3 Reasons Why I Tell My Clients to Implement an Employee Advocacy Program

Our clients are busy and often get tired of all the noise around digital marketing. As the founder of Elder Tree, I admit that there are times I get sick of telling customers about the latest and greatest tool or solution. Throughout the years, I have found success with an “implement first” philosophy. For both my original ideas and those found on the Internet, implementing first has proven to be a fun, challenging way to re-charge curiosity and energy into our services.

With this policy, one of the biggest difficulties for me was mounting the digital unicorn of employee social sharing. As a slow learner, I was afraid of the concept and doubtful about what it could do. But with research repeatedly saying that very successful enterprises have been onboard for quite some time, I got ready to join the ranks. Maybe in the future, I’ll pen all the ins and outs of establishing this service. But for now, I want to focus on 3 reasons why I think employee advocacy is important.

Day-to-day, technological advances are changing the world we live in. And, just as individuals look for ways to benefit from these changes (spending a lunch break playing Pokémon Go perhaps), organizations need to determine how to adjust their strategies and objectives to leverage innovations.

But it’s not always a simple task.

Outreach Through Employee Advocacy

In today’s business landscape, where being social can make or break a bottom line, organizations should turn to their greatest resource – their employees. After all, great companies are great because of great employees. So it makes sense that a great social brand is such because of its social employees.

Thanks to social media, there has never been a better time to increase outreach and engage with new audiences. And, because of its intrinsic transparency and real-time nature, social media sets the foundation for brands to build trust and authenticity through its employees.

Since the employee advocacy process puts a real human face behind your content and messaging, your employees become brand ambassadors. By being social and sharing information on your organization’s behalf, your employees engage with and eventually recruit other people who love your brand.

Here are three reasons why I believe this system works.

1. Greater Exposure

Consider the social outreach of a medium-sized company with 150 employees. Let’s say the company itself owns and manages three social media pages – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – and together these pages have 8,000 followers. Company outreach is 8,000. Okay, not bad.

Now let’s inject some employee advocacy into the equation and see how those numbers add up.

Say we help a company select 15 social advocates. Each employee has about 500 combined followers on all of their social media accounts. Now you’re looking at a reach of 75,000 (vs. 8,000, sans employee advocacy).

Not only has outreach exploded, but the potential for greater coverage keeps growing. And well, aside from taxes owed or calories consumed, more is always better!

2. People Trust Your Employees More Than Your Brand

Nielsen conducted a study and found that 90% of social media users trust the connections they have with a brand’s employees more than with the brand itself. This isn’t surprising. Real connections are made between human beings, not between a human being and a cleverly-designed logo.

But not any human being will do. Of all the spokespeople you could choose to represent your company, none will be more trustworthy than your employees. If the very people who work for a company, advocate for that company, ears will start to open up.

Our employee consideration began with taking inventory of existing social media profiles. Do they have accounts? What is their activity like? And finally, the nutshell question: how does this help represent who we are?

In this forage, we discovered a lot more than outdated LinkedIn pages and Twitter shortages. For us, re-discovering the identities of our cohorts was the most important element of the entire employee advocacy process. In this true team-building fashion, we assembled a framework of execution with fresh perspective.

By collaborating on the best ways to authentically represent our brand, we learned to not fear conversation initiation and user engagement. Because come on, who doesn’t appreciate a sincere shout out?

The end logic is simple. Brand messages delivered through employees, for employees, have a much better chance of landing an impact.

3. Direct Contact with Buyers

The golden rule of social media is: use social to engage audiences, not to directly sell. Even though it’s true that the point of all that engagement is to eventually sell them, we still have to be real and personable in the process.

It took a while for me to recognize the potential of buyer contact from social media usage. The key leading me forward was the concept of professional vulnerability and how it could serve as a major tool to reach more people.

On social, professional vulnerability is completely different than personal vulnerability. In contrast with sharing a vacation photo or checking into a four-star restaurant, professional accounts hone in on expertise as content. Sharing this professional knowledge takes patience, but is heavy with prospective reward.

By lending creative expertise on social, our agency is building a platform for others to notice our skills and learn from them at the same time. Through active content promotion conscious of client needs, our expertise is growing in visibility as we continue to foster dialogues and connections.

In the past, consumers never really had direct access to a brand’s sales team. But now with employee advocacy, your sales team can share important information about your products and services, while being direct sales and marketing channels. This way, your sales reps are positioned as authority figures at an open window to greet followers with consistency.

Each social network acts as a revolving door for asking questions, learning information, and boosting overall visibility. Ultimately, this all leads to more possible buying decisions down the road.

The Need for Employee Support

Empowering employees to become brand ambassadors and industry thought leaders comes with a certain amount of risk. Relating to and engaging with audiences to amplify brand image is a good thing. But what’s not good is employees sharing content that isn’t even close to being relevant. What’s even worse is employees sharing political memes or funny cat videos.

The benefits of employee advocacy definitely outweigh the risks, though it would behoove organizations to take steps that eliminate these risks in the first place. When implementing an employee advocacy program, I’d consider these tips: • Create a culture and environment that employees will naturally want to post positive things about • Offer team-wide support, openly • Develop social media policies to guide employees who are not already familiar with the process • Offer training to present best practices for posting on social media • Use a content curation tool to collect the right content and push it to your employees’ social media accounts (a.k.a. reducing the risk of those cat videos going live)

We are living in the new age of social selling, where trust and authenticity are more important than ever before. That’s because after all, it’s trust and authenticity that influence passionate responses and word-of-mouth marketing.

Big brands have long been running the marketing race, already earning the trust of countless consumers. Meanwhile, smaller brands need to work much harder for that trust. By leveraging employees and empowering them to make social connections, you’ll have a smart strategy for accelerating to that industry leader pace. In offering valuable and resourceful solutions reflected in employee advocacy, your bigwig competitors are going to be watching their backs.

About the author: Michael Flanders is an accomplished entrepreneur and founder/CEO of the award-winning agency, Elder Tree.

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