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Strategy

5 Ways to Transition Your Employees into Devoted Brand Ambassadors

You’ve nailed your pricing psychology, studied up on the ABCs of customer loyalty, and distributed your messaging across all marketing channels. So why does it seem as though your customers or potential customers aren’t buying into it?

Rebecca Wojno
September 26 2017

It may be time to give your marketing some credibility. 52% of consumers say they trust content created by an employee at a company. Brands, it’s time to ‘hire’ from within. If you want your customers to listen to your message, you must first get your employees on board. Brand messages are eight times more likely to be shared on social media when first shared by employees rather than by the brand.

Your employees could transform into one of your biggest assets, if your hard workers convert into brand ambassadors. A brand ambassador initiative entails “brands empowering employees to support the goals of the brand, through employee-owned social media.”

Most people have held multiple jobs during their career, but how many times did one of those roles include serving as a brand ambassador?

Yes, I put in my hours. Yes, I did the work. But I left the office right at 6 almost every single day. I didn’t share ‘company news’ with my family or friends, or want to discuss my work in general. I didn’t ‘like’ their activity on Facebook, let alone feel compelled to share anything company-related. The company branded sweatshirt never even left the office.

I was anything but a brand ambassador.

Brand ambassadors still do the work. But when something exciting happens for the company, brand ambassadors want to share the news like it’s their news. If the company asked their employees to post on their social media account and share company updates, they would. Happily.

Take a moment to think this over.

Does company news seem more authentic when delivered by the CEO, or when his/her employees take to social media and demonstrate their excitement on their personal accounts?

When employees discuss the company in their own words (we’ll get to this), it humanizes the brand. It reads as authentic, and what may seem like a boring update is actually a valuable resource. An employee advocate is two times more trusted than a chief executive.

It is possible to encourage and inspire employee engagement outside of the office and turn employees into the brand ambassadors you’ve always wanted. This has to do with the employers. Not the work (although that does help significantly). Not the perks. The employers.

So how to do it? Here are some of the most important principles.

#1 Be Transparent

As a company, honesty is your best policy. Encourage and maintain in-house transparency about company updates, news, culture, success, failures, financials etc. It may seem unnerving, but the funny thing about honesty is that is often leads to loyalty.

Employees will feel excited about their company if they feel like they’re part of the success. They spend 40-45 hours a week working for your brand, so don’t treat them like bystanders and leave them stranded in the dark. When it comes to the workplace, secrets aren’t all that fun.

Social media managing platform Buffer, takes transparency seriously enough to post salaries of employees from their CEO, Joel Gascoigne, to their ‘happiness heroes.’

Marketing agency goBRANDgo’s Brandon Dempsey shares revenue, profit, payroll, cash account balances, and other information on a wall in their office so his entire staff knows how the company is doing.

I’m not saying you should immediately post everyone’s salaries, but consistently informing your employees about company news and updates goes a long way down the road to advocacy.

#2 Make Employees Feel Valued

This tip may seem obnoxiously obvious, but if you believe validation=perks, hold the eyeroll. Even the best perks won’t get the job done if employees don’t feel heard.

A few ways to make employees feel validated:

  • Onboarding: Take the time and gather the resources to make onboarding as smooth as possible. Leave no questions unanswered, get plenty of feedback, and of course, make new employees feel welcome.
  • Management: The best bosses empower their employees, acknowledge that their employees are not company soldiers, inspire their team in a positive way, and run their department as… a team. Good management makes a HUGE difference in an employee’s willingness to become a brand ambassador, so before you ask your team to sing the company’s praises—and by extension yours—make sure the trust and respect is indeed a two-way street.
  • Feedback: If your feedback is constructive, your team will appreciate the direction. Most—if not the majority of—employees want to feel good about their work, or become aware of how they can improve. If the lines of communication are open on both ends, they’ll feel a stronger connection not only to their work, but to their company, and that’s the secret sauce for a great brand ambassador.
  • Salary: This one’s easy. If you fairly compensate your employees for all their hard work, they’ll work even harder (in most cases).
  • Company culture: Create an environment that acknowledges that your employees are people who have their own lives outside of work, and deserve a comfortable working environment. The company’s mission, values, ethics, expectations, and management should be clear and aligned with how a manager or executive runs the team.
  • Work-Life Balance: Your employees have their own lives. By respecting, and more importantly, helping them maintain a balance, you’ll earn their trust and loyalty. Recent studies have shown that work-life balance is an ongoing challenge for employees. When companies approach personal needs with empathy, the gesture is oftentimes more meaningful than a high salary, or various other perks, and logistically, respecting (and insisting) on a work-life balance for employees isn’t difficult. Putting your employees first means acknowledging that they have their own lives outside of work, and sometimes, they may need to leave early to pick their kid, or come into work a bit late due to a doctor’s appointment.

AND LASTLY

  • Perks: Perks come last because without good management, onboarding, feedback, salary, and culture, perks don’t mean much at all. You could plan a trip abroad with the entire company, but if employees don’t feel valued, they’ll take the free trip and continue resenting the company.

Work towards or maintain validation by making the company’s success the employee’s success. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s science. And while you’re at it, here are some additional ways to make employees feel valued.

#3 Make sharing easy

People need guidelines and direction to varying degrees. When asking employees to share branded content or news on their social platforms, make them as familiar with your company branding strategy as possible.

Show them examples of copy they could post along with news. Showcase and celebrate employees who shared your content. Make sure they know what to share. If you make employees aware that sharing is encouraged and provide example posts or direction, they’ll be even more inclined to share your content (I know, I know, shocker).

Leading social media management platforms—such as Oktopost—have built in employee advocacy abilities that make sharing across multiple social channels easy and convenient. Oktopost’s Social Advocacy Board allows employee to share, edit, or schedule a company news post with a single click. Brands can encourage social sharing by providing a straightforward process and encouraging creativity.

Nokia has mastered the subtle art of turning employees into brand advocates, and one way they accomplish this is by letting employees talk about the brand however they want on social media. Management even encourages employees to join in conversations that mention Nokia in a positive OR negative light.

#4 Encourage employees to be themselves

Yes, this extends to social media as well. Allow employees to express themselves and get creative in their new role as brand ambassadors. Celebrate company culture, while encouraging employees to exercise their individuality.

Southwest Airlines allowed employees from any department to design new uniforms, and their employees said that this was an “unforgettable experience.” One video of a flight attendant rapping safety information went viral. Southwest gives their team members freedom to be themselves and they’re loved for their approach. Happy employees make for happy customers.

#5 Clarify your brand, mission statement, and company procedures

All employees should know what the company does, why it does it, what the product is, etc. If team members can’t tell you what exactly the company does, they may feel less inclined to share your content on their social media platforms.

Brand ambassador all-star Nokia teaches their employees facts such as:

  • What is the first thing that Nokia manufactured? Rubber boots
  • When did Nokia sell their billionth mobile phone? 2005, in Kenya
  • The brand’s mission statement and where the brand is headed

The more your employees know about the company, the greater the chances they’ll become brand ambassadors.

The first step towards turning employees into brand ambassadors begins with the hiring process. If your potential hire isn’t on board with the product or mission in the first place, they’ll never become advocates. Here’s how internal marketing can encourage advocacy.

Conclusion

Brand advocacy requires more than throwing a few perks around, but the results could be worth the effort. Employee’s advocacy is more trusted than paid ambassadors or the thoughts and opinions of the CEO. Encourage employees to be themselves and if all else fails, treat employees as you’d like to be treated and you might just earn an ambassador in the process.

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Rebecca Wojno

Rebecca is a marketing content writer and copy editor. Aside from writing about the importance of customer retention, she spends her time searching for good Mexican food and watching "Suits" reruns.

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