When you see a business that shares posts, articles and pictures of their employees and branding on social, what kind of impression do you formulate about that business? We are exposed to marketing and advertising campaigns about products and services, but when a business makes their employees and important part of their branding, we feel good about buying products and services from that business.
It’s good for employee morale, retention and engagement. It’s good for public relations, and it’s really good for promoting the positive aspects of your business culture.
Many businesses want to improve employee engagement and inspire their team to be active brand ambassadors; but they are not sure where to get started, or how to implement consistent encouragement and incentives. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and methods that successful organizations are using to make employee user generated content part of their marketing strategy.
What Is Employee Branding?
The most knowledgeable and enthusiastic advocates for your business and brand are not influencers you engage; they are sitting behind every desk in your organization. Employee branding is an authentic method of putting the faces of your valued team forward, and sharing the enthusiasm, innovation and philanthropic ideals that make your corporate culture ‘likeable’.
Want to see what some of these programs look like, in action? Check out this article for some insights into successful employee brand advocacy programs from globally leading companies: “10 Employee Advocacy Examples [The Top Brands That Are Crushing It]”.
How Can You Get Your Employees Involved as Brand Advocates?
As a business owner you understand that employee engagement is a valuable marketing asset, but how do you start to implement programs that activate your team, and get them sharing about your products or services on social media? Here are five great and easy to implement suggestions to get you started:
1. Provide Deep Discounts to Employees for Your Products
There was a professional I knew in Toronto, who worked for a laptop and computer manufacturer. She was involved in sales and marketing, and responsible for coordinating and attending tradeshows and conferences to promote her employer’s products. She sat in a coffee shop with me on Bloor Street and pulled out her laptop; it was about 8 years old and about as thick as a Bible.
I remember staring at it involuntarily before she addressed my observation. They made some of the best processors and amazing touch-screen laptops, and there she was rocking a laptop from the stone ages. We discussed that no discount was provided for employees, and that the laptops were out of her budget as a young marketing coordinator. So, she used what she was provided by the company.
This made no sense to me. Here was this bright and engaged employee who was such a strong advocate for the company, struggling with ancient technology on a daily basis. At the very least, why wouldn’t the company provide a loaner that was state of the art, from their collection of products?
She was passionate about the company she worked for; why didn’t they equip her to be a brand advocate and ‘show off’ some of their amazing products? What value judgements were retail buyers making when they talked to her at tradeshows, and she pulled out her substandard technology tools?
The employer was not only missing a valuable opportunity to promote their products, but they were creating a negative brand impression every time she met with retail buyers. Employees using your products can also be a valuable source of product testing, research and creative feedback that can help improve and innovate new ideas.
2. Branded Corporate Apparel
A supplement company called IDLife in Frisco, Texas took a different approach. In conversation, the CEO explained he would provide as many ‘free t-shirts’ and apparel as his staff members and executive team wanted. Not only that, but each employee received free nutritional supplements, and a deep discount on other energy drinks and supplements.
He wanted his employees to be empowered to ‘walk the talk’ and make the lifestyle products and culture of the health and wellness company part of their day; its enhanced morale, and helped support brand awareness and growth. And similar discounts were provided to their national sales affiliates; it was a sea of cool branded hats and athletic wear at every IDRevolution event, and it made a powerful impression.
The amazing CEO was creating culture and lifestyle branding from the inside out; and that inspired their customers to build a community around that brand.
3. Encourage and Reward User Generated Content (UGC) from Your Team
When you have employee events, or engage in volunteer programs with members of your team, do you share those pictures on social media? Do you have a process to invite your staff members to comment on those pictures and share their experience in a positive way?
Some of the world’s leading high-growth organizations have made their employees part of their advertising campaigns. Others have provided recognition for teams who have innovated new products and services, and given public recognition in appreciation for the talent they employ. Others have made brand advocacy a KPI measurable in terms of employee engagement, rewarding their team for being engaged on social, sharing corporate content, and adding their own insights about the rich culture of the organization they are proud to work for.
When a company talks about itself in public relations and marketing, we listen. When a business has enthusiastic employees, who express the unique and happy culture of their workplace, we pay extra attention. Seeing the faces behind the organization brings a warm, authentic human element. We feel good about buying products or services from a business who cares about their employees.
4. Incentivize Social Media Content Sharing by Staff with Internal ERM Programs
You can ask your employees to share the content and campaigns you are producing as part of your marketing and advertising. A percentage of your most enthusiastic employees will engage, and share your posts. But how do you optimize that engagement? By putting an incentive behind it that rewards your team for their extra effort, and gamifying it.
There are some great employee relationship management (ERM) software products out there that can help marketing and human resources work together, to constantly encourage that level of engagement by staff, track it and provide a leader board to make employee brand advocacy fun and rewarding.
Developed by 6 Street Technologies in Texas, Gamify is an app that integrates with Salesforce, allowing businesses to build in measurables and KPIs, and a reward system. It adds an extra competitive feature with leaderboards and other interfaces that can be shared across the organization.
Departments can compete with each other, and marketing and human resources can build in features that reward for content sharing, user generated content by employees, and much more.
Does your business rely on SLACK daily for communications? Another fun way to encourage employees to be brand advocates is ‘Hey Taco!’. This cute program /taco [employee name] [insert reason for Taco reward] allows managers to reward employees cross organizationally in group SLACK channels, or within departments for innovations, and brand engagement.
Employers can add a store or shop that employees can access or ‘spend their tacos’ in. Some rewards employers can provide are branded apparel, gift cards, or even a coveted extra day off that employees can save up a taco reward for.
5. Acknowledging Volunteerism in Your Organization
Giving back to the community is part of the successful culture of any organization. When you get your employees involved, it is also a team building exercise that improves moral, employee engagement and public relations for your business.
Pictures of your team planting trees, or assisting at the local food bank? These are the kind of goodwill opportunities that provide numerous benefits to businesses, that align with a positive corporate culture.
Make sure to create a blog post after the event, and invite employees that participated to share their feedback in the comments section. A great way to highlight the day, is to create a video slideshow of images with your employees contributing to social good. When you share content that is focused on your team, employees are also likely to share the event and the content with their family and friends, generating goodwill and increased brand exposure.
When you are evaluating you content marketing and promotional strategies, don’t underestimate the power of employee advocacy. Your employees know more about your products and services than any customer. And what they have to share is authentic and valuable to your brand positioning. Find fun ways to encourage employees to become brand ambassadors, as part of your growth strategy.