Offer a clear vision to help staffers become brand advocates

Authenticity is crucial these days, and employee endorsements—of your workplace culture, as well as your products or services—are essential to your success. Here’s how to proceed.

Employee advocates

To be effective brand ambassadors, your employees must understand your organization’s social media objectives.

Roughly 70% of social media marketers use or plan to use employees as brand advocates, as many budgets shift away from traditional brand marketing to influencer marketing, according to Sprout Social research.

The reason is simple: People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend than from a brand.

Without a clear vision, however, employees’ brand advocacy can fall short or even go awry. You must define and document your organization’s social media vision to ensure that your in-house brand ambassadors are clear on your objectives and their role in achieving them.

Define your social media purpose

Before you create profiles and start posting, first ask: Why is my brand on this channel?

Three common purposes for a brand’s presence on social media are:

  • Recruitment. Social media, especially highly visual channels, can be a great place to showcase your company culture and highlight why you are an employer of choice. As your team and talent needs grow, consider creating accounts solely focused on recruitment (such as @InsideZappos) and including custom hashtags to help potential candidates explore your recruitment content.
  • Content amplification. As your company publishes content (videos, company news, etc.), social media can help you reach more people. It’s also rather easy to measure success. Just include a custom shortened link (through, Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.) so you can track the click-through rate.
  • Customer advocacy. This purpose can be twofold, either focusing on reacting to customer feedback on social media or proactively celebrating customers’ successes and sharing updates on the partnership.
    • Reactive: Many customers expect social media channels to be a primary way to communicate directly with your brand, and some platforms (like Twitter) can be a great place for this. Be careful, though: If you have a dedicated account for customer service, your audience may have expectations that exceed your capabilities. One study found that 72% of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour.
    • Proactive: Celebrating the successes of your customers is a great “thank you” to them and can act as informal testimonials to attract new customers. Still, it’s important to ensure you always have written agreement from your customers to allow them to be used in case studies or for content. If you are finding it difficult to secure that permission, consider giving a 10% discount on your product or service at the start of your contract in trade.

Enable and activate your brand ambassadors

Communicate with your team about your social media goals, and point them to a written overview of the strategy for each channel, including what they can do. Here are ways they can support the three purposes above:

  • Recruitment
    • Encourage employees to share “day-in-the-life” moments on social, using your branded hashtag. Dell employees use #IWorkforDell,and the company’s corporate accounts often retweet or share content from its employees.
    • Have prepared job listings that employees can share (and get a referral bonus on). Some companies create quick graphics that team members can share easily with their networks.
  • Customer advocacy
    • Train employees on how to respond to customer praise or criticism on social media, and ensure that they know the appropriate person to notify about any problematic tweets.
    • Provide examples of how to disclose customer relationships when sharing customer news or touting clients. Also, clearly disclose what projects or information would be OK to share, and what would not be, given confidentiality concerns.
  • Content amplification
    • Ask yourself:
      • What channels and handles do you want employees to amplify? Do you want them to follow your executives?
      • When should an employee share a URL directly, versus just resharing or “liking” your tweets, posts and updates?
      • What’s the policy on leaving comments?
      • Are there any hashtags you want them to use when amplifying content?

With your employees up to speed on your guidelines, you can easily scale the successes of your social media goals. Continually encourage your team to post; retweet or engage with content that you think models the ideal employee post.

Erika Heald is a content marketing and social media consultant. A version of this post first ran on her blog.

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