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Employee advocacy #1: Why employees are the new influencers 

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What is influence and who has the power to effect change in your customers or potential buyers? Are you able to measure influence and report on it accurately? How can you grow your circle of influence authentically and sustainably? In a new three-part series, Andrew Seel explains why employee advocacy is on the rise and demonstrates how you can pass the microphone to your colleagues.
Employee advocacy #1: Why employees are the new influencers 

Your brand today is defined by what people say about your organisation.

Traditional advertising has lost the cut-through it once had to sell goods and services as millions put up ad blockers. Authenticity is now critical as Influencers suffer a backlash over transparency and non-disclosure and, post-Cambridge Analytica and in an era of ‘fake news’, who we trust is more important than ever.

Employees have stepped into this space as the new influencers, with their ability to speak with integrity and expertise about a brand, its products, vision and values.

Word-of-mouth marketing is not new but with social media and new tech, the ability for employees to recommend their organisation to their network of friends, family and peers, at scale, is incredibly powerful. Leading brands are now harnessing their best attribute, their people, to gain a commercial advantage.

In this three-part series, we examine: why employees are the new influencers and the key benefits of an employee advocacy programme; who you need on your employee advocacy team; and what business impact you can expect to achieve.


Employee advocacy: Getting started

1. Employees: The new Influencers

Real influence is the ability to cause effect or change behaviour. This is distinct from mere popularity – often seen in Influencer advertising – and is key to understanding why employees offer such an opportunity for brands to reach and engage new audiences.

  • According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
  • Peer-to-peer marketing is the leading driver behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions, says McKinsey.
  • 60% of consumers view “a person like yourself” as credible a source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert, according to Edelman Trust Barometer 2018

People listen to people close to them, and employees help their trusted network make informed decisions, including buying different products and services.

employee advocacy pyramid

Paid media costs continue to increase with brands facing sharp rises to appear in the newsfeed as platforms reach maximum ad load. Responding to consumer demand, Facebook has actively shut out any organic reach by brands – with recent algorithms prioritising friends and family in another move that benefits brands working with employee advocates.

Mass advertising now feels ham-fisted and an exponential rise in ad blockers demonstrates consumers are voting with their feet to experience content in ad-free environments.

Influencer marketing has undergone a significant shift in the last couple of years. Paying influencers simply to promote your brand – that is, Influencer Advertising –has been through its honeymoon period and several high profile gaffes and questions around legitimacy have led to ASA probes into current practises.

“Strategic and thoughtful influence offers the ability to directly reach desired markets through the peers they admire, respect and trust, using their native connection and communication methods.” (The 2018 State of Influence 2.0)

And this is why employee advocacy is now. It’s a cost-effective way to drive referrals, generate leads and increase brand awareness. In the long-term it creates authentic influence and has multiple benefits across an organisation, including higher employee engagement, productivity from connected employees and improved staff retention rates.


2. Employee Advocacy for marketing

One of the key benefits of starting an employee advocacy programme is to increase marketing reach and engagement.

Employee advocacy amplifies existing marketing initiatives and supports campaigns in getting to customers and potential customers that brands alone would not be able to access and engage.

  • According to MSL Group brand messages are shared 24x more when distributed by employees, rather than the brand itself.
  • Employees collectively have social networks 10 times that of a single corporate brand, according to research from LinkedIn.
  • Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels (MSL group)

With an employee advocacy programme, employees are able to share curated and personalised content across their own social networks. This means their network receives brand updates in an authentic language and tone that resonates with them from employees who know their products and services extensively.


3. Employee Advocacy for talent acquisition 

With increasing recruitment costs and rising competition for the brightest minds, a tech-driven employee advocacy approach offers brands a way to scale measurable word-of-mouth quickly for sustainable results. Companies with a traditional, one-size-fits-all recruitment marketing approach are perceived to be tone deaf.

  • The cost of replacing one employee stands at £30,614 (Oxford Economics and Unum)
  • 73% of candidates are passive job seekers (Talent Lyft)
  • Technology and talent are CEOs’ top two business priorities (PWC 20th CEO Survey)

Potential candidates now expect to read authentic reviews and recommendations when considering a new role. Employee advocacy allows a company’s own staff to become expert brand ambassadors sharing branded content on their social networks to support recruitment. It allows for a more personalised, localised approach, tapping into the employee’s expertise and knowledge to meet a critical business need to improve talent acquisition, while driving down costs.


4. Communicating with a disparate workforce

Only 13% of employees use a company intranet according to research by Hinge & Social Media Today, a stark statistic reflecting why modern companies require a new approach to internal communications and to keeping employees connected.

An employee advocacy programme can help bring together a disparate workforce with an easy to use mobile app that lets staff worldwide access content and share relevant content whenever is convenient for them.


5. How to leverage new tech platforms

Employee advocacy happens organically in many organisations and is a good indicator that a company is ready for a formal employee advocacy programme.

New tech-enabled employee advocacy platforms now support brands in recruiting and managing thousands of employees, which means organisations can achieve huge authentic reach at scale with a high degree of trust and authenticity.

New tech platforms such as Qubist, allow brands to track employee advocacy activity and report on it easily and accurately to senior leadership. The best platforms have in-built automatic gamification, so that employees are motivated to progress in the programme with points, badges and leaderboards.

Marketers’ access to real-time data which can be segmented and optimised means programmes can gain success rapidly. A tech platform combined with a rigorous marketing methodology to ensure brands can quickly scale measurable employee word-of-mouth, is a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies.

 

Check out the 2nd article in this series: ‘Employee advocacy: Who do you need on your team?’

For more, see ‘Employee Advocacy: Getting Started

What are your experiences of employee advocacy? Is it playing a growing role at you business? Share your insights below.

Author: Andrew Seel
CEO at Qubist | www.qubi.st/

Andrew is CEO of Qubist, the UK's leading employee communications and advocacy marketing platform. He has been at the forefront of the digital industry since the early days of the web and has worked with numerous brands globally including: John Lewis, Haagen Dazs, Air Mauritius China, Saatchi & Saatchi, Suzuki, ICAEW, Virgin Atlantic and Iceland Foods.

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