Organizations large and small struggle with getting their voice heard. Marketers want to increase brand awareness, brand humanization, brand equity and of course do so in a way that positively impacts the bottom line.
What many business leaders and marketers do not realize is that their most vibrant, powerful, and potentially loyal brand evangelists are right within the walls of their corporation. Your employees are the #1 way you can humanize your brand and connect with your audiences in an authentic and meaningful way!
I am not just referring to the c-suite or director level employees, but your entire work force! Smart brands are already tapping into the reach and power of their employees to increase brand awareness, curate content, engage with target audiences, listen to conversations and even help recruit top talent!
Did you know that 77% consumers are more likely to buy a new product via a recommendation? Conversion rates can be 4 to 10 times higher for offers from trusted advocates.
Instead of only searching external and investing millions to win the hearts of those outside of your organization, why not start also on the inside? Your employees can be your most vocal and helpful voice as brand advocates.
The truth is that social media exposes your company from the inside out. If your employees hate your company they are going to exude their feelings both online and offline. On the flip side if they love your company, they are likely to share such positive feelings both online and offline as well.
Igniting employees as loyal brand evangelists takes time, investment and an understanding that it is a much bigger program than simply giving them a list of blog content and urls and asking them to “tweet about it!”
I know this sounds pretty elementary to the advanced marketers out there. However, we work with organizations large and small, marketing leaders new and seasoned. I still find it amazing how many can not clearly define their brand and the purpose. What is your value proposition? What is your brand promise? What does your brand stand for? What does it mean to your employees, partners, clients, and broader community and ecosystem?
You can’t expect your employees or anyone else to be loyal brand evangelists if you can’t answer these questions. Start here. Start inside and outside. You must know who you are and what you are to the larger ecosystem. There is simply no way around it.
Do you really know your audience? Who are they? Who are your clients? Who is in your social community online? Who is in your communities offline? Who is your ideal customer? What are their demographics? What keeps them up at night? Read and watch video-> 10 Things You Must Know About Your Customer
If you don’t know where you are going you will never know when and if you get there. Social business is a journey, not a destination. You need a vision, roadmap, detailed plan, goals, objectives, team members on board, governance plan, risk mitigation plan and the list goes on. This must include assessing the risks associated with igniting employees as brand evangelists and a plan to mitigate such risks. Read-> 8 Steps to Develop a Social Business Strategy
You don’t have to boil the social ocean to get started. If you are running tight on budget and resource, the best thing to do is to set solid short term objectives, goals and a plan to achieve them. You want to show progress quick and prove to your stakeholders that you are serious about employee empowerment as part of your social business strategy.
Develop a solid 6 month plan with a goal of getting people on board. This can help you establish budget, stakeholder support and necessary buy-in and collaboration across the organization.
It is not feasible that you are going to ignite all of your employees to be loyal brand evangelists in one easy swoop. Instead consider conducting a pilot or two. Start by selecting a 5-10 employees across the organization to participate in a pilot. You can then test your ideas, processes, training and more with a small group. Then you can optimize for a broader rollout over the coming months.
Remember, it’s not about running as fast as you can, but instead developing a solid plan and roadmap for your journey that others can join and embrace.
Change takes time and you are about to embark on a process that will ignite much change.
Who in the organization needs to join you on your journey? Don’t just limit the effort to the marketing team and c-suite. Include human resources, customer service, sales, product development, and more. Don’t over complicate it but make sure you are not leaving people out.
Collaboration should be your name and your game. You need buy-in and you must win both the hearts and minds of key stakeholders integral to your success. Focus on inviting them to join your team early. Don’t wait until you already have your detailed executable plan. Instead include them early and often.
The first step in selecting what employees need to join you for the pilot is to be sure you are selecting the right employees. If possible, you don’t want to choose people who are not in support of social technologies and processes. It is best if you can first engage those employees who are already active on the social networks.
Do a quick audit of the social employees who you are considering engaging in the journey. What social networks are they using? How are they using them? Are they already living your brand promise on and offline? What steps and actions are needed to get them fully on board with your journey?
Personal branding is a requirement, not an option for business and marketing leaders today. You will be amazed at the results if you take the time to invest in your employees personal brand. You don’t have to necessarily build it for them. However, you can help educate them on the importance of managing their personal brand, teach them how to leverage the social networks, blogging and more to establish thought leadership, and increase brand awareness and brand equity for not only your brand but also for themselves.
Are you going to help some of them ignite their online personal brands? Start a blog? Build a social community or Twitter following? Establish thought leadership? This is where you must get specific of exactly how you are going to empower them?
Embrace the journey and expect bumps in the road. You must select small wins, not boil the social employee empowerment ocean! Be specific but realistic. Conduct a broader audit when the time is right to determine where your employees are in regard to adoption of social media at the personal level.
Actions speak louder than words. If you can’t trust your employees, why should your clients or potential client trust your brand? If you can’t trust your employees it could be you have a hiring and /or bigger internal problems, not an employee problem. This is the stage where you really start working from the inside out. It’s time to deal with the hard stuff and crack those nuts that are holding you back!
Your employees can’t evangelize what they don’t understand. It’s not enough that you just give them a brand guideline book and help them memorize it for a day. Your goal is to inspire them to live your brand promise. You want it to exude from their words, actions and hearts every day!
12. Give your employees something to join that is bigger than you or me!
You want to engage them in something bigger than themselves. People don’t just join things or work for things, they join things! Give them something to join and be a big part of! Read-> People Don’t Buy Things, They Join Things!
13. Bridge the social divide.
Welcome to Generation S. The generation where people choose to join. Generation S is not based solely on traditional demographics such as age, gender, income or location. This generation either chooses to be social or they don’t.
There are going to be some people who are not where you need them to be in regard to adopting social technologies and processes. In reality there will likely be some that are very far from where you want them to be. Don’t just look at them as roadblocks or problems. Instead figure out how you can tap into their strengths.
How can you engage them in a way that will help them share their expertise, and ignite their interest to learn more. Engage them in ways they feel comfortable. Help them learn and understand the power of the new media and technologies and what it can do for them and your brand.
How did you do? Were you successful at gaining the necessary support and buy-in for your pilot? How did the pilot training go? What were the results? Did you achieve your goals? You can not skip the planning and measuring stage or you will never know where to invest and how.
If you don’t invest in planning and measurement you are likely to wind up with a long set of actions that are nothing more than Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs). They will eat every last morsel of ROI before you wake up and smell the social coffee.
If planning and measurement makes your head spin, then hire an outside agency or consultant to help you with this phase. We help clients large and small set goals, objectives and implement a feasible plan to ignite their employees and help them achieve their goals.
Take what you learned and now take it to the next level. Dig into the results, data and feedback from all of those who participated. Listen to them and optimize for the next phase.