Authored by PETRA SMITH – Founder and Managing Director of Squirrels&Bears
Employees are the face of a company and know more about the business than anyone else. Their inside knowledge and connection to the business make them powerful brand advocates, however, businesses often focus their marketing resources primarily on their external communication and missing out on their closest brand advocates – their own people.
LinkedIn recently introduced a button for each company update that allows organisations to notify their employees and encourage them to engage with the post, highlighting the importance of employee brand advocacy. Equipping employees with the right tools and skills they need to become brand advocates encourages a company culture where everyone can contribute to the business’ success whilst building their personal brands as subject matter experts.
A recent survey conducted by marketing consultancy Squirrels&Bears shows that over one-third of employees don’t feel they are regularly updated about their employer’s products and services and lack the right tools and skills to act as brand advocates. On the other hand, 87 percent of respondents stated that they talk regularly about their employer’s brand outside of work. These informal conversations could lead to greater brand awareness and new business opportunities if businesses encourage and equip their employees with the right knowledge and resources. Employee brand advocates can organically increase brand visibility and demonstrate the value of products and services; however, they need to feel confident when talking about their organisation. The lack of alignment between employees and the brand can create inconsistency which can lead to missed opportunities and in some cases reputational damage.
Employees collectively have social networks of ten times larger than a single corporate brand and content shared by employees also sees a click-through rate double that of their company, because they are seen as more authentic and people are more likely to trust recommendations they see from their own networks. Although most employers see great value in their employees’ individual networks, they are not addressing the gap on a business-wide level and missing out on 400 plus connections their individual employees would have on average. By providing relevant social media training and connecting employees to the brand, companies can bridge the gap between personal and business branding and tap into employees’ social media networks, opening up new business opportunities and increasing employee engagement.
Whilst social media has the ability to create a positive brand image and reach new audiences, it can also have a negative impact on the brand, if not managed properly. Large businesses are more risk-aware, however, over two-thirds of SMEs don’t have a social media policy in place. A lack of social media policy can lead to data breach if confidential business or client information is shared publicly, as well as reputational damage resulting in financial losses, and therefore should be an essential part of company policy, even for businesses who are not actively using social media for business development and client communication.
Branding is not an isolated aspect of sales and marketing. It is part of the overall business strategy and essential for business success. Organisations who empower and equip their people with the right skills and knowledge to be brand advocates can create a competitive advantage, drive growth and create a culture where everyone can contribute to the company’s success.