These days it’s more important that ever to establish a strong brand online. But how do you do that?
Many answers to this question are obvious: by actively maintaining your brand website and social media channels. And of course filling these with the necessary content, both your own and that from outside sources. But in that content machine, the role of employees is often forgotten. This is a pity because employee advocacy is a very advantageous and very effective way to strengthen your brand.
For a long time, organizations were very careful with their social media policies. Employees were allowed to communicate in only a very limited way about the company (or sometimes not at all), and their messages had to follow all kinds of rules. The tide is now slowly changing, and companies are using their employees actively to promote their brand.
EMPLOYEES AS BRAND AMBASSADORS
Employee advocacy is the active promoting and use of your employees for establishing your brand. This differs from traditional methods in which the marketing department takes care of communication via its own official websites, newsletters, and social media channels. Instead, the organization stimulates the active promotion of its own brand and its own content via its own employee channels. It will share, for example, the corporate blog and news items but it will also gather relevant content from third parties.
Colleagues can also participate in discussions regarding their business expertise. They do this mostly on an independent basis, without direct intervention of a manager. Employee advocacy could take place on platforms designed to facilitate corporate content. But that is not essential. Technology is a tool in this context, not a condition.
Here are 5 areas in which employee advocacy is very effective:
Employee channels expands the total reach of your organization enormously. In fact, employee reach may be many times larger than that of the official channels. An easy sample calculation proves this:
Let’s assume an organization has 500 employees. Each one has an average of 400 followers on LinkedIn, 200 on Twitter, and 100 Facebook friends. That represents a potential reach of 500 x (400 + 200 + 100) = 35,000 people. Consider also that some may be active on channels that are not (yet) used by the company, such as Tumblr, Pinterest or Instagram. Pure profit.
People listen to people, not companies. The credibility level of employees is also usually much greater than that of corporate channels. Often only the marketing manager and CEO retweet and actively share things. Employees come across at least as reliable, in particular because they are less visible than the CEO doing battle under the corporate flag.
Employees can also profile themselves as experts in their field, which further serves credibility. Finally, contacts of employees are not random people; they have business or personal relationships with them. People have much greater confidence in people they know than in recommendations of companies, bots, or the so-called ‘independent media.’
3. Thought leadership
When employees share corporate content and content from their field actively, they are working on their thought leadership. They are strengthening their own brand on the web and enlarging their own authority. This reflects on the company they work for. The knowledge and skills of an organization equals the total of the knowledge and skills of its individual employees.
4. Involvement and loyalty
Employee advocacy increases employee involvement. When you encourage employee advocacy, you are giving your employees your fullest confidence that they are capable of working independently on their own and of participating in corporate branding. It can boost pride in the company, and they will express this pride via their own channels to the outside world. This in turn makes employees more involved and more loyal.
5. Cost effectiveness
Compared to many other marketing activities, employee advocacy is relatively cheap. Sharing content via social media channels costs nothing but the hours your employees spend on this. You can help by providing, for example, social media management tools or even employee advocacy platforms. Sharing content is often a matter of a few mouse clicks. You may also notice that many employees do this on their own time. It is, after all, important for their own branding.
Employee advocacy is a very effective marketing method. It results in very involved employees, thoughtful leaders, and an enormous reach of the corporate voice. Every company will benefit from this.