Digital marketing is a rapidly evolving industry, but the central principles are still relevant – good marketing requires you to match the needs of your market with your product offering, and then ensure that the market knows you are present. There are many marketing tools available, but one of the most powerful tools remains woefully underused by business. Let’s talk about employee advocacy.
WHAT IS EMPLOYEE ADVOCACY?
In a nutshell, it is using your employees to talk about your business. The days of creating content and waiting for visitors to lap it up are well and truly past. Over the last few years, companies have been experimenting with new ways to drive engaged readers to their business sites. One of the biggest winners has been paid promotions across social media.
While Google PPC still dominates the advertisement of product and service pages, social media is now full of promoted content in the form of articles, images and videos. All of these are designed to encourage readers to share. Publishing a piece of content and then promoting it on social media has become the most popular method for pushing new content out in front of an engaged audience. So, what’s the problem? It’s expensive!
Because this method has become so popular, more businesses are now competing to get their paid promotions above all the rest. What was once a cheap way to reach thousands of new customers has become a highly competitive and expensive strategy. Employee advocacy may do away with the need for paid promos altogether.
This is great in theory, and the more employees you have, the more powerful it should be. But, to work well it needs to be really well managed to ensure that the right message is sent out – a careless post to social media by an employee who feels coerced into using their personal social media profile to promote company business could result in some negative publicity.
WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING?
Employee advocacy has similarities with word-of-mouth marketing. Before the Internet existed, most businesses won new customers by means of recommendations. In fact, recommendations and referrals is still a major part of marketing a business, and is why websites such as TrustaTrader and TripAdvisor became so popular. Consider employee advocacy as a modern form of word-of-mouth marketing for your business. Get staff members who are passionate about their work to share stories, videos and graphics.
SELECTIVELY CHOOSE EMPLOYEES?
For some businesses it may be more sensible to selectively choose some employees to take up the advocacy roles. People who are already active on social media should be leading the way – there is little point in encouraging staff members who only have 5 friends on Facebook to publish corporate sponsored material. Employees within public roles, such as PR, marketing, sales, and client services, along with key managers and directors, should all be the first be brought onboard.
Do not assume that everybody will want to join the employee advocacy campaign. It is important to respect the privacy of your employees – not all wish to mix business with pleasure, and for many, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are a place to relax and chat freely with friends and family, not a place to promote business.
If you do choose to encourage all staff members to promote your business on social media, use incentives. A monthly competition that rewards staff who win the most shares or likes is a fun way encourage participation – it has been working in sales departments for decades.
There are several platforms that help managers reward the best performing employees, such as Trap!t, Dynamic Signal, Circulate.it and Social Chorus. We have not tried these yet, but as soon as we have, we’ll share our experiences with them.
Because of the risk of negative publicity it is important to educate your employees in best practice. Many may not understand what you are trying to achieve, and others may not even be aware that what they are sharing will be public on the Internet and possibly seen by thousands of people, along with any additional comments that they make.
HAVE A PLAN
Because employee advocacy has the potential to fall flat, it is important to develop a clear marketing strategy. All original material should be developed and signed off by the marketing department before being emailed out to employees. If you only wish employees to like or share a post on the company page, ensure that you make this clear – likewise, if you would like employees to write a personal review or message, ask them to do so.
At the moment, the most successful pieces of social media marketing content are short videos that trigger an emotional response. The emotion can be happiness, sadness, laughter, fear, or even anger – as a general rule, if people react emotionally they are more likely to re-share the content with friends. Of course, this is hardest type of content to produce!
There are not any set rules as to what will work and what will fail, so you will need to experiment with different post formats and use what you learn to make the next ones better. As a general rule, posts that tell a story work best.
Employee advocacy is unlikely to eliminate the need for paid advertising, but a successful campaign can certainly help to reduce marketing budgets.