Employee Advocacy is the practice of turning employees into brand ambassadors, and leveraging their networks on social media to spread the brand’s message. A recent research study conducted by the Hinge Research Institute in partnership with Social Media Today found that a formal employee advocacy program benefits both, the employer and the employee.
86 percent of employees who were part of a formal advocacy program said participating in it had a positive impact on their career. Such employees noted several benefits, some of which were:
- Being recognized as thought leaders among their peers
- Being able to grow their professional network
- Being able to keep up with industry trends
- Being able to recognize and develop new skills that were in demand
Among the firms that had an employee advocacy program in place, only 3.5 percent of them said they hadn’t yet reaped any benefits from it. Nearly 80 percent of them said they enjoyed better visibility in the market, thanks to their employees’ efforts in social media advocacy. A few other benefits that these firms enjoy included:
- Increased inbound web traffic
- Improved search engine rankings
- More content downloads
- Better customer service
- Reduced marketing costs
- Higher conversion rates
Employee advocacy trumps other marketing efforts particularly because of the position that employees hold. They are perceived as insiders and are thus more trust-worthy in the eyes of your prospects. Several companies are leveraging this marketing technique to grow their business and create a favorable brand image.
For example, SpinGo.com and BikiniLuxe have run extremely successful employee advocacy programs.
Here’s what they did.
Success Story #1: SpinGo.com
We interviewed Colin Matthes, who is a Content Marketing Specialist at SpinGo.com, and what they’ve done is rather interesting. Although their employee advocacy program is only about 6 months old, they’re already beginning to see some great results.
“We have been running this program for the last few months here at SpinGo, and we have seen an increase in followers, likes, engagement, and reach. As we continue to share through LinkedIn, we make connections and expand our business opportunities.
We are still currently running the social media advocacy program. The goal is to implement this permanently, which takes time and effort on our part. We started it in September 2015 with the goal to boost awareness and increase our social influence.
30 employees have participated in it. (We have 35 employees total, but not everybody has social media).
Engagement has increased on our two main platforms, LinkedIn and Facebook by:
Our employees have shared company highlights, such as the benefits of working with the company, product launches, and then mostly fun events coming up around the city. One of our major products is an event calendar, so this makes it easy to share on social pages. For example, if an awesome concert is coming up this weekend, then they will share it with a friend. It feels natural and like it would belong on Facebook.
It can still be difficult to get people to share information on Facebook because it involves a personal brand as opposed to LinkedIn, which focuses on a professional brand. So I try my best to post information on Facebook that would be likeable or shareable and that doesn’t have SpinGo branding all over it. We still have to talk to our customers through social media, but finding the right content to publish and post goes a long ways towards getting employee engagement.
I have also noticed that content that focuses heavily on business gets shared less by employees than a post that talks about some of the awesome benefits we receive by working at SpinGo. People like to share how awesome their workplace is because they get to go on hikes during the week, or they get to play laser tag at lunch, etc. People are more willing to share that than to share information about the profit and growth of a company.”
Key Lessons by Colin Matthes:
“1. Create a specific time each week that employees will like, comment, and share posts on different social media channels. Have the social media manager send out an email on that designated day reminding people to share a specific post on a specific platform. You will be amazed at how many people are willing to participate because of something so simple as an email and asking them to be involved. Then, send them a reminder email either a couple hours later or a day later so that other people remember to do it.
2. Use the social media channel that is right for your company. Depending on what your company does or sells, different social media channels will be more effective than others. You may want everybody to share on Facebook, but LinkedIn may actually be the better option. The hardest part with asking people to share on Facebook is that Facebook is personal. If you share something on your wall, it is a reflection of your own personal brand, and people are hesitant to mix their personal life with their work life. Asking them to share on LinkedIn can be easier as it is a place for business and personal brand isn’t as important.”
Success Story #2: BikiniLuxe.com
Candice Galek, the Founder and CEO of BikiniLuxe also shared with us her experiences in running an employee advocacy program. Being a fashion-forward brand, and having a strong base of employees who act as brand ambassadors really helped them boost their social media presence.
“Something we have done to increase our brand awareness has been the creation of a brand ambassador program and an affiliate program. One of the key requirements to work at BikiniLuxe is that you are a brand ambassador. We have implemented this policy not only for the benefit of the company but also for employee morale.
Keeping the focus on the success of the company we also reward our employees when we reach milestones with products. Our employees then wear these products (or have their girlfriends wear them) and post about it on social media. It is truly a win win!
The affiliate program offers a 15 percent commission on any and all sales that they refer within a 30 day period. This has been a fantastic success and we have had hundreds of affiliates sign up over the last few months. We have gained over 150k new social media followers since starting our program, just over a year ago. We currently have just over 250k followers across our social media channels. (Bikini Luxe is 20 months old since its first sale)
We have seen an increase of 50 percent more brand ambassador sign ups since last year, again this is also hard to measure against its exact cause as we advertise on a number of channels such as contentblvd. We have however seen a spike in sales of specific products that we promote with ambassadors. Within the last 12 months our affiliate payouts have increased 67 percent, I believe this is also due to us expanding from just bikinis to activewear, jewellery and resort wear (bikinis themselves are very seasonal).”
Key Lessons by Candice Galek:
“1. Make your ambassadors (employees) feel special. We do this by re-posting their pictures on Instagram to our followers this helps to increase their social media reach and makes them more popular, and has the added benefit of making us more popular as well, it truly is a win win situation.
2. We offer free products for ambassadors based on the interactions that they get. Someone with 300,000 followers is sometimes less valuable to your company than someone with 30,000 followers who are actually niche followers. It is vital to measure this. You can measure this by reading the quality and content of the comments that they are getting on their posts!”
For more tips on running an effective employee advocacy program do check out this post.