All digital marketers want to increase content visibility. All brands want to increase awareness that leads to trust and conversions—the basics of the business marketing. The trick is finding a competitive and cost-effective way to amplify this brand content. One of the ways to increase this visibility is with employee advocacy. It’s essentially free. People you already pay take a moment to share your new content, increasing visibility, and organic reach. And the commentary on this content is from experts too, as employees have the most detailed knowledge of your brand and its features.
Employee advocacy is by definition, “the promotion of an organization by its staff members.” This promotion can be required but is generally most successful when done voluntarily by enthusiastic employees. While most commonly done by employees sharing information on social media, employee advocacy can also include mentions in blog posts or articles, speaking engagements, and forum interactions such as Reddit. Let’s explore the idea of engaged employee promotion some more.
Research on Employee Advocacy
LinkedIn has become a huge proponent of employee advocacy. A platform already designed to promote your personal brand, the company has come out with additional features to increase professional engagement too. One of these features is a new service called Elevate, designed to help curate and measure shared employee content. Elevate hopes to fill the need for companies that wish to promote employee advocacy but lack the means to do so.
According to LinkedIn, the facts are clear, “When a LinkedIn member shares six pieces of content, on average, they receive six profile views and make two new connections.” The company’s introductory webinar on Elevate goes on to include some solid data such as:
- Employees have about 10x more connections than a company has followers.
- Employees drive 2x the engagement on shares than the company.
- Right now, only about 3% of employees share company content because they don’t know what is happening, or they don’t know what is ok to share.
The webinar quotes additional data from Hinge Marketing’s survey that describes how firms grow faster with employee advocacy, shorten the sales cycle, and bring in more revenue. Elevate seeks to enable companies by making advocacy plans easy—really easy.
Human Resources on Employee Advocacy
It seems clear that employee advocacy is a winning method for driving awareness and engagement, but it can’t be that simple, can it? I reached out to HR expert Ben Eubanks to see how companies feel about this practice from an internal perspective.
Ben stated that “Word of mouth is the best advertising, whether you’re selling products or whether you’re recruiting candidates.” He goes on to describe, “The best companies not only work to deliver a positive candidate experience—they also look for ways to get their employee advocates in front of potential hires in order to add a personal element to the hiring process. At the end of the day, candidates want to be able to visualize themselves working for an employer. Employee advocacy can break down those barriers and add incredible weight to the employer value proposition.”
In addition to this perspective, Ben was able to share some interesting research with me. It appears that employee advocacy builds not only external business, but also works as a trusted tool in the recruitment process, helping organizations attract high-quality candidates. A 2017 Candidate Experience, Assessments, and Video Interviews Study noted that 58% of candidates want the opportunity to connect with peers and team members via video and 60% of employers believe that peer interactions would be the best way to attract and engage key talent.
Another 2017 study on Video and the Hiring Process observed that in the application process candidates want to see videos of actual employees 2.5x more often than company overviews and 10x more often than an HR/recruiter message. Data generated showed that 55% of active job seekers said employee-generated video would be more credible/trustworthy than company-produced video.
Risks of Employee Advocacy
While I have personally bought into the idea of employee advocacy, I can understand the business concerns surrounding risk management. What if an employee misrepresents the brand? What about disclosing the wrong information? What if someone says something just plain stupid? While valid fears, these concerns are also somewhat misguided, and here’s why.
- Your non-disclosure agreements should already clearly spell out what information is free to share and what is not. General guidelines are that if the information is public, it’s fair to share.
- If the employee has incredibly poor taste and judgment, it will not be limited to social media and will also become an HR issue as evidenced in day-to-day and client interactions.
- Your employees are already sharing whether you realize it or not. Reports indicate that 50% of employees are active on social media and sharing about their employer.
So where should you be concerned? There are three primary risks with social employee advocacy: lack of basic social media skills, regulatory compliance, and data security. The good news is that these risks can all be mitigated by employee training. You can help promote quality sharing with examples and suggested content. Use software like Trello to list ideas or Elevate to curate and measure results.
And if something does eventually go wrong, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Many brands have weathered social media branding mistakes.
Looking Forward with Employee Advocacy
In conclusion, we look forward to the future of employee advocacy. The Institute for Public Relations shares some insights into the growth of employee advocacy, and the empowerment of the employee voice including:
- Employee advocacy program adoption has increased by 25% in the past year.
- 26% of companies without advocacy initiatives plan to start one in 2018.
- Employee advocacy isn’t industry limited.
- Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are gaining ground on LinkedIn as advocacy channels.
Employee advocacy is a clear opportunity, and perhaps a necessity, for business in 2018. As we continue to explore the effects of advocacy on brands and business we’d love to hear your story. Feel free to share your experience in comments or send us a reply right here at Delightful Communications.
We hope you enjoyed this post, and wish you success in the New Year from everyone at the Delightful Team. Thanks for reading.
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Kate Hagan – Digital Marketing Program Manager at Delightful Communications