In 2015, Avidia Bank in Massachusetts decided to try a new approach to differentiate itself in its market. They thought a “social squad” would be the perfect way to do it, so they developed a social team–the Smarties–whose goal was to authentically connect with customers and spread the word about the brand. 

Katelin Cwieka, Avidia’s Vice President of Social Media and Brand Communications Manager, was at CMC18 to tell us about their buzz-worthy beginnings and what makes their program such a success.

When the Smarties squad was born, Katelin had no idea how widespread the brand ambassador program would be. Initially, the Smarties consisted of just four employees who would attend community events, host social media contests, hand out swag in the community, and highlight local businesses on social media. Since then, the Smarties program has grown from four employees to 22. The program has helped humanize the brand and expanded the bank’s reach: now, customers recognize the bank better in the community and the savvy bank advocates are even highly sought-after speakers at local community events.

Here are some tips are taken from the Smarties program to help you use brand ambassadors effectively:

Don’t Sell

Most of what the Smarties post on social media is not related to the bank’s services and products. The focus is not on selling but instead on forming a human connection to customers. “People want to do business with brands that they know and like,” says Cwieka. The members post about working at the bank, community events that would appeal to all, and happy moments in life. In fact, one of the Smarties went on social media to talk about her upcoming wedding. Who would want to invest in a business with a cold, faceless bank? They’d rather do business with a “friend” they can trust.

Use Social Tools to Manage Compliance

Compliance is important, yet can be difficult to ensure when posting on social media networks. That’s why Avidia Bank uses tools that provide warnings whenever non-compliant content is displayed. Resources like Hootsuite allow the Smarties to post new blogs and articles on social media while making sure that they do not have phishing links or malware attached.

Provide Social Media Training

If you want to develop a social team of brand ambassadors, you must have employees that are savvy on all things social media. After all, one wrong post has the potential to ruin your company’s reputation. Social media training can help employees learn how to use social media the right way. Avidia has created a series of training webinars that employees watch to become more familiar with the various social media outlets. Once an employee completes the training, they are awarded a Social Media Savvy certificate, helping to ensure that the employee has the social media smarts needed to be a Smartie.


Are you ready to get your employee brand ambassadors out there? Get them buzzing in no time with the right strategy, tools, and team!


Emily M is a former private practice psychotherapist by trade and began her freelance writing career developing psychology and medical-related content. She discovered a passion for writing and has since created a broad range of content, including press releases, product descriptions, blog posts, website content, SEO articles and a number of other articles.