How can I make my business stand out from the competition? How can I build a brand and a corporate identity that conveys trust?
These are questions that businesses try to answer with varying degrees of success. Obviously, multiple factors can contribute to the success of your business: a unique product/service, a long-term vision, good customer service, and marketing & sales strategies, just to name a few. Yet all of these efforts would eventually amount to nothing if you don’t have the right people in place or, more importantly, your employees are not sufficiently engaged to help you grow your business and build your brand.
It may seem like a clichéd statement, but people are the most important asset in any business. Think of it this way: from the outside looking in, customers and potential employees only see a fraction of what your business is all about. They have access to your website, your social media posts, your offerings and what your current and ex-employees have to say about you. Now who would you think they will trust more? – a corporate LinkedIn post about how great it is to work for your company, or the same post but shared by an employee? Well, people will always trust people more than brands. Various research studies suggest that when it comes to social media posts, who shared the message matters more than the message itself. According to a research by Olapic, a study of consumer behaviour and attitudes towards user-generated content (UGC), 76% of respondents believe UGC is more honest than advertising, with a further 56% stating that they are more likely to make a purchase after seeing such content.
But how can you encourage employees to share positive content about your business? And how can a digital workplace help? In this blog we will try to answer these questions with some practical examples. But first, let’s define employee brand ambassadors.
- What is an employee brand ambassador?
An employee brand ambassador is every current or ex-employee who actively commits to sharing corporate-related content and promoting products to his/her network. Such actions can be spontaneous or part of a dedicated employee advocacy programme. Either way, having employees act as ambassadors often results in a higher level of social media reach and engagement, eventually leading to an increase in brand awareness and business performance. In fact, according to one MSL study, brand messaging is enhanced by a staggering 561% when shared by employees.
Employee brand ambassadors are also considered to be a more transparent and cost-effective way to connect and appeal to both customers and, especially, potential job candidates than hiring social media influencers. The latter obviously have the potential to reach a broader audience, but wouldn’t necessarily offer much in terms of first-hand employee experiences.
- How can digital workplaces turn employees into brand ambassadors?
Transforming employees into brand ambassadors can’t be achieved overnight. It is a process that requires continuous collaboration between multiple teams – mainly marketing, HR and internal communications – which is then used to put together a robust employee advocacy programme. The programme comprises a set of resources and best practices designed to assist and train employees on how to share content and build their personal brands. Such programmes have evolved in recent years thanks to the ever-increasing importance of social media channels and advancements in internal communications tools. In this section we will discover how a fully featured digital workplace can help employees to advocate your brand.
- Build a community
In order to turn employees into brand ambassadors, it’s crucial to build a strong corporate culture and a community where employees can come together for work and non-work-related activities. Feeling part of a whole can positively boost individual and collective morale, thereby leading to high engagement and retention rates. It will also most likely encourage individuals to share more often within collaborative spaces created for teams, departments and communities of interest. However, for that to happen, a set of communication and collaborative tools need to be in place.
Modern digital workplace solutions come equipped with various social features designed to connect people and facilitate all types of communications – whether top-down, peer-to-peer or bottom-up. This way, employees have both the environment and the right tools by which to express themselves.
- Establish trust by communicating constantly
Creating and conveying useful content is key to establishing trust and keeping your communities informed and engaged. This can be achieved by building a communication and content plan, selecting the right channels through which community managers and regular users can get their messages across, and most importantly, continuously analyzing results in order to identify areas of improvement.
A digital workplace incorporating news and microblog features is ideal for keeping your community up to date with the latest corporate news, announcements and product updates. The news articles can be shared in the activity stream of the digital workplace or within private spaces, depending on visibility and permissions settings. An added layer of social features – such as the possibility to like, comment, share and pin the news articles for more visibility – pave the way for bottom-up communication and give users a medium through which they can get their voices heard.
This will ultimately help you create a transparent, inclusive work environment and build trust towards your brand. According to multiple research studies, these are two important factors that might facilitate your employees’ transition into brand ambassadors. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer report found that employees who trust their employers are 33% more likely to be engaged and 39% more likely to participate in brand advocacy initiatives.
- Analyze internal usage behaviour
Using built-in or third-party analytics tools, you can gather usage and engagement metrics that will help you further understand the behaviour and needs of your employees. You can use the data to classify users into different personas based on which content they are most likely to share, how often they share and how they interact with various types of content.
Typically, user personas fall into four main categories: (1) active users who animate spaces and share constantly (or perhaps over-share at times), (2) networkers who reach out and interact with their peers and shared content, (3) silent users who just consume content with few to no interactions, and finally (4) the inactive non-shares – users who neither share nor interact within the platform. Bear in mind that the last persona type might not be willing or used to sharing, and even your best efforts might not be enough to lure them into your advocacy programme, and this is perfectly normal. What you can do, though, is try to provide content that is sufficiently interesting to grab their attention and at least move them into silent content consumers.
The same logic applies to other persona types. Internal communications specialists and community managers are responsible for creating and conveying targeted content that’s informative, and have the potential to engage users and trigger a positive interaction.
- Empower and encourage employees to voice their opinion internally first
Employee advocacy programmes are an inside-out process. Employees who are the most engaged internally have more potential to be part of the programme than those who aren’t. You can’t expect employees who are inactive in your digital workplace to be active social gurus on your behalf. That’s why it’s important to give advocates the right tools to amplify their voices internally so they can later take their enthusiasm to external channels such as social media. And digital workplace solutions are designed to help you achieve just that.
Using a combination of content management and social features, employees can create, post or simply share different pieces of content with ease, whether that’s within their team’s spaces or the whole organization.
- Recognize and promote your employees’ efforts
In recent years, we have seen a surge in popularity of gamification and recognition programmes. These are progressively embedded within social media platforms and enterprise software and can be used to act as incentives for employees to share more frequently and participate in various discussions. You may have already encountered recognition messages on social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn, where employees tend to publicly praise their peers and congratulate them on their achievements. This can lead to employees feeling valued and trusted and can create a positive lasting image of your organization..
Internally, a built-in or stand-alone gamification solution with badges, leaderboards and levels can create a culture of healthy competition even subconsciously. Users will be classified according to their activities, with the most active rewarded with tangible rewards. Recognition solutions, on the other hand, allow users to praise each other for their contributions. You can use such features to publicly praise social and knowledge contributors, which will eventually lead others within your company to follow their example.
- Turn internal advocates into ambassadors
One way to stimulate spontaneous sharing is by making your social media posts and other content within people’s reach, directly from the digital workplace.
Most digital workplace solutions nowadays allow you to embed social feeds from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Make sure that they are visible within the homepage via clear content blocks and widgets. That way, you can make sure your employees are well aware of what you are posting on social media so they can instantly react to, share and even respond to comments.
In a world filled with all types of content, positioning your business appropriately and grabbing the attention of your target audience is by no means an easy feat. Your best bet is to contextualize your content and make it truthful so you can better resonate with your customers and potential job recruits. And that starts from within your company. Ultimately, providing your employees with a positive working experience will turn them into your most effective marketing asset.