How to Make Your Employees Online Brand Ambassadors
When it comes to your company’s online reputation, there’s nobody better equipped to sing its praises than your employees, right? After all, they rely on you for a paycheck, so why wouldn’t they want to give you a big digital seal of approval?
Unfortunately, winning the undying online love of your employees isn’t that easy. In fact, if you don’t play your cards right, you could end up with a much bigger problem: employees using the anonymity of the Internet to trash your company and share trade secrets with untold Web users.
This article will discuss ways to make your employees online brand ambassadors for your company. It will also touch on the importance of internal social media policies and online brand monitoring.
Treat your employees with respect.
This should go without saying, but the best way to turn your employees into loyal brand ambassadors is to treat them with dignity. A happy employee will speak favorably of your company both online and offline.
Conversely, treating employees poorly could mean angry rants on anonymous review websites like Glassdoor.com, which offers information on salaries, interview questions and other generally confidential details.
Of course, even if you do everything you can to keep your employees content, that doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional angry worker that takes his or her frustration to the Web.
Encourage social sharing, but develop clear social media policies.
Assuming you’re treating your employees the way they deserve to be treated (even that grumpy worker), you should have no problem convincing them to lobby on your behalf online. But before launching a proactive army of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking workers, you should make sure that all of your employees are aware of your company’s social media policies.
If you haven’t yet written a social media policy for your company, you should make it a high priority. If they don’t know what they’re doing, even well-meaning employees can severely damage your company’s online reputation.
For example, your social media policy should outline what steps your employees should take if they notice someone complaining about your business online. Generally speaking, if an employee sees someone trashing your company, he or she should alert the proper department (typically PR or communications) so that a trained employee can deal with the complaint in a strategic way. Without specific instructions one enthusiastic employee might decide to go online and begin defending the company alone. If they’re not trained in crisis communications, their efforts can backfire in a big way and cause even more reputation problems for your brand.
A better plan than simply unleashing your employees to the wild world of social networking is to develop in-house social media tools that allow your employees to contribute in a way that you can control. For example, if you have a corporate blog, you could take time to feature an employee or allow them to write a guest post. That not only helps your employees promote your brand, but also puts a more human face on your company and helps customers identity with you more easily.
Lead your employees (online brand ambassadors) by example.
If you’re the boss, you must lead by example. That means using social media tools in a responsible and brand-aware way. Your employees will take their cues from you. If your company is not on Twitter talking about the company, why should your employees? If your business is not blogging, what incentive do your workers have to spend extra time writing on behalf of the company?
But realize that social media isn’t for everybody. If your company is publicly traded, there might be legal issues preventing CEOs from sharing certain information online. Similarly, using social media the right way is a significant time commitment that many C-level executives simply don’t have. Forrester Research CEO George Colony addressed many of these issues in an excellent interview with Mashable.com.
The bottom line is this: Whether it’s a potential customer or a potential employee, people look to the Web to research companies just like yours. Having a socially savvy executive team of online brand ambassadors sets the right tone and shows that the company “gets it” when it comes to online reputation management. With the right internal tools in place, that attitude will trickle down to lower-level employees and help the company improve its messaging on a comprehensive level.
Rob Frappier is a community manager for Reputation.com, Inc.