Most modern companies have embraced social media and now take full advantage of Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn accounts for marketing purposes. But there is a limit to the influence of a corporate account. And only so far company fodder can go. Enter brand ambassadors or employee advocates.

Each company contains a powerful, untapped resource with the potential to command thousands if not tens of thousands of loyal new customers to your cause: The voice of your employees. Employees whose social media accounts contain 561% more reach than your corporate accounts combined. And whose followers are seven times more likely to convert.

Empowered by a brand ambassador program or an employee advocacy program, your employees have the opportunity to utilize their social media followings as powerful brand ambassadors for your company. And your company has the opportunity to increase your reach and influence as a leading brand in your industry.

What Are Brand Ambassadors?

To illustrate the power of advocacy, allow me to give you a few examples of brand ambassadors in action using my husband’s favorite brand, and my favorite brand.

Patagonia. My husband follows Patagonia on just about every social media platform. But it’s not the rugged mountain apparel he’s interested in. It’s the extreme athletes who wear them. Chris Malloy, Alex Yoder, and Forrest Shearer are all hardcore outdoorsy types who take pictures. And all of them are members of Patagonia’s ambassador program.

Patagonia’s brand ambassadors are Instagram celebrities, posting pictures of their adventures climbing mountains in the Alps, surfing breaks in Hawaii, and shredding powder in Squaw Valley. And all the while they are wearing their Patagonia gear. Whether or not the knowledge is obvious or subliminal, chances are the next time my husband buys a jacket, it’ll be one worn by one of his favorite adventure athletes.

Lululemon. As much as my husband loves Patagonia, I am equally obsessive about Lululemon. Just like him, I follow the brand religiously. In fact, I make my husband pilgrimage with me to the annual Lululemon Half-Marathon, even though I’m not a runner. That’s brand loyalty. And it’s all because of Lululemon’s Ambassador program.

Brand ambassadors write the blogs for Lululemon, host free fitness events at the stores, and even model the clothes on their website. They are real people, doing inspiring things, and they all wear Lululemon clothing while they do it. All of this is to create a culture around a brand that serves to make us love them more. And that’s why I attend their free fitness classes and can often be found hanging out in the store on a Sunday.

What Is Employee Advocacy?

Enter the B2B world and you’ll find Brand Ambassadorship’s cousin: Employee Advocacy. Put simply, employee advocacy is the promotion of a company by it’s employees. Usually via social media outlets. Employee advocates are brand advocates using their networks for the promotion of themselves (as a personal brand, as an industry thought leader, and as a valuable employee) and of their companies (as an influencer, and as a marketer).

They help brands to:

Increase marketing reach. We all know there’s only so far your corporate promotion can go. Especially on social media. People want to follow people, not brands. And because your employees are 1) people, and 2) have their own group of followers that trust them, they are able to amplify the reach of your marketing efforts by 561%.

Get warmer leads. And because they have a relationship with the person mentioning you, your employees’ followers already feel like they know you. It’s like dating a best friend vs. going on a blind date. You’re starting out on date ten, not trying to figure out if he eats with his mouth open.

What Is An Employee Advocacy Program?

In the B2B world, an employee advocacy program provides the company and their employees, with all of the tools they need to help the employee become a successful employee advocate for the company. Sort of the software equivalent of handing your employee an ice axe and throwing them onto a mountain (see: Patagonia).

Just like brand ambassadors, employee advocates promote the company they work for. Only this time it has more to do with sharing on social, and less to do with climbing Kilimanjaro. Dell doesn’t need to take pictures of their laptops out on a mountaintop, but they do need a little street-cred on social.

That’s where an employee advocacy program comes in. An employee advocacy program is a program that enables employees to share company content with their networks. Usually via employee advocacy software. And a good employee advocacy program should give employees all the tools and resources they need to share. And to want to do so.

Patagonia doesn’t just hope that their employees promote them. They provide steep discounts on the clothing so ambassadors have the gear they want to promote, they provide all expenses paid trips so ambassadors have the perfect backdrop to promote them in, and they provide professional photographers so ambassadors have high quality pictures to post. A good employee advocacy program provides the same for your employees.

Because in the end, it’s all about getting the word out about your brand. And self-promotion only gets you so far. Get your employees to talk about you and you’ll increase your reach and credibility. And they’ll increase their thought leadership in the company.

Do you have an employee advocacy program in place? Tweet us your tips at @everyonesocial!