Social business continues to transform nearly all industries, and velocity is the watch word of the day. Some say that this seismic shift will continue for nearly two decades. In addition to social future proofing the enterprise —for example optimizing security and the network, leveraging cloud and hosting solutions, and expanding development and mobility capabilities — leaders must seek to continually disrupt and advance processes, identify new revenue models and leverage the full potential of all resources, including people.
The human cloud —in this case, the collective intelligence of your employees — has the potential to be one of your biggest killer apps. Yet, how can you marshal your people’s brain power to impart your company’s story—fast, effectively and with minimal risk?
One of the best ways is through a robust, social media-enabled initiative known as an employee-based brand ambassador program. Below are some tips for launching your own program:
1. Secure a powerful sponsor.
He or she will need to help drive the cultural change that will ensure the rapid scaling of your program. Remember, social business brand ambassadors are all about driving change and engagement (in the minds of consumer but also the employees who drive the program). When driving transformation at IBM, CEO Lou Gerstner said, “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game; it is the game.” Legendary management consultant, Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” Thus, the sponsor and leaders of your program must be acutely aware of the need to constantly champion the program within the organization and drive a cultural change that embraces social business.
2. Appoint a community manager who’s passionate about social media to lead the effort.
Since the concept of corporate social ambassadors is new, seek an enterprising individual who is excited about social media and comfortable defining a new role.
3. Develop a social media customer engagement policy.
Your brand ambassador program should clearly state your corporate values, core principles for engaging the media, and a corporate code of conduct. Coca-Cola provides a great example.
4. Define a plan for your brand ambassador program (goals, objectives, strategy, and execution.)
Who should be the first generation of brand ambassadors? Is it the customer service team? Or perhaps employees from all parts of the organization who are social media savvy? Ask for volunteers first and then draft the right people as the effort progresses. What are your processes? How will you keep your ambassadors informed? Will you host monthly calls, provide weekly updates, and/or have training sessions? Who are your target audiences? The above are just a few questions to help you to develop a strong approach.
5. Incentive your Brand Ambassadors.
For example, add social engagement KPIs into each brand ambassador’s performance plan. Ensure that brand ambassadorship is also a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of the executive team so that everyone understands the importance of this program to the company’s brand and its performance. Also, you can leverage gamification techniques by providing badges for all participants, and awards for those who tweet and foster community through social media the most.
6. Supply your brand ambassadors with a list of suggested tweets.
Make the job easier for your brand ambassadors by providing a tweet and blog hit list every four to six weeks. Encourage them to retweet these messages in their own voice.
7. Encourage employees to follow at least 10 other program, members.
Provide ideas for increasing your brand ambassadors’ followings and Klout scores. Urge them to retweet one another’s tweets.
8. Launch a tiered training program.
Basic education for all Ambassadors should cover the fundamentals, like media coaching (how to respond to external enquiries, what to say, and what not to say). You’ll also want to cover your company’s code of conduct and confidentiality policy as well as social media platforms e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Forums. However, some brand ambassadors be more active or attract more followers than others. Consider providing more intense training or supplemental support for employees who have strong social media followings or high profile roles such as the CEO, CIO, and other visible leadership team members.
9. Ensure that you have strong links back to the rest of the organization.
A brand ambassador program not only can augment your profile to customers and clients, it can also be a source for new recruits, leads, and creative customer service.. Increasingly, consumers are desiring omnichannel customer services (including through social channels). Thus,it’s important your brand ambassadors know how to respond to service-related issues.
10. Keep expanding the scope of your program over time.
Once you’ve set up your initial tribe of brand ambassadors, consider rolling the program out to all employees and perhaps even to Business Partners.
A well designed brand ambassador program provides a corporate framework with clear goals and a support system so that brand ambassadorship is a win-win for all.