Both large international brands and small, local start-ups are leveraging the power of social media to showcase their products and services to their target markets. Getting active on social media can, however, often be a costly and time-consuming exercise. Employee advocacy is providing a solution to this. Advocacy programmes rely on a company’s sales force or employees to promote its offerings and reach its prospective clients via social media.
Making social media marketing more effective
Tanya Moolman, the community manager at Newsclip Media Monitoring, explains that employee advocacy rides on the existing influence that individual employees have within their current networks. Brand messages, therefore, come from a socially credible source and resonate with audiences on a personal level.
It is this credibility and trust that facilitate in making employee advocacy such an effective marketing tool. Results of a study by Edelman, a global communications marketing firm, show that on social networking and content-sharing sites, people are more trusting of family and friends (78%) than of a CEO (49%).
Using the social media presence of employees for marketing also allows companies to expand their reach, as Moolman explains; “The combined strength of employees’ social profiles can extend your reach beyond what is possible with your existing audience. Your message can also be delivered to a larger variety of audiences, which you as the brand might not otherwise have been able to reach.”
Sarah Goodall, MD at Tribal Impact, a UK-based B2B social media advocacy company, says research has shown that employee networks are also more loyal, better quality, and far more likely to engage. “Employee advocacy stretches beyond just being an amplification engine. It’s also an opportunity to seek out employee stories and encourage employee-generated content. It isn’t just about asking employees to amplify brand content – it’s a two-way street,” she adds.
Is it right for my business?
Employee advocacy is a good fit for companies looking to scale their capacity to participate and engage in social media conversations, as Goodall notes; “The marketing department simply cannot scale to be part of every conversation and probably doesn’t have the product knowledge or expertise to be involved in such conversations. Employee advocacy helps connect your employees to customers at the right place at the right time.” Companies getting into employee advocacy on social media should also be prepared to create a strategy for their advocacy programme and continually govern these activities. A recent study by JEM Consulting & Advisory Services, a US-based consultancy, found that while employee advocacy programmes are a fast-growing area of social media marketing, there are certain areas that need attention.
“[Areas] for improvement include the need for more strategy, enablement, and governance of these programmes, which will help to lay the foundation for success,” Jen McClure, CEO of JEM Consulting & Advisory Services, who led the study, announced in August 2016.
The study, Employee as Brand: The 2016 State of Employee Advocacy, found that companies utilising employee advocacy should better align their business goals and programme measurements in order to succeed. According to McClure, these companies should also focus on increasing the participation level of their existing advocates, not just on increasing the number of advocates.
Brands who went into employee advocacy early on, and have overcome these challenges, now have robust programmes that continue to create brand awareness. Starbucks’ Partners platform is one example. The Starbucks Partners Twitter account shares news relevant to employees and retweets employees’ images and tweets about the company and their work there. It is followed by approximately 44 000 followers and has 28 400 likes (at the time of publication), with almost all tweets getting retweeted.
There are benefits to employee advocacy, and its power to successfully drive social media marketing is illustrated by innovators such as Starbucks. With this in mind, isn’t it time your business started its employee advocacy journey?