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The brand advocate is the goal of all forward thinking companies. Aware that traditional forms of advertising are increasingly falling away, as sources of reliable referrals and continued customer interest, modern brands are now looking towards the social media as a platform to create a new relationship between the brand proposition and the wider world. The brand advocate is the link between the two – the person who extols and espouses the virtues of the brand in ways that get the target market impassioned as well.
An employee becomes a different sort of brand advocate from a member of the general public. A target audience member is immediately disposed to trust one of his or her own acquaintances: for the same audience member to trust a brand’s employee, that employee must earn the right to deliver message and proposition.
The employee advocates the brand through his or her behaviour. This may be in a positive fashion – by acting in ways that directly encourage potential customers to consume the brand’s products; or it may be in a more convoluted way. The second set of behaviours can actually be the most rewarding, in terms of long term advocacy – and can, at first glance, seem counter intuitive.
For example: if a brand sells mobile phones and contracts, it’s probably also trying to sell insurance cover. But what if a customer already has insurance through a bank account or home contents insurance?
The good brand advocate behaves here in a way that might seem strange to believers in the old fashioned upsell: he or she advises the customer not to take out proprietary insurance, but to stick with the policy he or she already has. By ostensibly saving the customer money, the employee advocates his or her brand as an honest one, committed to getting the best deal for its customers.
Social media use is key to employee brand advocacy. Increasingly, customer service is conducted through social media pages – and a visibly unimpressive or unsatisfactory way of so conducting can leave a damaging impression on the forum in question. With every customer service action now taken in the full view of customers whose own experience of the brand may not yet be exemplary, the words and actions of every employee are critical.
It is, then, essential that employees learn how to act on social media – both in professional and personal terms. The core truth here is that the observable behaviour of anyone directly linked with your brand is part of the reputation and longevity of that brand. Whether it’s a personal social media profile, or an interaction on the brand’s own social media pages, the ways in which your employees use their connection are central to the overall public perception of your company.
One of the hardest things to do, in e marketing terms, can be to get your employees to understand what your brand message is. Without knowledge of the proposition they are supposed to embody, staff are unable to properly advocate the brand to the wider world.