What is Employee Advocacy and how to use it for your brand

Most brands today have a social media strategy; why not include your employees to tell your brand story online?

A.M.S Pandian
Updated: Jul 28, 2017 09:23:56 AM UTC

Image: Shutterstock

It is no longer about good adverts, better promotion techniques and passive communication with your consumers. The buzzword in the market is Consumer Engagement. The “Engagement Economy” signifies a strong change in the way marketers connect with their customers. The emphasis is on providing a customised and true experience that stems from conviction and assurance.

You are probably running online and offline campaigns regularly to promote your brand, to improve sales, to bring traffic to your store or website, or to get prominence and to offer a more optimistic insight of your brand. Have you ever thought about employees in your organisation? Yes, employees, who are often looked at ‘just people who work for the firm’. The question is-how can you bring them into play?  It’s quite simple really —you can utilise this untouched asset through Employee Advocacy.

What is Employee Advocacy? ‘Employee advocacy’ is an employee generated experience for brands with the help of their own online influence. Though social media channels are the first option for employee advocacy, these online influence channels can also include chat, email, discussion forums, boards and others.

What does employee advocacy do?
Employee support lets you encourage your marketing strategy for social media by authorising your employees to share the brand’s organic content through their personal profiles, which in turn, drives brand cognizance, brand engagement, and generates leads.

Success Story:
Dynamic Signal has been able to successfully profit from its employee advocacy program. To make sure, the content shared by employees was in line with the brand, the marketing, and communication experts could curate and upload approved content. The employees, in turn, could pick some content that interested them and share it easily. By doing so, the company successfully turned its employees into specialists, contributors, and supporters of the brand. Moreover, employees of Dynamic Signal could submit their own content or industry content to be shared by others.

As people are more inclined to pay attention to someone they trust over a marketing campaign, an employee advocacy plan helps brands improve their content engagement by 700 times and brand cognizance by 24 times.

Pavey Purewal, the CMO of Dynamic Signal, said, "The most underused and yet influential things a company can do is to look for a way to galvanise its employees to tell its brand story socially." If employees are considered the company's brand supporters, then why not allow them to share on behalf of the company?"

Why do you need employee advocacy?
Here are a few statistics that convey the importance of incorporating employee advocacy in your promotion plans.
•    The recent Deloitte Millennial Survey says, “Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce globally by 2025.” Yes, 75%! What’s more, they will all be on social media. And that number is not just the millennials, but nearly 50% employees currently share messages on their social media about their employers.
•    Employee support helps the brand get a 5x increase in visits to the web and generates 25 percent more leads.
•    Nearly 84 percent of consumers believe in endorsements from people they know, like their friends and family, while an additional 77 percent of potential customers may buy only after hearing about it from somebody they have faith in. In comparison, only 33 percent of the buyers believe in brands. (Source: Nielsen Global Survey)
•    Around 64 percent of the employee supporters in an official advocacy program praise the program for helping them entice and develop new business opportunities, while about 45 percent credit new income sources to Employee Advocacy (Source: Hinge Research Institute & Social Media Today)
•    Nearly 73 percent recruiters have successfully hired employees through social media. Off these nearly 59 percent hires are of the best of the crop of employees. (Source: Jobvite)
•    Around 31 percent highly successful firms have an official employee advocacy program, more than twice the average of other firms. Nearly 86 percent supporters in an official program believed their participation in social media had a constructive influence on their occupation. (Source: Hinge Research Institute & Social Media Today)

How to plan a successful employee advocacy strategy?
#1 – Involve the top management:  
The one important thing you need is support for your Employee Advocacy program from the top bosses and department heads. Their social activity will not just help spread the message across, but it will also add integrity that will flow down through the rest of the company. You can get them to buy into your program by exemplifying the value they will garner for the business with their efforts. Use the slide share presentation from LinkedIn that offers pertinent insights into employee advocacy, success stories and of course the numbers we are so fond of to create a small, smart, and fact- filled proposal.

#2. Find Your Goals and Key Performance Indicators:
You must imagine what according to you will be a success for the firm, just like any other marketing plan for a social media channel you have in place. Get answers to questions like
•    What are you trying to accomplish?
•    Who do you want to influence?
•    What is your Target Group?
•    Would you like to grow brand cognizance?
•    How will you measure your accomplishment?

To make it simpler here’s what you can emphasise on:
Strategic Numbers: Make a note of the initial stage metrics, which can offer a rough understanding of the success of specific messages, the channels that are doing well, and the employees who are getting more exposure for your brand. This includes not just clicks and shares, but impressions too.

Income Sources: Make a note of the kind of revenue your social media posts are getting your company. Also considered mid- and later-stage numbers, they are vital when it comes to getting a precise picture of how employee advocacy is bringing prospects and income for the business. A case in point – Keeping a note of leads, the amount spent for every lead, and the number of closed contracts will give you an idea of the program’s real return on investment. If you are looking to understand the large impact of the program, you can always connect the employee advocacy platform with your consumer engagement or marketing platform and the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to check how employees collected leads and turned them into income through sales.

#3: Determine the type of content to be shared:
Content is the king and it applies to your official employee advocacy program too. The content you create must be in line with your goals, be related to your employees’ part in the business and the type of audience you would like to engage. Here is the content break-up you must have

Original content: The content generated by the firm whether it is videos, articles, whitepapers, presentations, case studies or webinars should account for almost 70 percent of the content and should enable lead generation with Call to Actions included.
Curated content: You can’t always promote your brand. Curating third party content for employees can help your brand educate your audience in a less promotional way. The third-party content must account for at least 20 percent of the content your employees share.
Suggested content: Of course, you know a suggestion is most often accepted by people, which is why allowing your employees to not only share content but to also suggest makes sense. Such topics can account for the remaining 10 percent.

#4 Galvanise employee brand envoys:
Social media is now a part of our lives and more of a need than a want. Of course, this means your employees are socially active and could be sharing your content already, so why not take advantage of that. Set up a group or committee where your employee participants can work with your marketing team to create and refine the Employee Advocacy program while coaching others to become active on social media too. Find out who among your employees actively share the brand’s content, make a list, and then connect with them.

Decide who you would consider making your brand envoy and then when you reach out to them, make sure you thank them for the efforts they have put in to promote your brand. Check with them if they would officially like to be a part of the firm’s social media plan and reveal the benefits of doing so. You do know that your brand envoys will take more initiative and pride in talking about the brand in the market while motivating others to join the program.

#5 Make contribution relaxed and enjoyable:    
If you want your employees to share your brand story on their social media channels you need to make it easy.
Pre-written messages: When you give your employees pre-written posts, all they need to do is copy, paste, and share. So easy! Make sure your content is up-to-date and includes company-related and industry-related content.
Set-up guidelines:  Chalk out the way you want your employees to share company content. Maybe you could include a company specific #tag to your messages like #IWork4Dell
Train if needed: Not all employees are socially active even if they are very enthusiastic. You can teach them how to share the brand content and train them on a few best practices.
Social tools: There are many tools that you may use to observe and manage your brand’s social presence. You can create a list of free tools for your employees so that they can access these tools and keep a track of their efforts.

#6 Appreciate their efforts:
Just getting your employees to share your content once is not enough. You need to make sure they keep doing it. The best way to do that is to appreciate their efforts and highlight the positive influence they’re creating by sharing inspiring numbers and sales understandings.

#7 Don’t make it a compulsion:  
Employee advocacy is all about being authentic. Forcing an employee to share your content will not help. Making it compulsory will smother that genuineness and make for a bad experience.

Consumer engagement is here to stay and the canniest B2B marketers are taking a step into future with a plan that brings into line corporate goals with a tailored client experience. An ingenious employee advocacy program can help the brand make that change -from improving your online presence to driving optimistic social media returns.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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