Maximising Employee Advocacy to Grow Brand Influence

By January 23, 2019

When consumers are trusting brands less and individual people more, your employees could be the link to help connect organisations with their audiences in an authentic and approachable way.

This is a fantastic opportunity for brands that are finding their organic influence on social media is starting to dwindle. But how do you build internal brand advocates and equip them with the skills and content to carve out their own influence that represents your organisation in the right way?

To shed some light on employee advocacy and the potential it has to improve your organisation’s influence on social media, we invited Alicia Russell from Onalytica, the social media influencer management experts to join us on yesterday’s webinar!

Massive thank you again to Alicia for sharing her insights and thank you to those who joined us live, we hope you enjoyed the session as much as we did!

If you couldn’t dial in yesterday, you’re in the right place. In today’s blog we’re recapping the key points you need to know to activate your employees to become social media influencers.

What is employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy is the promotion of your brand by your staff, usually through social media. Employees may have been asked specifically to share certain content created by the organisation, or to share positive opinions on the brand publicly. Alternatively, in some cases employees take it upon themselves to discuss their organisation with their online networks.

Both methods can be extremely powerful and deliver great results for the organisation.

Why is employee advocacy on social media so important?

Fundamentally the way we interact with organisations and buy things is changing. You might not have realised to what degree, but I’m sure if we asked you whether you would trust a recommendation about a product more from the organisation that makes that product, or another customer who has already bought the product – you’d trust the other customer.

With that in mind, organisations are starting to feel the effects of the following changes in customer experience:

  • Due to concerns about authenticity trust in brands is falling and instead that trust has gone to consumers and individual people.
  • Consumers have more control over their interactions with organisations than ever before – if they have a negative experience with a brand, they can pick up their phone and tweet about it instantly. Causing damage to the reputation of the organisation that they have no control over.
  • There’s a great abundance of content across so many channels all vying for attention that means it takes something really special to grab us. Alicia shared a great example of this in how you might book a hair cut with a new hairdresser. Most of us would simply Google hairdressers near by and pick the one with the best reviews without even having to talk to anyone.

Because of these changes, your employees have the opportunity to bridge the gap between your brand and consumers. As individuals your employees are likely to be trusted more and can create personal and authentic social media content that appeals to their network and leaves audiences with a positive perception of your brand!

The statistics to prove it

Don’t just take our word for it! Alicia shared some fantastic statistics that prove just how powerful the backing of your employees is and the influence you can create.

  • 92% of people trust recommendations from other people over branded content
  • Leads developed through employee advocacy content are 7 times more likely to convert
  • 70% of the B2B customer journey is complete before they even contact sales – meaning most customers have already made up their minds about a purchase or interaction before they even contact you. So influencing your audiences earlier on is super important!

This quote from Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert, sums this up perfectly:

“The reason that people are trusted more than advertisers is that there is no financial stake in the outcome”. 

How employee advocacy has evolved

It all started with the intranet. Intranets were the first proper channel for organisations to communicate with their employees but this tended to be a one-way channel used to broadcast messages about changes to the organisation and policies. Engagement was low and the content was all brand focussed.

After that internal communications started to develop which allowed for more two-way communication and collaboration between employees and the organisation.

Today, Alicia argued that we’ve moved onto a new stage called ‘content amplification’ driven by the fact that brands recognise their power is diminishing in favour of individuals. With that in mind, presenting their content through employees is likely to be much more successful as people hold the power. While the audiences of your employees might not be that large individually, together they make up a great number of people.

This is a great opportunity for organisations, but the piece that’s lacking is to appreciate that there has to be something in it for the employee too, otherwise they won’t be that inclined to do it.

That’s where viewing employees as influencers comes in. It’s not just about using employees as a vehicle to spread branded information, it’s looking at how to help colleagues to become influential and build an audience and relationships of their own on social media that will actually help their career in the long-run.

Identifying different advocate personas in your organisation

So we know the power of employee advocacy, but it can be difficult to know where to get started on engaging your advocates. To help Alicia shared this awesome matrix that you can use to understand where your employees currently sit and help them move to the next stage.

However, there is a caveats with this:

Focus on quality over quantity – it’s just unrealistic to try and convert all of your employees into brand advocates because not everyone will feel comfortable sharing content on social media. If someone’s heart isn’t in it then sharing content they’re not engaged with could actually have a more detrimental effect.

So start with the people that you know are willing to get involved or are already acting as an advocate for your organisation in some capacity and plot them on this matrix. 

employee advocates

For this we’re focussed on the size of their social network and the levels of activity on social media. To help you identify the different personas, Alicia talked us through the four corners of the diagram.

Inactives – these people don’t have much of an online presence. They might only use LinkedIn when looking for a new job or Facebook and Twitter for personal use. So help them to get started with social media and start building their profiles.

Enthusiasts – could be a graduate that has a great level of activity on social media and they’re excited to be involved but they don’t know where to start in building up their network. So help them to share the right types of content to grow their audience.

Connectors – these tend to be sales people or other roles that involve getting out into the community. As a result of that these people have a larger network but might not be sharing much content and so they need more help in understanding what to share that will appeal to their current audience.

Influencers – these people are highly active networkers and content creators and for them, social media is a part of their daily routine. They are likely considered influencers in their field, formulating opinions and writing content that sets them apart from their peers.

Your overall objective should be to try and move as many of your advocates as you can to become influencers as this is where most of the opportunity lies.

Identifying different influencer personas in your organisation

Just like employee advocates, influencers come in all shapes depending on a number of factors like size of audience and the role they play on social media.

Alicia talked us through the different types that you see below:

influencer personas

Industry experts: professionals in a certain industry who can influence other key decision makers. They’re often individuals with a lot of authority who can engage others in niche topical areas. They’re likely to be authors or have published original research.

Online Connectors: these are people who have the greatest number of connections and interactions around a specific subject community. They’re the people you know would attract an audience around that subject and so can help you to more quickly improve brand awareness by partnering with them.

Content Creators: these individuals are all about creating and publishing original content or thoughts rather than sharing other people’s content. Their audiences are likely drawn to them for this unique insight.

Event Speakers: the presence of these influencers is likely to be on LinkedIn and slightly smaller than the others. Their main audience will likely be offline.

Social Amplifiers: these influencers are present on most social media platforms and have built large enough audiences that they can make some content viral. Their network is usually made up of a mix of professional contacts and friends/family who all engage with their content in different ways.

Media Influencers: influencers who are connected to and drive engagement with journalists, reporters, editors and analysts specifically.

Connecting employees with influencers

Once you’ve understood where your employees are and the relevant influencers for your organisation, how do we connect the two together?

It’s a case of finding areas in which the two overlap or can help each other. For instance, connecting your influencers and thought leaders with content creator influencers to collaborate on creating great content but enthusiasts lack a larger audience to share it with which is where the influencer can help.

Likewise, connectors would work well with event speakers as both are likely to be at conferences and events which will help to continue to grow their networks, while the connectors may be able to share content about the event speakers that can help them to become more active.

connecting influencers

How to make it happen

But how do we get there? The following steps can help you to engage your employee advocates across all levels and start unlocking their potential influence.

  1. Understand employee limitations – first consider if there are any reasons why employees might not want to do this. Confidence and motivation can play a big part!
  2. Define the “what’s in it for me?” – To help provide the right motivation, outline how becoming more active on social media in a professional capacity can help their career and build their profile to move in the direction they want.
  3. Understand how you activate the different personas – each of your colleagues are starting at different places so consider how you can tailor the help you provide to their different needs.
  4. Create a social culture – this can really help larger organisations to come together, seeing senior people from your organisation on social media is a great way to get more people involved, and can make others feel like they know the person.
  5. Social media training – different people learn in different ways so provide a range of training options to suit different styles and different stages of journey to employee advocacy.
  6. Social media policy – to provide structure and protect your organisation’s reputation is key to have a social media policy in place. But remember this should aim to guide your employees, not control them and create fear!
  7. Make it easy with technology – where appropriate, social listening tools like CrowdControlHQ’s Buzz Monitor can help employees to discover more content around the topics they’re interested in and from a range of influencers. Similarly there are also tools like Onalytica’s which can help highlight relevant influencers to engage with.

The results you can expect to see

Assuming that your employees rise to the challenge and you’ve set the right foundations for your employee advocacy initiative on social media, the following results are well within your reach!

  • An increase in content performance & engagement because it’s amplified by your advocates
  • An increase in lead generation and shorter buying cycles because you’re influencing earlier on
  • An increase in brand awareness & positive brand perception
  • An increase in social media brand advocates

Those are our key takeaways from yesterday’s webinar. Thanks again to Alicia for joining us and sharing fantastic resources and insights into the power of employee advocacy on social media! We hope that those of you who joined us live found the session useful!