Engagement leads to advocacy
There are multiple reasons to invest in internal corporate communications. Among the most direct: employees who understand their company’s values and mission are better equipped to succeed in their designated positions. They’re also more likely to be satisfied, which leads to greater retention and productivity. This is corroborated by the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study, conducted for Spherion by Harris Poll, that found employers who communicate and follow through on a meaningful mission are significantly more likely to improve engagement, retention, and productivity levels. Another rationale for extensive internal communications, not to be overlooked, is that employees who are well-informed about their company are better equipped to spread the message beyond the corporate walls.
It’s tough to stand out online
The lackluster results from marketing methods that worked just a few years ago are making employee advocacy an increasingly attractive and cost efficient marketing alternative. As Cisco defines it, “Employee advocacy is empowering a company’s employees to support the goals of the brand using company content cascaded via employee-owned social channels.” In other words, it’s word-of-mouth marketing using employees as social media brand ambassadors.
Employee advocacy works
Helping employees become company advocates on social media achieves three important goals for marketers: reach, trust, and engagement. Many employees are already on social media with extensive, active personal networks. Companies that can mobilise employees to publish in social channels will be able to reach new and vast audiences. For example, according to Liz Bullock, former director of social media at Dell and current director of digital and paid media at Rackspace, the overlap between the social followers of an employer and those of its employees is only about 2 percent. Meanwhile, Cisco found in their Global Twitter Analysis that employees had an audience 10 times larger than that of the corporate accounts.
Based on a similar observation, SocialHorsepower makes the case that 135 employees functioning as brand advocates can generate reach greater than one million corporate Facebook fans:
The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer report found that peers and employees are a more credible source than leaders. That’s consistent with their finding that 59 per cent of those surveyed said they’ve recommended a company to a colleague or friend in the past year. In their 2015 Earned Brand Study, Edelman found 75 per cent of people reported making a decision about a brand based on a peer conversation.
Thanks to the viral nature of social media, greater direct reach by employees begets greater overall reach. MSLGroup reports that brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when the messages are distributed by employees rather than the brand. And with more customers learning about a company from trusted employee sources, engagement can soar — as measured by interactions with brand content like clicks and comments, downloading collateral, or sales. IBM found leads developed through employee social networking close at a rate 7 times greater than those from other types of leads.
Help employees help the company
Employee advocacy only works when employees have the right mindset to participate and when they have content to share. Some of that content should be original from the company but much of it need not be. Two common rules of thumb for managing social content are the 10:4:1 Rule and the 4-1-1 Rule.
Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, coined the 4-1-1 Rule for Social Media, which promotes the idea that for every six pieces of content shared via social media, four should be content that you’re re-sharing (third -party content), one should be original (you can think of it as a “soft promotion”), and one can be sales-related (a “hard promotion”).
Others adhere to the 10:4:1 Rule, where 10 out of 15 pieces of content are re-shared, four are original, and one is promotional.
For any company, the original content can be corporate press releases, whitepapers, or anything that informs a social media audience about your brand. If you’re lucky enough to work at a media company, you probably already have a wealth of web content, which your employees can use to drive social media traffic back to your site.
There is a spectrum of tools available to companies that want to help employees find and share content. Some, like CommandPost, focus on monitoring and measuring social outreach, while others, like PeopleLinx, are designed to support social selling. For companies that want a broader solution for internal communications like spreading corporate vision and culture that also curates content for employees to share, SocialChorus or DynamicSignal may be worth considering.
Corporate marketers who remain skeptical that employee advocacy could work for them should check out GaggleAMP’s infographic that debunks 5 Classic Objections to Employee Advocacy. There’s little to lose and an army of free marketers to gain.
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