Companies experiment with a wide variety of tactics (with an equally wide range of success) to ensure that their brand message is visible to their target audience. One such tactic is brand advocacy – organizations go to great lengths to recruit advocates who participate in and start conversations on their behalf on social media. While brand marketers acknowledge that advocacy is a powerful strategy that contributes to their positive social footprint, they often overlook their most powerful advocacy resource – their coworkers.
Employee advocates can help brands authentically expand their presence on social media, which leads to increased awareness and sales through positive recommendations. Forrester Research revealed recently that 70 percent of U.S. consumers trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family. This is reinforced by the Edelman Trust Barometer, which showcases the fact that customers trust employee recommendations more than a recommendation directly from the brand’s media spokesperson.
Brands that empower their employees to become advocates exponentially increase their reach on social by expanding their presence throughout their employees’ networks.
Do Employees Want to Be Brand Advocates?
An employee’s personal social network is exactly that – personal. No company should mandate that its employees act as brand advocates and require them to share company content with friends and family. That said, most employees want to advocate on their company’s behalf. Employees share in their company’s success and advocacy is a simple way for them to contribute to that success while boosting their personal social profile.
Benefits of Employee Advocacy
- Increased sales. Employees sharing company messages and content with their social networks raises positive brand awareness and has been proven to increase sales and revenue. According to the recent report, “The Impact of Social Media on Sales Quota and Corporate Revenue,” in 2012, 78.6 percent of sales people using social media as a sales tool outperformed their peers and exceeded quota 23 percent more often.
- Expert advocates. There is less risk involved in incorporating employees vs. customers into a brand advocacy strategy because employees are already experts in their company’s messaging and values.
- Authenticity. A brand message delivered via an employee has more credibility and authenticity than messages shared from a brand social media page. A simple analysis of Edelman’s Trust Barometer Influencer Message Mapping illustrates that employees are generally more trusted than passionate activists and consumers.
- Engaged employees. Employee advocacy programs keep employees actively engaged and invested in their company’s success. These companies can sustain employee engagement by recognizing and rewarding their most active advocates. The benefits of engaged employees are widely documented by leading companies like Towers Watson, Gallup Research, Dale Carnegie, and others.
How to Start
Because employee advocacy will likely be a foreign concept to most employees, a great way to ensure the program’s sustained success is to assemble a small but dedicated team of initial adopters supported by a company executive who can vouch for the effectiveness of the program. A trial period with clear results – increased traffic to the company home page or reposts and shares of branded content or new leads and sales – can be enough to demonstrate that employee advocacy is both simple to implement and effective.
It’s also important to have a social media policy in place so that all content sharing is brand safe. It helps for brands to aggregate all shareable content in a single place – this can be accomplished via emails detailing shareable content or via an employee advocacy platform that streamlines the content curation and sharing process. The requisite social media training to ensure employees have a certain level of expertise using social media or an employee advocacy platform that makes sharing and compliance simple is also recommended before starting any social media activity.
This should be a no-brainer for brands – employee advocacy is a low-risk, easy-to-implement, and cost-effective solution for boosting their social presence. Advocacy gives employees an opportunity to measurably impact the success of their brand with relatively little effort on their part.
Brand marketers understand the power of social to spread their message, now they need to start partnering with their coworkers to expand their social reach and influence and authentically engage potential customers.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.