Looking For Brand Advocates? Try Your Employees!

Brands are always looking for advocates, people that are willing to help promote the brand, spread their messaging and share the love. Celebrities seem to be the first choice for brands to ask to become advocates, and while I’ve got no problem with this I wondered if any celebrity endorsement actually influenced my impression of a brand. Personally the answer is no, but what celebrities do bring to the table is their reach. A celebrity endorsement might not endear people to a brand, but it will make the brand’s product known to the masses.

From this point on, whether I choose to buy the product or the brand that the celebrity has endorsed is all on the product or the brand itself. In other words, a celebrity is not going to convince me that I need to buy something when I know they are getting paid to promote the product. Just because Blake Griffin dunks over a Kia Optima and promotes Subway doesn’t make me run to the nearest Kia dealer or crave Subway’s foot long sandwiches all of a sudden. While ironically I do have a Kia Sorento, nothing about Blake’s endorsement played a part in the decision making process to purchase the vehicle. In fact part of the decision to purchase the Sorento was influenced by the customer service of the sales department at the Kia dealership I went to. The sales rep had a direct influence on my impression of the brand.

So you’re probably saying that’s obvious, it was a sales guy and he was just doing his job. And you’re absolutely right, he was doing his job. But consider this, with the explosion of social media and most people putting where they work on their bios, your employees are your brand advocates each time they log onto their social networks. If I engage with an employee of a brand, I’m getting an impression of the brand whether we talk about their products or the weather outside. And brands have to believe that I will remember that impression the next time I choose to buy their product. What’s more important is whether or not I become a positive or negative advocate for the brand based on that engagement. Is it fair? Maybe not, but it is reality.

So what’s the answer? I think brands need to spend more time investing in their employees. Create a positive work atmosphere and a place employees want to be, plus encourage a healthy work/life balance. Brands not only need to show that what their employees do is important and valuable, but that they’re valuable too. Brands need to put the right leaders in place that are willing to buy into and encourage this philosophy. That would be my suggestion where to start, and here’s a great real life example of an employee being a great brand advocate.

My new Nike journal, a gift from brand advocate Christina Yow!
My new Nike journal, thanks Christina Yow!

I met Christina Yow on Facebook through multiple friends and just by being active on the social platform. She works for Nike, and as long as I can remember I’ve always been a Nike fan. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Michael Jordan era but the brand has stuck with me. If you haven’t had a chance to chat with Christina I definitely recommend you do it. You will have some great conversations! She’s warm, welcoming and has a positive attitude. The way she engages on social media definitely is a positive for Nike as a brand. When I asked her about the company she had nothing but positive things to say about them, and since the conversation was not public I’m convinced that she was telling me the truth. Christina left a positive impression on me about Nike through our engagement and even though I was a Nike fan before meeting her, it definitely made me more of a fan afterwards! Oh by the way Christina was nominated for a Shorty award, you can vote for her here (you have until February 18).

So what do you think about brands empowering their employees to be brand advocates? Is there something that your company can do to make you a better brand advocate?

11 thoughts on “Looking For Brand Advocates? Try Your Employees!

  1. Although I get the reason why brands do hire celebrities to endorse their product to make it popular and I think it works when brands really think carefully and choose the best endorsers, but I will have to agree with you that the best advocates for brands are their employees. If the employees are motivated, passionate and happy, it will show in conversations and their actions. Thank you for giving our dear friend Christina Yow a shout out! She is awesome!

    1. Hi Misty, happy employees will gladly endorse where they work. But brands also have to be aware that their employees are advocates whether they like it or not and they should be looking to see how their employees are engaging on social. Not be restrictive, but use this chance to educate their employees on social media responsibility and awareness. I also think that bloggers like yourself and Marty have a more lasting effect on users than celebrities as well because of the personal relationships that are created. And agreed, Christina is awesome!!

  2. Great article. I agree 100% — I’m an employee at an app development company and anyone who knows me will tell you I absolutely love my job and that the company I work for is amazing. My question is this, though: How do we get other employees to be brand ambassadors like me? I’m not sure it’s enough to create an awesome company and work environment, so how do we give them incentive to promote us when they don’t have to?

    1. Hi Brandy, thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog, I really appreciate it. I feel that you’re a brand advocate whether you like it or not. Even if you’re not talking about your brand, you represent your brand everyday by your actions. If you’re not nice to people, they’ll not only know that you’re not nice but that you work for Brand X and now they’ve associated that bad experience with Brand X. I think brands need to take action internally and educate their employees about the responsibilities outside of the office. I agree, creating that great environment isn’t enough, it’s just a start!

  3. Interesting perspective. You’ve got me thinking.
    I was laid off before LinkedIn and Twitter were big deals. So, it’d be interesting to know how/if employers are thinking about how their employees represent the themselves personally and the employer’s brand indirectly.

    Your topic touches on a big concern that I have about the reduced anonymity and extra effort it takes to keep one’s online life compartmentalized.

    Posting a negative review on Yelp requires pause because it can be easily tied to one’s LinkedIn, FB, Pinterest, blog, etc … Now, do you want to risk looking like a grouch by posting that negative review? Might a person’s employer care about that because the person is connected to the employer on LinkedIn?

    Maybe we give up the fantasy of decorum and just let it all hang out.

    1. Hi Oz, I’m not sure that some brands realize that their employees are representing them on social. Even though people put on their profiles that their opinions are their own, does it really matter? We all know who the work for and so our interaction with them becomes our interaction with the brand by default. You bring up a great point, if I give a bad review of an eating establishment does that mean that my brand does too? Maybe not intentionally, but some just might make that connection. All the more reason for brands to have social policies and rules in place! Thanks as always for your feedback and insights!

  4. I couldn’t agree more! In fact I’m so passionate about it, I’m writing a book about how to mobilize employees to become brand advocates. More about my book: The most powerful brand on earth, on my site: http://www.susanemerick.com/book Employee advocacy is the most valuable resource any brand can have, but most either don’t realize it or don’t know how to build programs to empower their employees to drive brand advocacy via social.

  5. Completely agree with the need to get employees engaged. I recently heard of a company that organized friendly competition between different departments to promote advocacy! The key to their success was using an AdvocateHub that streamlined their efforts – They used Infuitive’s advocate Hub (FYI. I am an employee of Influtiive as well as being a brand advocate)

    1. Hi Abdallah, thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog! Organizing a friendly competition can definitely bring out the passion in employees, which is very important if they are to be brand ambassadors. Thanks for sharing this bit of advice!

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