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Can your employees also be brand ambassadors?

Who are your company’s brand ambassadors? For many businesses that task falls to company leaders and management with the occasional celebrity spokesman for those that can afford one.

But what if you were able to utilize some of your employees as company brand ambassadors?

Generally speaking a brand ambassador is the term coined for a person employed by a company to promote products or services. Ideally that person embodies the company identity on all levels from appearance to ethics. Most people would think of someone like the ‘Flo’ character for Progressive insurance.

While many people associate a brand ambassador on a visual level based on marketing campaigns with visual ads such as print, television or videos, there is also the aspect of social media to consider. For the idea of employees being brand ambassadors we are going to focus on that specific niche and show how they can help promote the company brand.

It takes a village

More than likely if you have a small or mid-sized company there is only one or two people promoting your brand on social media. The CEO or president is probably on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ as the face of the company and there are also probably company accounts set up for those mediums as well as YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs and the like.

While that is a good start, that is only one or two voices in a very busy social media world. Not to discount those voices, as they are important as a starting point, but how much influence do they really have?

Studies have shown that trust in CEOs and company heads has been declining, however trust in company employees has grown.

Following that line of thought, and the success of companies like Adobe who have successfully empowered employees to be brand ambassadors, maybe it is time for your company to look within to help spread the brand. Consider if you are able to utilize just 20% of your current employees to help spread your brand. Imagine if those people are able to match your current number of followers with their own followers on the various social media outlets.

That is the power behind employee brand ambassadors.

Measuring advocacy

There is an interesting website, Socialook.net, that measures employee advocacy on Twitter. Using the rankings (which are searchable to compare your own company) you can see the potential in having employees as advocates.

As of August 2014, Yahoo ranks number one overall in the US. Interestingly they have only 813 employees on Twitter which represents 6.9% of total employees. Of those 813 only 54.9% are active but the group as a whole as almost 4 million followers.

That is a tremendous amount of reach for someone who isn’t a pop star, athlete or actor.

How to create employee ambassadors

There are different methods for turning employees into brand ambassadors and the logistics will vary from company to company. Consider these suggestions:

  • Create an optional ambassador program – Rather than requesting all employees take part in this type of program, offer it as an option with some sort of bonus program built in for reaching particular benchmarks. This will help get the right people involved in spreading your brand; the go-getters who like social media.
  • Host instructional seminars – Not everyone understands the nuances of social media. Sit down people who wish to be in the program and provide instructions and insights for methods to help reach the company goals. Adobe provides three levels of training with their “Social Shift” curriculum that starts with social media basics, moves to social media strategy and ends with executing business objectives.
  • Avoid reprimands – Employees need to feel confident about the guidelines of the program and understand where the lines are. If people are worried about being reprimanded they will be more cautious and less likely to share.
  • Use IT-managed accounts – Rather than having individuals using existing accounts, create IT-managed email accounts for all brand social media accounts. This prevents leaking of personal information and credentials and also avoids issues when someone leaves the company. It is simple enough for a person to invite all of their existing followers on one account to also follow them on another.
  • Create branding hashtags – Companies have created unique hashtags as a form of branding that are then utilized with certain types of posts. For example, #adobelife is used around any event held for employees. Incentives are then offered when people provide updates using said hashtag to promote the brand.
  • Trust employees – Rather than telling people what to say, focus on teaching them guidelines and let them do the rest. It is a more organic and “real” method that resonates with followers. Also try not to place restrictions on use of social media at work even if people are using them to build their personal brands. More than likely any positive exposure they gain will still reflect well on you.
  • Promote from within – When you find people who want to go further and excel, offer them the opportunity to do so. Some people end up being “naturals” at a given task and allowing those people to do more and compensating them for it is just good business. One Adobe employee has built a solid following on Twitter and in some months drives more business for Creative Cloud subscriptions than the official business account.

Social media is something that should be looked at from a practical and positive angle for a business. Rather than inhibit enthusiasm for the brand, by creating a positive and rewarding policy for social sharing your company can benefit from having employees as brand ambassadors.

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