Social Savvy: Have you empowered your employees to be your social brand ambassadors? - Nov 2018

By Christine B. Whittermore

Chances are, your business has employees who represent you in the marketplace. You trust them to do so because you have equipped them with the knowledge they need to qualify leads, deliver services and generally delight customers on your behalf.

You may even encourage some or all of them to share case studies as well as their perspectives and passions as they relate to your business. As such, they are your brand ambassadors, spreading the good word about you and your involvement in the industry. Have you considered empowering them to be your social brand ambassadors?

Empowering your employees to be brand ambassadors on social media platforms means you are allowing individuals who know the company and its products and services to promote those to potential customers by basically pushing brand awareness.

You may be wondering why you should bother to involve employees in social networks for your business. If each of your associates has 100 LinkedIn contacts or Facebook friends (or both), and each of those contacts has 100, you can imagine the potential ripple effect for information that’s actively shared.

Not only does this active sharing across the many faces of your organization help build your brand’s credibility online, but it can also generate prospects and attract recruits. And your ambassadors can listen to and monitor the vibes in their networks.

If your employees are happy and love being part of your organization, involving them as ambassadors for your brand and organization will be a no-brainer. They will be delighted, and their passion and energy will be infectious to prospects, customers and fellow employees-just what you want and need in brand ambassadors.

Let’s explore the range of control that companies put on online social engagement.

Tight Social Control: Perhaps your organization is not comfortable having everyone speaking on social networks for the company. Many large companies with multiple layers of decision makers and complex processes fall into this category. Some even include in their personnel policies stipulations that unapproved participation in social activity is grounds for termination.

Prudent Engagement: Perhaps your organization is cautiously willing to have employees participate socially on behalf of the brand. You realize that the future (not to mention the present) includes social elements, and you need to experiment so you understand the business dynamics of social networks and can be available to those customers who are active socially. Many organizations fall into this category.

All Hands On Social Deck: Perhaps full and complete social engagement on behalf of your organization is a stipulation of employment. Companies in this category have transformed themselves into social companies and are comfortable with complete transparency online. For many organizations, this represents an aspirational stage, as it affects how the business hires, who it hires, how it is managed and every aspect of how business is done, including customer interactions.

Regardless of the social business stage you’re in, you’ll need social media guidelines (for a refresher, look back at the February 2018 Social Savvy column). These will document how to represent customers, what permissions you need to mention them and/or share their images as well as how employees should identify themselves online, support the company’s online activities and participate in group discussions. The guidelines help a business communicate how to consistently represent the company brand and address specific scenarios like:
• Do you need signed permission to share photos?
• How should you refer to customers?
• Are there confidential topics not to be brought up outside the organization?
• When should others be involved?
• How should the brand be represented?

Depending on where your organization is on the continuum, you may want to stipulate who has permission to be active on social networks on behalf of the company, how to identify oneself when commenting in online group conversations, what type of social account to focus on and whether to create a work-specific social profile. You might even include expectations for social interactions, response time and the types of content to contribute (e.g., videos, photos, text).

Whoever speaks on a company’s behalf on social media networks will need training and guidance. Interactions on online social networks can happen fast and outside of business hours. The more you can guide your brand ambassador, the more effective he or she can be.

Don’t forget to include scenario planning in your training, as we discussed in the April 2018 Social Savvy column. That’s when you consider a range of different possible situations and think through-ahead of time-how you would respond so you can prepare. For example, if someone pays you a compliment, say thank you. If someone leaves a bad review or complains about you, acknowledge it, then move the conversation off the public platform to email or phone, get the facts, and, once the situation is resolved, report back publicly on the situation. If an online troll-someone who distracts and disrupts with aggressive, off-topic messaging-pursues you, disengage from the conversation.

You may want to provide your brand ambassador with extra tools-reference materials, case studies, swag, a coffee budget, etc. After all, conversations that take place online can lead to strong relationships offline.

As part of training and guidance, discuss with your social brand ambassador what to talk about online and how to do so effectively. Good news about the people in your organization can become powerful callouts on social networks. Be ready to respond to questions. Are there conversation starter questions to ask in a group? Are there big picture topics of interest to your industry and customers? If you have before/after stories, what about calling out your clients or suppliers to celebrate the project’s completion? Can you highlight the heroes of your industry? Consider sharing industry stats. What about highlighting upcoming training events? Remember to not always be selling. For contentious or sensitive topics, develop responses that your ambassador can easily adapt or include in responses.

Plan out materials (photos, videos) that might be needed to support content. Your brand ambassador may appreciate a content calendar to anticipate and prepare for discussion topics.

If you aren’t fully comfortable with the level of proactive outreach that a social brand ambassador offers your company, consider “lazy” updates that your employees can make on their social networks. These are ready-made updates to announce new blog articles, for example. You develop them, send them out to your staff and ask them to publish them to their social networks. As part of that, consider suggesting specific company descriptions for your staff to use on their LinkedIn profiles so you have a consistent presence there.

Online social networks aren’t going away. Furthermore, they offer many benefits to your business, especially as you involve others from your organization. If this is new to you, start small. Always be improving so you can apply what you learn as you expand your program and bring on additional ambassadors. Stay open to possibilities.

Copyright 2018 Floor Focus