Do Brands Really Understand What Employee Advocacy Is?

photo credit: amortize via photopin cc
photo credit: amortize via photopin cc

If you’ve been following me on social media you know that I’m a big fan of employee advocacy and have been for quite some time. It seems like employee advocacy has been gaining momentum recently, with brands starting to encourage their employees to get on social media and help spread their messaging. While I applaud brands for doing this and taking that first step, there needs to be a better understanding of employee advocacy for it to continue to be effective.

In a recent post titled, “8 Signs a Company Is Doing Employee Advocacy Wrong”, Brian Fanzo points out a number of things where brands don’t get it wrong when it comes to employee advocacy. I have to say that I’ve seen and experienced all of the points that Brian highlights, and I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised because I think that there is a big misunderstanding as to what employee advocacy is.

I don’t believe employee advocacy is only tied to social media, but that seems to be what brands think. It’s probably because of the value leadership gives to vanity metrics (as Brian points out). Everyone is looking to add social media to their performance reviews, and it seems as if you don’t have that buzzword on your resume, you will end up going nowhere fast. What this has done is prompted most people to sign up for a social media account without any understanding of how to use effectively use it. I’m sorry but creating an account on Twitter does not make you a social media brand ambassador. Furthermore, having your social media account mirror your companies PR newsfeed doesn’t make you an effective employee advocate.

Employee advocacy is not turning your workforce into automated, impersonal news feeds. Employee advocacy is encouraging your workforce to build relationships with people to create a lasting, positive impression of your brand.

You are an employee brand advocate every day, whether you are on social media or not. The reason why people will connect with the brand you represent is because they will connect with you. They will connect with you as a person, not as an advertisement. Brands should look at employee advocates as a way to build relationships, instead of as banner ads.

Sphere Of Influence: Ted Nguyen On Growing Your Social Network And Working With Brands

Sphere Of Influence:  Ted Nguyen On Growing Your Social Network And Working With Brands

First impressions are very important; you don’t get a second chance at them. How someone perceives you right from the start can have a big effect on how the relationship moves, or doesn’t move, forward. I had wanted to meet up with Ted Nguyen for a long time. We had connected on social media a while back and we finally had the chance to meet up when I was in Anaheim for a few days.

Nowadays, first impressions aren’t always made in person. They can be made on social media, email, or by phone. Ted was a fun person to chat with on Twitter, he always came across as helpful and encouraging. When I met him in person, he ended up being exactly who he was online, which was very refreshing. Ted was very hospitable, introducing me to some great Vietnamese food and we had a great conversation.

What impresses me about Ted is that he’s very adamant about aligning himself with brands that he feels represent his own values, and he won’t compromise that. He’s done some really great work with the brands he’s partnered with. I was also impressed with his story and how hard he worked to build his network and blog. No matter how busy Ted is, he’s always willing to help. When Ted commits to doing something, he always follows through and I appreciate that about him.

Ted was kind enough to share his thoughts and advice on building a strong following on social media and working with brands. I hope you find his words helpful and as insightful as I did.

Me: How and when did you get started on social media?

Ted Nguyen: I got started on social media with MySpace in 2006 and when I heard that universities students were abuzz about Facebook. The social network was exclusively available to them at the time. As soon as it was available outside of universities, I signed up my dog, Maddox.

I didn’t want to risk another wasted attempt after MySpace, so I admit I used my 7-pound Chihuahua as an experiment. But the animal testing was great. I started connecting with other animal lovers and advocates for pet adoption and spaying and neutering. In just a few months, Maddox gained thousands of meaningful friends all around the world. I thought this is really different this time.

As a public relations and marketing communications professional, I can’t help but start with the research and after pouring over the overwhelmingly positive touch points of Maddox’ experiment on Facebook, I decided to join myself with a plan of providing personal, helpful and meaningful content. But my lesson with Maddox also taught me to not only share about professional and personal life but to contribute to the different communities and help others with insights, solutions and encouragement.

Soon after that I jumped on Twitter and began keynoting and speaking at regional, national and even international conferences on social media. And I have to credit the social media prowess of my four-pawed companion for getting me started.

Me: You’ve been able to build an impressive following and network, what advice do you have for people looking to grow their own following and network?

Ted Nguyen: I’ve been really fortunate to have a large network across all the different social media platforms. But it does take work. The first thing I do in the morning and the last thing at night is to check on my network. Once I’m committed to something, I can’t help but to be passionate. And so should you if you want to grow your network and your influence.

For those looking to expand your network, I recommend to first identify your objectives for having social media platforms. The numbers will grow, but you must have a strategy to drive toward your goals and objectives. Make sure your online voice is consistent with who you are in real life. And I cannot stress the power of being positive and motivating others in your network. I also find that it’s important to take a stand on issues that are deeply important to you and show respect to those who share their convictions and beliefs. It’s important for your emerging network to get to know your true authentic self.

I’m also a firm believer in not just saying but doing. I take time to actively participate in real-life events and activities whether it’s meeting someone for coffee, live tweeting at a conference or organizing events – large or small. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but it takes a concerted effort to scale appropriately. It will take time, and you must employ a consistent approach to be successful.

Me: You’ve been able to work on some cool social projects with some really great brands. What are your words of wisdom when it comes to working with large brands?

Ted Nguyen: When working with large brands the same applies to small brands or entrepreneurs – develop a deep understanding of their business world and gain insights into what makes them tick. What are their business needs? How do you make their lives better and easier? How will you provide value in helping them do something faster, smarter and cheaper?

I also think you need to possess strategic-thinking skills in helping brands and corporate officers discover how you can help them connect with a dynamic world and deliver on those alliances that move the marketplace of ideas, goods and services. The other component is measuring and evaluating metrics by separating outputs from outcomes. How did your plan impact the process toward the tangible and measurable objective? And how did your tactics and objectives help drive the business goal?

In this hyper-active business world of doing, it’s also critically important to start off correctly with a healthy dose of research and discovery and to book-end it with measurements and evaluations – and most importantly, re-adjusting and refining all along the way. Social media, digital communications, online marketing, etc. are powerful tools but they are not the end all of a strategic approach to solving problems and making life better for you and your loved ones.

You can connect with Ted Nguyen here: TedNguyenUSA.com, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, SocialCam

Brands Should Know That Social Media Is About Understanding People

photo credit: ePublicist via photopin cc
photo credit: ePublicist via photopin cc
I remember having conversations with people a while back when social media was just starting to become popular. The people that I was speaking to didn’t really think it was going to be something that stuck around and that they didn’t like social media at all. They thought that it was just some flash in the pan thing and that after a while the interest would die down and it would all go away. Well, they ended up being very wrong.

Ego and Emotion
Think about it, each time we share something on social media we look to see how many likes, comments, retweets, +1’s, or re-shares we get. We want people to like what we share, and why not? If you were posting things on Facebook and found that you received no likes or comments consistently, would you continue to post the same things? I highly doubt it. We also get enamored with the number of followers we have and who is following us. It’s easy to say that we don’t care about the numbers but in reality we all do. If you were on Twitter and had no followers and couldn’t get anyone to follow you, would you still use Twitter? I doubt it. We like or dislike things on social media that strike a chord with us. Things we read and see can make us happy or sad, angry or joyful, laugh or cry. Positive or negative, what spurs us to react and act on social media is emotional.

Understand People
It might sound simple, but it’s something that I think brands easily forget. If you want do well on social media, spend time understanding people. Understand what appeals to people’s egos and emotions. While it’s important to understand and know the different social platforms and how they deliver a message, the message is what’s most important. Brands that understand people will deliver the right message, regardless of the mechanism.

Sphere Of Influence: Ted Rubin, Return On Relationship

Sphere Of Influence:  Ted Rubin, Return On Relationship

If you’ve seen the hashtag #RonR floated out social media, it’s because of Ted Rubin. Ted created the hashtag and it stands for “Return on Relationship”, which is a concept that I cannot believe more brands and people don’t buy into. If you don’t know what “Return on Relationship” is, Ted was kind enough to explain it all when I asked him in the interview below. I’ll definitely never forget meeting Ted, and if you get the chance to meet him you won’t either. When you hear Ted speak, the first thing you’ll notice is the passion he has for the message he’s delivering. I’m one that completely buys into it by the way. But not only does Ted deliver a great message, he lives it. I don’t know how he does it, but somehow with his busy speaking schedule and work, Ted finds the time for people. He talks the talk, and then walks the walk. While he’s not afraid to tell it like it is, he’s also not one to just pick a fight and argue for no reason. I’ve seen Ted communicate his points effectively and intelligently; he’s a guy I look up to and admire. So when he agreed to answer these questions for me I was completely jazzed and honored. He’s a guy with a packed schedule, and yet he found the time answer a request from someone like me. I hope you connect with him and learn, just like I have.

Me: When and How did you get started in social media?

Ted Rubin: Media has been social for a lot longer than the current social platforms, so I would say I have been social for a long time. In its current form my activity ramped up considerably in 2008 when I joined e.l.f. Cosmetics and started building my brand and theirs concurrently via Twitter, FB and YouTube. At that time those platforms we scaling and I saw an incredibly opportunity to get ahead of the curve and do something I truly and naturally enjoyed… build relationships at scale around the clock.

Me: I’m a big believer in #RonR (as you already know), for all of the people who don’t know what #RonR (Return on Relationship) is, can you briefly describe the ideology behind it?

Ted Rubin: Return on Relationship, ROR, hashtag #RonR is the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through connection, loyalty, recommendations and sharing. In its simplest form ROR is about the people. If you are only focused on the Money, you risk completely overlooking the People.

Me: You’ve worked with plenty of brands, big and small, what do you tell brands that ask what’s the proof of ROI on #RonR?

Ted Rubin: I initially ask them how they perceive the ROI of Trust, and the ROI of Loyalty… every CEO understands the value there. Brands/Companies that use social successfully reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues.

Ted Rubin lives and breathes social media, there’s a lot you can learn from him, and my thanks to him for agreeing to be interviewed here. If you’d like to connect with Ted, you can find him here: TedRubin.com, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn.

A Case for Employee Brand Ambassadors on Social Media

There is a big benefit to educating and encouraging employees to use social media. Each employee that comes into contact with someone on social media could be a potential customer. Educating your employees on social media best practices is very important, because if all goes well the end result could be something like this:

The Case for Employee Brand Ambassadors on Social Media
The power employee brand ambassadors on social media

 
People build relationships
The best part about social media is that it allows you to connect with people that you might not have had the chance to connect with before. It’s all about building relationships, and your employees should know that too. Failure to understand this will cause your employees to be too salesy, which could be a big turn off. Instead, employees should build genuine relationships and be representative of the brand. Genuine relationships build trust, which will lead to more opportunities.

People trust people
Dave Humphrey and I haven’t met in person yet, but one day I hope we get the chance. But we did get to meet on Facebook through a mutual friend of ours, Ann Tran. Recently Dave reached out to me on Facebook with some questions he had about some products of ours and I tried to help as best as I could. To make a long story short, the end result of our conversation on Facebook was a 35K sale, and some valuable feedback for our product team.

“I actually met you through Ann Tran. I was first drawn to the cool NYC photos, then I admired your posts about your family (especially the culture), and from there I think a level of trust was established. That was the key.” ~ Dave Humphrey

But before you jump to any conclusions, know that Dave and I were connected on Facebook for months before this last conversation took place. And just to be clear, we never spoke about Sony before either. The opportunity arose due to genuine social interaction, interaction that was built on trust.

Lesson for brands
I feel the lesson here is quite simple. Instead of blocking employees from using social media, teach them to be brand ambassadors. Instead of always looking for other people to represent your brand, tap into the passionate people that live and breathe your brand every day. Don’t spend your time worrying about what could go wrong, instead spend the time to educate them so that things go right. Teach your employees the value of building and nurturing relationships and your brand will reap the rewards down the road.

Customer Service, The Backbone Of A Brand

How important does your brand think customer service is?  Photo credit © Dell Inc.
How important does your brand think customer service is? Photo credit © Dell Inc.
I don’t remember the last time a marketing ad secured my loyalty, do you? I do remember all of the companies that I like giving my business to though, do you? And let me tell you, the list of companies that I like giving my business to that comes to mind instantly, is rather small. That small list of companies has great customer service, at least from my experience with them.

Marketing turns heads and grabs eyeballs
Don’t get me wrong, I remember good ads, we all do. It’s why half of us like watching the Super Bowl. When you see a clever ad on television or on the internet, or hear one on the radio it puts a smile on your face. And when an ad puts a smile on your face you remember the brand that created it. Ads are what keep brands first and foremost on your mind. Good marketing is intended to pique your curiosity enough to spur an action to visit a brand. But what happens after that? Well to put it simply, customer service takes over.

Customer service keeps them loyal
The minute someone initiates an interaction with a brand, whether it is walking into the store, calling on the phone, or sending an email, customer service is responsible for that experience. Loyalty is measured by customers returning to continue investing in a brand. Loyal customers to a brand become advocates for a brand. Think about the brands you would recommend to a friend. You’d recommend a brand based on the experience you had with the brand. It’s a really simple concept. Good customer service builds loyalty and advocacy.

The customer must be the focus of a brand for it to be successful. Therefore if customer service is responsible for the customer’s experience, it is the backbone for any brand. If you cannot take care of your customers, they will leave, making all of your marketing efforts futile as your brand quickly becomes a revolving door of customers coming and going. People are not loyal to products; they are loyal to the brands that make the products. So take care of what is the backbone of your brand, customer service.

So what I want to know is, why does it seem like customer service is the first thing to get cut or outsourced when times get rough for brands?

Influencers Should Be Selective of the Brands They Choose to Partner With

Is this the right brand for you to partner with? © Jacob Bøtter
Is this the right brand for you to partner with? © Jacob Bøtter
Last week I blogged about why brands need to be selective of the influencers they partner with, but the same is true vice versa. Influencers need to choosy about which brands they decide to align themselves with as well. When aligning yourself with a brand, and that’s exactly what you do when you work with one, you must consider some of the following.

Interested or Not?
The first thing is, are you even interested in the brand? Do you like them or dislike them? If you don’t like them, you won’t be motivated to work with them. Even if the financial payoff good, it’ll be very hard to stay authentic, and that’s something that your readers and followers will pick up on. I don’t have to spell out how important it is for an influencer to been seen as authentic. Will working for this brand conflict with other projects from other brands that you’re already working? If so, then you probably shouldn’t take the job.

Values?
So a brand just reached out to you about potentially working with them, and you’re indifferent about how you feel. You don’t dislike them, but you don’t like them either. You might not have even heard of them. So logically you start to research the brand and you start to get a sense of what the brand stands for by reading its mission statement and seeing what charities and activities the brand sponsors or participates in. You might even look at a job board site and read employee reviews. All of that and what headlines the brand has been in recently will give you an initial sense of what the brand stands for and how the public perceives them. And by extension, if you work with the brand, it will be how the public sees you. Remember, it’s all about perception. If you find out that the brands values aren’t in line with yours, you might want to think about declining the offer.

What’s the project?
Even if you are enamored by the brand that is reaching out to you, you have to consider the project. If you’re a blogger, is this project going to be beneficial for your brand as it is represented to your followers and readers? If the answer is no and you take the job, you risk losing your audience. Is the project worth your time? You might be in love with the brand, but what they’re expecting is completely unreasonable. If that’s the case, I would suggest not taking the job.

Future opportunities?
Is this a one-time job or will there be future opportunities to work with the brand again? This is a big question and really depends on your schedule and availability. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you commit to something that’s long term and can’t follow through, it’s going to look bad for you. Also, keep your expectations realistic and your mind focused on your long term goal. If this is your first time working with a brand it’s also your opportunity to prove to them that you’re worthy to work with again. The brand needs to see how beneficial it is to them to work with you.

With all of this in mind, don’t sell yourself short. Remember, the work that you do with a brand needs to benefit you as well. When the opportunity is mutually beneficial, the best results are attained. What are your thoughts about working with brands? How do you decide on whether to work with one or not?