Third-party endorsements bring more customers & brand recognition. Sponsored posts reach people in the target demographic. Company-sourced social media updates help spread the word about products, services & brands.
But there is another way to reach and influence people. It is an often-untapped resource that is right under our nose: employee advocacy.
What is employee advocacy?
Employee advocacy wants to the promotion of an organization by its workforce. It could take many forms, but today, the most common & effective channel is social media.
Word-of-mouth remains the top influencer for buyers. Employees are more than twice as trusted as a CEO, senior executive, or activist consumers. Cisco notes that employees’ social posts generate 8 times more engagement than posts from their employers. People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend consider a brand than from the brand itself.
Employees often already have social media profiles. And it’s likely that they’re on some platforms that your brand is not.
Plus, employee advocacy is as effective for small businesses as it’s for large corporations. Pew Research Center, the average U.S. internet user has 200 Facebook friends & 61 Twitter followers. A staff of 20 means a potential reach of 5,000.
There’re sideline benefits to employee advocacy as well. An employee may be able to create publicity, attract top professionals, be interviewed for a news story.
And it is not just your company that benefits. Employees could get something out of advocacy too.
But perhaps the most necessary reason to consider employee advocacy is this: it is still in its early days. By starting a program sooner rather than later, you could get in on the ground floor of this young, effective, marketing tool.
How to create an employee advocacy program
Make workplace culture a priority
For employees to be brand ambassadors, they need to love more about their jobs than just their paychecks. In one study, 18% of employees said that corporate culture would increase their loyalty & engagement with a company.
To this end, grow a high-trust culture. This means making authentic connections with employees. It means providing access to an array of learning & development opportunities. Demonstrating fairness in promotion & advancement decisions also engenders trust.
Linking employees’ work & contributions to a broader purpose earns trust. Of course, not all businesses have a higher social purpose—at least, an obvious one. To help employees connect to their work, you could offer different frames. These might include:
- Identifying your company/brand as an industry disruptor that inspires innovation
- Giving back (i.e., through initiatives that show environmental responsibility/charity work)
- Focusing on service
- Showing improve for employees in times of need
- Emphasizing your company’s reputation as an industry leader
Encourage in-house communication. This not only spreads company news but could also bring employees together. A custom or enterprise social network like Tibbr/Facebook’s Workplace can help people keep up-to-date with projects & colleagues. It can connect coworkers who share hobbies & professional pursuits.
Get employees on-side
You have created an attractive, interactive workplace environment. Now, you need to get employees to advocate on your behalf. Here’re some methods to increase advocacy in your workforce.
Show how it could benefit them. For one thing, their stock goes up as thought leaders in their field. Promoting your brand on social media might lead to promotions & more recognition.
Recognize their work. In a recent study, 72% of businesses said that recognition for high performers had a significant impact on employee engagement. The “employee of the month” program or notice in a monthly newsletter sound old-fashioned, but could still be effective. So could set aside time in team meetings to recognize certain employees. Few people are above accepting bonuses, gift cards, and even company swag.
Ask employees what kinds of incentives they would they like to see. The more engaged employees are in the process, the more they will feel like they have a stake in the program.
Ask, do not mandate.
Make advocacy a game. Create a leaderboard to show metrics on who is getting the most impressions/engagement. Make a hashtag around a new development in the company. Organize a draw among team members who make posts with that hashtag.
Make advocacy easy. Give them something interesting/fun to promote. This could be a new product announcement/a humorous video.
Recognize individual talents/accomplishments. Everyone is a micro-influencer in their own right. Perhaps someone is a renowned food blogger, an expert on all things Apple.
Show enthusiasm. Remind your team about the program & give updates on new, shareable content. Enthusiasm is contagious, so play up your brand initiatives & goals.