but the ones we’re talking about are genuine, authentic, and enormously effective.
When an employee shares positive information or insight about the company they work for on social media, they’ve become a brand ambassador. It’s human nature to trust the people you know, so if your cousin, college buddy, or neighbor posts online about how much they like where they work and what they do, it’s going to mean more than anything coming directly from your brand.
This doesn’t mean employee advocacy—when employees advocate for their employer—can't be planned and deliberate. In many cases, employees become brand ambassadors as part of a specific push from brand managers to identify people who check off the following criteria:
- They’re connected to the company and know the product well.
- They have a direct line to others who might be most interested in hearing about it.
Do Brand Ambassadors Work?
Employee advocacy is considered an essential part of up to 90% of B2B social media strategies. People respond to it, even when it’s the result of a focused effort by brands and marketing departments. When employees share information about the company they work for, their words carry weight.
It does take some work to do it right. Employee brand ambassadors work best when they have material to work with. By training employees on how to post, what types of post work best, how to answer questions, and by giving them great content to share, you’ve created an engine for website traffic, leads, and new recruits.
10 Ways to Help Employees Become Brand Ambassadors
1. Communicate Your Vision Clearly
Do you know who you are as a brand? Do your employees know who you are as a brand? Is the connection between your brand identity and your company vision clear to everyone?
Whatever your vision may be, it’s important to share it with your team in a clear and unambiguous way, so skip the jargon. Focusing on abstract concepts like “We want to change the world” or “We want to beat the competition” seldom inspires loyalty and won’t produce good content. Instead, do the following:
- When articulating your vision, give employees something concrete and meaningful they can run with.
- Find the story that inspired your vision so your employees can retell it in their own words and voice, sharing and creating real-world examples of your company’s vision in action.
- Focus on what makes your brand unique, make sure your employees know it, and they’ll want to share that with the world.
2. Know Your Employees
Brands tend to spend a lot of money and time researching their customer base and target audience. It makes sense. The more you know about who you’re selling to, the better you are at appealing to their values, needs, and wants.
The same principle applies to employees. In an age when employees are more willing than ever to leave their jobs in search of greener pastures, it’s imperative to know what they like, what motivates them, and what makes them want to work for you.
When you master that, you’ll find that coordinating with them to share your vision on social media is much, much easier.
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3. Embrace Transparency
Communication is a two-way street. That may seem obvious, but some brands are still stuck in a top-down mentality that leads to employees feeling undervalued and frustrated. The remedy is transparency.
Joel Gascoigne, CEO of famously transparent social media software company Buffer, neatly sums up the benefits, “Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.”
Employees who trust their employer are often excited to talk about their employer. It’s hard to find a better ambassador than someone who feels the same way about your brand as you do.
4. Ditch Rules, Provide Resources
Quickly, who would rather read a style guide than watch an entertaining video? Certainly not employees. Yet, many brands insist on weighing their people down with endless rules and regulations about what not to post and how not to post it.
A better option is to just make great stuff they can share. Does your brand have a podcast? Helpful videos? Funny social posts? All of these things give your brand ambassadors an easy path to talking about the brand. Plus, good content creates positive affinity with your customers.
5. Provide Basic Social Media Training
While most people in the workforce are at least passingly familiar with social media, that doesn’t mean they have a solid grasp of social media best practices.
That’s why some basic training can help turn a hesitant almost-ambassador into a social media maestro composing epic posts that put you in a very good light. This might be as simple as offering a monthly workshop or creating a helpful how-to guide that can be shared alongside other employment materials.
6. Organize Content Sharing
If you have content you want employees to share, put it where it can be easily accessed. A number of effective brands have created central storage locations where the entire team can access published content. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, including cloud storage and dedicated servers.
Another option may be to create a shared Pinterest board where employees can share not just company-produced content, but links and resources that interest them and are related to the larger brand goals.
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7. Do Something Worth Writing About
The best organic content is honest, heartfelt, and authentic—content your employees will be eager to share with friends, family, and peers.
Having internal brand ambassadors goes hand in hand with having a strong company culture. When employees feel their job provides not just an income, but something of value, they can talk about it with a sense of pride. Does your company provide volunteer time for employees to do some good in the world around them? Are you involved in any charitable giving that employees can be involved in? Are your team-building activities a hit? The possibilities for creating great shareable content are endless.
8. Encourage Team-Wide Content Creation
If you’ve gotten this far into this list, you probably have a good idea of which people in your organization are ideal candidates for becoming employee brand ambassadors. That’s great! However, don’t stop there. Effective advocate programs know how to encourage every employee to talk about the brand. Given time, everyone can find a way to contribute if they’re excited enough.
9. Show Employees How Much You Value Them
Being an ambassador should never be thankless work. Nobody wants to be a cog in the machine. Rather, employees need to know when and how the work they’re doing impacts the bottom line.
This could be as simple as a private thank-you note when you see an employee spreading your message, but you may also want to call-out great employees on social media. Let the world know how much you appreciate them. Otherwise, keep employees in the loop, and reward them when they help you reach certain milestones. The more you engage employees, the more likely they are to rave about you online in a virtuous cycle of positive reinforcement.
10. Empower Employees To Develop Their Personal Brands
It’s great when any employee shares something about the company they work for. It’s even better when that employee has thousands of followers and has a reputation as a thought leader or influencer. That’s why it makes sense to let your team build their own personal brands. Encourage them to write their own blogs, create their own video content, or just get out there and talk about what they love.
Respond to their posts. Follow them. By doing so, you help them a little, which in turn helps you. Reciprocity is the name of the game when it comes to employee advocacy, and continuing the virtuous cycle of positive reinforcement will help your brand really soar.