By adaptive - October 14th, 2013

Corporations often focus their attention on developing positive sentiment outside of their organisations, when their own employees can be a major source of brand advocacy

Think about how your corporation has been managing its social media exposure. For many organisations their use of these networks began with perhaps just one individual that had an interest in what was then a potential new marketing channel. Today social media has of course expanded rapidly, but many businesses have forgotten those early steps, and the employees that were the first movers on the social networks.

As social media continues to mature, corporations should revisit their employees, as they can be an untapped source of brand advocacy. After all, your business’ employees are product and service experts that can use their in-depth knowledge to expand brand awareness and in many cases, begin what can lead to lasting and lucrative conversations across all social media channels.

The DachisGroup comments: “Establish an employee advocate community management and training plan that reinforces all the critical lessons of policy and education, but also has a hands-on component to build the right instincts through repetition and empathy (a la Lululemon’s in-store training). We use day-long practical workshops, weekly one-on-one training, comprehensive community management and period re-immersion sessions. Whatever option you choose, remember that these elements are meant to be continuous and support your initiative at every stage. Employee advocacy is not a “set it and forget it” style program.”

Taking a more proactive approach and realising that employees’ are a valuable social asset is something that Dell has embraced for some time. Liz Brown Bullock, the former Social Media and Community Director at Dell explained: “In 2009 Dell created a small center of excellence team, Social Media and Community (SMaC), responsible for Dell’s governance, training, best practices, analytics, innovation and overall strategic use of social media across Dell.

“In 2010, Dell’s SMaC team launched Social Media and Community University (SMaC U) a training and certification program open to all employees to understand Dell’s social media strategy, governance, best practices and how to use social to better serve our customers. Through certification our employees are enabled to represent the Dell brand online and connect with customers based on their area of expertise.”

Care though, must be taken when leveraging employees as brand advocates especially when they are dispersed across many areas of your corporation. This is especially important to be aware of with customer services teams that need to have a completely joined up approach to social media usage or risk a disconnect between the customer’s needs and their remit when using social media networks.

“The objective of social media customer care is the same as traditional customer service,” commented Vit Horky, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Brand Embassy. “It is part of the role of the customer care employees to make dissatisfied customers happy. However, because most social media can be seen by many others in a public space, some of the responses should be pre-prepared or approved by the company's PR department. Corporate clients using Brand Embassy usually select the best employees from their call centres and train them to get familiar with the social media customer service to provide the best possible results.”

What is clear is that employee advocacy is a powerful tool that many corporations are overlooking. As the DachisGroup concludes: “Employee advocacy is simply too powerful of a tool for brands to pass up. Companies like Lululemon and others have mastered offline processes to create the conditions of empathy, understanding, and expertise that make employee advocacy work. The next step is to translate those tactics online and into social channels. But without the right foundation in place — for both employee advocates and those responsible for program execution — that value remains untapped and enclosed within the walls of your organization.”

Corporations have spent the last few years attempting to leverage their use of social media networks via consumer brand advocacy, ignoring a massive resource that is under their noses. Employees are passionate about the businesses they work for. With proper guidance, they can become an asset that can be used as an essential component of every social media based campaign.

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