I am the CEO and founder of Heartbeat, the first platform for ambassador-powered marketing at scale.
In the marketing industry, we assume that brands want as many loyal ambassadors as possible. This might not be true across the board, though. A Domino’s Pizza worker who created hugely successful viral content showing himself slicing, dicing, flipping and cutting customers’ pizza orders was recently fired. Why? The company said the videos violated its social media policy and promoted poor kitchen safety practices.
While safety is clearly important, the chain missed the opportunity to parlay an employee’s sudden TikTok fame into a brand storytelling tool. As the CEO and founder of an ambassador-powered marketing platform, I have plenty of firsthand experience with the power of TikTok. It enables everyone to tell a story about what they do — and share that story with a potentially massive audience.
As with most new social platforms, some brands are still wary. Marketing on TikTok seems uncertain and new, which some people assume means it cannot be strategic. Some people also perceive TikTok as a platform for teenagers rather than as a legitimate place for branding. While this misconception that TikTok is only for teens is far from accurate, this belief does fuel the narrative in the marketing world about TikTok’s strategic value for brands. In reality, TikTok is a universally applicable product with the power to connect anyone who likes to consume content online.
That said, it’s time to pivot. Empowering team members to act as an extension of your marketing department through their personal social media is easier than ever, and it makes strategic sense. Look for the employees who stand out and go above and beyond to tell your story or live your mission. Everyone is already creating content; when you let them make content that tells your story and promotes your brand, you’ve just exploded your marketing budget’s reach — for free.
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Authentic and engaging stories are some of the most powerful marketing tools out there. When you work with team members to create and share those stories, they can do so in a personal way that connects with a hyper-targeted audience. This is the power of influencers on social media, and it matters because the secret to kicking ass on TikTok is scaling stories, making them genuine, and empowering creators.
How To Build Authenticity And Empower Team Members As Creators
So, what’s the best way to help your team members become creative dynamos on a platform like TikTok? Instead of limiting employees to no social media at work, embrace change, and leverage it to build your brand. While the former creates resentment rooted in restriction, the latter opens doors for employees to become brand advocates.
This sort of change must begin in the C-suite. When company leadership understands that employees see their social accounts as extensions of their personal brands, they realize how important personal brands can be in building business. How do you foster this in practice? Start by sharing employee-generated content in regular internal newsletters and call out great content in monthly or quarterly all-hands-on-deck meetings. But don’t stop there. Have monthly contests to see who gets the most views on work-related content and create special incentives for winners, like half-days of vacation or gift cards to the place of their choosing.
This understanding signals that your brand should pay attention and stay relevant. Monitor social media associated with your hashtags, and dedicate team members to look at the trends surrounding those. Take full advantage of the power of influencers on social media and this organic, earned marketing. Not only does it let employees share and express themselves, but it also allows you to build your brand for free.
Finally, you should view this process as creating a brand ambassador program for employees like you would for customers. Outline the dos and don’ts of sharing on social media. Build training programs, and engrain them in your company culture. When creating these guidelines, the key is defining them in a way that isn’t so restrictive. Invite team members to create work-related content during a small percentage of their working time and under specific conditions. And to ensure employees don’t spend too much time doing this, clearly define which aspects of the job must always come first. It’s all about balance, and the better you communicate that, the better the results.
Empowering employees to share your brand on social media can be scary because it seems so uncertain. Instead of being afraid, seize the opportunity to extend your brand through these insider ambassadors. Watch how opening the door for employee creators boosts your brand, and you’ll be amazed by the results.
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Author: Brian Freeman, Forbes Councils Member