How employee advocates boost your brand

The reach of their social media networks is far greater than that of your organization’s marketing face. An expert from Humana explains how to harness all that digital power.

Many communicators talk about recruiting employee advocates to boost their organization’s brand message.

That’s easier said than done. You can’t exactly make it mandatory for staffers to promote your products on their personal Facebook and Instagram accounts.

How, then, can you harness the power of staffers’ personal social media networks? Jason W. Spencer, community manager for Humana, lays it out in the Ragan Training webinar “Create an Employee Advocacy Program in 5 Easy Steps.”

The advocacy Spencer is talking about “can be defined as employees’ sharing their support for a company’s brand, product or services on their personal network,” he says.

Employee advocacy is more effective than tooting your corporate horn.

The advantages of this kind of enthusiasm from your staff are clear. Employees collectively have 10 times the number of followers as corporate accounts, according to a Cisco study cited by Spencer.

Also, Facebook has craftily designed its company pages so that only 2-3 percent of followers see content (without a paid promotion, that is). On personal pages, the engagement rate spikes to 15-20 percent engagement, Spencer says.

“Just by sharing, you’re going to get far more reach,” he says.

What’s more, 50 percent of employees discuss the company they work for on social media.

“If your employees are already talking about you online … why don’t you give them preapproved content that allows those employees to share?” Spencer says.

Your employees are trusted within their networks.

Go figure: People trust their friends and family more than Buy n Large Ltd.

Some 92 percent of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other sources, Nielson reveals.

Plus, Spencer says, through your employees, you reach an audience that wouldn’t otherwise see your messaging. Studies show there is only an 8 percent average overlap between employees’ Twitter followers and brands’ Twitter followers, and 77 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product when they hear about it from someone they trust.

However much you might love your company’s Mr. Big, “the average employee is nearly twice as credible as the CEO,” Spencer says.

Defining objectives.

It’s all well and good to envision your employees cranking out huzzahs for your organization on social media. Before you launch into such a program, however, you ought to figure out what the end goal is.

“Determine, what does success look like?” Spencer says. “What are your objectives?”

These might include the following:

  • “Brand lift,” or increasing brand awareness.
  • Driving traffic to your website.
  • Engaging employees themselves.
  • Employee communications. You can bring in information you want to put in front of your employees, Spencer says.
  • Increasing sales. (And what communicator wouldn’t love to get credit for a bump in the bottom line?)

Start with a pilot group.

Select up to 50 employees experienced in the various social media platforms, Spencer says. Don’t overlook members of your corporate communications and social media teams, but make sure you include employees who are influential on social media.

You should also snag organizational leaders and employees representing all business segments and solicit names via your enterprise social network. When reporting on the results, include information such as shares, impressions, clicks and reactions, as well as your active and new advocates.

Expand participation.

In phase two, allow members to recommend others to join, and eventually open the advocacy program to all your employees.

The rewards, in the end, will be internal as well as external: “You’re going to create a greater sense of community among employees,” Spencer says.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

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