Building an army of brand advocates
Guest Column: Vishal Gaba, Senior Director Digital, Genesis - BCW, writes on how social media has changed the way we consume information & make purchasing decisions
Social media is all about building connections. Today, we’re not only connected with people, we are also well aware of what is happening in their lives and their opinions on issues—all this without any direct contact.
What this has also done is, it has changed the way we consume information and make our purchasing decisions. From ‘recommended by a friend’ to ‘amazing advertisements’, we have moved to online reviews and user experiences as the deciding factors. In fact, a large section of consumers today use social media content posted by their friends and family as a guide in their shopping journey.
Customers want trust. Period. Trust comes when customers see and identify with individuals who believe in a particular product or a service. They are influenced by human communication, not impersonal corporate marketing. This is where the role of your employees becomes critical.
Employee advocacy enables brands to use the influence of the people that are already there in their network. The relationship they have with the people within their circle of influence, which could comprise of current and prospective customers, employees or stakeholders, is likely to have far more positive impact than an advertisement.
It is, therefore, critical that companies invest in nurturing their own employees as the true advocates of their culture, product or service. By enabling employees to become brand advocates, organizations have an opportunity to attract new customers, build trust, and foster long-term loyalty. Showing them that their views/opinions are valued underlines trust and transparency. And, of course, it helps attract talent too.
With a well-designed programme, you can create an environment where your employees want to promote your brand. Here’s how you can go about building this programme:
• Set goals and metrics: The first step towards any employee advocacy programme is to understand the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’. Why do you want to run this programme, what is the kind of benefit you are looking to derive, how do you measure the effectiveness of the programme? When you set goals and metrics, you can measure your progress on a regular basis against them.
• Select and build your social squad: Before getting all your employees in on this, select a few who are passionate and comfortable being part of what we call the ‘Social Squad’. For our clients, we usually do a survey to map the skill set, comfort and passion to share company content and then finalize the team for the pilot program. Once the pilot team is in place, we run training workshops to bring them up to speed with the company messages.
• Guidelines: No, this does not mean that you control everything your employees post, but it is important to show them how they can do this more effectively. During the training workshops, show them examples and share a Do’s and Don’ts list that guides them whenever they need to understand what they should talk about and how they could post.
• Share content that excites: Last, but by no means the least, you need to up your game when it comes to putting out content on social media. The content your employees share as part of the advocacy program needs to be genuine and that can only be achieved if it is exciting enough from them to participate in, give views and share across their network.
The biggest asset that any company has are its employees—an empowered and motivated workforce is essential to create a successful organization. In the current scenario, the organizations that truly focus on putting people first will be rewarded with more passionate and engaged people, delivering better results for them—both offline and online.
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