Business owners and HR recruiters look for lots of different traits and skills when interviewing for new employees – but are they also looking for potential new brand ambassadors? If not, they should be!
More and more companies are finding that what really drives future sales and return business is customer loyalty. Customer loyalty comes from trust. And who do we trust? People we know, of course! It’s human nature to trust the people we know and like, and both small and big businesses are using this tactic to expand their markets through their employees.
Utilizing smart employees for brand advocacy can take a business to the next level. Here’s how:
Let Unique Voices (Potential Future Branding Rockstars) Be Heard
It used to be completely normal for businesses to communicate with customers and business partners in stiff and impersonal ways, but this is changing. Customers today really respond to a more personal and human business approach, and social media marketing is one reason why. Social media lets brands self-promote and join in more informal conversations with their communities. Video marketing is another way to reach followers on a deeper level. It’s inherently a more personal method of communication because it puts viewers right in the action.
There are several organizations that have used both social media and video marketing to set the bar for customer engagement – HubSpot and BuzzFeed are two standout examples. BuzzFeed uses their social media accounts and videos for more light-hearted content, while HubSpot shares advice and features short “how-to” video pieces that are aimed at helping marketers. They approach things differently, but both do an excellent job of reaching followers on a personal level through employees acting as brand advocates.
Of course, not all employees are perfect choices to represent a business through social, video, or other mediums. They have to be good writers and communicators, and they also must have a healthy respect for the fact that their voices represent the greater organization. It’s tough to strike that balance between professional moderation and “keeping it real.”
Organic Content is Critical
When employees advocate for their business’ brand, overly scripted and filtered content can come across as fake – like a sales pitch. It can be hard for businesses to give up control and let employees have some creative freedom, but organic material has an undeniable honesty that cannot be copied. Trusting employees with the business’ reputation might seem risky, but this is why leaning on the right people is so important.
For example, Moz has a weekly Whiteboard Friday video series hosted by Moz founder and former CEO Rand Fishkin. It’s clear that Rand is well prepared for these videos, but his personality, passion, and expertise are also obvious when he goes “off script.”
Use Subtle Links and Promotional Tactics
Many business blogs and social accounts fall into the trap of overdoing their self-promotion. Of course, everyone needs to promote themselves, their business, and their products and services. But doing this in an obviously pushy and salesy way can turn people off to your message.
The smartest use of these mediums is to create content of value that in some way ties back to you. Some blogs mention the parent company in each and every post, while others include links to other posts, product pages, etc. instead. Along the same lines, social media accounts should focus on developing a clear voice instead of pitching products 24/7.
Shea Serrano used this strategy when promoting his book, The Rap Yearbook. He used Twitter to develop a very funny and personable account presence – which in turn did wonders for his book sales! He made it to the New York Times Best Seller list.
the book came out and didn’t flop pic.twitter.com/XvDYrq2KGV
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) October 20, 2015
Allow Employees to Use Their Personal Social Media Accounts When advocating
Some people might cringe at the thought of letting employees use personal social media accounts to speak for a brand, but this is actually the new norm. Like we mentioned earlier, customers want a little more personality from brands.
It seems we have accepted that, while employees are professionals and apparent experts in their fields, they are also human beings with personalities. Rather than stifle these, successful ventures have adopted a healthy mix of professional and personal tones in their posts to social accounts.
Consistently pushing out quality content from personal accounts attracts more exposure for both the employee and the business they work for.
The BuzzFeed Example
Many companies, agencies and businesses have embraced the idea of employees as brand ambassadors. But there’s one that stands out as the prime example (whether you agree with their methods or not). I already briefly mentioned BuzzFeed: the fun-loving, envelope-pushing platform of both the serious and ridiculous stories of the day that allows its employees to run free in a way many businesses can’t.
Even though he recently split with the company because of his growing internet fame, Matt Bellassai was without a doubt the most famous of the BuzzFeed employees loose on the internet. In fact, the reason he left the company was to pursue a solo career after he garnered such astronomical fame. He hosted a weekly video series in which he complained about various topics – while drinking wine at his desk. He tweeted about his life, but also linked to articles written by him and other staffers. Based on the number of followers he’s accumulated, we’d say he effectively promoted BuzzFeed’s content.
While it works for them, BuzzFeed probably goes a bit farther than most businesses are willing to go in their employee brand advocacy. And that’s ok. The principles can be carried over to any business.
Employees don’t need to host their own video series to be branding rockstars for their organization, but a clear and authentic personal tone is something all businesses can strive for. Start with your social media presence, and expand off of that into other forms of content creation.
So unleash your employees and prepare to be amazed!