Ever since social media became a “thing”, businesses have been searching for effective approaches to utilize their marketing potential in order to increase their brand presence, as well as customer engagement.
The initial phase was a total train wreck and, during that period, social media marketing equalled spamming far and wide, which amounted to close to zero engagement. Being that this approach required a serious effort and brought very bad results, it was abandoned after a time. Since then, we have come a long way and these days, most brands have social media marketing plans that are well-thought-out and usually give good results.
Still, not every brand and business that attempts this kind of marketing moves beyond creating their official page on popular social media networks. Sure, they post updates, sales news and similar business related posts, but that’s barely scratching the surface of social media potential. The problem with using social media as a brand is that they usually come off as being impersonal and dehumanized. Corporate messages have a long engagement rate on social media which is why a lot of brands decide to go for employee advocacy instead of relying solely on their corporate profiles.
Big Brands Using Employee Advocacy
This proved to be a success for a lot of brands. Starbucks, that social media giant, includes employee advocacy as a part of their overall social media marketing strategy. Zappos uses this approach as well and includes special Twitter training for their employees. Another big brand that uses this approach is Southwestern Airlines, which adds employee blogging to the mix. These are just some of the examples of companies successfully integrating their employees into their social media strategy.
The benefits behind this approach are numerous. Primarily, they can sidestep that nasty corporate feel when engaging their target audiences, reaching a lot more people and enabling their employees to manage customer support in a more direct and timely fashion. Furthermore, customers (or their audience if you will) feel a lot safer and are more likely to communicate with a person that has a face and a name than with a brand.
While you might think that you need to be a big brand to apply this approach, it is actually a pretty straightforward tactic if you know what you are doing. Let’s see what an average company can do get their employees to become social media brand ambassadors.
1. Start Small
You need to accept the fact that this won’t happen overnight. You will need to be patient when implementing your plan, as well as with the slow rate at which things will be going in the beginning. Still, the modest numbers that you are going to be seeing in the beginning are not as bad as they may seem at first.
Let’s say that you are a small business with a Twitter profile that has 5,000 followers and you have around 50 employees who have Twitter profiles that have a modest 200 followers (let’s be honest, that’s not that many). That’s 50 x 200 followers, which amounts to an astonishing 10,000 extra followers. This is 200% more people than what you started off with and that’s without any planned growth.
2. Lead by Example
These profiles are private profiles and you might come across some resistance when you suggest this approach, but this is where you need to make the first step. Set an example and start doing it first. Of course, avoid spamming and being overly annoying when sharing your business-related updates.
Furthermore, if your employees are unwilling to use their existing social media profiles, it would be a bad idea to force them to do this, but you can always make it a company policy to create business social media profiles once they start working for the company, so that they can do their part.
3. Teach and Develop their Social Media Skills
Not everyone has that natural knack for using social media. In order to avoid nasty conflicts between inexperienced employees and customers (who can be quite rude in some cases when communicating through social media) on platforms that are very, VERY public, you will need to educate your employees on proper ways to handle social media interactions.
Bad social media interactions between employees and customers are a PR nightmare and can do permanent damage to your brand’s reputation. Knowledge is power and employee empowerment is a crucial factor in this social media tactic.
4. Arm Them with the Right Tools
You don’t want this activity to draw your employees’ attention from their primary obligations and waste their time. You need to ensure that they can achieve a high level of efficiency with minimum energy expenditure and in the least amount of time possible. Do your research and equip them with the right tools for the job. Make sure that they know how to use them and, if necessary, provide some training courses.
5. Ensure a Unified Brand Approach
Sure, you can allow them to do their own thing from time to time, but an overall approach needs to exist. Even though they are using social media, as individuals they need to represent their brand in a proper way so the people familiar with it and its policies don’t feel confused and out of place.
Social media is a way to give your brand a voice after all – don’t let it be misinterpreted. Having a unified brand presence will also help your employees figure out how to approach situations and avoid making awkward public mistakes, which are not unheard of with this approach.
6. Don’t Overcomplicate Things
Don’t turn this into a full-time job. If you overwork your employees with social media tasks, they are going to lose efficiency with their primary functions. There is a limit to what they can do to help your brand grow and this should never turn into a priority for them. Avoid getting dazzled by social media gurus who believe that nine women can deliver a baby in a month. Be patient and keep things simple.
7. Avoid Relying on Employee Advocating Alone
This can’t be the totality of your social media approach. In order for your brand’s influence to grow you will need to ensure that you have an overall social media marketing plan in place. This isn’t a low-cost way to handle social media for free by saddling your employees with one more obligation.
8. Find Ways to Motivate your Employees
Motivation can be a real issue here. Most people will consider these tasks to be quite dull, especially in the beginning and you will need to find ways to motivate them. Company social media ladder boards are a good way to get them into that competitive spirit. Offering bonuses for achieving desired goals is also a good idea. Don’t take their effort for granted and make sure they understand their position and the goal you are aiming for.
Furthermore, if you are not careful some of them might start using social media as a pastime and this can impact their productivity. Make sure you follow their development so you can nip bad habits in the bud. Employees that are happy to be working for you will generally do a better job at this position, since it tends to leak through into their social media post. One of the biggest motivations is success of course.
According to a study done by MSL Group posts that were shared by employees reached 561% further than the posts shared from official corporate profiles. Help your employees recognize their potential and stay up to date with the results they are achieving. Success is a good motivator by itself.
There are tons of benefits of turning your employees into social media ambassadors for your brand. You can reach a lot more people with less effort and a smaller investment. You will also increase your engagement rate by humanizing your social media approach. There are also the benefits that impact your SEO. Social media engagement, reach and activity are all factors for good SERP rankings and brand ambassadors will help you make improvements in all these fields.
Still, you will need to adapt your social media marketing plan to fit into this concept. Ideally, your content will be created with the goal to inspire your employees to willingly share it on their social media profiles. A unified approach works best.
A lot of businesses view this approach as an easy way to quickly boost their social media presence and end up getting nothing for their sloppy attempt at quick social media fame. Plan this out, talk it over with your employees and set up mechanisms that work for everyone. Don’t force things and be patient with the results – they are rarely extravagant at the very beginning, but given time and through consistent effort the benefits will start showing up.
We hope you enjoyed our article and that you achieve great success with your social media efforts.