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If you’re looking for a powerful way to raise awareness of your brand and drive leads, take a look around you. Some of the best levers for building your brand are working away at their desks and chatting in the office kitchen.

Your employees are wired to the world—they’re making connections on social media, sharing news on blogs, and posting recommendations on Yelp. They may have enormous reach with hundreds or even thousands of friends and followers who trust what they have to say.

What if you could tap into your employees’ great connections for your business?

Transforming employees into business advocates

To put it simply, employees can be amazing advocates for your brand:

  • They have insider expertise about your products and services and can share information about your company with less risk of it seeming like a sales pitch.
  • The voices of your employees give your business greater authenticity—it says a lot about a company when you’re willing to let your staff speak on behalf of the brand.
  • Employee advocates also help build trust. According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary, technology companies are the most trusted of all industry sectors, but hacks and security breaches mean we have to work harder than ever to retain that high level of trust. Employees sharing their genuine enthusiasm for their employer can go a long way in building and keeping customers’ trust.

Encouraging employees to tell the world how much they love their company through social media channels, at events or simply by sharing company content is a powerful way to spread your message, but they need your support.

Here are seven things to give your employees to help them exercise their personal and mighty brand-building muscles:

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1. Energy

Give your employees reasons to get energized about your company! People love to discover something new and tell others about it, so let your employees be the first to inform the world of your new products and services and let them educate followers on that cool new feature in your technology.

Use innovative, modern ways to energize your team and excite them about your company. For example, our partner Samba Tech recently released a beta app, KAST, that allows management to communicate with their teams in a mobile, visual way, similar to the concept behind visual platforms like SnapChat. It’s fun and innovative and creates a new, very humanizing kind of communication. It’s innovation designed to benefit employees, and that’s the kind of company they want to brag about on Twitter.

2. Motivation

Competition is a great way to motivate your employee advocates. Who can get more retweets on Twitter? Whose blog post drives more traffic to a landing page? Having a public leaderboard and fun prizes can not only incent employees to do more but also give you insights on the employees, content, and channels that perform best. Most employees are motivated when they feel they’re a part of something unique, so build that sense of team spirit by making your social squad something special.

3. Options

Not everyone wants to share the same way, so encourage individuals to participate however they want. Some may post pictures to Instagram, some may want to try their hand at podcasting, others would love to interview a customer and write a blog on LinkedIn Pulse. Others may simply retweet company content on Twitter, and that’s great too. Remind them that they are the experts in their area, then let them find ways of communicating that expertise.

4. Tools

The easier sharing is, the more likely people are to do it, so educate them on the free tools that are out there, like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. For your high performers, consider investing in the paid versions of tools that can make posting even easier and may provide sophisticated tracking and measurement. Don’t forget, your employees aren’t only talking, they’re listening. Give them ways to come back to management with the valuable insights they’re sure to gather along the way.

5. Guidance

Great employee advocates can do a lot to build your brand. Poor choices can damage it. You want your employees to be the best possible ambassadors of your brand online, so provide guidelines on posting, dealing with conflict, how to be transparent about their connection with your company, and other standards. A little training now can not only make your employee advocates more effective, it can help you avoid pitfalls later. Employees’ posts should reflect their genuine voices and their creativity, but it’s a good idea to set some expectations before they begin. If you’re not sure how to draw those lines for your company and employees, check out this example of social media guidelines from the adidas group or this one from Best Buy.

6. Goals

Like any initiative, you need to have goals and KPIs to measure progress against. Do you see a bump in web traffic? Are more people signing up to get whitepapers or join webinars? Is there more conversation on your blogs? Know your targets and celebrate victories with the whole team to encourage even greater participation.

7. Your trust

You’ve trained and equipped them, now let them go. The temptation to micromanage may be strong—and understandable, since we’ve all heard stories of social media gone wrong—but hovering too much can discourage employees from sharing genuinely and openly.

You’ve built a great company and staffed it with great people. Now give your employees what they need to help tell your brand’s story. Done right, an employee advocacy program can not only help you reach more existing and potential customers, but it can also make employees feel they’re making a real contribution to your organization—and that kind of loyalty is a reward all by itself.

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