When thinking of influencer marketing, the first thing that come to mind is often young people who rave about cosmetics and fashion in videos or talk shop about computer games and dietary supplements. However, in addition to the advertising faces on Instagram and Youtube, for which companies often have to pay large sums of money, there is another type of influencer that may already be on your payroll and often comes across as much more authentic and credible. A company’s own employees may be the best possible brand ambassadors in social media channels.
An increasing number of companies are therefore tapping into the potential of their own employees and often it is even the company founders or managers themselves who blog or are active on social media. Anita Freitag-Meyer of the Hans Meyer cookie factory, Jörg Ehmer of the Apollo optician company or Sina Trinkwalder from the sustainable fashion label Manomama communicate their points of view in this way and thus contribute to the public perception of the respective companies.
One cannot refrain from being an ambassador for one’s own company
According to Kerstin Hoffmann, who works as a strategy consultant to help companies achieve visibility and create a corporate image through people in their own ranks, this form of communication works across all industries, company sizes and subject environments. Especially in B2B environments, people from within the company are often more credible than purchased testimonials. “From the moment you are visible as an employee of a company, you can no longer refrain from being a brand ambassador. If you want to actively rely on visible minds, you should therefore include a brand ambassador strategy as part of your communication strategy”
Although it is usually easier for those employees who already work at the interface to the customer to do so, Hoffmann says there are always hidden talents that one might not expect at first glance. It is crucial to offer support to these people, but not force it on them.
Just letting employees blog or tweet on behalf of the company is not a good idea. Especially when a member of a company suddenly finds himself faced with a larger public, the roles must be clearly defined. It is important to clarify who is allowed to talk about which subjects and what should be left to the management and the communications department. This includes the appropriate social media guidelines and a common strategy. Hoffmann also emphasizes, however, that there is no single surefire recipe for success in this regard, but that a brand ambassador strategy must match both the company concerned and the people involved. “Each individual needs to have the feeling that company management has their back. However, it is better to work out together what works and what doesn’t rather than to simply prescribe it from the top down.” Overall, corporate culture plays a far more important role than rigid regulations.
It will not work without coaching and guidelines
The employee must be sure of the backing of company management and communications department even if they make a mistake or go too far out on a limb with a statement they make. Whenever people communicate, mistakes and conflicts cannot be ruled out. Especially in the case of communication crises, employees are often confronted with questions or accusations concerning the company. They shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves in such cases. Legal issues also need to be clarified and the works council needs to be involved in certain issues.
Magdalena Rogl, Head of Digital Channels at Microsoft, also confirms that good coaching is essential. As Rogl said at the All Influencer Marketing Conference, the software manufacturer is having success with evangelists and corporate ambassadors who are active on numerous online channels. The sustained positive image that the employees create is helpful as employer branding, especially in view of the shortage of skilled workers. As she explains, it is important to trust the brand ambassadors and to rely on their gut feeling. However, it is also essential to clearly indicate when an employee is speaking for themselves and when they are communicating on behalf of the company or in a particular function. When speaking for themselves, it is important that employees come across as authentic and feel comfortable in their role so they can speak authentically and in their own words.
Monitoring is much more difficult here than with other social media communication, and is rarely automated. Purely quantitative methods often reveal relatively little here, especially for top target groups and B2B industries. The communication of company ambassadors in specialist forums and discussion groups is helpful, especially with regard to the allocation of relevant keywords in the relevant search engines.
The bottom line: brand ambassadors add credibility
Brand ambassadors can add a valuable facet to communication work, which positively conveys the image of the company. Even if you don’t have to communicate many of the company’s values to your employees (in contrast to external influencers), there are a number of rules they first have to internalize. Which media can be used depends strongly on the corporate culture and the respective personality. In many cases a corporate blog in combination with suitable social media is a good start. By the way, even companies that do not have an explicit brand ambassador strategy can encourage employees to position themselves and the company positively in social media, such as Linkedin, Facebook or industry forums. Many companies are not yet fully exploiting this potential.