Employee advocacy is an element of a marketing category known as influencer marketing. The other component of influencer marketing is known as social selling.
These are relatively new concepts in South Africa, with very few early adopters in the B2B space, scattered across various industries.
What is Employee Advocacy?
The definition of employee advocacy is quite simple: it is the promotion of your company by the people who work for it. People advocate for their employers on social media all the time. A Facebook post like, “Just had a great catered lunch at work. Thanks, [Employer!]” counts as employee advocacy. As does sharing the latest post from the company blog on your LinkedIn feed.
Your employees are influencers in your industry. They are the product experts, trusted advisors and thought leaders. Nobody knows your business better than the people that work there, so help give them a voice.
Employee advocacy entails switching the focus from the brand logo and a content broadcasting strategy to instead having the limelight on employees. It is about giving employees a voice and leveraging the influence that they hold.
There are 2 types, core objectives, for any company embarking on an employee advocacy journey
- Attracting new business
- Attracting new talent
A few phenomena are currently emerging as social media channels mature:
- Individuals are losing trust in brand messaging and find content put out by real people more believable and authentic
- Influencer marketing is proving to be a big deal and showing massive upside for brands looking to connect with their audience in a more authentic way
- Social media networks are modifying their content delivery algorithms to favor posts which elicit engagement – this is based on the drive to serve content which is more valuable and authentic
What platforms are best for employee advocacy?
LinkedIn is today’s best platform for employee advocacy, as it’s the only platform dedicated to professional networking. It’s no longer just an “online CV” for job seekers, but a platform for peer collaboration, networking and thought leadership.
Other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram shouldn’t be completely ignored, but we’ll concentrate on LinkedIn for now.
What’s the current situation like?
Your company page on LinkedIn has a certain number of followers – this is the size of your connected audience. Typically only 10-30% of this audience sees the content you share, simply because the feed is a saturated place.
Go and check – the content on a typical company page on LinkedIn has a sub-1% engagement rate. Engagement is a great indicator of the relevance of the content. i.e. how many people care about your content.
If you believe this, then you should also believe that posting content on your LinkedIn page alone, is a waste of time.
Your employees who have LinkedIn profiles also have an audience – normally numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands.
Now check the engagement rate on the content shared by your employees – this is typically 10 to 100 times higher than on the company page.
How does employee advocacy benefit my company?
By encouraging your employees to post on LinkedIn, the company or industry-related content will reach a wider audience than by only posting on the company page, and will certainly see higher engagement.
When individuals engage with content on social media, this expresses their interest in that content, and certainly starts conversations about the content.
The immediate ROI of an employee advocacy program is what is known as “earned media value”.
Earned media refers to any type of social media exposure gained through word-of-mouth, recommendations, or conversations about the brand. This form of media includes user-generated content, reviews, brand mentions, or any other form of content that is shared by social media users in relation to a brand.
According to LinkedIn, employee advocacy for salespeople can help increase the number of sales-qualified leads, attract and develop new business, shorten sales cycles, and bring in new revenue streams. Salespeople who regularly share quality content are 45% more likely to exceed quota.
Companies with a successful employee advocacy program are 58% more likely to attract and 20% more likely to retain top talent.
Other benefits of implementing a successful employee advocacy program are long-term, and include:
- The benefits of employee advocacy last forever, compared to the benefits of buying advertising, which disappear as soon as you stop paying for it
- Improved brand awareness and online “share of voice” which can be considered a competitive advantage in the market
- Increased sales revenues over time
- Reduction in staff turn-over
- Improvement in employee engagement
- Less costly customer acquisition
- Improve customer retention
How does an employee advocacy program benefit my employees?
A component of any good employee advocacy program is training the employees on social media etiquette and helping them professionalize their online profiles. This has positive effects on the employees’ reputations and credibility in the industry.
By being consistently active on LinkedIn, the employees will start becoming known in the industry as experts and thought leaders, which brings more credibility and trust (in themselves and in the company) – this will lead to more interpersonal communication between them and their followers and ultimately better chances of doing business and increased company revenue.
It’s been found that employees who actively post on social media about their companies are more engaged, have better morale, are more loyal, stay at the company longer and are more productive.
What are the elements of a successful employee advocacy program?
Let’s break down an employee advocacy program into the various critical parts necessary for success:
Define your objectives
Lay out what you’d like your employee advocacy program to achieve. Here are some ideas:
- Distribute company-related content to a wide, but appropriate audience
- Realize a healthy amount of earned media value
- Grow your brand’s share of voice on social media / increase online brand awareness
- Position your employees as industry experts, thought leaders and trusted advisors in the market
- Generate new leads and start positive brand conversations
- Make your content visible to the customers of your competition
- Assist in recruitment drives – show why your company is a great place to work
Most, if not all, of your employees have an active, public profile on LinkedIn, but the levels of activity vary wildly between individuals. There are the heroes, which have an up-to-date profile and regularly post valuable, helpful content, and then there are the “zero’s” who have never posted a thing and may not even have a profile picture.
It’s crucial to instill proper etiquette around the use of LinkedIn – without specific training, employees simply do what they think is right – which may not be the best thing for themselves or your company.
There have been many cases of employees not acting very professionally online, which as damaged the brand reputation of their employers, not to mention themselves. Effective, proactive training could easily have mitigated these situations.
Your marketing or communications team probably already has a content distribution and advertising strategy. It’s important to align your social media strategy accordingly or you risk confusing the market with different messages.
Get everyone on the same page before you go live with the program to prevent confusion and re-inventing the wheel.
Choose your team
Choose the team and nominate your advocates, and get their buy-in. Employee advocacy should be seen as valuable and fun, and should not be considered a forced KPI, or the individuals will feel forced and the content they share will be lacklustre.
Participants should come fro various areas in the business – sales, customer service, technicians and business leaders are all ideal candidates. Lean towards staff who are naturally enthusiastic about the company and already active on social media.
Someone in your organisation needs to act as the executive sponsor of the program, who can hold the other participants accountable and drive participation, even when other priorities compete for time and effort.
Strongly consider outsourcing the program to an external agency. Agencies like Theintern-ship are experts in employee advocacy and have dedicated collaboration teams who constantly sync with the business and coach and encourage the employee advocacy program participants.
Implement the program
Once your staff are appropriately trained, launch the program immediately. Prescribe only one or two posts per week per person, so as not to make the participants feel overloaded or overwhelmed.
Mix up the kinds of content that they participants share – here are some kinds of content you can consider:
- New product launches
- Internal company culture
- CSI initiatives
- Industry news and events
- Thought leadership
Feedback and reporting
Especially early on, the team of participants will be enthusiastic and energetic, but one needs to preserve this momentum. By implementing a reporting system, one can constantly monitor the team’s progress.
A great tactic to employ is to develop a live scoreboard, where team members can see how they stack up, compared to their colleagues. This breeds healthy competition within the team and helps drive participation.
It’s important to recognize team members for participating in the program, especially considering the employees all have their own priorities and jobs to do.
Try not to reward program participation in monetary terms, as the user generated content in these cases seems to come across as fake or forced, but try more fun tactics like providing top performers with cappuccinos, restaurant vouchers, days off or something like that.
If this sounds good, but a bit overwhelming, get in touch and let’s have a discussion instead.