Here’s the definitive guide to understanding what employee advocacy is and how it can help your career.
Among its other guises such as employee brand advocacy or social selling, employee advocacy has become the latest buzz phrase, especially in marketing, sales and HR departments. It taps into all stages of the customer journey and the employee journey on a personal level. In essence, it serves everyone in different ways.
In this article we’re going to focus solely on you, the employee. Whatever your role is, you’re going to learn exactly what employee advocacy is, how it works, and importantly, how it’s going to benefit you.
What is it?
Employee Advocacy empowers you and your colleagues to become brand ambassadors, by motivating you to share interesting content within your own social communities. Why? Well, you may not be a part of the PR team, you may not even be a part of marketing or sales, but you (the individual ambassador) are a powerful PR machine without even knowing it.
Consumers and customers trust you more than they do your company’s PR team - as good as they may be! That’s right, according studies from Nielsen 92% of people are going trust your recommendation over your company’s own corporate PR (corporate social media accounts and ads).
That makes perfect sense when you think about how important word of mouth or a recommendation from a friend is. Think about the last time you hired a tradesman or even chose a restaurant. If you’ve worked in retail you’ve probably had friends buy products from your store not just to try and get a discount, but because they trust you more than the do the sales guys at the the competitor down the road.
You're also more popular than your company, congratulations! Just kidding, it doesn’t work quite like that. But according to studies from the MLS Group, employees combined are connected to 10x more people than their employers online. Better than that, your posts will likely get over 500% more reach too. Your team has the potential to unlock a huge untapped market for your company.
Right now it looks like you’re holding all the aces but all of the benefits will go to your business. That’s not the case and we’ll get to why, but first let’s look at how employee advocacy works.
How does it work?
You’re a brand advocate in many ways, from delivering good customer service, giving good advice or just by being amazing at your job. The foundation of Employee Advocacy lies in the content that your company distributes online, which is why it’s commonly seen simply as a marketing tool, mistakenly I hasten to add.
The basic explanation for how it works is that you and your colleagues extend the reach of company content by sharing it with your own online networks, where it's relevant. It’s important that you know what to share and this is where your company comes in. Employee advocacy programs start with the company first creating the framework for you to feel safe and motivated about sharing content. This isn’t necessarily by setting rules like in your staff handbook, but more an agreed program given you the specific tools for the task.
Different audiences have different interests. For example, if I’m the head of sales for Nike’s basketball shoe department (dream job), my online networks probably won’t appreciate me posting content about Nike golf clubs all of the time. Creating a framework is important for sharing goals and removing any anxieties about your employee advocacy program.
You can begin life as an advocate as soon as all of this is in place. How you share and with which networks depends entirely on your audience and your own personal gains. For example, I tend to share one or maybe two posts a day that are related to my industry or interests (marketing, tech news, company content). 95% of the time I share this with my professional LinkedIn network, and my Twitter followers (because these are also mostly professional) where I know it’ll provide real value. You might wonder, why not Facebook? I don’t think my close friends and family are really interested in this stuff, so I leave them out of it.
How does it benefit you?
OK now for the best bit, the benefits. Employee advocacy programs are engrained in company culture because they can include practically anyone and everyone. The best examples of employee advocacy programs include gamification and rewards to employees who participate. That can be a trophy, a donation to your favourite charity or any other prize that you’ve agreed on with your program champion. There are other ways you can have fun with it too, like splitting into teams and competing for bonus points in challenges.
With 84% of companies using social media for recruitment, it's important to boost and nurture your own personal brand, advocacy can be the way forward in doing so.
Boosting your online personal brand will open a lot of doors, whether that’s more sales conversions, better engagement on your marketing content or even if you’re looking for a new job. You may think that sharing content as a brand advocate just helps boost your company’s profile but actually as your social accounts fill up with valuable content and as your network grows (which it will), you become a trusted expert.
According to a study from Hinge, 47% of advocates have developed new skills, with a growing demand, social media being one of them. With these skills and measurable gamification metrics, like a points system or simply keeping track of the engagement of your shares, you’ll have much better leverage for salary negotiations or even promotion talks. Think of your professional social accounts as your CV but supercharged!
86% of employees who act as advocates credit their social media activity as having a positive impact on their career. Sound good? If so, you need to learn more about employee advocacy and share it with your team. It may be a positive step for your company, but it will be a giant leap for your future career prospects.