I had a chance to chat with Ron Sela – one of my favourite thought leaders in content marketing – and asked him to share some of his observations around employee advocacy. Aptly described as a “Full Stack Marketer”, Ron specializes in B2B , influence marketing, content marketing strategy and project management for startups. He also manages his own blog and is a widely respected thought leader. Full stack indeed!
Bringing with him a wealth of experience and insight, Ron graciously answered my questions both carefully and thoughtfully. He too has been keeping tabs on the evolution of employee advocacy and had some interesting observations to share.
So please, read on!
Employee advocacy has proven to be immensely powerful. What are some of the major impacts that you’ve seen thus far?
By now, this is well known, but consumer research has shown that social media messaging from employees generates eight times more engagement than messages sent out through a company’s official social media account.
Second, employee advocacy can help develop greater trust around the brand itself. When it becomes evident to consumers that a company employs smart people, who share content and are easy to engage with …well, this is a very effective way of enhancing a brand image.
Trust grows through a relationship between prospective customers and employees who represent the company.
Another key point: surveys have shown that around 84% of respondents would be more likely to trust a recommendation that comes from someone they know. It has also been proven that consumers take more notice of messages from a trusted connection in their favorite social media channel than messages sent out by companies. Employee advocacy facilitates this kind of behaviour – humans spreading the message to fellow humans.
How does employee advocacy scale?
A company with a few thousand employees will reach out to a much wider audience through employee advocates, however, smaller companies also benefit from developing thought leadership and social sharing among its employees. It’s likely that at least some employees already have thousands of connections through their social media accounts, and some of those connections will also have a large number of followers.
That’s the power of amplification through employee advocacy – it scales well.
Even if only half of a company’s employee base takes the initiative to become brand advocates, there will still be a considerable number of credible voices discussing the integrity, innovation and business practices taking place in their workplace. All positive work discussions can result in good PR for the company, big or small.
Okay. So we’ve established that employee advocacy can benefit organizations of all shapes and sizes, in a powerful way. How would you advise companies looking to get started?
In reality, many organizations are still struggling to keep up with the ever-changing way that people act and react on the Internet. Employee advocacy is not the same as PR, marketing or advertising a product. Employees need to be empowered and given the type of support that will enable them to be the best ambassadors for the brand. That’s where platforms come into play.
Ideally, an employee advocacy initiative should encourage all employees to become more active on social media.
Given the opportunity and if armed with the right content, it is entirely possible that employees would be willing to share their thoughts, ideas and news about the company they work for.
Companies should bear in mind the fact that most employees will only be willing to do this when they feel good about their job and believe in the value of the products and services provided by their company.
We have seen that younger employees may be reluctant to share work-related content with the friends in their network. In this case, I would advise companies to invest in training and incentives, both of which should help encourage advocacy among the younger generation of workers.
You noted that arming your employees with the right content is an integral part of a successful employee advocacy program. How does one go about doing this?
Consumers are influenced and inspired when they know they are engaging with someone whose compelling ideas are relevant to their own way of thinking. Therefore, the focus of content created for sharing with clients or customers should avoid focusing solely on the brand itself or a specific type of product.
We know that employees will not want to share the type of content that is just an another form of product marketing. You will, however, have more success with thought leadership-style content, content that reflects the culture of the organization.
An effective employee advocacy program will have reliable content readily available for employees to peruse, consume and then share across their social networks.
Interestingly, many businesses are becoming increasingly involved in content creation, publishing, and distribution. In-house content creation for marketing purposes has grown exponentially in recent years, with the growth of blogging, the rise of social media and automation. All of these marketing opportunities can now be integrated into employee advocacy programs.
You’ve offered some really great insights here. Looking into the future, what do you see?
Employee advocacy is one critical area that companies should focus on developing. They will need to be creative in how they empower their employees and must commit to providing content that is readymade for sharing in just a few clicks.
Looking ahead, over time, I foresee some of the more traditional channels used for content marketing on the decline, simply because advances in technology may start to limit their impact.
Employee advocacy is adaptable.
Employees will continue to communicate through their devices and when a new channel is introduced, they will try it out and adjust their communication methods accordingly. But they can still send the same message.
Finally, companies that invest in developing thought leadership among their employees are the ones who will get ahead. They will see a better ROI than if they were to ignore their most valuable of assets, the people who work for them. Any investment in employee advocacy initiatives will have a direct impact on driving sales. If the brand awareness is projected through employees, it’s a sure way for companies to earn respect as a trusted company. That’s the way of the future.
What are your thoughts? Is your organization adapting to the changing world of work?