Building a positive brand image takes more than just articulating your message via content and feeding it to your target audience. To make a strong impression, you also need to consider other factors that affect engagement, including your timing, customer service, and trust.
Take note that, in the age of digital distribution, content gets published left and right. You can’t just publish an article on your blog and expect new customers to come in droves. For startups and small businesses, chances are they don’t even know your site exists. And if you utilize display advertising for visibility, there’s only a 0.05% chance that they’ll trust you enough to click to your site – let alone turn into leads or paying customers.
If you want to cut through the content noise, you either establish your credibility as an information source or “borrow” the credibility of others to spread your message.
One solution is to do influencer marketing, wherein the likes of bloggers, thought-leaders, and social media celebrities become your trusted brand advocates. In a nutshell, you get to leverage their online reach to push your content, raise brand awareness, and build trust.
But in this post, we’ll explore some of the most valuable and underutilized advocates of all – your employees.
Grooming your employees to become brand advocates accomplishes two things:
- They maximize the reach of your content. According to a study by the MSLGroup, employee social channels spread content 561% further than official brand channels. Additionally, they are also 8 times more effective when it comes to social media engagement.
- They can deliver consistent customer service. As brand advocates, employees will be much more in touch with your value statements. This will reflect in the way they communicate with your customers and uphold your brand in their day-to-day interactions.
In other words, leveraging employee advocacy is like killing two birds in one stone. Not only will it solve your content reach and trust problems, you’ll also get the best customer service team in the world – a group of loyal and highly-engaged employees.
How Does It Work?
Here are three ways to ensure the success of your employee advocacy campaign:
1. It Starts at the Office
Simply put, you can’t have effective employee advocates without a tightly-knit company culture. If you want them to vouch for your brand, they must genuinely respect and embrace your organization. That’s why, as a business leader, it is your duty to provide them with a workplace that fosters open communication, collaboration, and camaraderie.
This can be done in multiple ways, such as introducing game rooms, integrating cloud collaboration tools, or having an open floor, hot-desking office. Group activities such as lunching out, holding surprise birthday parties, and attending charity events is also a great way to bring your team closer together.
Tools like HipChat make it easy for people across teams within an organization to keep in touch with one another, with topic-organized chat threads for collaboaration and discussion. Tagged mentions, file attachments, mobile apps, screen sharing, video chat and support for custom bots all make HipChat a worthy platform for maximizing a culture of productive engagement.
2. Encourage Social Media Sharing
As you focus on creating a harmonious company culture, you’ll find more opportunities to humanize your brand and make it more relatable to your audience. For example, sharing a Facebook Live video of your office warming party is a great way to introduce your team. As a result, whenever customers think about your brand, they will picture a group of happy, motivated faces instead of just a lifeless logo.
They key here is making the audience trust not only your business, but also the people who work hard behind the scenes. In case you don’t have any shareworthy event coming up, you should still allow or encourage employees to share brand-related posts on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Just remember to set social media guidelines to prevent posts that are controversial, inflammatory, or can compromise your company’s security.
Many companies find that employee advicacy is most effective when there’s a dedicated platform for organizing, discussing and incentivizing social sharing. Smarp offers a social newsfeed-inspired interface for exactly this, whereby marketers can suggest content links for their team members to distribute on the various networks. The feed offers suggested share text, internal discussion threads and the ability for all users to submit items for admins to approve for company-wide sharing, in addition to rich performance analytics.
3. Invest in Training
As a rule of thumb, customer experience should be everyone’s responsibility. This is a must if you want to be perceived as a customer-focused organization. After all, it only takes one bad customer experience to raise doubts in your brand, especially given how fast opinions and reviews can travel online.
To enable employees to assist or resolve customer complaints autonomously, invest in adequate training and don’t forget to incentivize their participation. A reliable strategy is to develop customer personas that accurately describe what they need, who they are, where they come from, and what they expect from your service.
A relatively new web app called UserForge was created specifically for the purpose of getting people across your organization aligned when it comes to personas. With this tool, building, sharing and updating personas is easy, fast and free. You can organize personas by project, category or custom tags, and each persona has a dedicated chat thread for internal discussions.
Content, trust, and customer service all come together to determine the fate of your brand. Regardless of what facet you focus on, employees will still play a major role for success. Think your team is ready to provide top-notch customer service? Be sure to check this post on the five customer service personas to gauge their effectiveness.