Discover employee advocacy and how it can change your company for the better
You're scrolling down your LinkedIn feed; you see paid ads here and there – they all look the same with those stylized visuals, company-made slogans, same old same old marketing jargon, and not a whole lot of authenticity in there. At the third one that pops up, your instinctive reaction is, "ugh, leave me alone."
But then you stumble upon a post of someone you know sharing their experience with a particular service or product and writing about how much they love it and why they recommend it. Now your mind goes, "mmm, this sounds cool." Your attitude is different. You’re convinced.
This little example shows that people on social media are much more lenient and open-minded when they engage with people, rather than with companies. That’s why advocacy, in general, has proven to be a very successful solution for companies to win the attention of their most important stakeholders. Check out some very effective employee advocacy examples here.
People who like and are passionate about your brand and talk about it on social media, for example, have the credibility you might lack as the company providing the product or service you’re trying to sell. Advocate’s voices will sound much more authentic to your audience's ears and thus more easily win over your target audience's hearts (and wallets).
Someone passionate about a brand will eventually come to appropriate that brand until it becomes part of their own identity. How? For example, one can identify oneself with a brand’s values and mission. This translates into support for that brand’s efforts and purpose, along with the desire to help it grow, which is precisely what a brand ambassador does.
Where employee advocacy comes from
Think about the example we made earlier: there could be several reasons you get easily annoyed by the overwhelming amount of ads.
The first possible one is the overwhelming amount of ads itself. Many companies rely on them either because they still prove effective or because they know no other solution. Consequently, they double down on them, hoping they will prove more effective. Another reason is that nowadays, there’s a growing distrust towards companies. People will not as willingly trust company messaging as they used to, which causes them to be wary of ads and their type of messaging.
We, as consumers, are quick to trust a message from a real person we know and believe in. People trust people, so having something recommended to you by someone you're connected with and trust significantly impacts your purchasing decision. It might come as a surprise, but 82% of consumers actually look for a recommendation or referral before making a purchase.
That’s where employee advocacy comes from. They are the real people who have networks and networks of connections — your employees are the best-suited people to tell your company story with authenticity so that other people can relate to them. They will be able to help you establish connections your public is craving.
As an organization, you can empower your employees to create those connections themselves in your stead and let word of mouth do its thing.
People trust people, so when someone you trust recommends something to you, they impact your decision.
In fact, 82 % of consumers actually look for a recommendation or referral before making a purchase.
Trust your employees to tell your story
Social media has undoubtedly turned the tables for companies and brands — because it is now so much easier to build relationships and get in touch with an audience, companies need to find a way to establish those connections themselves. Relying on ads and agencies will no longer do the trick.
But employees can. They have the power to establish those connections because of their unique position within the company itself through social media.
Think about your employees ─ your would-be ambassadors. What drives them? What do they like about your brand? What is their personal experience with your brand? People are what counts, people's stories and people's experiences. Find the right, passionate people in your company and encourage them to tell their stories, to be vocal about how their values coincide with the company’s, and what drives their daily work at your company.
Genuine, passionate messaging from your employees ─ the real people behind the company ─ is the way for you to inform, educate, and engage the workforce and customers, help attract talented potential hires, and gain the trust of potential customers through authentic messaging and digital word-of-mouth marketing.
Their experience and their personal story with the company are what you want to leverage to amplify the brand. Studies show that a post shared by an employee is seen as 3x more authentic than the same post published on a company page.
Rely on advocacy to open up a new level of organic growth
As a marketing professional, reaching more people and connecting with them to generate new leads and attract more prospects can be a great challenge. Social media platforms are tightening their privacy policies and restricting the organic reach of company posts, making it harder and harder to get through to the right audience.
That’s why, now more than ever, the best thing you can do for your company is to tap into a more resourceful asset: your employees.
When it comes to choosing a professional brand or organization over another, there is a significant trust factor that comes into play. Trust and authenticity are crucial to connect with your audience. And that’s why you need advocacy: the only way to truly connect and build long-lasting and stable relationships is through people — your people.
How does that work in practice though? The simple answer is that you’ll leverage your employees’ extensive networks to spread your content and get your message to a new circle of reach.
Remember that your employees are someone else’s ex-college buddy, best friend, family, relative, a friend of a friend, professional connection, old internship mentor, etc.
Employees have an average of roughly 800 connections — not counting 2nd and 3rd-degree connections- meaning that their potential reach is much more extensive than the company’s own.
Employees who share company-related content profile themselves as thought-leaders and reliable company advocates.
They become trusted advisors people want to listen to: more than 33% of early adopters of advocacy programs report increased brand loyalty.
The link between employee advocacy and employee engagement
Of course, employee advocacy is not all about dropping a request after another to your employees. Companies that constantly push out content and ask employees to share it risk taking Social Selling and general social sharing too far for their Ambassadors. This can often make employees feel like they are only a means to an end — a tool for Social Media exposure, rather than a trusted spokesperson for the company.
That’s why advocacy can mean and be so much more than that. You can look at advocacy as a gateway to ease people into initiatives that, with time, have the power to make employees feel more involved in company life, more appreciated, and ultimately engaged.
One way to have people try their hand at advocacy is by selling it internally as a series of tasks entailed in their roles within the company. Often, employees might already be sharing company-related content online, so asking them to formally log into a platform that organizes and distributes content to share and interact with will not come as a shock to them.
By nurturing the relationship with the ambassadors, their involvement in the company’s employee advocacy program can gradually grow into engagement as people begin to feel that their output and input are appreciated.
With time, you can count on your efforts to yield solid foundations to experiment with more interaction. How? By asking for input rather than output and ultimately empowering them and giving them the tools to contribute to the growth and goals of the organization, which might then spark engagement.
The elements you focus on to grow advocacy in your company — trust, values alignment, recognition, and an emotional connection — are the same elements you focus on when building up and nurturing highly engaged employees.
Nurture engagement among your ambassadors
Engagement doesn’t just magically happen; it’s not born out of thin air – for it to exist, there needs to be something. Something that stimulates it makes employees want to go the extra mile for the company and work to achieve its goals. Something that makes employees believe in the company.
Growing genuine engagement in a company can be one of the most significant challenges you’ll have to face, which is why advocacy, though different in purpose, can manifest itself as a great facilitator. Its threshold is just low enough to give change a chance.
In turn, by organically involving them in the organization’s course and decision-making, you can rest assured that, with the right nurturing, engagement will come as the natural consequence.
An employee who feels valued as a person and as the most important resource in the company, who sees others (managers, colleagues, executives, etc.) hustling to make the company grow, and believes in the company’s mission is – or is on track to becoming – an engaged employee.
At the same time, designing initiatives to generate engagement is challenging. Taking care that every employee feels satisfied with their work and identifies with company values and culture enough to call themselves “engaged” is no walk in the park. A lot of conditions need to align for that to happen. There’s only so much you can do for it to grow organically.
Sustaining effective engagement requires a lot of effort, so investing in employee advocacy can be an effective shortcut.
Drive employer branding through advocacy and engagement
Taking care that your employees are happy, motivated, and engaged to the point that they become trusted and vocal brand ambassadors is something that defines you as an employer.
That’s not the only factor in the equation, of course, but it constitutes part of your unique identity as an employer and can yield more benefits than you think.
How? Simply put, encourage your employees to be vocal about their experience in your company, their relationship with you as an employer, and your work culture.
Think about all the initiatives you may be upholding (or plan to) to create a positive, inclusive, and engaging work environment. That can be as straightforward as allowing your employees flexible working hours, working from home when they wish to, fair wages, good working conditions, and encouraging them to put their mental and physical health first.
Chances are you’ll have a lot of employees who are fully satisfied with their work conditions and the trust or ownership you award them but still would not quite call themselves “engaged.”
As we said, engagement takes nurturing but cultivating it shows dedication and effort, which will translate into an equally caring and positive employer brand. Start by showing employees that their opinions are valued — ask for feedback and input and actually take them into consideration. This will undoubtedly increase their trust in your brand and make them feel recognized for their work.
Having your employees socially market your company will show that they feel engaged with it and care about it and its goals, thus enhancing the employer brand and the company's perception.
Events, initiatives, and activities showcasing your people and company culture will give you the right content to build attractive employer branding. So write it down, take photos, call out employees by name and, most importantly, encourage them to share this content with their networks.
Successful and robust employer branding hinges on the promotion of engagement among employees and organizational values employees can identify with, and that happens precisely through Employee Advocacy.