23/05/2014 08:30 BST | Updated 22/07/2014 06:59 BST

Harnessing the Power of Online Presence Through Brand Ambassadors

In a recent article (The increasing importance of social media in HR) we looked at how social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are more important to candidates in the job search than ever before; observing how HR and recruitment should utilise these. Maximising the use of the social media platforms to harness the creation of internal knowledge sharing and social capital is the bigger picture. The potential for organisations to create employees as external branding ambassadors is huge and is something that is hotly topical to extend this debate.

There is clearly great potential for social media to create trust between internal and external audiences, though other benefits are clear. Without doubt, employees are already on-line which makes on-line brand awareness a remarkably inexpensive option to pursue. Additionally, being on-line in all aspects of delivery gives both employees and companies a global reach which is surely sound business enterprise. This kind of marketing works perfectly alongside traditional marketing by increasing customer-client engagement and building awareness of exactly what a business can do.

Creating social media brand ambassadors is about empowering employees so that they can give significantly more on-line exposure and credibility. By giving employees the appropriate tools and managing that process, they can promote the company and ultimately strengthen their brand. MasterCard, for example, recently enlisted its' 7,500 employees as social media brand advocates. In doing this, they have not enforced social media use, but rather have eased posting guidelines and created "social media playbooks" designed to instruct workers how best to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Their new guidelines include positive examples of how employees use their own social media accounts to advocate the brand.

Guidelines are important but then empowering ownership in employees supports this. An important element of this is providing an on-line presence that employees are happy to engage with - enabling employees to do this by regularly creating rich content they actually want to share and that is valuable to them. White papers, industry surveys, blogs and sector specific content are instrumental in keeping employees engaging with the company's on-line channels and effectively acting as an advocate of the business by sharing this content.

We have been able to learn a great deal from working closely with the social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Twitter; we have been able to establish best practice in different areas of social media and relay this to employees. Additionally we have been able to create communities, discussion forums and social media channels where employees can speak directly with professionals in their industry.

Not only does this keep employees engaging with the company's on-line channels, it also enables them to act as ambassadors to the business through promoting and sharing content that interests them. At the same time this enables them to project that they are knowledgeable in their field and passionate about what they do.

To become brand advocates on-line, employees must positively reflect a company's values and follow the protocols established for on-line posting; though I would conclude by noting that there is a great deal of potential here for all organisations and employees to build the trust of their audience through investing in the trust and empowerment of their employees.