Sometimes, really important things that will build your business get overlooked because they can be hidden in plain sight. Like, employees and suppliers, for example.

This “miss” can be a function of a medieval attitude that sees staff as indentured labour, deserving of only their salaries, some basic benefits, and a rare nod of recognition when no one else is looking.

This knuckle-dragging mentality will likewise see suppliers as ruthless grifters scheming for any possible way to wrangle a few more bucks out of their deal with you, all the while trolling about for a better client who will enrich them even further.

It’s little wonder, businesses continue to flock to influencers who, for a few bucks or generous samples, will sing your praises from the hilltops of social platforms everywhere.

Influencer marketing is a widely deployed, and often well-justified investment in growing your business by growing your brand community. By recruiting recognized social media personalities as ambassadors, hopefully with large, engaged audiences of their own, you might expand your brand’s awareness with their “endorsement”.

Influencers work for themselves, not for you

While influencers certainly have their place, their loyalty to you is bought, at least in part. So their endorsement is qualified (or tainted) and can be seen by viewers as less than spontaneous and genuine. And what if an influencer goes rogue and posts something to help build their audience first with little regard for yours? Ouch!

But wait…there’s more!

Plenty of influencers and reviewers out there will cobble together a post without ever having engaged with your product or service personally. These muppets work from content marketing outfits (copywriting mills) that get paid to populate the web with content, however dubious, in the belief that more is better. It’s not.

Again, done well and managed by professionals in the branding space, influencers have value. But right in your very midst are qualified, talented, and motivated people who might very well be delighted to sing your praises given half a chance. What’s more, you’ve taken the time to recruit, train, and pay these folks to make, market, and service your offering…every day!

The best influencers are hidden in plain sight

When you look at your brand as a community, you’ll quickly see that your internal community of employees and suppliers/vendors are essential residents. Apart from making (some or most of) their living from you, these trusted folks can become stewards, guides, and highly valued ambassadors of your vision and mission, sharing their positive experiences that will stimulate further community growth, and create the accompanying rewards it generates for them. Win-win, right?

Employee and supplier activation is all about motivating these folks to understand and embrace your narrative, and share their content on that subject with their personal and professional social networks. Doing so increases reach and engagement to your target audiences in an authentic and impactful way. And the keyword here is ‘authentic’.

It only takes a small group to make a big impact

When you motivate just a small portion of your Internal Brand Community (6%) to share content on social, customer engagement increases by 60%. With 10% active employees, you’re looking at the potential for a 100% increase. And there’s more:

Improved reputation: Increased brand advocacy from employees can lead to a 43% more favorable public image.

Boost in sales leads: For employee sharing on LinkedIn, research shows sales leads increase by as much as 58%.

Easier to attract top talent: Employees are trusted 3 times more than your organization’s CEO by potential recruits. When they are visible on social media as brand representatives, it’s a lot easier to attract quality hires.

Increased employee retention: Companies with active social engagement are 20% more likely to retain talent.

Better brand storytelling: Want more authentic content? Get it from the people who are the heart of your business by inviting them to share their voice. The World Wildlife Fund in the UK says, “The theory is that people who have the stories to tell are on the ground. If you’re really going to do social well, you need to make the connection with those who have the best stories to tell.”

Cover image source: Andrea Piacquadio