Consumers trust the words and recommendations of their friends and family over and above messages from corporations. An obvious and absolutely logical concept. So why are so many brands overlooking this social strategy?
Employee advocacy – Not just for the Starbucks of this world
Starbucks is perhaps the epitome of a brand that gets social media right. Take their latest Tweet-a-Coffee campaign, which drove $180,000 in direct sales in less than 30 days. Of course, this achievement is in some part due to this global brand having an entire social department. What many don’t know, however, is that they also invest in employee social advocacy – with staff tweeting, posting and commenting on behalf of the company from their own accounts. While few SMEs and mid-sized corporations have the budgets for marketing on a Starbucks-scale, all companies (not matter their size) can tap into the power of employee advocacy. And from DSMN8’s whitepaper research, we can put this in concrete figures:
Employee reach on Twitter is 13x greater than the corporate accounts
LinkedIn research shows that employees enjoy a 2x higher click-through rate than their employers when sharing the same content
77% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company when they hear about it from someone they trust.
With the case made for employee advocacy the only question that remains is how to go about creating a profitable and sustainable strategy. Here are 3 steps for doing just that…
1. Start small (and skip the heavy investments in paid social media)
Most companies know that social media is now a medium not to be ignored (after all, it is involved in influencing three-quarters of buying behaviour). However, gaining followers and then growing the numbers is tough. Consequently, a positive ROI can be difficult to achieve (often putting businesses off paid social media following some months of investment). For this challenge, there is employee advocacy – harnessing the staff whom you already pay, requiring no additional capital outlay whatsoever.
2. Make it all-inclusive
Social posts shared by employees garner eight times more engagement than corporate messages. So it simply makes sense to involve every employee – with 50 staff involved in your social efforts, each of whom have 250 connections, you could gain a reach to an audience of 12,500.
3. Put guidelines in place
The uptake of social employee advocacy has been lacklustre to say the least, brands remain unsold on the idea (despite the compelling research). Perhaps this is in no small part down to the room for missteps, mistakes and misunderstandings, as well as tricky questions that must be answered pre-launch, such as who’ll govern what should be said? How will employees be motivated to become involved? And is there a risk that followers could simply get sick of a flood of messages? To overcome these challenges, you need firm guidelines…
- Ensure that employees want to share the content – This marketing strategy mustn’t be forced on your employees. Gaining involvement begins with a positive company culture – with employees who are passionate for their brand, which can be made all the more effective by incentives.
- Carefully craft a strategy between organic shares and promoted content – Someone must be in control of the messages that are sent, and the times at which they go out. This includes updates that are ad-hoc and posted of your employees’ own accord – nurturing these spontaneous posts is a key element for successful employee advocacy. For promoted content, it’s necessary to get the messaging right and choose their frequency carefully.
- Consider audience alignment – Who are the connections of your employees? What do they care about? They may not be so interested in the Sales VP’s latest profits report (although those in the same industry, over on LinkedIn, may). Employee advocacy is at its most powerful when employees have relevant networks for your messages.
- The entire process must be simple – Employees are short on time, they need convenience, and for optimal results, they require a fast, efficient ‘one-click’ process. A traditional route that some take is to create draft messages (although avoiding mass copying and pasting of this message is critical if your employee advocacy strategy isn’t going to lose all effectiveness). This also involves far more than one step – copy and pasting, editing, logging into a social network, sharing. DSMN8 was created with this stumbling block in mind – allowing employees to pick and choose what they share, where they share it and when – fast, efficient and the business remains in control (while participation amongst employees sky rockets).
- Trust. Overlook it at your peril – An employee advocacy strategy relies on trust for its success. It is effective simply because the messages are genuine – from fellow friends, family and associates. Should users suddenly be presented with mass company messaging, all is lost (and in fact, this could achieve the polar opposite of what is being aimed for – negatively impacting on the brand). Equally, for your employees, this could impact the way they are perceived by those they know.
Employee advocacy is gaining traction and attention – and yet it remains drastically underused by even the largest brands around the world. Whilst the reasons behind this lack of uptake may be wide and varied, one thing remains clear: for those brands that choose to take the plunge with a carefully thought out strategy, there exists an as yet untrodden path to growing sales and sustainable, employee-powered profit.