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This article is featured in this month’s Evansville Business Journal.

How does a company build its presence on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedln? What are your customers most interested in: what you say about your company or what your friends and their friends say? Kyle Lacy, author of “Twitter Marketing for Dummies,” often says, “I don’t care about your clients.  I care about their friends:’

How do you find and empower brand advocates? Start from within. Your best and most loyal brand advocates are sitting across the cubicle from you. Stand up look over the cubicle wall and say “Hello” to your next brand advocate. Wait, she’s not in sales! He’s not part of the management team! He doesn’t deal directly with customers! However, who are his friends? Or her friends’ friends?

Companies across the nation are scrambling to find and create ways for their brand advocates to show themselves and endorse their brand or product. The companies that do it best start from within. They don’t hire a single person to do all their social media. It is a team effort, built with a strong foundation in goals and strategic planning. Part of that foundation is relying upon the very men and women who make up the work force of the company to tell the story like it is. Today’s customers can spot a smooth campaign. They will trust an authentic voice – from you and your employees. Customers appreciate real engagement, with real people, in real companies.

Your employees are your biggest brand advocates. When you remind them that you believe in them, they will want to tell others they believe in you. Not only that, your employees will be more loyal and dedicated to you, their work and your company.

Put goals, policy and strategy in place before implementing any social media programs. Thorough training is essential for everyone involved so all will advocate well. After these tasks are complete, you start the process of building your advocate base.

Empower advocates from within your company ranks for your social media. The stronger relationships you build with your employees and your customers will position you to engage in the 21 st century. Oh, and it will build your bottom line sales numbers, too. EBJ

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