How to Unlock The Key to Employee Brand Advocacy What would it take to get everyone on your team to spread the word about your business? What about everyone in your company? Let’s be honest: if you run a business, one of the major things you want is a strong brand. From generating inbound leads to commanding premium fees, to attracting and retaining the best talent. Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. But in this age of non-stop social media, building brand awareness is now more complicated than ever. Businesses that want to thrive will need to make major changes in how they build brand equity. It’s time to give employees the authority they deserve. If you are running your business the right way, your employees already believe in your brand and your products. That makes them ideal advocates for authentically delivering the value of your products to customers. Regardless of job description or position, every employee in your organization lives and breathes aspects of your brand every day. They’re already experts, armed with hundreds if not thousands of hours of institutional knowledge that they can leverage when representing your brand in the public eye. Why employee brand advocacy is so important Employee brand advocacy is one of the most authentic ways of giving today’s consumers what they want – a brand experience that feels more human. A recent Nielsen report showed that 92% of customers polled trusted recommendations from people they felt they knew personally, over more traditional forms of advertising. And when you think about it, it makes sense – while traditional marketing can often feel agenda-driven and manipulative, personal recommendations feel more authentic. By turning to employee advocacy, you get to leverage the selling power of your most valuable spokespeople: your employees. The benefits of employee brand advocacy include: A steady stream of warm leads Improved brand awareness Greater mindshare Increased credibility Attract and recruit the best job candidates Employees thought leaders can reduce the costs of engaging external audiences. More authentic content creation How employees can participate in the brand conversation On the most basic level, employee brand advocacy describes the exposure a company gets when staff and employees share your content as themselves with their networks. Instead of representing your company’s brand, they’re leveraging their personal brand. Most likely, their personal outlets include Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn. But it can also include other vehicles, like speaking at conferences, blogging, and email. That’s another major benefit to using “real people” as your messengers: they can spread the word through unofficial online channels like email, chat and online forums. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, let’s not forget the power of a personal recommendation shared during a “face to face” conversation. The opportunities are limitless when the employees feel an affinity for their place of employment. Employers need to embrace the personal brand When organizations first consider the idea of empowering the personal brands of their employees, it can be intimidating – what if an employee says something unflattering or presents your company in a poor light? It can also be scary for some employees, who are nervous about representing your company. But when you can overcome that fear, it offers untapped opportunities for brand amplification and social sales that other channels simply don’t offer. The growing interconnectedness of the social web is a primary reason brand participation between employers and employees has finally become possible. Think about it: your employees’ connections on social media could potentially include former classmates, colleagues, acquaintances, and relatives, with a wide range of interests, industries, and professional goals. Your next customer, referral, or recruit could quite likely come through this wealth of connections. Employees are more successful at marketing than marketers The results of personal brand advocacy can be quite profitable: brand messages can spread up to 561% more reach when shared by employees on social media compared to the same messages released on a brands’ official media channels. Sales reps have started to figure this out too: those sales professionals using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers. This approach also helps overcome some of the challenges posed by the growing numbers of consumers relying on ad blocking. It’s just one-way businesses can start to cut through the digital noise. Embracing and promoting the personal brands of your team is a surefire way to increase your brands’ visibility. Why Brand Advocacy is Good for Employees It happens so often: you have an employee who is exceptional at their job, but no one knows about their expertise or contributions to the company. In that situation, their personal brand equity is almost non-existent. Successful employees have to be more than just good at their jobs: they also need to be skilled at articulating their expertise in a way that adds value to internal and external stakeholders at the same time. Those rare employees that embrace the concept of personal brand reputation often come to be seen as the “guru,” a go-to person who understands exactly what the brand represents in the marketplace. Most employees at your company probably aren’t thinking much about their personal brands. The opportunity for employers is to help take an active role in the success of their employees. Personal branding is the single most overlooked factor in achieving professional success today. Brand advocacy can contribute to empowering those who are missing out on its benefits. When employees learn how to develop a personal brand, they create the opportunity to accelerate their career success. An effective personal brand wields influence. Understand how to develop a personal brand and you’re likely to enjoy: – A steady stream of ideal clients – Amazing relationships – Rewarding partnerships – Greater mindshare – Increased credibility – Higher perceived value – Recognition and prestige How to strategically embrace brand advocacy Depending on the size of your team, you can begin empowering your employees as brand advocates in a heartbeat. But if you want to be successful, you need to plan ahead and be willing to adapt and change as you learn. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with employee brand advocacy. The two biggest dangers are: 1) You are handing your company’s reputation off to your employees, who can potentially damage it if they behave irresponsibly. 2) A certain percentage of your new personal brand superstars will eventually leave your company. When they do, their relationships will probably go with them. Keep in mind; these risks exist with any employees, not just brand advocates. There’s always a risk of losing talented employees, and of course, bad behavior will always be a risk to your reputation. The key here is to hire employees you trust to represent your brand with your potential customers and train them properly so they can be successful. Start by identifying the core values of your company and your brand Who you are What you do What you stand for Then, look to cultivate these values in your staff. Create an environment where employees enjoy going to work and feel their efforts are noticed and rewarded. Empower your employees to talk on behalf of your brand in front of customers, vendors, or any other audience. Employee advocates have the potential to amplify your brand in ways that you could never achieve without their participation. Seth Price I’m on a mission to transform the way you think about personal branding to empower your life’s work. My keynote speeches connect me with audiences all over the world. Join me in creating ideas for bringing your brand to market.