For years companies have been trying to find ways of using social media to promote their businesses, but have been tamping down on the social asset that’s right under their noses: their employees. You can’t ask an employee to be a true advocate for your business on social if you forbid them from accessing their personal profiles at work. Nor can you expect them to be advocates without the proper knowledge of how to “be” social in their own right.

The key to successful advocacy is to truly empower your employees by providing social training, support, and most importantly the freedom to represent your brand (and theirs) in a creative, personalized way. If you show your employees that your primary concern is helping them grow, then they’re going to be that much more apt to support you in your efforts.

High-Quality Training Is More Empowering than You Think

The first step is simply getting your employee advocates familiar with the skills they’ll need to thrive on social, and what you expect from them when representing your brand. Freedom is important, but there does need to be a framework in place for what’s acceptable to post, what’s not, and how to handle public interactions. Even with some common-sense restrictions and guidelines in place, your employees will have plenty of room to represent your brand without sacrificing their personality.

When training employees, however, the focus can’t just be on your brand. We live in a time when anyone with the willingness to work at it can create a personal brand on social, build influence, and use that personal brand as a springboard to new opportunities. This has tremendous value for your employee advocates, and the skills they’ll need to grow their own brand overlap nicely with the skills they need to advocate for your business.

Not every employee will want to invest the effort required to build a meaningful personal brand. That’s okay. It takes real work and an investment of time that not every employee will be able to make. The key is to offer the tools and training to do so without making it a requirement. They need to see at every step that developing their social skills is mutually beneficial, and the most effective way to do so starts with showing how social benefits them, and not just your brand.

Provide the Tools Your Employees Need for Social Success

Not everyone knows how to tweet or how to publish something on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. And just because your company doesn’t use a specific channel, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from teaching your employees how to do it safely and properly. One of the secrets of good social training is that it never really ends.

A well-developed training program for the fundamentals is an excellent start, but social evolves constantly. There’s always something new to cover, thanks to the fickle nature of social trends. New technologies and platforms are always emerging, so there will always be opportunities to educate on best practices.

Continually empowering your employees to master social media and build their own following not only increases their personal influence, but also your brand’s, in that when they’re more comfortable moving around and interacting on social for themselves, they’re more apt to be willing (and able) advocates.

Provide Content: Yours and Theirs

In addition to social training, grooming social advocates within your company also requires that they have access to content. Naturally, you’ll be publishing content that’s brand related for them to share. However, don’t make it a one-way street.

Also publish (or curate) content that helps your employees build their own personal brand, such as travel, entertainment, parenting, education—the kinds of things their peers find valuable. If an employee wants to build their personal blog/social presence around fashion, sports, or entertainment, support them! This is what I mean when I talk about empowerment. The same skills that your employees need to build their personal presence translate to advocating for your business because social is still social either way.

By providing your employees with real, valuable training on how to build their own social presence, as well as yours, you generate the goodwill required for true advocacy. An employee with well-developed social skills will be better able to promote your brand and theirs without any conflict of interest.

Enabling and supporting those in your organization who want to create a presence, build relationships, and grow their influence is the key. If it isn’t mutually beneficial for the individual AND the brand, it isn’t really employee advocacy. Seriously consider working with an Employee Advocacy platform like Dynamic Signal to make this practical and scaleable. Truly empower your employees, and you’ll get committed advocates who are well-equipped to represent the very best of your business.

Empower your employees… and they will power your brand.

Originally posted at The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce

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