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Employee Advocacy: The Next Influencer Marketing

WHAT IS IT?

Employee advocacy can simply be defined as the promotion of an organization by its workers. Obviously, you want your employees to greatly promote your organization. I think one of the best examples of this is The Walt Disney Company. Cast members (what they call their employees) are some of the biggest advocates of the Disney brand and often do not stop talking about the magic they make or have made previously at Disney. And as someone who participated in the Disney College Program a year ago, I am guilty of still promoting it on a weekly basis to this day!

An employee advocate:

  1. Generates positive exposure and raises awareness for a brand through digital media or offline channels
  2. Recommends a company’s products or services to a friend or family member
  3. Represents the best interests of the company both internally and externally
  4. Can help build employee ownership of the organization
  5. Is an expert on your product or service and can be a credible spokesperson for your company

The graphic below from Sprout Social sums up employee advocacy well!

WHY NOW?

Employee advocacy is nothing new. In fact, the concept of employee advocacy has been around for decades. So, why now? Why focus on this concept as the next influencer marketing for companies and businesses?

Well, with the “boom” of social media, the internet, and the digital age, new opportunities for this type of advocacy have emerged. Yet very few businesses have actually adopted it. In fact, a study by Hinge Marketing Research Institute stated that only 17% of businesses studied had implemented a formal comprehensive employee advocacy program while 83% had not. 

This shows a ton of room for growth for businesses’ futures. Yes, we’re talking to your business. Because the truth is, employee advocacy isn’t just for big corporations or spunky agencies. It isn’t just for small businesses that need to grow or large businesses that have hundreds of employees. These programs are for every business – including yours!

BENEFITS

There are numerous benefits to both your employees and your company. A few of the most common can be found below.

Your Employees:

  • Increases their knowledge
  • Perceived as thought leaders or authorities on company’s products/services
  • Able to feel that they contributed to company’s success
  • Easy and convenient for them as 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company (Weber Shandwick)

Your Company:

  • Extended Reach on Social – research shows that employees collectively have social networks ten times larger than a corporate brand does (LinkedIn)
  • Boost Recruiting – Companies with a successful employee advocacy program are 58% more likely to attract and 20% more likely to retain top talent (LinkedIn)
  • Improve Company Culture and Retention

WHY CARE?

Because it’s not only beneficial for your employees and your company, most importantly, it’s highly beneficial for your customers too! Especially with trust

  • People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend about a brand than from the brand itself. (Sprout Social)
  • More people trust a regular employee (53%) than a CEO (47%). Even more people (65%) trust a company technical expert. (Edelman)
  • Brand messages get re-shared 24 times more frequently when shared by employees vs the brand. (Sprout Social)

The truth is: consumers trust employees more than they do actual brands or businesses. Utilizing an employee advocacy program can actually mean much greater and more trust between your target audience and your brand!

Second, you should care because employee advocacy truly is the next influencer marketing. While you can never control people, you have better interaction, communication and relationships with your employees than you would an “influencer” in the marketplace. Utilize this! With influencer marketing being such a hot topic right now, it’s time you start focusing on your employees as the huge influencers they are.

Employees can help your company in attracting new business and new talent. Using the networks of your employees, boosts the visibility, potentially capturing the attention of new customers. Especially when your employees are encouraged to share and post content that would appeal and bring value to the people or organizations in your company’s target audience. 

On the other end, empowering your employees to share their own experiences, stories, perspectives, and impressions on working for your company, can help relay more about your company to potential employees than your website might. Plus, new talent can relate much more to this type of value!

TIPS & TRICKS

We’re going to leave you with a few short tips on creating the best employee advocacy program that you can (because we all know that after reading this article, you’re going to get started on that as soon as possible).

The most successful employee advocacy programs are both strategic and sustainable. Have a plan and make sure it can last long-term—while still yes leaving room to make improvements over time as well. Also, remember that your employees are your #1 asset to making an employee advocacy program successful. Let them have a say in the content that’s shared with and the value that’s provided to the company’s audience. Lastly, make sure you recognize those employees participating tin the program for the great work and value they are providing!

Here are a few other tips:

  • Make advocacy easy – give employees something fun or interesting to share, or better yet, let them share what they love most about the brand!
  • Make advocacy fun – with a game or competitions
  • Ask, don’t mandate – allow the content to be real, not forced so that it contains more passion, excitement, and fun; therefore, grabbing people’s attention
  • Clearly share the benefits of the advocacy program to your employees and listen to what they may want from it! 

Overall, employee advocacy programs are highly important to your business and the influence you have on your customers—both current and potential. Make sure you’re utilizing some of your best assets—your employees—to help further your brand and create a fun environment for new business and new talent to come into.

As Walt Disney said it best: “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”