It is incredibly important for every company to have “raving fans” – those customers that sing your praises to other potential clients.

(Read more: Leveraging Your Customer Service Success)

But an often-overlooked part of marketing success is leveraging your employees as brand advocates. Nobody knows your company better than your team and they can be a critical part of your messaging. Presumably, most of your employees are on various social media outlets. By sharing information about the company, projects, accomplishments, etc., they can help you reach people you otherwise may not. This can help grow business, as well as attract new employees.

This week, we have eight tips on how to encourage your employees to promote the company and providing them the tools to do so.

1. Communicate goals

Be clear about the vision of the company and why you are asking them to share via social media. Explain how their action can help build the company’s business and benefit everyone. Like any aspect of your business, when employees understand why something is being done, you are more likely to get their buy-in.

2. Provide content

Make it easy for your employees by creating content that is easy to share. Alert them when there is a new blog post or video they can send out to their network. If the company wins an award or achieves some other milestone, provide a sample post they can use.

This curated content will make it simple for your team to promote your services without having to create their own posts.

3. Start small

Kick off the effort with employees that are the most social media savvy. They will need the least training and encouragement to be active. Their success will encourage other employees. As the campaign progresses, offer training and guidance to those employees that may need it.

4. Encourage employee input

Your team probably has plenty of good ideas on how to promote the company, especially those that are out in the field working with customers every day. Encourage associates to be creative and share their ideas for social media content.

5. Lead by example

As the owner/manager of the company, make sure you are practicing what you preach. Take the time to share big news, projects and updates about your company. Just like your employees, your personal network probably reaches folks who are not part of your business’s following.

6. Offer incentives

Incentives alone won’t sustain a long-term campaign, but they can help get the effort off the ground. Consider creating a contest to see which employee can get the most likes or shares for a post, or who can come up with the best-shared photo. A weekly giveaway for employees that participate can help drive initial interest.

7. Avoid pressure

Employees may have various reasons they don’t want to participate, including that they simply don’t use social media. While we want to encourage employees to be part of the effort, requiring it will only engender bad feelings. Stress that it is optional. A half-hearted effort by team members that feel forced into it won’t help the company.

8. Establish guidelines

How much freedom do you want to give your employees to post about the company or ongoing projects? It’s a judgment call for each company, but make sure you’ve established rules for what they can and can’t post on social media. For example, if you only want the company’s account to share photos of clients’ homes, make that clear. Are they allowed to create their own posts or do you want them only to share pre-approved content?

Allowing employees to create their own content will encourage creativity, but does require management to give up some control.