Implementing employee advocacy
What drives your brand? In this day and age, the online presence of any business is likely to include a website and traditional social media channels, plus you may also be running regular online and offline campaigns to motivate sales, foster a positive brand perception and increase traffic and visibility.
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then you are working towards marketing success, but what about your employees? Often overlooked as simply ‘the people who work for the company’, employees are among the biggest marketing asset that any brand can have - and an asset that is often left untapped.
Yachting Pages offers advice on how to rally your employees as brand advocates, using their combined online reach and influence to shout about your knowledge, products and services, pushing your brand further into the spotlight.
What is employee advocacy?
‘Employee advocacy’ is like word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age: It’s a term that is used to describe the exposure that employees generate for the brand for which they work, using their own online influence.
While social media is probably the most frequently used medium for such advocacy, these ‘online assets’ can also include email, online chat forums, discussion boards and more.
Why should I utilise employee advocacy in my marine marketing strategy?
Employee advocacy can be key to social media success, because, hopefully, your employees will genuinely love your brand, and, as we’ve already mentioned, they are probably your largest untapped marketing asset.
Why? Well, analysis suggests that the information that these individuals choose to share online is likely to be trusted far more than that shared by a company itself, plus, these messages are not filtered by social networks in the same way that corporate messages are.
Reach and influence are two metrics that should play a major role in your strategy:
In the world of social media, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the online combined reach of your employees may stretch further than that of the CEO or those employees higher up in the chain of command, or even the brand pages themselves.
While your brand is focusing its marketing efforts on the platforms that are most relevant to the brand - perhaps the ‘traditional’ channels of Facebook and Twitter - your employees may already have a presence on platforms beyond this, including Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc., meaning that you don’t have to ‘dilute’ your online presence by being on social media platforms just for the sake of it.
With more and more accounts being created on social media networks every single day, networks like Facebook will always favour people’s reach over the reach of a corporate business page. If you’re considering paying for ads or to promote your content here, you’re basically paying to have a similar reach to that of your employee’s unfiltered reach, so it makes sense.
While Klout, Kred and PeerIndex may be the most well-known tools used to measure social influence, influence isn’t always something that can be so simply gauged: it comes with authenticity, trust and reach combined. Plus, the overall influence they have offline or in other online areas, is not counted when using these tools.
Before going any further, it’s worth remembering that, if you have employees that may not be your biggest fans, implementing an employee advocacy plan can go against everything that you are working towards, and so it requires some objectivity.
You’ll also need to remember that what your employee’s share is their prerogative. Whatever it is that you intend them to promote won’t matter if the content is not relevant to them and their followers, so it should encompass an array of content that is tailored to a variety of different interests. It should: support your brand, be share-worthy and have value to them to ensure it doesn’t appear ‘spammy’.
Implementing employee advocacy
Starting any advocacy plan first involves assessment and mobilisation, the identification of participants, KPIs and goals, and finally measurement and analytics.
Trust and freedom
Employee advocacy will only work if your business has a transparent culture that is built on trust and freedom – it cannot be forced or bought. Trust encourages genuine conversations while freedom is imperative to ensure that employees do not feel forced to advocate for you, motivating them to share content freely, of their own will.
Just like all your marketing activities, begin with setting goals and KPIs to help you realise how your plan is performing. You’ll need to set relevant KPIs to your business, which will vary depending on the focus of the business, for example; ROI and sales, traffic, conversions, sentiment, reach, or an increase in followers.
Ideally, employees will be spreading the word in a variety of ways, but perhaps you’ll want employees to ‘share’ your articles more, or to focus on deals and product promotion. Start with a few employee ‘champions’ and then roll out the programme to more employees using success as a stimulus - these champions can coach the newer members.
You’ll need guidelines for your employees to abide by, but nothing too restrictive as to counteract trust and freedom. These should be: easy to understand, easy too follow and inspirational to help them to understand what is and isn’t expected. These should also outline the incentives employees can expect to benefit from.
Tools and platforms
There are advocacy tools that you can employ to help in your plight, but you don’t necessarily need to use one as your employees could simply use free Buffer or Hootsuite tools, as long as you feel able to measure their input and return on investment. A few tools include:
Perks and benefits
How will your employees benefit from partaking? Advocacy benefits should ideally be something exclusive, such as interesting knowledge and/or discounts that cannot be found elsewhere, making them the person to come to within their circle for information on the brand.
Within the realms of the business, you could also choose to give out bonuses, exclusive event access or internal recognition – why not crowdsource the team to find out what they would like to receive?
Analytics – measuring employee advocacy
As a marketing tool, it’s important to track the performance of your advocacy initiative to tell whether it is working or not. You should then share this information with your employees so they can see the impact, benefit and reach of their efforts.