Trust is absolutely crucial to selling. Consumers don’t want to spend money with a brand that they don’t trust, and people innately are suspicious of mass advertising which is obviously designed by a brand to target potential customers. People tend to respond far better to people that they know than to other advertising methods. In fact, 84% of consumers’ value recommendations from their friends and family above all other forms of advertising.
With most adults having social media in some form or another these days, employee advocacy is a cost-effective and easy way to build a strong client base and make sales using nothing more than your employees’ online presence.
What is employee advocacy?
Put simply, employee advocacy is when you have your employees market your business on their personal social media accounts. This is an excellent marketing technique for a number of reasons.
First of all, no one knows your business, brand and personality better than the people who work for you. Employees are far more adept at answering questions and providing information to potential customers than hired advertising gurus, simply because they are at the forefront of the business every day.
Secondly, employee advocacy offers an individual way to reach certain target audiences without having to spend lots of money or research ways of getting through to them. Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels, presumably because employees will only choose to share content that is interesting to both them and their followers.
Some of the biggest brands in the world use employee advocacy to promote, including industry leaders Starbucks and Mastercard.
Starbucks has a friendly and relaxed vibe to its advertising that speaks to its target market of young and affluent professionals. Much of this is down to its use of its ‘partners’ – an employee advocacy programme.
Advocates are given access to employee partner accounts, through which they are able to make posts and share content with fans and followers. Allowing ‘partners’ to post on behalf of the brand gives employees a sense of belonging and trust in their ability to represent the brand well. Employees are also able to create a sense of authenticity that might not be achieved using advertising professionals.
This scheme has been so successful that the Starbucks employees’ Facebook page enjoys more than 370,000 followers, their Twitter account has 50,000 followers, and their Instagram page has 127,000 followers, making for a huge voluntary audience for Starbucks’ marketing.
Mastercard takes a different approach to Starbucks in that they ask employee advocates to share content on their own personal social media accounts. Rules are relaxed so that advocates are able to use their social media to post content during work hours, and all of the training and guidelines for the advocacy scheme have been worked on collaboratively with staff members. Mastercard has an all-encompassing outlook to its employee advocacy, with an end goal of having all 7,500 employees across the company acting as social media advocates.
Benefits of employee advocacy
Employee advocacy is a great idea for business because it makes employees feel more valued and thus feel more loyal to and passionate about your brand. The brand is humanised by the use of real, meaningful interactions that make potential customers feel comfortable. It is also a great way of giving real personality to what would otherwise be a bland, faceless corporation.
Employees enjoy the feeling that they are being trusted and that you are investing in their development, both personal and professional. Working as an employee advocate positions your employees as thought leaders and domain experts in your industry, adding another string to their professional bow.
Employee advocacy is also inexpensive, and offers you a form of ‘always-on’ advertising, as your employees log on to social media throughout the day and night.
How to get started with employee advocacy
Identify brand ambassadors: You can always offer the opportunity to your entire workforce, creating a much larger pool of marketers, but many businesses have found more success in starting small. Choose a few brand ambassadors at the start and work with them to finesse the system, making it easier to work out any problems and make necessary adjustments.
Prioritise workplace culture: Make sure that your employees feel connected to your company and brand, so that they will advocate genuinely and fervently. You can help employees to feel more connected by:
- Making sure that your company is exciting and innovative
- Focusing on service for customers and support for employees
- Emphasising your business’s position as an industry leader
- Having a culture of ‘giving back’, making charitable donations and focusing on environmental responsibility.
Set KPIs: It is impossible to analyse and adjust your marketing programme if you don’t set key performance indicators. In order to do this you must first ask and discuss:
- What is your end goal?
- Who is your target audience?
- Do you want to reach your existing customers or a new demographic entirely?
- Are you trying to increase positive perception of your brand?
- Do you want more website traffic or conversions?
- Do you want to increase sales?
- Is your focus on existing or potential customers?
Once you know what you want from your marketing strategy then you can turn this into targets that will help you and your advocates to understand where your marketing is successful and where it is falling down.
Plan a content strategy
In order to have your employee advocates successfully share content with their networks, you need to have content that is relevant to your employees and the people that they are connected with. There is no point in having employees share boring or uninteresting posts which don’t reflect their interests or personalities, as it will come across disingenuous and is likely to be ignored by their followers.
Company news and information about products is good for advertising, but isn’t likely to be of interest to your employees or the general public. Think about interesting articles, tips, guides and blogs to spark interest in your target audience, and then set out clear guidelines for choosing and posting content that your employees will be able to follow.
You can use a content hub to make it easy for employees to find content to share. A content hub is a centralised area that your staff can log into to find branded posts, pictures, videos and so on, so that you are not charging your team with coming up with their own on-message content.
Some of the best content hubs are:
- LinkedIn Elevate
Make sure advocacy benefits employees
Finally, make sure that there is a good reason for your employees to want to join your advocacy scheme and spend their free time marketing your brand. Perks and rewards are always a good way to inspire friendly rivalry and get people interested, but it may also be useful to offer something related to the business that isn’t available publicly. The social proof that comes with being able to offer their friends and followers something exclusive can make employees feel more connected to their work as an advocate.
Businesses need to utilise as much effort in promoting themselves online as possible to give them a good chance of dominating social channels. Employee advocacy is certainly a strategy you should be using.
To find out about other proven techniques why not speak to the team at MaxWeb. Our friendly experts can discuss with you our range of affordable marketing packages that can further boost your company’s engagement online. Please call us on 0151 652 4777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 in Branding.