3 Tips for Small Business Owners to Create a Sustainable Employee Ambassador Program

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Employee advocacy has been shown to build trust between brands and their customers more than ads. Small business owners say employee ambassador programs can effectively turn them into influencers for a company. Three social media experts explain how small business owners can create an employee ambassador program. This article is part of “Marketing for Small Business,” a series exploring the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to win new customers and grow their business. Something is loading.

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When job platform Oyster raised $150 million in Series C funding last year, it activated its employee advocates, known as Oyster Ambassadors, to help spread the news.

Oyster shared a LinkedIn post announcing the fundraiser on its internal Slack channel and encouraged employees to talk about it on their personal social media accounts.

Kristopher Martinez, Internal Communications and Events Manager at Oyster Kristopher Martin

While Oyster doesn’t set engagement quotas or require employees to share company details on social media, by sharing this particular post Ambassadors have helped the company generate nearly 130 000 impressions, approximately 2,500 clicks and more than 750 reactions. Kristopher Martinez, Oyster’s internal communications and events manager, told Insider that this is one of the company’s most important positions related to the ambassador program. And it happened organically.

Employee advocacy programs, like the Oyster Ambassadors, encourage employees to share their company’s content — including job postings, blogs, news and announcements — on their personal social media pages. The structure of these programs may vary from company to company. Some programs offer incentives for employees to post about the company, while others keep it casual by simply providing assets, like content and images, and leaving it up to employees to share as they see fit.

This can effectively turn employees into influencers for a business. Big brands, like Walmart, Starbucks and Zappos, use employee advocacy programs, and Martinez thinks smaller businesses should look into the tactic as well.

“The saying goes, ‘Your most important asset and resource are your employees,'” he said. “What better way to show the world what kind of company you are, what you stand for, what you celebrate, than to allow your most important people to tell the story for you.”

While it’s common for employees to organically post messages, pictures, or videos about their employers without any encouragement, industry experts have found that employees are more likely to post when they have specific content. to reference.

“We give employees resources, assets and suggested guidelines on how they can share, but we really try to encourage people to tap into their personal stories and share in a way that reflects their personal brand and the way they like to engage on social,” Martinez said.

What consumers think of employee social media posts

Recent studies have shown that employee advocacy programs can increase brand awareness and positive perceptions of a company, boost sales, and improve employee recruitment and retention.

David Kristal, Founder and CEO of Augeo David Kristal

“It’s a very powerful way for small businesses to compete and market themselves more effectively,” David Kristal, founder and CEO of Augeo, a loyalty and engagement services company, told Insider. “It activates a voice that is a very authentic voice.”

Other studies show that consumers perceive employee posts on social media as authentic and tend to trust information from people they know more than other forms of advertising.

Small businesses can get started quickly and at little or no cost.

Establish and communicate clear objectives for the program

Employee advocacy programs work best when companies have goals in mind and communicate them clearly to their employees, Jamie Whalen, director of social strategy at software company Ivanti, told Insider.

Jamie Whalen, director of social strategy at software company Ivanti Jamie Whalen

Ivanti launched its brand ambassador program last year using Sprout Social. The goal was to increase brand awareness and promote its expertise to attract business. In 2022, the company’s social media reach reached 81 million with an earned media value of $2.5 million, Whalen said.

Data shows that employee advocacy programs can also help boost sales. According to LinkedIn, companies that encourage sales teams to share content on social media generate more leads and are more likely to exceed their sales quotas.

Many organizations also use the programs for recruiting. According to LinkedIn, companies whose employees are highly engaged on social media are 58% more likely to attract top talent and 20% more likely to retain employees.

Martinez said Oyster’s employee advocacy goals change throughout the year, depending on their hiring goals or if they’re introducing a new product. “We’re calling on our ambassadors to help us tell this story from an authentic, authentic place.”

Facilitate employee participation

Oyster created a Slack channel as a “one-stop-shop” for its ambassadors to keep up to date with company news and access assets, such as messaging and images.

“We really wanted to make sure people could participate, add their perspective and share it any way they want,” Martinez said, adding that the company doesn’t require or encourage employees to participate. “You need to remove friction so people get the news and can share it.”

In addition to providing company-focused content to employees, Ivanti also worked to encourage more employees to participate in its promotional program by creating educational videos explaining the program and offering gift cards and other incentives. Ivanti has about 3,000 employees and about 2,250 have adopted the advocacy program, Whalen said.

“We knew our strongest ambassadors were right inside our walls, and we had to empower them by sharing and creating great content to share on their social media,” she said. added.

Companies should also establish guidelines (and provide training) on ​​what content is and isn’t “brand safe” to protect a company’s image, Kristal said.

Engage employees authentically

While it’s understandable that companies want to control business-centric content that is posted on social media, Martinez said giving employees some ownership is crucial.

He suggests surveying or talking to employees about the social conversations that most interest them about the company.

“What kinds of stories will excite and engage your people?” he said. “What you don’t want is for it to seem inauthentic and for people to think you’re forcing them to tell a story about the organization or to go out and be salespeople or marketers.”

The “magic happens” when companies create space, provide resources and make it easy for their employees to post company information, Martinez noted.

“People are keen to stand up for things they believe in,” he said. “If you give people the freedom and flexibility to find their voice in the story you’re trying to share, it makes for a more authentic and engaging experience.”

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