Why consider Employee Advocacy? Most companies find getting their messages across to their target audience challenging. Except for the largest companies, visits to company websites are generally low. Organic traffic on Facebook is minimal. Only the best-known global companies can attract many visitors to LinkedIn pages. Blog posts struggle to find their way to audiences in increasing “content noise”. These difficulties apply to traditional company news (posted on the website) and content created specifically for social media.
More and more companies are creating blogs, videos, infographics and other content. However, excellent materials are produced in vain if they do not reach their audience due to inefficient distribution. Usually, these companies can only drive traffic to their corporate websites and social media platforms through paid solutions, most often AdWords ads and sponsored Facebook posts. However, content distributed via ads produces fewer results (clicks, leads, engagement) than those distributed organically.
The above factors contribute significantly to the vast success of influencer marketing. Influencers who are popular with their target audience, are credible, and have a high reach can be effectively engaged in distributing corporate content. But what about companies who do not target 18-24-year olds and offer products such as IP phone exchanges, cutting tools or enterprise software? Fortunately, there is an effective solution for them, and one fully integrated into business operations: employee advocacy.
“Official” and community sharing
84% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising (Source: Nielsen)
Company employees are also someone’s friends, relatives or acquaintances. In their network, they are micro-influencers who have a strong influence on the opinions of others. If they help spread the company’s message, they can reach a larger, more valuable audience than what is possible directly through the company’s channels.
A unique network of social influencers can be created by sharing carefully selected professional, corporate and industry content. On average, a company news story reaches 300-500 people through the company’s website and social channels. The average company employee has 400 contacts on Facebook and 450 on LinkedIn. Even if we count only 20 social influencer employees and 500 connections each, that is still a direct reach of 10,000 people! And that’s just the number of people reached directly.
Still, with a well-written, engaging, helpful, attention-grabbing post, you can reasonably expect your primary audience to share the post with others. Of course, you can expect the same for corporate channels, as we know from research on the subject that content distributed by employees is shared 24 times more often than content distributed through official company channels. (MSL Group)
Employees who publish company content are leading not only in reach and sharing but also in engagement. Social Media Today shows employees are 8x better at this than official company channels. Reach or engagement are important metrics, but ultimately every leader wants to see the number of new sales or leads. Employee advocacy also has convincing statistics: leads generated through employee social marketing convert 7x better than other leads. (IBM)
The explanation for this extraordinary success is that everyone is an opinion leader, an influencer in their social network, and more trusted by their friends than the “official” communicators.
How do in-house social marketers work?
The content-sharing process is simple and logical:
- The content manager (content owner and curator) collects the content published on the company’s interfaces and supplements it with professional, industry-specific content.
- The content manager adds testimonials and tags to the material and then selects the social channels where they recommend it to be published.
- Participants in the workplace social marketing programme will automatically be notified of new content. When publishing, they can use a recommendation created by the content manager and publish the content they receive with a single click or add their recommendation. Of course, it is up to them to decide what they want to share on their channels.
- Some systems – such as our preferred Smarp platform, allow employees to suggest content. If the content manager accepts the suggested content, it is included in the system in the same way as the “official” content.
- The system will display the names, photos and scores of the most successful social marketers on the internal “leaderboard”. Experience has shown that this simple, playful element is an excellent incentive for participants.
- The content manager measures the effectiveness of each content and staff involved in content sharing. In addition to feedback, employees may receive small rewards.
- Many people will ask: if this process is so simple and offers so many benefits, why don’t all companies take advantage of it? Perhaps it is because, although it seems simple, some technical and organisational/cultural conditions need to be met.
The technical conditions for employee advocacy
Although an employee advocacy programme could (in principle) be implemented using existing tools (email, intranet, content collection software, measurement software), the process would be complicated, slow and cumbersome. It would lose the ease with which employees could feel that content sharing is not just another burden but an exciting opportunity, a game.
The real solution is a dedicated platform that integrates content collection, content processing (writing recommendations, categorisation, tagging) and publishing. In such a system, the content manager (usually in addition to their other tasks) can provide any number of volunteer social marketers with material to share. Using the platform, all employees need to do is choose from the content on offer and publish it to their preferred channels with the click of a button.
The right organisational/cultural conditions for employee advocacy
- Commitment to the company. Only a committed employee who believes in and identifies with the company’s values can be expected to share content on Facebook, LinkedIn or other personal social media channels. A well-functioning employee social sharing platform reinforces engagement, but that engagement needs to be established before the platform is implemented.
- Shareable content. No one wants to share dry corporate news and meaningless press materials with their friends. Sharing is only successful if employees are exposed to attractive, valuable, engaging materials. Including industry and professional content among the content offered for sharing is essential, not just the company’s content. (Best practice is to have no more than 25 per cent of your content.) It is best to avoid pushy sales pitch content, as it may lead to unsubscribed users and disheartening content sharers.
- Finding opinion leaders. The work of internal social influencers can only be based on volunteering. Before engaging employees, it is worth identifying staff members who many people listen to on social networks and within the company. They will be the corporate opinion leaders on whom the programme will be based. Experience shows that seeing the opinion leaders’ success, others will be eager to join the corporate advocacy team.
- Promoting a sharing culture. In every business community, some people want to participate in content sharing but are unsure about how to use social tools. Their training in “digital literacy” and the creation of supporting materials for them will pay off many times. Although centralising content and recommendations make life much easier, a guide to help social communication is still needed. This should not contain prohibitions but recommendations and best practices.
- Feedback. Content-sharing staff must know the results (how many people they reached, how many clicks they had on each piece of content, etc.). It is very encouraging to see how they measure up to other colleagues. In addition to gamification, best-performing content contributors must receive a “real” reward for their tangible contribution to the company’s results. The title of “Champion” or “Hero of the Day” can be an incentive, even if it’s just a game.
Many people think that employee social marketing is just for sharing company news. In reality, it can be divided into a wide range of content that can be used to achieve multiple goals. The most important categories are:
- Industry news
News from the leading industry publications relevant to the target audience. This content is an excellent way for social selling marketers to maintain their visibility with customers. An employee advocacy programme can therefore satisfy the content appetite of the modern salesperson.
- Company news
Dry, often overly technical news of interest to only a few will only be shared by a few. A handshake that marks the sealing of a contract, a conference or exhibition appearance, or pictures from a client party is much better at grabbing the audience’s attention. These photos should be shared on Instagram but considering your target audience’s media consumption habits; other channels may also be an option. Customers in the images will be happy to see the pictures (and may even share them), so this type of content is more likely to support social selling.
- What’s new
A company makes its living by selling products and services – and of course, you have to keep up with the news that covers these activities. This is obviously something that sales, customer support and product development people will be interested in and be able to communicate with their contacts. But don’t expect everyone to share this content.
- Job ads
People like to share job ads. People who share such posts can feel good about doing something good for their employer and friends. Jobseekers trust opportunities shared by their friends more than advertisements on job portals. Those who come to the company on a referral are more satisfied than those recruited through traditional channels and stay longer with the company.
- Company blog
If your company has a blog – we recommend it to everyone – you can link it directly to the employee advocacy platform. Recent posts will then appear among the shareable content without content manager intervention. These posts demonstrate the company’s expertise, professional leadership, and some key employees and are therefore of interest to many.
- Everyday moments
How we work. Partner day. Sports day. Team building. Those interested in your company will love this content, which will significantly help colleagues working on employer branding.
- Leadership, career, lifestyle
Employees want to provide content to their contacts beyond mere professional information. According to LinkedIn, 62% of people want informative and inspiring content. (Contents on efficiency, time management and career planning perform exceptionally well.) it’s, therefore, worth mixing third-party content like this into the content you share.
While we would discourage anyone from distributing “cute” materials, there is a range of content (cartoons, puzzles, infographics, etc.) that can successfully soften the rigour of professional materials.
- Partner materials
Including partner content in the employee community platform has several benefits: -it enriches the content selection that employees can share, strengthens partner relationships through collaboration, and enhances the company’s image through the quality of the partner content.
The employee advocacy platform is a cloud-based service. One of its advantages is that employee social marketing can be launched with just a few enthusiastic employees who are active on social media. Even if, on average, these colleagues have 500 connections (Facebook + LinkedIn), six employee advocates can (potentially) reach 3,000 people. The system is flexible and scalable depending on the needs – the number of employees involved in the sharing.
Employee social marketing is a win-win for the company because it delivers its messages to a quality audience that is receptive to them. Employees sharing the content benefit because they position themselves as brand ambassadors and expert opinion leaders on the outside. The employees’ friends who participate in the programme also benefit because they get access to well-filtered, valuable information. What more could you want?
About the author
Attila Rasko is the co-founder and Managing Director of BBN Hungary (ContentPlus). Attila is a customer-oriented digital marketer and content marketing consultant. He also has professional certifications in Google Squared digital marketing, Hubspot inbound and Salesmanago marketing automation.