Empower your Employees and THEY will Power your Brand

If you own a hospitality or service business, chances are that you’ve encountered some negative user-generated-content (UGC) on sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor—even Facebook. Let’s face it… digital technology has enabled third parties to insert themselves in between brands and their customers. Yelp aggregates UGC to reduce or eliminate the use of intermediaries between restaurants and their customers. Facebook does the same with likes, and Google to some extent with search results (but you can use/leverage Google). Yelp/Trip Advisor content is under the control of the platforms and is heavily gamed based on payment (see my post about it here). So how can you get around this and take more control of your brand’s reputation?

Content (Especially Local Content) is Still King

Content is how brands can level the playing field. But not just any content cranked out by your corporate marketing department. I’m talking about going to a source that’s close to home—your employees and customers. Employee-created content (ECC) can overwhelm Yelp’s content by simply connecting with shoppers as close to the point of purchase as possible. Add customers into the mix and there is no comparison. The trick is to have them help you create branded content at scale.

If the “at scale” part makes you nervous, don’t worry, I’ll show you a tool that makes it easy. The main idea is to change your thinking about how to incorporate localized content. What’s going on in your neighborhood that your customers would find appealing or fun? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be an event that you invite them to—it could be a story about your local high school (e.g. Wake Forest High School is playing in the State Football Championship), a local start-up opening its doors, or a volunteer group doing good work. This is where brainstorming with your employees could really pay off.

Chances are, most of your employees are already using Facebook or Instagram. Each has their own audience of friends and family, and ECC affects the channels most relevant to the people creating them. While Facebook might be important to paid brand media, your local restaurant servers might prefer Instagram because that’s what their audiences prefer… even better with the multiple platforms people use every day. Local content captures the authenticity of the community. The challenge is giving the right tools to your employees, so they feel comfortable sharing your company’s brand as part of their social outreach…. and so it incorporates properly branded assets.

Help Them Create It

There is no doubt that in today’s digital environment, there’s just way too much content bombarding the average consumer, and Gartner reports that in 2020, content will become marketing’s biggest bottleneck. People are becoming very choosy about what kind of content they consume and how much. In fact, LSA Insider reports that 82% of mobile shoppers have conducted “near me” searches. Need to take a client out to dinner in an area you’re not familiar with? Looking for restaurants via your mobile becomes an exercise in looking for local reviews and photos—and the place with the most authentic-looking, attractive content wins. Here’s how that tool I told you about earlier comes into play. It’s called Photofy, a powerful content creation tool and photo editing app that lets your employees become “micro influencers” right from their phones (full disclosure… my business partner John Andrews joined the company as CEO in January, and as has been the story for the past 10 years or so, brought me along as CMO). As a business, you can help by providing the app with logos, photos and other creative imagery that your employees can use, or they can use their own local images or stock photos (Photofy has thousands of free ones) and incorporate your logo. Check out this piece for Chili’s…

The app is like a box of digital branding Legos your collaborative teams can use to create authentic, on-brand content for digital channels. This type of content delivers significantly higher engagement than branded content, because it drives search optimization and shopper find-ability.

One of the biggest challenges that brands face in working with their employees to create content, however, is letting go of control of their brand collateral. The key is finding the right tools and using them in collaboration. Stay in communication with your employee micro-influencers, so they are always in the know about campaigns, designs, events and milestones. There are lots of photo editing apps out there, but choose one where you can manage your artwork, subscribers, fonts, templates, user groups and analytics, and more right from the app. The idea is to make collaboration with employees easy, seamless, and most importantly, measurable. This takes the fear out of unleashing your employees to the digital wind, especially if your brand is larger, with multiple markets and areas of operation.

The Photofy App enables and empowers the creation and sharing of properly branded photographic content at scale… easy to create, beautiful Branded Content, in under 30 seconds.

The proof is really in the pudding. One of Photofy’s case studies, for instance, is a fitness club with 36 markets across the U.S. and Canada. When they used Photofy’s Enterprise Pro service to empower over 6,000 employees, they created over 80,000 pieces of branded content, leading to an exponential increase in content and engagement across social channels (40mm estimated reach).

There is also an opportunity with measured ECC to see the channels where employees are getting traction vs. the usual targeting of a specific audience on a specific channel. They are sharing where THEY get traction which is likely more relevant, and at the very least expands audiences reached beyond ad targeting.

Think of the potential this could have with your business. What a boon it would be for your marketing team to be able to work with your employees, so they can create hyper-localized content that’s appropriately branded. Your employees can reach an exponentially larger audience with content that means something to local customers—because it has the authentic voice of someone who lives and works in the area. Instead of outsourcing content, start thinking about “insourcing” it—and who better to take on that mantle than the people who know your company and your customers the best? Goodbye Yelp and Trip Advisor! Empowering your employees to collaborate with your marketing team as micro-influencers can blow that content out of the water… so break free and go internal and local! You’ll see a profound effect on your brand relationship with customers.

Take Back Branded Content Outsourcing and Dependency—Go Internal and Local and Break Free! Photofy… easy to create beautiful Branded Content in under 30 seconds. #Photofy

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