Like it or not, the popularization of social media has amplified the sharing of information (both good and bad) about brands online. For example, Comcast was recently lampooned on social media after a bad customer service call went viral, and many customers and ex-customers were quick to share their complaints about the company. While the cable company was apologetic, an outcry to fire the customer service rep who handled the call ensued. But according to customer service guru and bestselling book author, Shep Hyken, the root of the problem was not about one customer service rep but rather was about deeper company culture issues. Hyken says, “It could have happened to any company. It doesn’t have to be in a call center. It can be on the front line of any type of business.”
Instances like these present missed opportunities for companies to leverage their employees as brand advocates. To get positive messaging about their products and services shared on social media, more and more brands are beginning to turn to what is called advocate marketing — encouraging customers and employees to share positive information about the brand online. And as multiple companies have realized, many of their employees make great marketers, even if they're not in the marketing department. According to Nielsen’s 2013 Global New Products Report, 77 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a company’s product when they hear about it from someone they trust. On average, employees who share on social media have 20 times the access to consumers than a typical brand with the same number of followers.
How can an organization get started with employee advocacy? One way is to improve company culture by taking care of employee's needs. Take international furniture retailer, Ikea, which prides itself on offering stylish but affordable products. Instead of under-paying their employees to offer inexpensive products or raising their prices, they’re making sacrifices within the company to raise the minimum wage they offer U.S. workers. Ikea is making a decision that shows how much they value their employees and their employees’ loyalty. "We truly do see this as the right thing to do for taking care of our co-workers," says Rob Olson, the acting president for Ikea U.S. "An opportunity to increase coworker loyalty, decrease turnover, as well as being able to attract more and more qualified applicants."
Who Do You Trust Most?
According to Jay Baer, marketing expert and CEO of Convince and Convert, the general public is more likely to trust ordinary people that they can relate to than messaging from brands. Brand advocates — which can come in many forms, including customers and employees – are what Baer describes as “human trust-magnets.” While many companies ban their employees from using social media at work, others are reaping the benefits of encouraging social media use. According to TopRankBlog, “In 2012, 40 of the top companies to work for were also some of the most successful companies in social media.”
Do you encourage your employees to share on social?