Have you ever had a customer track you down via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to resolve a problem for them? What about a friend asking you for advice about a product that’s made by the brand you work for? If that’s happened to you, like it or not that makes you a brand ambassador.
Social media has rewritten the rules for engaging with customers. No longer can you be a faceless organisation that only relies on a small PR team to “spin”news, a marketing team to craft promotional messages, a customer service hotline to answer customer complaints or the field sales force to deal with everything else. Almost all of your employees can be tracked down and identified either via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Forums. So what does this mean for your customer engagement plans? There are two options:
- Hope customers won’t ask questions via Facebook or Twitter, and that your current customer service/marketing/PR/sales force will cope with the diverse demands placed on them. Clearly, this isn’t realist or smart.
- Embrace social media, train up all employees and build a strong network of brand ambassadors.
So what’s a “brand ambassador”? A brand ambassador is a passionate advocate of your products and company. They are someone, in any part of the organisation (from frontline staff to the CEO) who is proud to work there and to recommend your products to customers. There’s one other requirement that’s important: they must not be afraid of using social media to engage customers.
Here’s the 7 step guide on how you build a robust social media-enabled brand ambassador program:
- It all starts with a social media customer engagement policy. Here’s are 3 great examples from Intel, Coca-Cola and Dell.
- Define who you want to approach as the first generation of brand ambassadors. Is it the marketing team? Customer service team? Sales force? Or perhaps employees from any part of the organisation that are social media savvy? Ask for volunteers first, and then draft the right people as needed.
- Add customer/social engagement KPIs into each brand ambassador’s performance plan. Importantly, make sure this is also a KPI of the executive team. If the CEO has these KPIs in his/her plan, then it will be clear organisational priority.
- Training. This is so important. The training program should cover the basics like media training (how to respond to external enquiries, what to say, what not to say, etc.), your company’s code of conduct, your policy on confidentiality and sharing information as well as understanding social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Forums, etc.). More advanced modules should focus on tone of voice, how to correctly identify yourself as a company employee, the blurred line between personal and professional social media, and so on.
- Provide tiers of engagement. Not all brand ambassadors are equal. Consider providing more intense training for employees that are already customer-facing, or who have high profile roles (the CEO, Marketing Director, Sales Director, head of product design, etc.).
- Ensure you have strong links back to the rest of the organisation, such as HR (for job enquiries), Customer Care (for customer service issues) or Sales. For example, studies have shown that 47% of people want customer service through social media, so it’s important your brand ambassadors know how to respond to service-related issues.
- Once you’ve got it right with the brand ambassadors, consider rolling it out for all employees. Dell is doing it and already has over 10,000 employees trained. Not only does this reduce the risk of things going wrong with employees using social media, it’s also 10,000 brand ambassadors who are actively engaging customers!