What is employee advocacy? Turn your colleagues into fans
Learn how your employees can become your most valuable influencers.
We here at Prezly love to discuss how to create fans. Fans can be anyone: a customer, a collaborator, your mom, your mom's mom. Ideally, though, your company's biggest fans should be people who work for the company. This is where the power of employee advocacy comes in.
Buckle up, we're about to discuss what employee advocacy is, why it's so effective, and how to use it to spread your company's message.
In simple terms, employee advocacy is leveraging your employee's love of your product or service and sharing that love with their audiences.
I mean, think about it. Who should theoretically enjoy your product more than the people who make it?
Employee advocacy can look like a lot of things.
It could be one of your staff tweeting out their support for the company's newest updates.
Maybe it's an employee sharing about a company CSR event or initiative that they feel particularly passionate about.
Maybe it's the CEO who loves his own product and the sound of his own voice so much that he actively uses the software to tank the brand!
But really, anything your staff do to share their love for the company is employee advocacy in action. Often this will come about organically if your employees feel empowered to create a product or service they love. But occasionally, you can nudge them in the right direction too.
A sad fact is that people just don't care that much about businesses or brands. I mean, it's a sad fact for the brands. It's a relatively neutral fact for everyone else. But I digress. Businesses and brands simply don't garner the same sort of emotional reaction as real people.
Even studies have shown that social posts shared by actual people are 8x more likely to receive engagement that corporate accounts. Why else would companies invest so much of their marketing budgets in mascots, influencers, and celebrities?
Plenty of studies have shown that people don't really trust brands all that much, either. There's been a huge push toward creative storytelling in marketing to counteract this lack of trust, as well as to humanize brands and make them less sterile and corporate and more fun and funky.
A huge part of that is showing the behind-the-scenes of corporations and putting employee faces front-and-center so customers (and potential customers) feel more connected and subsequently more brand loyal.
A big example of this is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has become a huge industry, with over $6 billion estimated to be spent on influencer marketing in 2023 alone. And while influencer marketing can come with its own set of ethical issues, it is stlil a remarkably effective marketing strategy.
But many companies don't realize that they have their own set of micro-influencers already under their own roof: their employees. While influencers spend the lion's share of their time trying to get strangers to care about them via the power of parasocial relationships, your employees already have curated audiences of people who actually do care about them (their grandmothers, high school besties, book club enemies, and more).
Okay, through the magical power of persuasive content marketing, you've been convinced that employee advocacy isn't only a good idea, it's a great idea. So, how do you get started?
One study published in the Harvard Business Review evaluated the behavior of 30,000 employees and found that empowered employees showed higher levels of creativity, innovation, and passion outside of their official job titles.
Leaders who were perceived as more empowering were more likely to delegate authority to their employees, ask for their input, and encourage autonomous decision-making. And they were more likely to have employees who were rated, by either their leader or colleagues, as being highly creative and good organizational citizens. Specifically, this type of leadership seems to encourage employees to generate novel ideas and think of new ways of doing things, and to help others in the workplace, volunteer for extra assignments, and be willing to support their organization outside of an official capacity.
So, what does this mean for your organization? Trust your employees to do cool things, empower their creativity, and they'll get excited to advocate on behalf of your organization. Employees that feel like a cog in the wheel are less likely to hype up your brand organically.
Obviously, the people who work for your brand are inundated with the company product all day, every day. But do they use it in their personal lives? Have they found interesting use cases for your service?
For example, some very cool cats at Prezly have not only started a book club, but they've also created an entire Site around their various literary musings. Is this an officially-sanctioned Prezly use case? Definitely not, but it works fantastically for said aforementioned very cool employees and shows how versatile Prezly can be and how quickly it is to set up a professional-looking hub for even the silliest of purposes.
No need to overthink it.
Marketing is not always at the forefront of everyone's mind (weird, I know). Employees, even happy ones, may not think to share interesting company updates, new features, or cool happenings.
Encouraging employee advocacy can be as easy as distributing sharable graphics, giving your team "swag" to use, or creating a company hashtag that becomes part of the brand identity.
Okay, this isn't really a step, but stick with me.
The caveat to asking your team to advocate for your company is that you can ask them to share, but don't demand it. Nothing ruins a good time like corporate-mandated social media PR efforts, right? If your employees don't want to share on their personal accounts for whatever reason, they shouldn't have to.
Some employees aren't advocates simply because they don't know what's okay (and not okay) to share on their socials. There have been a number of public firings (or warnings) because of employees posting in or about the company, like this Walmart employee who showcased her workday on TikTok and was allegedly fired for it.
Letting your staff know what is permissible on social media may empower them to put the word out there (in ways that don't break any NDAs).
There's really no limit to the kinds of advocacy your employees can engage in. Some popular forms of employee advocacy include:
- Have your employees share cool updates on their socials. This is the most common and low-barrier form of employee advocacy because it can be shared with their LinkedIn/Instagram/Facebook/Threads/Mastadon(?) audiences quickly and easily.
- Ask them to help find new recruits. If your company is hiring, use your employee's professional network to find great new staff.
- Host friendly competitions. Having fun, engaging competitions for your team (as well as prizes and recognition, of course) is a fun way to get employees excited about company initiatives.
- Develop some awesome CSR initiatives. Get your team excited about doing good for the community by planning a volunteer event or fundraiser and encouraging your employees to get involved. Here's a neat list of CSR initiative examples to get you started.
- Ask them to write employee reviews. Want your company to have a good reputation on things like Glassdoor and LinkedIn? Ask your current employees to share their honest reviews.
Your team can be some of your biggest fans and advocates. Empower them, give them the tools they need to showcase your brand, and let them shine!
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