Are you doing all that you can to fine-tune your employee advocacy programs to increase awareness, close more deals, and make more money?
B2B marketers are in an endless fight to get their products or services noticed in increasingly noisy markets, and then convert that awareness into leads that later result in closed-won deals. We pour barrels of cash into PPC campaigns and trade shows. We optimize our websites for inbound visitors. And we schedule Tweets and other social posts across our various brand channels in social media.
But our competitors are doing all of the above, too. The result is that establishing trust among our target customers is becoming ever more challenging. Enter employee advocacy.
“Content from real people is going to fare better than content from brands,” said Jay Baer, founder of the strategy consulting firm Convince & Convert, in a recent interview on the Rethink Marketing podcast. “And that is a reflection of our actual trust parameters. We trust each other so much more than we trust content from businesses. And that’s true in almost every circumstance. There’s no question that you have in every organization influencers sitting down at your desks every day. It’s just how do you activate those influencers.”
What is Employee Advocacy?
Employee advocacy is the activity of employees promoting their company’s message. In today’s online world, that is viewed as sharing on social channels. But it could also include chatting about your company’s strengths at the neighborhood July 4th BBQ. In the world of B2B marketing, employees can be a company’s most valuable marketing asset. Yet, a majority of organizations underestimate the potential of their employees, and don’t tap into this crucial resource.
The idea is that once employees are empowered to support the company’s goals and messages, they can begin to spread them throughout their own social channels. In fact, 98% of employees already use at least one social media platform for personal use, while 50% are posting about their company.
Why is Employee Advocacy Important?
Two reasons: reach and trust. B2B marketers struggle to establish trust among their audience when trying to reach them organically. As this Ad Age story points out, fewer than 25% of US online consumers trust ads in print publications, and the numbers are even worse for digital media. But as Jay says people tend to trust other people. That’s why turning employees into advocates is one of the best solutions to spreading an organization’s message in a way that sticks. There are two key reasons why building an advocacy program is essential to any marketing strategy.
The first reason is that an employee advocate amplifies a company’s reach. The average social employee has 10x more followers than your corporate network and 90% of their social audience is new to the brand.
In fact, messages reach 561% further and are re-shared 24 times more when shared by employees versus the official corporate channels. Not to mention, employees are able to generate 8 times more engagement than all of their company’s social accounts combined. As a result of increased brand awareness, the business will also experience growth in customer loyalty, lead generation, and in turn a higher revenue.
As a result of sharing original and valuable content on their own social networks, employee advocates gradually develop a credible reputation and become thought leaders in their industry. Being thought leaders also makes them a trustworthy voice within a noisy background of repetitive marketing messages. This therefore gives them the power to attract the attention of a widespread audience, drive more traffic to the corporate site, and in turn produce a higher return on investment (ROI).
In our interview with the world’s most retweeted digital marketer about his thoughts on what role does a company’s employees have on social media? And how should they or should they interact with customers on social media?
“It’s a little bit of a tricky proposition,” Baer said. “Even the most loyal and engaged team member doesn’t want to use their entire personal social platform to shout about business successes. That is both boring and mundane, and just sort of weird. You want to go to the well the right number of times.”
The best way to think about improving your employee advocacy program is via what Baer calls the 3 C’s:
For context, you want to ask your employees to share only what is truly worth sharing. What is worth sharing will be different for every company. But you can quickly get a sense of what is shareable by what does and does not get shared. If your advocacy team shares the heck out of your blog content, but doesn’t share product announcements or press releases, then maybe you stop asking them to share those items or revisit how you package them for sharing.
For cadence, as Baer mentioned, you don’t want to go to the well too often. “What you want to do is make sure you’re asking employees to share company content in social only what is, A, truly worthy of a share, and B, not so often that they’re like, ‘you know what, this is going to feel weird to my brother-in-law if again I’m talking about Act-On.’”
Finally, you need to celebrate those employees that are doing awesome work in introducing the brand to their social audiences. You can learn more about Act-On’s advanced social module, including its social advocacy dashboard.
“When you have not only a company thing that’s worthy of talking about, but you have a particular team member that does do a great job talking about something in social. That needs to get fed back in the machine,” Baer said. “You need to say, ‘Hey guys, this month you know who was really amazing at talking about Act-On in social media? Nathan Isaacs, he’s the man, let’s all hear it for Nathan.’ You’ve got to reinforce that behavior as opposed to just expecting it as a condition of employment. Which A, is not very psychologically satisfying, and B, may be in violation of labor laws. So you just need to make sure that it’s a two-way street.”
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Diving deeper, here is a simple two-step process for getting your employee advocacy up and running. Essentially, when introducing an advocacy program, there are two main challenges to be aware of: creating content and getting advocates onboard.
- Creating content
As soon as there’s an advocacy program in place, creating and curating content can be not only expensive but also time-consuming. There must be a variety of content such as webinars, blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, podcasts and so forth distributed frequently and regularly. It’s also important to understand the type of people that are going to be advocates, and the kind of content their audiences will engage in.
- Onboarding Advocates
The most challenging part of an advocacy program for most organizations is getting employees to be active. As a rule there are four steps involved in the process of onboarding employees:
- Establish a focus group– to sell the idea to a selected group of employees, to get a feel for what would work best, and what (if any) barriers are in the way
- Reiterate value– getting those employees to repeat the actions so the idea sticks
- Measure– determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so you can measure the success of employees’ activities
- Expand program – once you’ve analyzed the results, you’ll have a good idea how to expand the program and recruit more employees
Learn more about the 5 Key Elements of a Winning Employee Advocacy Program. In the coming weeks, we’ll also be writing about a simplified step-by-step process of creating an employee advocacy plan that will help any company succeed.