When you think about creating and marketing your brand, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Your website, your logo, your content marketing? Do your employees factor in? They should, and here’s why.
Direct interactions with customers
C-suite officers focus on the big picture, which is important. However, your employees are the ones interacting with customers daily. From salespeople to IT and customer support, your employees are the ones who help your customers when they need help.
Marketing may catch your client’s attention, but building lasting relationships is your employees’ job. It’s essential for the company to give them the tools and freedom that they need to succeed and keep the clients confident in the brand. Customer engagement skyrockets when employees, acting as brand ambassadors, can authentically communicate and solve problems, thereby building a lasting relationship.
According to a study by LinkedIn, content shared by employees receives eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels. This underscores the power of employee advocacy in amplifying your brand’s reach and engagement. Content shared by employees receives 2x higher organic reach compared to content shared by companies.
Frontline knowledge of results and what needs to change
Company executives can watch big data trends, follow social media, see what’s trending, and make a good guess as to the next evolution their company needs to make in order to stay on top or get ahead, but any good company knows that listening to their customers is a crucial piece of building success. If your employees are the ones interacting with customers, then it makes sense that employees will be the first ones to hear about a problem.
To empower employees as brand ambassadors, you need to trust them. If an employee hears about a problem through a customer, whether it’s with a product or a service, they should trust that they can go to their supervisor with the issue and get help. They should also be confident in telling the customer that the issue will be resolved and that the customer will hear back. Firing an employee can have a ripple effect on team morale and brand advocacy, so it’s crucial to handle such situations with utmost sensitivity.
Effective businesses empower their employees to make and fulfill such statements. To truly achieve employee empowerment, it’s not just about giving them the tools; it’s about creating an environment where they feel free to innovate and take ownership of customer issues.
Ability to authentically share culture with customers
Whenever a company creates a piece of marketing or unveils a new product, that product is imbued with the company culture. For example, if a construction company maintains a blog that talks about the best materials for outdoor construction in their area, that blog is going to be written in a tone and with material that matches the overall ethos of the company at large.
But this is just one step in developing a brand. If, for example, that same company has incredibly formal paperwork, a blog that uses very casual language, and salespeople who walk the middle ground between the two, customers aren’t going to feel like there’s a consistent brand being demonstrated.
According to a Gallup report, companies with high employee engagement levels are 202% more effective than those without. This not only impacts company culture but also translates into better brand advocacy. Your employees are not just the best advocates for your brand; they are the lifeblood of your employee brand, spreading the word through social networks and generating invaluable word of mouth. A top employee doesn’t just meet targets; they also serve as a brand advocate, amplifying your brand’s voice in their social circles.
When a company develops its brand, it needs to unveil its branding statements to employees and then get employee buy-in on the branding. This will ensure that employee presentation matches the brand of the company.
Can focus more intently on a single role
Especially in small and medium-sized companies, executives tend to wear many hats. Business owners may be in charge of marketing and accounting, as well as being the overall company leader, for example. Employees have the luxury of focusing on just one slice of the company pie and making sure that they do their job very well.
Whereas other company officials might feel the need to adapt their branding representation depending on which hat they’re wearing right now, employees have just one job to do. As salespeople, as customer service staff, or as IT help, they are working to complete one task, and they have the ability to make sure that they do it very well. Leads developed through employee advocacy convert 7x more frequently than other leads.
Employee advocacy in remote work settings
You’ve got your employees working from home, and that’s great for flexibility. But here’s the snag: How do you keep brand advocacy alive when everyone is miles apart? In a traditional office, it’s easier. Casual conversations by the coffee machine or team lunches naturally lead to brand-related discussions. But in a remote setting, these organic interactions are missing. Your employees might feel disconnected, not just from the office but from the brand they represent. Maintaining a consistent brand voice across all customer touchpoints, from social media to customer service, is essential for building trust.
Your team members are in their home offices, detached from the company culture and the brand they’re supposed to advocate. The risk? A diluted brand message. When employees aren’t steeped in your company culture daily, the brand message can get lost in translation. They might be interacting with clients via Zoom or Slack, but if they’re not feeling the brand, they’re not selling it either. This isn’t just a missed opportunity; it’s a potential setback.
So, how do you turn this around? First, make your virtual workspace a brand-positive environment. Use digital tools that allow for “watercooler” moments. Apps like Donut on Slack can randomly pair employees for virtual coffee breaks. Second, keep the brand conversation going. Regularly share brand updates and success stories in virtual town halls. Finally, recognize and reward virtual brand advocacy. Use gamification strategies to track brand mentions and client interactions, rewarding top advocates with perks that matter to them.
Deeply invested in business success
If a company has done its job of building its brand properly, employees will be both deeply invested in the company’s overall success, and in the success of the brand in particular. Employees will understand why the different elements of the brand were chosen, and feel confident that they can properly represent the brand to the customers and clients with whom they interact.
Proud employees will genuinely share the brand’s values with customers. It won’t feel forced or like the employee is checking items off on a script because they believe in what they’re doing. When employees are empowered, they naturally become brand ambassadors, passionately representing the company’s values in every customer interaction.
Building a brand through marketing, advertising, and company policy is important, but if your employees aren’t prepared to back your brand, you will struggle to get the penetration necessary to create long-term business success. Companies with strong employee advocacy programs have seen a 5% increase in customer retention rates.
Employee advocacy in crisis management
When a crisis hits, the spotlight often turns to the C-suite and PR teams. But what about your employees? They’re the ones on the front lines, engaging with customers and stakeholders. Training your employees in crisis management isn’t just a precaution; it’s a strategic move. Equip them with the right tools and knowledge, such as a well-defined crisis communication plan and real-time updates. This empowers them to act swiftly and maintain brand integrity when it matters most.
In a crisis, every tweet, customer interaction, and internal communication counts. Employees who are well-versed in your brand’s values can turn a potential PR nightmare into a demonstration of company integrity. Employee advocates are your secret weapon in enhancing brand image; they speak from experience, adding a layer of authenticity that resonates with audiences. For instance, during a product recall, employees can use their social media platforms to share transparent updates and actionable steps, effectively becoming your brand’s most credible spokespeople. This not only mitigates damage but can also enhance your brand’s reputation for being honest and responsible.
Research shows that employees have, on average, 10 times more followers than their company’s social media accounts. This means that employees can significantly extend the reach of company messages.
So, how do you make this happen? Start with regular training sessions that include role-playing exercises and real-world scenarios. Use these sessions to also update your team on any legal considerations they should be aware of, ensuring that their advocacy adheres to regulations. Recognize and reward those who excel in these training sessions with incentives that resonate with them, from career development opportunities to tangible perks. This creates a culture of preparedness and proactive brand advocacy that can be your saving grace in turbulent times. A brand advocate doesn’t just promote your products; they also provide valuable feedback that can be instrumental in shaping future marketing strategies.
The legal do’s and don’ts of employee advocacy
Striking a balance in the realm of employee advocacy is close to walking a fine line. You want your team members to actively champion your brand, but it’s crucial to sidestep any legal hazards that could jeopardize your business. Take, for example, the regulations set forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These guidelines require that all endorsements must accurately reflect the endorser’s genuine experiences or views. Consequently, when your employees post online, they are obligated to transparently disclose their relationship with your company. Consider the fallout if a customer discovers an enthusiastic review of your product came from an undisclosed employee. This isn’t merely a public relations hiccup; it’s a legal blunder that could lead to significant financial penalties.
But legal compliance isn’t just about dodging penalties; it’s an opportunity to build trust. Transparency is key. Make sure your employees are aware of what they can and cannot say online. Develop a comprehensive employee advocacy guide that outlines these legal boundaries, and offer training sessions to ensure everyone’s on the same page. This proactive approach not only protects your company but also empowers your employees. They’ll feel more confident in their roles as brand advocates, knowing they have the information they need to represent your brand legally and ethically.
So, how do you strike the balance between advocacy and legality? It starts with education. Regularly update your employees on any changes in advertising and endorsement laws. Use real-world examples to illustrate the consequences of non-compliance. Remember, an informed employee is an empowered one, and empowerment is the cornerstone of effective brand advocacy. By taking these steps, you’re not just ticking off legal boxes; you’re fostering a culture of responsible advocacy that benefits both your brand and your bottom line.
How employee advocacy translates into hard numbers
Ever heard that data speaks the truth? Let’s explore the compelling financial advantages of employee advocacy. Research from LinkedIn reveals that businesses boasting robust employee advocacy initiatives experience a 26% boost in annual revenue. In B2B marketing, the power of employee advocacy can’t be underestimated; it adds a layer of credibility that traditional advertising often lacks. That’s more than just a statistic; it underlines the transformative effect of a workforce genuinely committed to your brand. When staff members disseminate company information on social media platforms, the content garners eight times the engagement it would if shared by the brand alone. This opens up a treasure trove of organic reach you can leverage.
Employee advocacy does more than amplify your brand; it also trims your expenses. Consider this: Having your staff act as brand champions essentially creates a high-impact marketing initiative that doesn’t break the bank. Take Cisco as an example; they shaved an estimated $12 million off their annual advertising budget thanks to their employee advocacy efforts. Such significant savings can be reallocated to vital sectors within your organization. 92% of consumers trust recommendations from individuals over brands, even if they don’t know the person. Recommendations from people within the company carry significant weight, often influencing potential clients more effectively than a well-crafted ad.
So, what’s the secret sauce? It’s about aligning your employees’ passion with your brand’s mission. When this happens, your employees don’t just become advocates; they become storytellers. They share their positive experiences, and this authentic sharing acts like a magnet, attracting potential customers and retaining existing ones. The result? A win-win situation where both your employees and your business thrive.
Unlocking employee motivation
You’ve empowered your employees with the right tools and environment, but have you ever stopped to think about what really drives them to become brand advocates? Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that can be a game-changer for your internal branding strategies. At its core, the theory suggests that individuals are motivated by a series of hierarchical needs, starting from basic physiological needs to the pinnacle of self-actualization. Now, imagine aligning your company’s internal branding strategies with these needs. When employees’ basic needs are met, they naturally progress towards higher-level needs like esteem and self-actualization, which are crucial for brand advocacy.
But how do you put this into action? First, create a work environment that satisfies lower-level needs like job security and fair compensation. Once that foundation is solid, focus on the higher-level needs. Encourage professional growth, recognize achievements, and most importantly, make your employees feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. This is where the magic happens: employees who feel valued and self-actualized don’t just stay; they become your brand’s most powerful advocates. They’ll not only represent your brand but also infuse their interactions with customers with the same passion they feel.
So, why is this a big deal? Because understanding the psychological factors that motivate your employees can lead to a more effective and resonant internal branding strategy. You’re not just ticking boxes; you’re creating a symbiotic relationship between your brand and your employees. This is the secret sauce to not just building a brand, but a legacy. By tailoring your internal branding strategies to align with psychological theories like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’re not just empowering employees—you’re elevating them.
Building an employee advocacy program from scratch
So, you’re convinced that your employees are the untapped goldmine for your brand advocacy, but where do you start? The first step is to establish a clear framework. You need to identify the objectives of your advocacy program. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive more sales, or perhaps improve customer satisfaction? Once you’ve got your goals in place, it’s time to set some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These could range from tracking the number of social shares and mentions by your employees to more complex metrics like Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) or Net Promoter Score (NPS) impacted by employee interactions.
You can’t expect your employees to be brand advocates without equipping them properly. Invest in an employee advocacy platform that allows you to manage, track, and measure your program’s success. These platforms often come with features like content libraries where employees can find brand-approved content to share, and leaderboards to gamify the experience. But remember, the tool is only as good as the strategy behind it. Conduct regular training sessions and create easy-to-follow guidelines so your employees know what’s expected of them.
Your employees are more likely to be engaged advocates if they know their efforts are valued. Implement a rewards system tied to the KPIs you’ve set. This could be as simple as a monthly shoutout in the company newsletter or as tangible as a bonus. But don’t just throw rewards at them; make it meaningful. Align the rewards with what motivates your employees, whether it’s career advancement opportunities, financial incentives, or even just public recognition. This is where understanding your team’s motivations can turn a good advocacy program into a great one.
The future landscape of employee advocacy
Hold onto your seats because the landscape of employee advocacy is undergoing a seismic shift, thanks to cutting-edge technologies. Imagine a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) not only automates mundane tasks but also personalizes your advocacy strategies. Platforms like EveryoneSocial and PostBeyond are integrating AI algorithms to analyze employee engagement metrics, thereby tailoring content that resonates with individual brand advocates. The result? A hyper-focused approach that amplifies your brand’s voice while making each employee feel like a valued contributor.
But wait, there’s more. Machine learning is stepping onto the scene, adding another layer of sophistication. It’s not just about automating content distribution anymore; it’s about optimizing it. Machine learning algorithms can predict the best times for employees to post and even suggest modifications to enhance engagement. For instance, Smarp, an employee communication platform, uses machine learning to analyze the success rates of different types of content, offering real-time suggestions for improvement. This is a game-changer, folks. It means your advocacy program becomes a living, breathing entity, continually evolving to hit those KPIs.
Now, let’s talk numbers, because we all know data doesn’t lie. According to a study by Altimeter, companies that have embraced these emerging technologies have seen a 20% increase in customer engagement and a 15% boost in employee satisfaction. So, if you’re still on the fence about integrating AI and machine learning into your employee advocacy program, these stats should tip the scales. It’s not just about staying ahead; it’s about pioneering a new era of employee engagement and brand advocacy.
Unique Insights and Practical Tips
- Leverage Employee Networks for Localized Marketing: If your business operates in multiple locations, encourage employees to share geo-specific content. This can be particularly effective for local SEO and can help in targeting community-based keywords.
- Implement a Tiered Reward System for Advocacy: Instead of a one-size-fits-all rewards program, consider a tiered system that offers escalating rewards based on the level of engagement an employee generates. This can motivate employees to become more active advocates.
- Utilize Employee-Generated Content in Paid Campaigns: With their permission, use high-performing posts from employees in your paid social media campaigns. This can add an authentic voice to your promotions and potentially lower your cost per click due to higher engagement rates.
- Conduct Regular “Brand Health Checks” with Employees: Periodically survey your employees to gauge their understanding and sentiment towards your brand. Use this data to refine your internal communications and advocacy programs.
- Incorporate Advocacy in Onboarding: Don’t wait for employees to get acclimated. Include brand advocacy training as part of your onboarding process. This sets the expectation right from the start and allows new hires to feel immediately involved in the company’s success.
Myths and Misconceptions
Employee Advocacy is Just a Trend
Employee advocacy is often dismissed as a passing trend, but data suggests otherwise. According to a study by the Marketing Advisory Network, 31% of high-growth firms have a formal employee advocacy program, proving its long-term viability.
Employees Don’t Want to Share Company Content
Despite common misconceptions, employees are actually eager to disseminate content related to their company. Research from LinkedIn shows that such content is three times more likely to be shared by employees compared to other forms of content.
Employee Advocacy is Risky Due to Potential Negative Posts
Contrary to the concern that employees may circulate negative material, the reality is usually quite different. When employees are invested in and passionate about the brand, they evolve into its most genuine champions. Proper training and clear guidelines can additionally minimize any associated risks.
Employee Advocacy Doesn’t Affect the Bottom Line
Employee endorsement significantly influences both sales and revenue. A PostBeyond report reveals that leads generated through this method convert at a rate seven times higher than those sourced differently.
Only Large Companies Benefit from Employee Advocacy
Even small and medium-sized enterprises can gain substantial advantages. Research by the Aberdeen Group shows that companies implementing formal employee advocacy initiatives have boosted their customer retention rates by 5%.