If you can locate the most passionate and savvy from among your staff, then your own employees will often prove to be your most powerful brand ambassadors. Think of the “Geniuses” you find in Apple retail centers. These employees spend their entire workweek surrounded by Apple products, learning about the products, and solving problems associated with these products.
It’s fair to say they have considerable product knowledge. Now imagine an Apple marketing executive developing a strategy for locating those Geniuses who are uniquely capable of reaching and engaging scores of potential new Apple customers. If this executive’s efforts prove successful, he will have stumbled upon a pool of employees that are more than just employees, but also incredibly powerful marketing assets.
Here are some tips to help you find and cultivate powerful brand ambassadors from among your employees.
Look Beyond Your Marketing Department
Sometimes, you may be best off having your company’s professional marketers man the controls of social media, but not always. Great brand ambassadors can be found throughout all areas of the enterprise, from the boardroom to the assembly line.
More important than professional function is the employee’s passion for the product and the strength of their story. The reason brand ambassadors are so influential to begin with is that they’re not professional marketers, but rather ordinary users of a product or service they like.
Create Team Hashtags and Encourage Your Employees to Use Them
One successful method Adobe used when creating employee brand ambassadors was to create the #AdobeLife hashtag. Regardless of the sharing platform, employees were encouraged to use #AdobeLife when talking about the enviable lifestyle they enjoyed as a result of being an Adobe employee. The message advanced from this UGC marketing campaign was one of a company that was stylish and cared for its employees.
Focus On Product Education
Many companies have room to improve when it comes to educating their employees about their brand. Research from TNS indicates that less than half of employees from outside the marketing department are prepared to present a brand message according to company standards.
Better brand ambassadors are a highly useful result of product education. When companies make a continual effort to educate employees on new product features, designs, applications, and accessories, those employees then become more empowered both on the sales floor and as brand ambassadors.
Product discounts, giveaways, contests, and any other methods that put the company’s hottest products in the hands of employees are essential for helping your employees develop the brand expertise needed to become outstanding ambassadors.
Build Trust Between Employees and the Brand
The lifeblood of the brand ambassador is trust. The reason this type of social influencer marketing is so powerful is because the brand ambassador’s audience should feel as if it has a unique ability to trust the ambassador’s recommendation. For this to happen, the brand ambassador must, in turn, believe in the product.
One of the most effective ways to cultivate this needed level of trust between employee, brand ambassador, and brand, is to promote dialogue with the employees whom you’d like to become brand ambassadors. Listen to their feedback about the product, and give your employees as much of a sense of ownership in the product and the brand message as possible.
Employees who feel their voices have been included in the cultivation of a brand’s identity will resonate as more trustworthy with your target audiences.
Create a Social Media Policy
Though you want your employees to share their enthusiasm for the product in their own words, it is still important to use caution. You don’t want your quest for strong brand ambassadors to turn into a PR nightmare. Such an unfortunate occurrence fell upon the Red Cross in 2011, when one of their employees accidentally used the company Twitter account to tweet the following.
“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”
A common sense social media policy will help your employees understand that, as brand ambassadors, they’re going to be entrusted with protecting the reputation of the company. Good judgment is a must-have. One of the reasons Adobe has had great success with employee brand ambassadors is that the company spent the time and resources to create and implement a sensible social media policy.
Adobe’s in-house social media expert realized the public was twice as likely to trust an Adobe employee rather than a CEO. So, he created the “Adobe Social Shift Program,” which taught employees not only how to use social media to promote, but how to use it in a way that showed discretion and a basic level of PR awareness.