A B2B client approached us last week with a problem we’ve heard over and over again: “My marketing team has created a ton of great content. I know it would make a huge impact on LinkedIn, if only I could get my employees to share it.”
So many organisations are putting time and effort into creating content that will engage their customers and prospects, and it’s not just the standard marketing fluff. It’s real, helpful information based on the pain points they know their customers are struggling with. But, like the proverbial tree falling in the woods, if no one reads it, does it make a difference?
Nope, unfortunately, it doesn’t.
The problem is that as a marketer, you simply can’t reach everyone despite your best marketing efforts through owned, paid, and earned media. Increasingly, it’s essential to tap into your employees’ network, especially through channels like LinkedIn, to get a viral lift and more eyeballs on your work.
It’s harder to do than you think. It would be nice if you could just tell your employees, “Hey, share this” and the flood gates of engagement swing wide. What you’re really doing, though, is saying, “Hey, here’s another task for you to complete. Take time out of your busy day to fool around on social networks. And, no, we’re not paying you more.”
It’s not going to work. You have to completely change the way you pitch LinkedIn to your employees in order to change their mindset and turn them into employee advocates that are LinkedIn content superstars.
The great thing about social media is that everyone gets equal opportunity to gain attention. But if you really want to get noticed, you have to create enough buzz around your brand on social. To do this you need a large social media marketing team and huge investments in terms of money and time. Or do you? With employee advocacy and a strong content strategy, you can massively improve your visibility, reach and influence all on a comparably reduced budget.
The Concept of Employee Advocacy
Employee Advocacy is the process of the encouraging your employees or workforce to share company news and stories on their personal social media accounts. This improves your reach and engagement vastly, and can increase prospects and leads. Employee advocacy makes it easier to connect with potential customers and build a rapport. Empowering your employees to actively participate on social media requires some guidance on what to share, what to avoid, how to interact with people on social etc. By guiding your employees in the right direction you can turn them into powerful marketers for your business.
When we consult with clients about their LinkedIn distribution strategy, we advise content owners and creators to think of their workforce as end customers. You have to sell them the benefit of social selling and sharing content on LinkedIn, and clearly answer the question “What’s In It for Me?”
The Benefits of Employee Advocacy
Employee Advocacy has a lot of benefits. To begin with, it requires a lower budget as you are reallocating existing resources. Studies have shown that employee advocacy can increase reach by 10x times, boost brand buzz and show an increase in your company’s bottom line. Since the recommendations are more personal than ads, audiences are more likely to trust it. It also increases your credibility amongst your workforce's connections and makes them more likely to try out your services/product. Employee advocacy is also a great way to keep your employees up to date on the latest happenings in your industry. They also gain valuable insights while interacting with potential customers and prospects.
In order to build an effective employee advocacy program on social media, like LinkedIn, talk to employees about your content distribution program in terms of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. If you’re not familiar, the Golden Circle is the way effective leaders communicate and it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the way everyone else does – first why, then how, and finally what.
Start with WHY.
This is where you communicate vision and passion. It’s the time to inspire your audience – in this case, the workforce that you want to buy in to your LinkedIn distribution strategy. When talking about the why with them, these tips will help:
- Align it with the brand: Your LinkedIn content distribution plan should feel like a natural extension of your company’s goals. The more aligned, the more employees will understand why they’re doing it. Let your passion come through. As Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you’re doing, they buy why you’re doing it.” Are you excited about the plan? Make them feel it.
- Don’t put it in an email: emails are so easy to delete, forget about, or come back to later (which never happens). Make it fun. Spending a couple of bucks on a pizza lunch to introduce your employee advocacy program ensures that you’ll have their attention.
- Ask for feedback: Give employees some ownership. Ask what they think about it, provide chances for them to give their feedback, and incorporate good suggestions on ways to improve.
Then talk about HOW.
The how portion of selling the content distribution plan to employees is where you talk about your differentiators. While it supports the “why,” it demonstrates how your plan and approach is unique in the marketplace. Incorporate this advice:
- Share the goal: What are you trying to do? Maybe you want to be seen as the go-to thought leader in your field, or provide unparalleled customer response on LinkedIn. Spell that out in concrete terms for employees.
- Answer “What’s In In for Me”: It’s great if the company benefits, but how does the employee benefit individually from spending time on LinkedIn? They need to know how it’s going to make their job easier, help them reach more customers and prospects, or close more sales.
- Do your research: Come armed with examples of how it will be effective. If you already have a LinkedIn champion on staff, invite them to share their experiences with the rest of the company about how it helped them be more effective.
Finish with the WHAT.
The what is where you talk about the nitty-gritty details, the nuts and bolts of the plan. It’s what they’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, the more task-oriented stuff that takes time and energy to complete. Again, to reiterate, don’t lead off the conversation with the what unless you want to doom your employee advocacy program to failure. Instead, do this:
- Crush the learning curve: Not every employee knows how to use LinkedIn, especially for social selling or sharing content. Provide a few simple tips to get started. Slowly introduce more advanced tips along the way (a regular “Did you know?” tips email can be effective).
- Introduce the content: Show examples of what they’ll be sharing on social media. Walk them through your ebook, whitepaper, or infographic so they understand it and can answer customer questions after they share it.
- Provide examples and flexibility: Some people are intimidated by the thought of writing something, even a short blurb to accompany the content they’re sharing for you on LinkedIn. Provide them with 2 or 3 possible comments to include when they share it, and also let them know they’re free to make their own.
Tips for Employee Advocacy
With employee engagement and advocacy, you have to be careful to make sure everything goes as planned. Here are a few tips that you need to keep in mind:
- Invest in an employee advocacy platform: Since social selling and sharing content is not a part of everyone’s job description, they will need all the help they can get. Investing in a proper platform like DrumUp or Linkedin Elevate makes sharing less time-consuming for employees of all departments.
- Keep them motivated: You have to keep your employees motivated. This can be done through incentives and with healthy competition. Some employee advocacy platforms have leader boards that give points for every share and provide useful analytics based on shares. This will induce competition while still keeping it professional while also giving you insights into which employee or post is performing better. You can give incentives to the top competitors as you please.
- Have clear goals: Set realistic, short-term goals for your employee advocacy program. These goals have to be measurable. The idea is to see if you are reaching your goals or if you have to tweak your program to make it better. If goals aren’t being reached then investigate what the problem is and improve accordingly.
- Set rules/ guidelines: It is important to make your employees understand what they can and cannot share as representatives of your business. Careless posting and commenting can cost your business by driving customers away.
- Trust your employees: Don’t micromanage everything they post, this can be very demotivating. Once the rules/guidelines are set – you can check in once a month to see what they’re posting but do obsess over it constantly.
Tools are another thing that can help you out – content curation tools are great for employee advocacy programs as they give easy access to shareable content for social media. Also, remember to make it a team sport, as playing as a team will also give both your workforce and the organisation an opportunity to bond better.
Another tool to help you amplify your brand’s message is this ebook, How to Build A Serious Social Media Program. In it, you’ll find tips and tricks from a veteran PR and social media expert whose built successful media programs on both small and large budgets.
If done right, employee advocacy can help you reap great benefits. It all depends on the strategy you build and the trust you have in your employees. Good employee advocacy programs are built on employees’ belief in the company and what it stands for, so it is crucial to have a good work culture. The key to making it work is to make all employees feel like their contribution is important to your company.