Does your audience trust your brand? Do they engage with you in a positive way?
If your answers are yes to both questions, then you’re one of the few lucky ones. Because the truth is, the consumer’s trust in brands is very low – and it continues to fall. These are issues that many brands struggle with: gaining their audiences’ trust and driving positive engagements with them both online and offline.
But luckily, every brand has an amazing asset that can help: their very own employees.
“A company’s employees are its greatest asset and your people are your product”
Employee advocacy is a tactic that is slowly gaining traction in the marketing world, with more and more brands leveraging their employees to promote the brand in all kinds of unique and exciting ways. And the results are often amazing.
One great example of employee advocacy comes from Johnsonville, a sausage company based in Wisconsin. For one of their advertising campaigns, they tried something completely unique: they asked all of their employees that were willing to participate to come up with ideas for the ads. Over 100 of their employees came up with ideas – and the best ones were turned into actual advertisements, like the Regular Speed Chase, by Brett:
Not only that, but they also created behind-the-scenes videos from when they were filming the ads and posted about the campaign on their blog and social media, including reactions from their CEO. With well over 1.5 million views generated just on YouTube, it’s safe to say that the campaign was a huge success.
Other brands, like Starbucks, regularly leverage their employees to talk about their brand on social media. So much so, that they created accounts on most major social networks – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – where their “partners” (aka their employees) can post updates regularly:
Their accounts have accumulated over 500k fans and followers and they often drive very high engagement rates on posts.
There’s a big reason why brands are increasingly using this tactic: people will always trust other people more than they will ever trust brands. Plus, your employees probably have a bigger reach than your brand does – and they’re likely generating more engagement as well. In fact, a study from the MSLGroup found that brand messages shared by employees reached 561% more people than the same messages when shared via the brand’s official social channels. Not only that, but they also see more engagement – 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels, to be specific.
And the thing is, it’s quite likely that your employees are already posting content about your brand: 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use – and studies found that about 50% of them are posting updates about the company they work for (source).
So, the question now is, how do you get your own employees involved in your brand’s marketing campaigns? How do you get them to contribute, engage and become an integral part of the company?
Start a Dialogue with Leadership
Before you go to your employees and ask them to participate, you first need to discuss this project with the executives in your company – not just the leadership, but all the various departments as well.
After all, you’ll be using up some of their team’s time to create content so you need to get all of the team leaders and department heads on board to establish:
- Whether they can dispense any time and resources
- How they can contribute
- How much time they can spend on this project
Once you’ve got the go-ahead from everyone, you can start planning your employee advocacy program.
Develop Clear Brand Guidelines
Another essential step you need to take before your employees start posting any content is to develop brand and employee advocacy guidelines. Even better, provide some training – this way, your employees will know exactly what they can and can’t post and how they can ensure they’re in line with brand policies and guidelines.
Here’s a great example from Humana, the health insurance providers:
Their advocates – aka their employees – can attend a training webinar to learn what they need to know. They call employees to use a specific hashtag whenever they post something about the brand. And they provide a resource where employees can find content to share on their personal profiles, as well as submit content for others to share.
Get Your Employees to Participate
Employee advocacy should never be mandatory since this isn’t a part of their normal role. Making it mandatory will likely put off a lot of your employees which defeats the purpose of this campaign. Rather, you should simply invite them to participate if they want to:
- Send a company-wide newsletter talking about your employee advocacy program and explaining how it all works
- Make it as easy as possible for people to create and share content: use a centralized platform where everyone can share content and ideas, provide your employees with content they can share and suggest hashtags they can use
- Consider offering free training for blogging, social media, and content creation to entice your employees to take part
- Explain why they should take part and start sharing: what’s in it for them? What’s the incentive?
Offer Rewards for Employee Participation
One of the easiest and most effective ways to get your employees involved in your employee advocacy program is to offer them rewards for participating. After all, you need to make it worthwhile for them too – not just for your brand. A great way to do this and to encourage even more participation from your employees is to gamify the experience: offering rewards based on performance using leaderboards.
A great example of this comes from Cisco; their idea was to leverage summer interns to promote their brand on social media. In order to do this, they created a contest for all interns, whereby everyone could post updates on their social profiles using the #WeAreCisco hashtag – the intern who got the most engagement would win an Apple Watch.
You don’t necessarily have to do a contest; there are numerous other ways you can encourage your employees with rewards:
- Highlight top sharers and any employees who generate great results with their blog posts, social media content, vlogs and so on
- Offer rewards such as coupons and gift cards for reaching certain milestones
- Re-share your employees’ best content on your brand’s official channels to recognize their efforts
Increase Trust, Engagement and Sales by Leveraging Your Employees
Your employees can be huge assets for your brand – not just for the work they do for you, but also because of their huge marketing potential. In fact, they can be your very own micro-influencers and help you reach more people, increase trust in your brand, products and services, and help increase your sales.
To create a successful employee advocacy program, start by discussing this project with your company and department leaders. Then, develop clear guidelines and provide your future advocates with all the tools and resources they need to create and post content about your brand.
And finally, invite your employees to participate in your program and encourage them to start posting by offering various incentives and rewards.