Why are brands turning their employees into influencers?

Influencer marketing has become a significant form of digital marketing for retail brands. Now, some companies are growing their own network in-house.

By Annabelle Mayor
Posted 20. 02. 2019
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A common piece of branding advice is to turn employees into advocates. Staff are an integral part of the brand experience and an increasing number of companies are realising the power their employees hold as spokespeople, ambassadors, or detractors. Some are investing more into their staff, ensuring they are fully engaged with the brand and have the tools to provide excellent customer service. It’s well known that if staff are proud of where they work, they’ll be happy to talk about it in a positive light, however, some companies are even taking this a step further by turning their employees into influencers.

For brands, social media has brought new forms of marketing. Content, conversations, and, influencers help them connect with specific audiences online. Social media has also meant employees can share their praise or (despite warnings from multiple job hunting sites) complaints about their employers with many others. Creating influencers out of staff is one way to make sure any online mentions from employees are positive ones. It’s also an interesting way of bringing influencer marketing in-house.

Fashion retail staff usually wear the brand they work for, so encouraging them to become influencers by sharing their outfits online makes sense. Japanese brands have been doing this for a while, hiring fashionable shop staff and sharing their outfit snaps on the brand’s website or social media channels, giving customers styling tips and inspiration.

Off the retail floor, brands are also transforming head office staff into influences. Department store chain Macy’s assembled the Macy’s Style Crew last year. These employees share videos and photos of their favourite clothing and other products on the Macy’s site and on social media. ASOS has its ‘Insiders’ – a stylish group made up of employees and outside influencers who have special ASOS-handle Instagram accounts where they share outfit photos. There’s also an ASOS Insiders’ web page where visitors can shop selections curated by each Insider.

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This practice isn’t exclusive to retail brands. Young media companies like Buzzfeed and Refinery29 have turned many of their staff members into on-screen personalities, giving them a spotlight and in turn, a following. However, for fashion brands, championing their own influencers feels like a no-brainer that should’ve happened sooner, and something that more should be doing now. Employees also have a good understanding of the brand, are less likely to buy fake followers, and are generally seen as more relatable than celebrities.

Having employees become influencers also means brands get more control over their influencer network. But this has its drawbacks; staff influencers may be seen as less authentic than influencers because of their close connection to the brand. Still, with the benefits it could bring to brands and the opportunities it could bring to employees, it’s something we think we’ll be seeing more of.

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