When we think of a brand ambassador, we’re likely to think about a celebrity, a sporting hero, or even a social media influencer. But brand ambassadors don’t always need to be so high profile – sometimes the most powerful brand ambassadors can be a business’ own employees.
This is particularly true for SMBs and SMEs with a limited marketing budget.
With social channels giving employees an easy way to share information, many employees are promoting their professional status becoming, in some cases, an unofficial brand ambassador for your business.
The rise of the social media influencer demonstrates that consumers put their trust in the individuals more than they do corporations. Finding staff who want to build their name and professional status, and understand your core messages will put you in good stead to leverage your employee ambassadors.
The pros and cons
The idea of an aspirational, career-minded employee using social media to elevate their professional status – and your business by association – seems like a positive thing. And it absolutely can be. However, businesses should remain cautious. As an employee’s status rises, it can shift the brand equity from the organisation to an individual employee. But what if that employee leaves or, worse, moves to a competitor.
This situation also creates a grey area between the imperative to develop the organisational brand vs developing individual brands that attract customers to a business.
If companies are going to encourage employees to become brand ambassadors, they need to make sure all employees are communicating in a way that aligns with the organisation’s brand. If you produce a strong brand both internally and externally, this rolls down through to employees of the company, making it easier for brand ambassadors to deliver on the brand aspirations.
How to make it work
Telling employees they can’t interact in a professional context on social media isn’t an option. Therefore it’s imperative that guidelines are put in place. Here are five guiding principles:
1. Specify core values: Try to ensure their employees understand the company’s core values. They ought to be onboard with the brand.
2. Develop policy: Create a policy to ensure employees have a thorough understanding of your company’s goals and how to act as a brand ambassador.
3. Dos and don’ts: Make the guidelines clear with a list of dos and don’ts.
4. Communicate: Ensure you maintain consistent engagement with employees. Show them they are valued and keep them up to date with company news that will encourage them to share information in a timely manner.
5. Make it relevant: Rather than having an expectation that employees will share all of your content across their channels, encourage them to only share content that resonates with them.
In terms of companies doing this well; one is Nokia. Nokia uses a tool called Socialcast to keep staff in the loop about what’s going on, all over the world. The platform encourages employees to share their stories across social media networks so consumers can get a personal feel for the company culture.
Does your organisation use employee ambassadors?
If your organisation wants employees to become brand ambassadors, but is finding that no one is taking on this role, start by conducting an employee engagement pulse-check. If your employees are unmotivated, a brand ambassador program is unlikely to take off.
But an ambassador program is worth pursuing, so if you think it would work for your organisation, put a plan in place to motivate staff and get them involved. Bring them inside, make them feel they are an important part of a wider strategy and empower them to build their personal profiles, share company news – and become a powerful advocate for your brand.