Employee advocacy is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit. We, at Little Bird Marketing, like to think of it kind of as a joke. We will hash out the why and how your team can develop an employee advocacy plan that actually works!
Social media has fundamentally changed the way we live and do business. There is not a day that goes by that we’re not somehow engaged on a social platform. More than likely, the first thing you reach for in the morning is your phone. After silencing the alarm, you open your email, apps, social media and you’re immediately connected.
Your feed is filled with ads and you are reading posts from friends and colleagues. You’re in connection. Our lives are now digital. It’s pervaded our personal lives and also become standard for business. The buyer’s journey has shifted and we want to share with you some of the pertinent things about your brand’s social influence and how it affects employee advocacy.
Interestingly enough, we know through research that the buyer is actually 57% of the way through his/her B2B experience before they ever make contact with someone at your company. That’s a sobering statistic for businesses when you realize that your buyer is on a self-directed journey. Your buyer is going through and creating their long list and, in turn, narrowing that list down and actually defining their requirements for making a purchase all without you. So this begs the question, how can your company insert itself earlier into this journey and be a helpful part of your buyer’s process?
Little Bird Marketing strives to always be helpful to our ideal clients with our content, sales, methods and messaging. When we are helpful, we are building rapport and making a difference in their lives. When we make a difference, they make a decision for us.
We want to share some more insights about buyers that you really need to be thinking about as you begin to build your digital marketing plan. How does employee advocacy fit into that overall strategy?
- 86% of B2B buyers are starting their journey toward a product with an unbranded search online.
- 95% of B2B buyers want to deal specifically with the person identified on social media as the thought leader of their particular industry.
- The number 12. This represents the 12 different pieces of content your average B2B buyer looks at before they make their decision. How many of those belong to you and point back to your company? Which ones are building rapport and credibility for your services and/or products? The answer lies with your employees.
Let’s flashback to early 2020, before the insanity of the pandemic. Our mama bird, Priscilla McKinney, was speaking at a conference addressing the topic of digital transformation. She spoke about how digital transformation was not really a thing of the future or the present but something that was already happening. Brands were already online, making a difference and empowering their employees to be advocates for their business. The reality of this didn’t really sink in with some companies until COVID hit and they didn’t have any other options but to become more involved in digital transformation. Now that the landscape has changed, this has to be addressed in terms of employee advocacy.
When developing your employee advocacy program you want to make sure it is authentic, motivates, and energizes your employees to take ownership and run with it. The image below shows you the three main components that make employee advocacy and how brands are using their employees as a resource for spreading their marketing messages in general brand awareness. A great program requires tapping into these three sections: Generates Brand Exposure, Recommends Products & Services, and Embodies Company’s Best Interest.
Power of Potential
If you still aren’t convinced, let’s look at some more statistics. These numbers in the graph below represent the power of potential. If you were able to get 50 employees from your company, socially engaged, digitally transformed, what would be the outcome? Let’s say your business Twitter account has 750 followers. Your Facebook page has 2,500 likes and your LinkedIn business page has 5,000 followers. Using these numbers, you could have a much larger reach already, the most amount of people that your brand can reach on social is only 8,250. But if you could get those 50 employees involved in posting about your brand on social media by resharing a post, writing something organically, or sharing a company blog, then your potential social reach grows to 42,336! This growth means that now 34,086 new potential consumers are seeing your content. This is what makes an employee advocacy program worth it.
There are brands that already know this and it’s why we are seeing a move towards influencer style marketing. People want to hear from their connections, their friends, and a trusted source. The potential to grow your marketing and insert your brand into your B2B buyer’s journey is huge.
You may be thinking, “Why is Little Bird Marketing, a company that creates digital content for brands, telling you to get your people involved in sharing your story?” It’s a good question and we believe in corporate messaging and proper content within the digital market but we also know that it is not effective enough as a standalone. Your consumers aren’t waiting with bated breath to hear what your corporation has to say but they are connected to you and your employees and they do want to hear what their friends and acquaintances have to say. We all know that people don’t want to be sold and they are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend or a colleague than from a brand. Your followers want to know what you and your employees find credible. You’ve built a rapport with them, now give them something they can believe in.
Encourage your employees to be authentic and creative because their connections want to hear from them. When a person regurgitates a brand message verbatim, it seems disingenuous and inauthentic. However, when someone is able to tell a story or anecdote about their business from their point of view this creates true conversation. You begin to bring in your unique audience capturing new people that your brand has yet to reach. These are people who have recently discovered your brand and want to connect with you. When you tie in authenticity and creativity with your employees, you’re reaching multiple networks that would never be possible from a brand level.
Cost Savings & Revenue
How does this personal connection translate into revenue and cost savings? There is plenty of money to be saved and revenue value in your employees actually sharing the posts themselves. Say only 10% of your employees shared what was happening within your company, that would equate to a thousand dollars in paid social media efforts. Think of your employee advocacy program as free media. In an amazing open environment when you’ve given your employees the green light and encouragement to begin sharing your content, this is giving you money back in your pocket in terms of marketing dollars.
Too often digital transformation plans fall flat with their employee advocacy because it isn’t worth their employee’s time. Try making it fun! Incentivize a program so your employees will want to participate. It could be a contest or you could find a way to make your program a game. Create a program that rewards and celebrates your employees when they are out there posting about your brand on social. Another hidden benefit to digitally transforming the social influence within your company is employees ultimately coming together and beginning to have a shared common goal. Your team begins to rally around causes for your business in a very different way with a social network that is more than 10 times greater than your brand’s account.
Corporate accounts and communications have limitations. If you don’t make a plan and actually go beyond those limitations then you are leaving money on the table. Also, you are not engaging with your best and brightest assets-your people. If you hired them you must think they are a genius. Use their genius and their way of communicating within the market to your benefit. The sum total of your employees is greater than the push of your brand.
Empower Employees through Transparency
The connections to your employees on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram are genuine. Those people know each other. It’s a two-way relationship compared to someone following a brand. In order to tap into that 10 times growth, create a system that actually equips your employees with the resources they need to craft engaging posts. Make sure the entire team has access to platforms like Canva, to create professional graphics when they attend industry events, tagging other brands or thought leaders by engaging socially. Communicate to your team and share all brand logos and colors so they are easily on hand. Teach employees how to access downloadable resources from your site. If your company has a blog or podcast, make sure you are expressing to the staff which posts or episodes are for which persona that your company is trying to reach. When your employees are well-informed about what type of content matches what type of client, it is easy for them to share.
Overall, this is about being transparent with your employees. It’s having a great conversation with your team, pulling back the curtain, and showing them what happens at your company and how people come to you. You can equip your employees to help more people and have everyone on the same page just by being crystal clear with your goals. This isn’t costing the company more money by simply having an open dialogue and finding something you can give your employees to do for the brand. Social media is free and comes naturally to us. You don’t have to really explain much, most employees are already online, and looking at statistics, it’s credible. It’s also all about scalability.
Case Study: Scalability using LinkedIn for Business
At Little Bird Marketing, we teach cohorts of 10 at a company at a time in a 12-week process. They go through what we like to joke and call: Couch Potato to 5K, but for LinkedIn. It’s B2B and while we know you are already doing social in your personal life, B2B social has some nuance and cadence to it. There is a mindset shift and a lot involved with it. We walk people through an extended period of time helping them to develop their own habits.
We had six people in this class during a 12-week course. In that time, this company was able to get 26,608 links on their posts, 2,688 comments. Think of each of those comments as separate opportunities for a discussion. If someone walks up to you at a party and begins a conversation, you aren’t going to just walk away. The same goes for social media and your company. If you had six of your employees within three months start 2,688 conversations that could be a game-changer. Those same six people expanded their network by 5,035 new contacts.
The course teaches people how to meaningfully connect and expand their network. From the posts these people created during the class they received almost 2 million views. The company was able to close a lot of sales from this course and at the time of press, we are still tracking how that generated into pipelines.
If this can happen with just six people, think of what can happen when you engage and properly equip your entire team with employee advocacy. If you start doing this correctly, while educating your employees by including them on what needs to happen in order to grow the company, this will go beyond social influence. This is digital dominance! Everywhere you look, your company is sparking conversations that happen in your industry. Employees can be leading the way, commenting, challenging, or rounding out conversations. The overarching point is to get them involved and to get involved way earlier in the conversation and in front of your potential buyer.
If you want Little Bird Marketing or any ad agency to do digital content marketing for you, you have to pay us. We are great at it and we should get paid but there is a point in which we can’t scale for you. Remember your employees and their efforts on social media can absolutely scale with you. Think about that in terms of software. We all know the SAS Model. How many people do you have? You need three seats, you have three licenses. You have ten people, you have ten licenses. There are no licenses when it comes to social media accounts and platforms. You may have six employees or 600 and you don’t have to spend a dime on startup costs. If you get 600 of your employees participating in this kind of behavior that is employee advocacy. That is no longer a joke.
When you start your program for your team, be clear with your objectives. Make sure that when they are on social, they are intentional and drive value for others. Even if their connections don’t directly buy from you, you want to be driving value for your industry and the people that you have a duty to care for and serve. Be mindful when activating your employees. If you are worried about someone on your team and what they may say, consider this, they are already on social media! So instead, invest in that employee, bring them into the strategy of what you are trying to accomplish in order to advance your company by doing it together.
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