Why Are Brands Helping Their Employees Become Influencers?

by: Dustin Hawley | Tuesday April 9, 2019

Marketers in 2018 saw the value in employee advocacy as both a cost-effective and scalable alternative to influencer marketing. Sadly, many marketers simply don't have a budget for an influencer program. Employee advocates have always been a great way to build brand recognition, increase word of mouth and instill trust in the brand. Unfortunately, many business strategies don’t include employee influencer marketing or the intent to contract an influencer talent agency.

With a predicted 2.77 billion global users taking to social media this year, social media has undeniably carved out a permanent space in the marketing landscape.

The problem is, while many companies understand the value of social media, far too many of them struggle to measure it. Many organizations are still grappling with the concept of ROI and what it means in the social landscape. This is why there is a growing value in brands helping their employees become influencers. Let's explain.

An influencer wearing a bright yellow sweater pretending to hold a megaphone that's drawn on the background wall behind her

Simply put, the answer is yes! As mentioned above, empowering employees to spread your brand's content on their own social channels is a cost-effective and scalable alternative to influencer marketing. Employees with both high-reach and high-quality content and messaging can achieve the expanded reach your brand is looking for.  

According to MSLGroup, brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees instead of the brand itself. Additionally, leads developed through employee social marketing convert 7x more frequently than other leads, according to IBM.

How Does influencer marketing resonate with consumers?

Influencer marketing is certainly in the spotlight at the moment, and for good reason. But despite the massive success this industry has spawned for both influencers and brands alike, many marketers still question if it truly resonates with audiences. As an influencer marketing agency, we can tell you with certainty that the resonation is real. But in the spirit of the of this article, don't take our word for it. We will let the numbers speak for themselves.

content that resonates as authentic pie graphs

According to Sprout Social, when asked what their reaction would be if a friend posted about a company, product or service on social media, 61% of consumer respondents said they’d be more likely to research that product/service, compared to 36% if a product or service were mentioned by an influencer or celebrity. This data clearly spells out that the best influencers are those who are viewed as “regular people” with relatable experiences and opinions. And who is more relatable than an employee? Most everyone has a job, so relating to an employee has a somewhat universal quality.

Employee Content is more trusted 

Consumers enjoy content from brands they follow, and they may even click on social ads. But at the end of the day, content is more trusted when it comes from the employees themselves. This is likely no surprise, considering employees have a direct insight into their company and typically are more trusted than corporate leaders who have a more vested interest in their tactics.

Nielsen study showed that 84% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, colleagues over other forms of marketing.

Intriguing stats on employee influencer marketing

  • Content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Social Media Today)
  • Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels (MSLGroup)
  • 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company (Weber Shandwick)
  • 21% of consumers report “liking” employee posts–a far higher engagement rate than the average social ad (Edelman Trust Barometer)

Employee Advocates Increase Brand Awareness

To improve brand awareness, you need to be spreading your content as far and wide as humanly possible. However, developing a solid social presence in this era of ad-blockers and ever-changing algorithms is no simple task. That’s why it’s imperative for marketers to not underestimate the power employees for content amplification.

Employee advocacy humanizes your brand through the voices of genuine people, and it also pushes your brand content to personal feeds—reaching accounts your brand would not typically have access to. Employee advocates can also support a multi-channel or omnichannel marketing campaign, simply by sharing branded content across various platforms. Cross-channel success is one of their biggest challenges of social marketers today, so it helps in a big way to have an advocate army to take some of the weight off your shoulders.

Employee influencer marketing benefits employees as well.

Employees are such effective 'influencers' because they are highly-trusted by their peers in communicating the treatment of employees and customers. Employees are trusted more than the CEO, a senior executive, and likely any other high-level member of the organization, simply because their vestment and stake in the company are much different than those of the positions we just listed. Therefore, employee advocates represent the everyday person far more than the CEO does, and in turn, this makes them more relatable to consumers. 

Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.

 

— Anne M. Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox

But brand advocacy isn't a one-way street, where the brand soaks up all the benefits of their employee's social circles. The employees themselves reap rewards as well. Some of those benefits are:

  • It increases their own knowledge
  • Keeps them focused on helping customers and prospects
  • They’re perceived as thought leaders or authorities on the company’s products/services.
  • They’re able to contribute more to the company’s success, even if they are in a completely different department.

Great Example of Employee Advocacy: Electronic Arts

Courtesy of everyonesocial.com: When Andrew Wilson took the helm as CEO of Electronic Arts in 2014, he set out to focus the organization on three core strategic priorities: putting the players first, focusing on digital transformation in all areas of the business, and working together as one team. With 5,500 employees spread across 30 offices in six different geo-regions, the video game company was suffering from multiple, competing internal cultures.

how electronic arts used employee advocacy to ignite company culture

EA launched their employee advocacy program, called EA Insiders in 2014. Within a very short time employees from around the globe, we’re writing into the program managers about how much more connected they were to their coworkers. New members were sent official certificates and an EA Insiders stocker thanking them for joining and participating in the program and leaderboards and contests were created to spur friendly competition.

With thousands of active users across the globe, the EA Insiders program generates tens of thousands of social shares each month to a network of over 1.1M. Electronic Arts has done an amazing job with their employee advocacy program, which should serve as a model for any global consumer brand looking to better connect and leverage their teams. Read more about the EA Insiders employee advocacy program in this in-depth case study.

In Closing

By empowering employees and utilizing the concepts outlined in this article, businesses can exponentially increase the reach of their social channels. Employee advocacy programs can help steer employees to use both online and offline actions to boost brand awareness, help generate leads, and deepen customer relationships. Perhaps most important, they also build trust with consumers.

Dedicated employee advocates - and an advocacy program that supports them - can be the difference between a good company and a truly great one. 

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