For most brands, creating relevant content is not the pain point in social today; reach is. As pay-to-play on social platforms makes it increasingly difficult to organically reach fans and followers, is there anything a brand can do?
For brand managers, enter your fellow employees. They’re an untapped, free distribution network. More than half of companies do not encourage social sharing by employees, yet how better to play the social networks’ own game than with your own distribution network of colleagues? Workers enthusiastic about a company’s mission, and in front line contact with its customers, are uniquely positioned to deliver a relevant message to the most targeted of audiences. The more employees a company has, the more scalable this solution is.
For example, HomeAway.com, a vacation-rental service, saw “increased content engagement by 74 percent year-over-year” in 2013, attributed to an employee ambassador program encouraging sharing of the brand’s content.
Starbucks’ Proud #tobeapartner program encourages its Canadian employees to share content with partners and customers.
Groupon increased social reach by 500% with an employee ambassador program designed for HR recruiting.
Despite these good results, there are clear obstacles to a successful employee ambassador program. Employees may not be active on social networks; they may be afraid to say the ‘wrong’ thing about their employer; in all industries, particularly regulated ones, legal compliance is required.
To help manage these obstacles, a stable of software vendors has emerged, including Post Beyond, Addvocate, Percolate, Untapped, Gaggle, Hearsay, and more.
These platforms enable employers to manage messaging, and employees to control what gets shared and when; other features include mobile apps, gamification, performance measurement, and compliance management.
Brands need to leverage every channel possible in order to claim share of voice in social, and employee ambassadors can be an important contributor.
Here are five steps to getting a brand ambassador program going:
- Culture. Ensure your company has a culture of sharing, starting from the top. Executives and managers should be active on social media, sharing the brand’s news to internal and external audiences. Education sessions can get employees up and running in social if they’re not already, and introduce all employees to the program.
- Compliance. Some industries are more regulated than others, and special consideration of legal compliance in law, finance and health care must be made. Regardless of industry, social sharing by employees must be accompanied by disclosure of the material connection between employee and employer or client.
- Curation. The biggest obstacle to employee social sharing may be: ‘I don’t want to say or share the wrong thing.’ Make it easy by choosing the content that can be shared, and by suggesting (not mandating) wording for postings.
- Platform. In large organizations, employee ambassador programs may benefit from a platform that creates process and measurement around social sharing, and monitors compliance.
- Measurement. While employee social sharing is an easy way to beat the social networks at their own game, it costs time and money. Make sure the investment is paying off by carefully measuring reach and engagement, and optimizing with the insights you gain.