Michael Chalmers: The Greatest Champions for Your Brand May Be a Lot Closer than You Think

Michael Chalmers

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Billions are spent every year to promote brands, but who or what is the best vehicle to carry the message? Some brands rise to the top through clever advertising. Some garner awards to underscore brand value. Others shell out big bucks for celebrity endorsements. Still others put the CEO front and center as a trusted voice for the corporation. With the advent of social engagement, a new brand champion is emerging, as more and more organizations look inward to their own employees to be standard bearers for the brand.

Employees as Brand Advocates

Engaged employees can be a powerfully positive voice for an organization. As socially active brand advocates, they can help heighten brand awareness, sell more product, position the organization as an industry expert and thought leader, and attract great job candidates. This valuable new role for employees is borne out in the latest Spherion® Emerging Workforce Study®, in which nine out of 10 companies said they believe their employees can serve as passionate advocates for them. In fact, more than half believe employees have a greater influence over their online brand and reputation than any other source.

Brand advocates aren’t confined to the marketing department. They can be anyone from customer service representatives to payroll specialists to plant managers. They are proud of the work they do and the organization they represent and want to share how they feel with anyone who will listen. And, unlike “official” company messages that may never break through the noise, each of these networked employees has an engaged audience — one filled with potential employees, customers and community neighbors.

Eyeballs vs. “I Know You”

Online advertisers spent more than $135 billion in 2014, according to eMarketer, and they plan to spend more in the future. Nearly three-quarters of the more than 5,000 marketing professionals surveyed by Salesforce Marketing Cloud indicated they will increase the dollars devoted to social media in 2015, with social media advertising, social media marketing and social media engagement their top three priorities.

Despite all this spending on brand promotion, few consumers put their trust in paid advertisements, relying more on the recommendations of those they know. In fact, Nielsen research notes 92% of consumers consider “word-of-mouth and recommendations from people [they] know” as the top influences on purchase decisions. When the people they know work for your organization, you have an opportunity to make more meaningful connections than possible through any other social media initiative in your marketing toolkit.

The Economics of Brand Advocacy

Personal recommendations — from Facebook “likes” to posted product mentions — are golden in the hierarchy of brand advocacy because they represent trusted endorsements that can reach a far wider audience than any company-generated content. Cisco did the math on this, noting that employee networks, taken together, far outstrip the typical reach of a corporate social media account. Content shared by employees multiplies the reach of a brand 10X and engagement 8X. The potential financial impact is impressive as well. According to a U.K. study, a 12% increase in brand advocacy can double revenue growth rate.

Satisfaction + Engagement Drive Brand Advocacy

Is every employee a cheerleader? In an ideal world, absolutely. Reality is not quite so rosy. When we asked American workers, only 35% said they would say something very positive in discussing their company with other people. Another 32% would say something only somewhat positive. The employees who sing an employer’s praises are those engaged in the work they do every day and proud of the company they do it for. They work for an organization that not only has a clear mission but consistently follows through on that mission. Based on Spherion research, employees in this group are three times more likely to be brand advocates. If they trust in senior leadership, that figure doubles to six times more likely to be a strong advocate for the organization.

Building an Army of Brand Advocates

While many companies believe that employees are important brand ambassadors, only 43% have taken definitive action to capitalize on the potential brand value lying dormant within their own workforce. They know that brand advocacy doesn’t happen automatically. It requires a strong foundation of employee engagement and job satisfaction. Then it must be nurtured through investments in programs that encourage and facilitate employees’ efforts to build the brand via social engagement. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join the conversation. 

Local Spherion owner Michael Chalmers and his team have been serving the recruiting and staffing needs of Macon metropolitan area employers for more than 10 years. Founded in 1946, Spherion is a $2 billion national workforce leader with a distinct local focus. To learn more about how Spherion can help you, contact 478-956-1700 or visit them online at www.spherion.com