How to create a culture abuzz with internal fans and advocates

How would you like to improve your marketing reach, revenue and reputation?

Look no further than your workforce.

By harnessing the goodwill of the people who know your company better than
anyone, you can tap into a rich source of brand advocacy. You might boost
engagement along the way, too.

Engaged employees have a vested interest in your organization’s success.
They are aligned with your messaging and vision. They offer something much
more important than increased productivity, though.

A positive employee attitude can engage your customers as well. That’s
crucial to reckon with, because as many as
68 percent of customers abandon a brand as a direct response to poor employee attitude.

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The bulk of customer brand perception doesn’t depend on the ingenuity of
your video marketing strategy or the quality of your products. It largely
comes down to human interaction with customer service representatives, your
employees at events, email and live chat responses, and the content that
your employees share about your brand. More than anything else, employees’
interactions with your customers shape the impression of your brand.

The benefits of enlisting your employees can be substantial. If you
motivate just 6 percent of your staff to share content, customer engagement
can increase by 60 percent. With 10 percent active employees, you’re
looking at the potential for a 100 percent increase.

LEAP limited launch program Elevate helps companies empower their employees to become social professionals

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source
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However, when you fail to activate your employees, you’ve effectively
created a financial black hole for your organization. According to
Gallup:

Actively disengaged employees cost their organization $3,400 for every
$10,000 of salary, or 34 percent.

By that calculation, an actively disengaged employee who makes $60,000
costs the company $20,400 a year.

So, how can you activate your employees? Here are tips and examples of how
to get started:

Making work meaningful

Employee activation is all about motivating your employees to share content
with their social networks.
Word-of-mouth marketing is a highly effective technique for generating leads and boosting sales,
and employee activation is a great way to expand your reach. For typical
businesses, the social networks of employees are 10 times the size of the
social following of the company itself.

Activating your employees is about more than casting a wider social media
net. As you boost internal advocacy through training, supporting, mentoring
and mobilizing, you’re also aligning employees’ work with the
organization’s purpose and mission. You’re making their job more
meaningful.

This isn’t just a shiny ideal.
Purpose is what makes work appealing, and it’s something consistently profitable companies have focused on for
years.

Southwest Airlines, for example, spotlights

company culture and customer service. It recognizes employees regularly on its website and in its brand magazine, and the airline
maintains a library of videos sharing stories from happy customers.

The win-win of employee activation

Active employees also have plenty to gain. Sharing insights and expertise
can boost their own brand, too. Eighty-six percent of those who have been a
part of a social media advocacy program for their job have said it has
helped their career.

Here are a few bonuses companies are seeing from employee activation:

  • Improved reputation.
    Increased brand advocacy from employees can lead to a
    43 percent more favorable public image.
  • Easier to attract top talent.
    Employees are
    trusted three times more than your organization’s CEO by potential recruits. When they are
    visible on social media as brand representatives, it’s much easier to
    attract high-quality hires.
  • Increased employee retention. Companies with active social media engagement are
    20 percent more likely to retain talent.
  • Better brand storytelling. Want more
    authentic content? Get it from the people who are the heart of your business by inviting
    them to share their voices.
  • Boost in sales leads.
    For employee sharing on LinkedIn, research shows that sales leads
    increase by as much as 58 percent.

Three brands excelling in employee advocacy

Dell

Dell has created a training, support and facilitation program to empower
its sales employees to be active, effective online ambassadors.

Dell’s
Social Media University involves more than 16,000 employees in 46 different countries. This is how
it works:

  • Employees who want to be a part of the program go through training.
  • Dell then gives employees branded accounts to use (@dell).
  • There’s a governance system in place to guide the process, approve
    ideas and facilitate more worthwhile marketing and recruiting content.
  • Dell has a specialist team to monitor and respond to customer service
    issues and branded conversations on social media.

This structured approach has been a big win for employees and for the
company. Dell has found that social media content posted by its employees
is eight times more engaging than content the company publishes.
This approach has also boosted revenue significantly.

Adobe

Adobe’s Social Shift program is another approach to fostering employee brand advocacy. It offers
education and best practices to help employees become better brand
advocates. Employees can even test their ambassador skills by practicing
with simulated experiences.

Lauren Friedman, head of Adobe’s global social business enablement, says: “We believe that
people trust people. People buy from people. Relationships fuel our overall
success.” She also points out that the program gives employees plenty of
autonomy: “We don’t want to create an army of Adobe-bots!”

Adobe encourages employees to:

  • Post on the Adobe Life blog
  • Participate in contests for social media sharing, with weekly
    recognition for top ambassadors
  • Become spokespeople who post on LinkedIn and Glassdoor
  • Compete for a chance to attend special events such as Adobe’s MAX conference

More than a third of Adobe’s employees have gone through the Social Shift
program. It’s no wonder Adobe has developed a reputation for having
dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable employees.

Starbucks

The coffee giant has mastered the art of soliciting user-generated content.
In addition to its formidable marketing arsenal of
customer-based brand advocacy, the company has turned its staff into a veritable
social media army.

Starbucks encourages employees to share company updates and stories on its
social media profiles. Starbucks also uses its internal team to gather
feedback before releasing new products. This is an excellent technique for
B2C companies that want to test new ideas on “consumers” before launching
into the market.

As
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said:

[Employees] are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of
romance, and as such, the primary catalyst for delighting customers. [They]
elevate the experience for each customer—something you can hardly
accomplish with a billboard or a 30-second spot.

Michael Brenner is CEO of

Marketing Insider Group
. A version of this post first appeared on the

Marketing Insider blog
.

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