HR, sales and marketing are key components to any company, and all three departments ultimately aim for sales: sales of the company’s products and services, its image and wellbeing.
Companies do realize the benefits of good branding and networking. Effective branding boosts sales, recruitment and marketing efforts. The role of social media is also significantly altering the branding strategies implemented by companies.
Employee advocacy is about branding the company on all levels, top to bottom and inside out. It’s also about leveraging employees’ networks for increased and improved branding. Consistent branding is the winning strategy; minimizing any loose ends of branding lead to more effective departmental efforts.
Altimeter’s study Social Media Advocacy: Tapping into the power of an engaged workforce by Ed Terpening reveals that while CMOs are often in charge of Employee Advocacy programs, effective Employee Advocacy programs result from a close collaboration between marketing and HR. The participation of all departments is beneficial, and the role of management buy-in for communicating and boosting the program internally is essential for its success.
Having said that, there are some very specific aspects to how Employee Advocacy can influence and benefit HR, sales and marketing respectively.
The role of HR is sometimes to act as a gateway between the company’s and employees’ interests, and always to work towards the benefit of both parties. Employee Advocacy acts a connecting force that ties the employer to the employees, different departments more closely together, and also drives the company towards the customer. This facilitates HR’s job of tying strings together, when there is more collaboration and fewer silos and gaps.
An Employee Advocacy program speaks for what is expected of employees as advocates, as well as what the company stands for. HR’s role is made easier, when the social media guidelines – which the program entails – and a common cultural code are in place. Whether it is about encouraging staff to collaborate internally or with external instances, coworking is “here to stay”.
Employee Advocacy affects engagement in a tangible way. Employee engagement correlates with better business results, as emotionally connected employees will better contribute to the firm’s success. Engaged and recognized employees experience their workplace positively, and want to pass this feeling along to their networks. It’s a circular motion; passing on this feeling of engagement also leads to that positive feeling.
The top two emotions which Altimeter’s study reveals employees report after sharing employer content are:
- -Feeling more connected and enthusiastic about the company they work for
- -Having a better understanding of the employer’s business
By providing employees with the voice of the brand, the company extends an authority to the employees that has previously been the privilege of the employer. It’s a token of trust and speaks for a more modern, open company culture with fewer hierarchies and encouraged participation.
An Employee Advocacy program affects the passing of information; it can act as an internal messenger, in addition to the front it provides to the outside world. Organizations that operate in several business units or different geographical locations, and those with a large staff count in particular have something to gain from this informative dimension. Through the Employee Advocacy platform, they can spread information to their employees, reducing the risk of employees not being able to recognize the company’s functions outside of their own business unit, and gaps in information flow.
Employee Advocacy is a meeting of minds between employer and employee, as Sarah Goodall says, and it increases insights on both sides. In addition to the employee getting to know the company in more depth, the employer can judge the employee by a different set of skills than those involved in their everyday work – the type of information that only materializes in the world of social media. It creates the foundation for a more in-depth knowledge on both sides. Which employees are socially savvy? Which employees have the “right” connections? Whose share generated over a 100 clicks? These facts can have important implications for working relationships and the allocation of roles.
Recruitment is one of the most straightforward beneficiaries of Employee Advocacy. By looking into employees’ networks for recruitment purposes, companies support the notion that people have connections similar to themselves. The importance of making a hire that fits the company culture is becoming increasingly important, and it is often even favored over the applicant’s skills.
Employee Advocacy also simply increases the likelihood of applicants within the employees’ networks to apply. 44.5% of job seekers will more likely apply to a position, when they spot it on a familiar person’s profile, rather than the company or recruiter’s feed, statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management reveal.
Supercell is looking for Server Engineers to our Services Team! Read more here: http://t.co/TTuUXpchPk
— Ilkka Paananen (@ipaananen) May 9, 2014
Even if it’s the CEO himself.
Comparing analytics from the Employee Advocacy software with recruitment software reveals the cost-effectiveness of social recruiting with employees and how much traction the posting of job ads through the platform produces (thank you, UTM tags). Instead of paying several hundred euros for a single ad on a single social media channel, the employees’ reach can be leveraged for free, with better targeting. UPS demonstrated an effective social recruiting strategy, where the cost of hire went from $600/700 to $60/70 per hire, after transferring its investments from print to social media between 2005 and 2010.
Different, more personalized sales process
Social media is a more personal way to sell, a fact salespeople no longer overlook. Selling on social media has made it increasingly easy to engage and connect. Here, salespeople leverage their empathetic abilities and factor in the customer’s needs instead of just their own, when they can quickly receive feedback and solve problems for others, while also monitoring new trends for their own selling.
Emotional connections matter for purchasing decisions. Social media helps to establish emotional connections with consumers and employees, as Altimeter and LinkedIn’s report demonstrates. Salespeople can connect with prospects, when engaging in a place of word-of-mouth communications and social channels that often combine personal and professional. Social media allows a sneak peek to the humans that salespeople are.
There is an inbound aspect to generating sales through content on social media; interested prospects can initiate the conversation with the advocates, based on their own interests, instead of the salesperson always making the first move. The position of social media in the sales funnel has been perceived in different ways. In terms of guiding purchasing decisions, social media allows a specific process to take place, one that is interactional and places the prospects’ needs at the forefront.
It’s not just about sales
When doing social selling through Employee Advocacy, the social media network on the receiving end of the content plays an important part. For the content to fare well and the audience to remain engaged, the audience’s interests must be applied to the content that is shared.
When the objective is to provide value to the networks too, sales is less about sales, and more about education and insight. The expertise of the employee equal the company’s expertise in the eyes of the reader. And that can be turned into real value, for sales and other purposes, when leads become interested and want to know more about this expertise.
For the content to not be dismissed as too sales-oriented, it must provide actual value to the reader. 49% of Employee Advocates in the US report that wanting their friends to better understand what they do is a motivation for sharing work-related content, Altimeter has surveyed. The figure is lower in Europe: 29%, but significant, nevertheless.
This is where thought leadership kicks in, too. It is one of the key aspects which Employee Advocacy is linked to. It is about providing insightful material, social media content of value to the readers. It’s not just about audience engagement, either; thought leadership also has many positive effects on employees.
Creates a cross-departmental top-of-mind
When people share professional content on social media, they can influence their networks, regardless of the department they work for. It’s no longer the sales department trying to make a sale; all departments participate by association. Employee Advocacy demonstrates this in terms of results. What the salesperson’s tech colleague shared on their social media account is just as important as what the salesperson shares, if the outcome is a lead.
This collaboration works best with the right combination of people, process and technology; Running an Employee Advocacy program without a tool is a very manual and time-consuming process, with an intangible ROI. Tying the CRM with the platform will, instead, provide insight into what kind and whose content leads to sales.
Evolving function of content
As Content Manager, I believe that content is the essence of marketing. Although the effects of good content are not always easily measurable, the results of bad content are abundantly clear, and it can drive away prospects (and anyone) for good. Employee Advocacy allows for the effects of content to be measured through its reach, average click rate, engagement figures, EEMV and ROI. This information can be used to optimize content and its spread in channel- and audience-specific ways.
Moving beyond metrics, though, social media is changing the type of content marketing that marketers do. An Employee Advocacy platform often becomes an established content distribution channel in its own right, and it includes social media into the content marketing strategy in a specific way. It’s a process of spreading content, where the employee can act as a reader and content curator, as they can choose and comment on the posts they share.
Employee Advocacy and influencer networking
Influencers matter in the digital era. 70.6% believe that ambassadorships are the most effective type of influencer marketing strategy. Acting as an influencer on social media is not only easy to its distribution qualities, it is considered to yield better results than sponsored content due to its authenticity. This is one of the basic principles behind employee ambassadorship, too: Employees become influencers in their own networks (and hopefully further) through the professional content they share and the connections they make with other influencers.
Becoming an influencer is equally as much about creating engagement and bringing the right people together as it is about the things being said. It’s about increasing reach, raising the right questions and having informative answers. High-quality content that provides solutions to current problems spark discussions and draw in comments from interested, relevant people.
Networking with intent
Employee Advocacy touches upon the targeting of social networking. There is a real need for a professional market network to remove the general network with no substance. Networks should have motivation to connect each other and genuinely shared interests instead of superficial and unnurtured connections. Curated content on social media is a gateway to shared interests and spontaneous connecting.
Effective networking is the pillar of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), dubbed the most important social media; its foundation lies in connecting over collecting followers. Better networking equals more meaningful marketing collaborations and relevant brand exposure.
Humanizing the brand is a key motivation for companies starting and maintaining an Employee Advocacy program.
Employee Advocacy serves as a way to bring the human aspect into marketing, as it combines B2B and B2C in the setting of social media. Up to 20% of employees have shared content related to their daily workplace, and 17% on community involvement, compared to the 9% who have shared product promotions, discounts or deals, Altimeter reveals.
People prefer a personal connection in marketing – stories over cold facts – because storytelling activates the experiencing part of the brain. Do we read Richard Branson’s vision of entrepreneurship on LinkedIn or a bulletin list of entrepreneurship trends for 2017? Well, most likely both, but the first is likely to draw in more engagement.
Content that produces brand awareness through blog posts, articles and real stories go a long way in establishing emotional connections between a consumer and a brand. Employees are likely to pass on blog posts written by their colleagues and content that illustrates their industry through a personal lens, because it’s relatable content. The audience is likely to relate to it too, and marketers know this.
Collaboration and potential = Success
The success of any business relies on departments working together towards a common cause, and employees working towards their full potential, dedicated to their company. Employee Advocacy touches upon the potential of the collective, and the potential of individuals.
When implemented and communicated across the organization, all departments contribute to the Employee Advocacy program. When all units are involved, communication abounds. And the cycle continues.
Annika Rautakoura works as a Content Specialist at Smarp, where she manages the Employee Advocacy blog. She frequents different blogs and spreads the good word of social media. Follow her on Twitter @AnnikaRautakou.
More on this topic at Employee Advocacy: The Ultimate Handbook.