As marketers, we’re constantly looking for new ways to reach our target audiences. Whether it be social media or an app, there are countless opportunities for brand building. And effectively using all channels is what ultimately determines success.
However, there is one avenue many companies don’t pursue: employee advocacy. This often gets pushed to the side because brands don’t recognize how useful it can be, or because they don’t know how to use it. But a properly managed employee advocacy program can have a huge impact on your branding efforts.
This is largely because it helps boost brand authenticity. Having employees go out of their way to promote their employers’ products is a resounding endorsement of the company, and it helps you access new audiences in meaningful ways. But implementing a successful employee advocacy program is easier said than done. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you use this tool to effectively grow your brand.
Perform a Self-Audit to Understand the Situation
The first thing you need to do to ensure your employee advocacy program is a success is to focus on two things:
- Are employees using your products? If they aren’t, this is a big red flag. It suggests that employees perhaps do not believe in the products they are selling. And if this is the case, you need to address this issue if you hope to build a successful employee advocacy program.
- Are your employees engaged? When people are engaged, they are willing to go above and beyond what’s expected of them. If engagement is low, you probably won’t be successful in getting employees to become brand ambassadors. Measuring engagement can be tricky, though, so consider hiring an outside HR firm to perform a survey that will give you accurate and reliable results.
When your team is ready to go, you need to do the following to help make your program a success.
Provide Resources to Ensure Consistent Messaging
The key to any branding campaign is consistency. You need to make sure you’re generating the same set of associations every time someone comes into contact with your brand. This is why content guidelines are critical.
Consistency also applies to an employee advocacy program. If you’re going to have employees speaking on behalf of the brand, you need to be sure what they’re saying is accurate and in support of your overall objectives. And the best way to do this is to provide content for people to use. This way you can be sure what they share is an accurate reflection of the company brand.
To do this, consider setting up a content platform. In this system, you can include sample social media posts, talking points and other pre-curated content. This will have two effects. First, it makes it really easy for people to participate. And second, it helps ensure that all messaging is accurate and consistent. To give you an idea of how this can work, consider what major brands AT&T, HP and IBM did to help their employees distribute branded content to their inner circles.
Offer Incentives That Promote Authenticity
We all would love it if employees would promote the company on their own accord. But we all also know this is unrealistic. People today are busy, and they have a lot of things competing for their attention. As a result, you need to make sure your employee advocacy program comes with some incentives to get people excited and motivated.
However, be careful about cash rewards, as these can get expensive. And they can also erode the program’s authenticity. If people are posting because they know it will get them a small bonus, and not because they really care, then their messaging isn’t going to be very effective.
Instead, consider smaller rewards, such as simply recognizing those who are more active in monthly staff meetings. Or you could also offer small perks or benefits, such as an extra PTO day or the chance to work from home, to those who make a serious effort to spread brand messaging in their social circles. These benefits will help encourage those who are interested in doing more for the company, but they will also prevent people from participating just to get a little extra cash at the end of the month, something that will seriously hinder the authenticity of your campaign.
Employees Are Your Best Resources
This is something we’ve known for ages. But when you add an employee advocacy program to the mix, it becomes even more true. Initiatives such as this allow you to tap into employees’ inner circles. This means you can build more intimate connections with certain segments of your audience, expanding brand reach and engagement.
About the Author: Jock Purtle is the founder of Digital Exits. His brokerage work has exposed him to many different aspects of business development, and he enjoys sharing his experience by contributing regularly to blogs and business forums around the web.