After watching a news segment on Ted Kennedy tonight, it is clear how many lives he has touched. One lesson the Senator has taught me is the value of relationships. If Ted Kennedy had the time to read to a child each week, surely I have the time to return a friend’s phone call or e-mail. The connections we make in life are important, and we shouldn’t neglect them because we are too busy or uneager to help.

How has Ted Kennedy changed your life? What have you learned from him?

In social media there is a lot of talk about building good relationships to turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors. As Peter Shankman says, our job as PR professionals in social media is to get other people to do our PR. However, there’s another audience of brand ambassadors that every company needs to be aware of, and they are right under your nose.

Who are they?
Your employees. These are the people who know your brand inside and out. Every day they go home and talk to friends and family about their experiences with your brand. In my opinion, employees are one of the most important untapped resources every company has. After all, if your employees won’t say good things about your brand, who will?

Puma’s “Employees Only” Campaign
A great example of a company who lets their employees do all the talking is Puma. Puma has started an “Employees Only” campaign that uses 14 handpicked employees to serve as the company’s official brand ambassadors. In addition to plugging Puma products, the employees also share their random thoughts via the company’s Facebook page and YouTube site. Puma is also planning to host in-store events where anyone can grab poster board, write their thoughts and be photographed for their own Facebook profile. In this way, Puma is not only letting employees promote the brand, but takes the idea of brand ambassadors to the next level by turning them into pseudo-celebrities. You can find out more about Puma’s campaign by reading this post at AgencySpy.com.

What can you do?
Right now you may be thinking, “That’s great, but I don’t have a budget like Puma.” Do not fear. Even without a Puma sized budget your employees can still add value to your brand. In fact, the first step you should take is to look at your employees and find out if they are already acting as brand ambassadors.

A girl I went to college with (Amanda) is a great brand ambassador for her employer. She currently works for a new Milwaukee burger bar called Stack’d. How do I know this? It isn’t because of my great cyber-stalking abilities. I know this because Amanda is always encouraging people to stop by for special events and drink specials through messages she posts on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, I’ve found out a lot of information about Stack’d simply by reading her comments in my social media feeds.

So, how do you get more employees like Amanda?
Hire passionate people. – People who are passionate about your business and industry are much more likely to promote your products or services because it’s what they love.

Be good to your employees. – We all have that one person in our life who complains about their boss or company. I like to call these people “brand embarrassers.” Everyone has bad days at the office, but the one way to make sure your employees aren’t bad-mouthing the company is to treat them with respect and give them a fun working environment. Hello casual Fridays, the occasional working-from-home and company happy hours.

Share your goals. – As much as your employees might love their work, they can’t help if they don’t know what your goals are. Be specific about your goals and ask your employees for help. Encourage them to share these messages and promote them on their own social networks. It will make them feel like a bigger part of the company.

Side note: If you do encourage employees to use social media on the company’s behalf, you may want to consider creating a set of social media guidelines. Todd Defren shares a great example of social media guidelines on his blog.

Have you come across other companies that are using employees as brand ambassadors? How do you encourage employees to support your brand? Please leave your ideas in the comments section.

Your Twitter links from last week include the top 50 Tweeples from 2009, Facebook Lite and information on Milwaukee's Flip Cup tournament.

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sarahsoczka.

I came home tonight with the intention of clearing out my Google Reader and hopefully writing a blog post that was worthy of a RT. That was, until I got to Peter Shankman’s blog.

In a world where every marketer is trying to call themselves a social media expert, Peter Shankman is one of the few people who is worthy of the title. For those who don’t know, Peter Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and the CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc.

Earlier today Peter made a keynote address at the Affiliate Summit East. Since I work and play in Milwaukee I was not able to make the summit, but luckily Peter was able to bring the summit to me. So, instead of giving you my take on the latest industry trend or campaign, I give you Peter's keynote address.

I’ll warn you now. It’s long. Like, 60 minutes long, but well worth the time. I recommend starting the video at the 07:15:00 mark (after Peter’s introduction is finished). After the 1:06:00 mark Peter answers questions (one from Chris Brogan).



For those of you who do not have time to watch the video here are a few gems from the speech.

Peter’s 4 Social Media Rules
Transparency

  • “Social media is all about trust. A social media trust lends itself to viral behavior."
  • “Social media is not broadcast. Social media is two-way communication."
  • “Make people feel like they matter.” – Listen to what people are saying to you and respond!
  • “The second you are transparent a consumer’s level of trust will go up, and they will be ready to recommend you.”

Relevance

  • “Relevance is about giving people what they want when they want it.”

Brevity

  • “The average attention span in the 1980’s was three minutes. The average attention span today is 2.7 seconds.”
  • “You need to get to your audience in one paragraph.”
  • “How do you get brevity? Learn to write.”
  • “Learn how to write and you’ll increase your sales.”

Top of mind presence

  • “We only talk to three percent of our network on a regular basis.” - Learn to communicate with more of your network, and you’ll be top of mind the next time someone has a question, business lead, etc.
  • “Information used to flow from outside the network in. Now information is flowing from inside the network out.” – People use to get recommendations from traditional media, now they are getting recommendations from inside their networks.
  • “We are a society that loves to share.” – People want to share their experiences. If you don’t share it, it didn’t happen.
  • “Your job is no longer to do your own PR. Your job is to use social media to get other people to do your PR for you.”

Twitter Links: Aug. 2 - 8

Lots of news, interesting tidbits and resources this week. Take a look.

Follow me on Twitter @sarahsoczka.

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and online identities lately. Some are extremely cautious about what they put online while others let it all hang out. As long as an individual is comfortable with their level of sharing both strategies are fine, but what happens when the individual is sharing more than their life or even their friend’s lives?

Today’s 20-somethings have been participating in social networks since they were pre-teens. But now they are growing up, getting married, divorced, having children… My question is what type of effect will all this sharing have on Gen-Y’s children?

People in my parent’s generation never had the opportunity to share hospital pictures of newborns online or post videos of baby’s first steps. In fact, many are still cautious of social networks, afraid of stalkers and sharing too much with the online world. In contrast, Gen-Y anxiously posts their new relationship status and shares their children’s lives with the world.

One girl I went to high school with actually changed her Facebook status to reflect how far along she was in the birthing process. First, I don’t even know how you can think about updating your Facebook status when you’re in labor. Second, no one needs or wants to know that you’re five centimeters dilated. But I digress…

How will our children feel about all the funny photos and videos we post when they are infants, toddlers, teenagers? For some, it could be like sharing their entire diary with the world. Others might not care at all.

If I had to guess, I imagine most children will be fine with our sharing habits. After all, they are growing up in a world where it’s normal to share your life online. Still, I wonder how many will be embarrassed by photos, or upset by seeing their parent’s friends comment on their divorce. Are there any rules? Any social guidelines?

If anyone has expertise on this issue please leave a comment. I haven’t found any articles written on the subject and would love to learn more. What’s your take?

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