In the frenzy to gain traction for your brand's website or social media page, it can be easy to forget about one of your most valuable advertising assets. It's not your marketing team or your flashy new branding package or your expensive targeted ads, vital as those can be: it's your employees. Your employees have an intimate understanding of what makes your brand special, and since personal recommendations are generally perceived as more genuine than ad campaigns, they're in an ideal position to communicate that value to key audiences.
Employee advocacy is an emerging tactic in digital marketing that leverages your employees as brand ambassadors, organically promoting your company to their existing networks. Typically, employee advocacy centers around social media, with participants following some set of posting guidelines to best represent the company's brand.
With the vast array of digital marketing strategies available today, you might wonder why employee advocacy is worth pursuing. Does it really bring your company any benefits that traditional practices wouldn't? Based on our extensive industry experience, we say yes, but you don't have to take our word for it. The statistics speak for themselves:
- Social media posts (not ads) now influence up to 81% of purchases at some stage of the buying process.
- Over 70% of surveyed social media users consider a company update to be more persuasive if it's posted on a personal profile as opposed to a corporate account.
- 61% of consumers are willing to research products further when they're personally recommended by a friend. Just 30% say the same for spokesperson recommendations.
In other words, if you're among the 70% of companies that have yet to implement an employee advocacy program, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to bolster your reputation while increasing brand recognition. Personal recommendations are still seen as more genuine and trustworthy, making them a critical tool for gaining traction in this increasingly crowded social media ecosystem.
Employee advocacy programs take many different forms, and you'll want to consider the structure that best suits your brand. In some cases, advocacy posting guidelines include very specific constraints or even precisely curated content, establishing a consistent message at the expense of creativity. In other programs, posters are granted more leeway, so long as they remain professional and on-brand.
When designing your program, it can help to take inspiration from successful advocacy programs at big-name brands. For instance, Adobe has an informal competition for employees who generate the most engagement, rewarding them with in-office recognition and potential inclusion on a special social media team. They also have a formal blog detailing employees' experiences. Target takes a less structured approach (though no less specific or effective), emphasizing its reputation for corporate responsibility by encouraging employees to participate in charitable outreach and tag their photos with #TargetVolunteer. Both programs are known for generating positive, voluntary, effective promotion, despite using very different tactics.
While all advocacy initiatives will look slightly different, there are some best practices to consider:
- Provide guidance. Even your most social-media-savvy employees aren't mind readers, and they can't be expected to know what kind of content your team wants to see. Provide detailed guidelines and suggestions to make it easier for employees to participate without going off-message.
- Tailor the content. The content that works on LinkedIn is going to be more professional than what gets clicks on Facebook. Don't make your employees do that guesswork: outline suggestions and specific campaigns that are most likely to work well on each target platform.
- Incentivize participation. Make sure that advocacy is completely optional, but consider ways of motivating employees to participate. Clearly communicate what's in it for them, whether that be personal development, informal recognition, or some more structured incentive.
- Keep tabs on results. As with all marketing initiatives, it's critical to track engagement metrics to determine whether or not the campaign is effective. Track what's working and what isn't, and designate at least one point person to handle any unexpected attention that might arise (which can happen, even with careful content guidelines.)
At Excelerate, we cultivate authentic, innovative digital marketing strategies that work. If you're ready to optimize your online presence, we're ready to get you there through a holistic approach, integrating paid advertisements with more organic traffic and engagement. Learn more about where an employee advocacy program might fit into your strategic plan: get in touch with Excelerate today.