Low Barrier to Entry Influence.

This morning, as I was sipping my “Sexy Power” coffee from Charlotte North Carolina’s Common Market, l was casually thumbing through Instagram, as most of our routine’s go. As a marketer, I take notice of the imagery, the story that’s being told and what I’m being sold. It seems most brands are grasping at straws to get their message in front of us and desperately trying to get us to buy their product. While they are getting terribly smart and targeting with ads, their messages and their influence to sacred purchasing habits are coming up weak, at best. Rarely, apart from the sunglasses I just bought from an Instagram ad, do I give a brand the access to cross that sacred threshold of influence to purchase.

To cross that threshold, requires a bit of courtship, if I may, at first. I want to get to know you, I want to know how you like your coffee, what kind of music you listen to and what your sense of humor is like; I want to know what you’re like as a brand. I’m interested in the stories you tell and how they will engage me. I’m going to watch you from a distance, if you’ve caught my eye, then I’ll get a little closer. Maybe I’ll give a follow on Instagram, like the occasional post, then get a little closer. You’ve posted a beeswax jacket and you’ve got me interested, well done Taylor & Stitch, I’m going to click your links. Now we’re getting close. I’m probably going to sign up for your newsletter and tag a few friends on your posts, now i’m influenced by your brand. I’m a fan.

There’s no ideal timeline for what that looks like, it could be weeks, months, or a matter of days. Regardless of the timeline, the fact is, there is a barrier to entry.

Or rather a barrier to influence.

It’s the struggle of every marketer. How do we influence our audience enough to perform some sort of trackable action? What’s the best piece of content we can put out, to captivate a new follower, new engagement, clicks to our site, not to mention the fact that you have to plan and create all that content! While the content planning and creation should never stop, there might just be a lower barrier to influence, than just playing Instagram Roulette.

Your people.

Not your followers, not your friends, your People. The people who make your business happen on a daily basis, those people who represent your brand and believe in the work you do. You could call them employees, but I believe they are better perceived as brand champions, often called employee advocates. Chances are, your people believe in the work you do and they are the ones that leave the office at the end of the day or post to Facebook/Instagram throughout the day, and share with their friends what they do on a daily basis.

Companies that either empower their people, or hire the right people to become their brand evangelist, immediately have a lower barrier to entry…influence. Whether you employ 3 people or 300, you have an army of marketers to help spread your brand’s message and to immediately increase your brand awareness. There’s no greater trust than peer to peer and if social media is the new word of mouth, then it’s the peers of your employees that have the most scalable impact to your business. It’s time more companies begin to look inward for their influencers, rather than outward at the massive followings “influencers” with no connection to your brand.

There’s three things that need to happen, Marketer, in order for employee advocacy can happen at an authentic level.

1. Trust

You have to trust your team members are going to create the content that is a) representative of who they are and their “brand” and b) trust that they have influence with their followers to begin to increase the brand awareness on your behalf. Trust requires patience, as well. Your newly activated brand advocates may not raise awareness 100% after their first posts (or 20), but I promise you, if you allow them the time and the space (trust), then over time they will. I once worked for a men’s clothing company and slowly started to post more and more of the products we were creating, how I was wearing them, the work we were doing, the events we were showcased in, etc. Over time people started to know me as the brand. So much so, that when I left that company, people thought I owned the company and were confused at what was happening. I would consider that to be effective brand ambassadorship.

2. Empowerment

Your brand ambassadors will carry minimal value if you do not empower them. Meaning, you have to give them the power or the authority to create the content. They need access, time, belief, and assurance that they can indeed, create the content needed and to share without retroaction from the powers that be. Yes, it’s important to establish content guidelines, but once those content guidelines have been shared and agreed upon, unleash the team with full empowerment and support of the company.

3. Resources

If you want your team to create the best possible content, on behalf of your brand, you’re going to have to supply them, as you’re empowering them. I’ve watched a lot of companies, from small to large, do excellent jobs of empowering their team and providing them with the necessary resources to succeed. One example Vincenzo and I recently discussed on our soon-to-be-released unnamed podcast, was Ryan Peña. He is doing an absolutely stellar job of promoting the company he works for, MentorMate. The company itself, is doing an equally impressive job of trusting and empowering him to create the content. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the company was actually his. MentorMate is now on my radar, solely because of him.

So, how do you supply them with the resources and what resources, exactly, are you to supply? Good question.

This could be as simple as asking your team “what do you need from us, to create the best possible content?” Or maybe it’s providing them with the products your company makes, or giving them access to information not privy to the public, just yet. New releases, before they’re released, access to behind the scenes experiences, studio space, software, interviews, the list could go on and on. The answer to that question really lies within the brand itself and the creators. Understand your objectives before unleashing employee advocates and understand their needs to accomplish those objectives.

So next time you’re building out your marketing campaigns, identifying influencers, or sitting around your exposed brick office planning out your next quarter’s worth of Instagram content and how that will move the needle, try incorporating your internal creators into both that meeting and those plans. Chances are, these people, these advocates and brand champions that sit next to you are more likely to move the needle, faster, than your corporate campaigns. But you’ll never know until you give it a try.

Already empower and trusting your team to share the story of your brand? Share your story with me on Twitter, I want to hear about it and even talk about your company on our soon-to-be-released unnamed podcast.

Until then,

Yarby