Using social media for employee advocacy doesn’t come easily to some brands. Before you stress about being behind on this new necessity of your marketing strategy—it’s not your fault.
As marketers, we’ve trained ourselves to talk to our customers’ avatars about their pain points. Our social content focuses on helping our ideal customers overcome challenges while positioning our products as the ultimate solution. Control over that messaging has been tightly held by marketing and communications departments.
In the past few years, we’ve experienced something different. We’ve watched employees share content about their company, without a pretty Instagram filter or strategic copy. People shared content that was interesting to them or when their team requested it. This nonchalant, authentic content turned out to be exactly what consumers loved to see.
In 2021, we found employee-generated content (EGC) can get 24 times more shares than brand social accounts. The previous year, we found that EGC leads to more engagement and follows than branded content.
Consumers want more transparency from their favorite brands—and they’ve put their focus on the people behind the brand. Aesthetic Instagram photos used to be an easy win, but the 2021 consumer doesn’t want staged photoshoots or stock photos faking diversity.
What is Employee Advocacy?
In the age of smartphones, every staff member is a possible content creator. Employee Advocacy is about empowering your staff to become intentional contributors to marketing and communication efforts. This includes encouraging them to share brand content on their personal accounts and to engage on social as members of the brand family. This advocacy is built on the foundation of intentionality. EGC should support business objectives and shouldn’t be an incidental practice.
Andrew Nusca, the former Digital Editor of Fortune Magazine, demonstrates employee advocacy by posting a tweet thread about his excitement to join the Morning Brew team as their Executive Editor. His tweets showcase why he respects the Morning Brew founders, the reason he sees value in being part of the team, and why he’s so excited to get to be a part of it. More so, his post is a reflection of the culture of Morning Brew. They are known for celebrating the individual, using social media, and their passion for trend watching.
— Andrew Nusca (@editorialiste) February 8, 2021
I am so impressed by what @businessbarista and @austin_rief have built at Morning Brew. At a time when major media companies were seeking efficiencies, synergies, and new revenue streams, these two were standing outside classrooms trying to sign students up for their newsletter.
— Andrew Nusca (@editorialiste) February 8, 2021
This is a great example from the Morning Brew team of employee advocacy that supports recruitment and HR. This is one of 3 main types of employee advocacy:
- Recruitment and HR
- Marketing and Communications
Marketing and communication employee advocacy can be seen in this example from Frank Bach, Lead Product Designer at Headspace. Using his LinkedIn profile, Frank shows the inner workings of meditation app Headspace and what the experience is like to work there:
Sales employee advocacy focuses on getting the conversion by promoting its products. In this example, Kristin LaFrance, Head of Shopify owned podcast Resilient Retail, uses her Twitter platform to promote her podcast.
For Kristen (and for Shopify in this case), her product is her podcast, and this sales tactic is brilliant. Using her platform, she can get the attention of potential guests who can then promote her podcast on their platforms when their episode goes live.
Hey @vladduthiersCBS, thanks for making my mornings better!
How about you come join me on @ResilientRetail this season? So much to talk about on trends, commerce, culture, etc!
I’ll make it worth it (and fun). We can even poke fun at @tonydokoupil while you’re here 😆
— Kristen LaFrance (@kdlafrance) February 2, 2021
How Do You Get Your Employees To Advocate For Your Brand?
Forty-two percent of employees don’t share branded content because they’re afraid of saying something that they shouldn’t on social media. To incentivize employees to create content, brands need to establish trust.
- Companies need to trust that their employees will post and represent a positive image of the company
- Employees need to feel that the company has their back and won’t “gotcha” them if they go slightly off message
This is the invisible wall that brands face when trying to get employees to create employee-generated content. If brands don’t have a conversation with their employees that empowers them to create content, employees will shy away from creating something the brand doesn’t want.
- Make it easy for employees to participate by letting them know you don’t expect a perfectly edited TikTok or Reel
- Set clear expectations of what content aligns with your brand based on your brand beliefs, values, and mission
- Let them know that you’re not watching their every move and that they have the creative freedom to explore and see what works best for their platform
- Reward them for on-point content with prizes or showcasing their content for other employees to see
Marketing and sales teams shouldn’t be dissuaded from creating content—but be warned. You can run into a problem here. With these teams naturally tuned to making on-brand content that performs well, you need to make sure that you’re highlighting other employee content. It can be easy to keep choosing EGC from your marketing team because it’s so on-point, but this will inevitably send a message to other teams not to bother.
Make sure to spotlight employees across departments and career seniority.
How To Create a Successful Employee Advocacy Program
Getting employees to start posting content to their social platforms that highlight your brand isn’t always smooth sailing. It comes with its fair share of challenges, like ensuring you’re spotlighting all departments, making it difficult to get the ball rolling. The key is to get the momentum brands like Morning Brew, Headspace, and Spotify have created by avoiding these top reasons why employee advocacy programs fail.
#1: Show Leadership Buy-In
Leaders of your organization need to lead by example to show employees that creating content is the norm. This also gives the opportunity to showcase what content you’re looking for. Morning Brew, again, does this extremely well, with their founders and C-Suite retweeting employee content. This shows leadership buy-in and support for their employees to keep creating in the future.
The family gets bigger.
So pumped to be building the Brew alongside an incredible editorial talent. https://t.co/flBv3ZebHK
— Alex Lieberman ☕️ (@businessbarista) February 8, 2021
#2: Explain Why This Matters
Your marketing and sales teams might understand employee advocacy well—but your other departments might not. Customer service representatives might not realize the marketing impact their content could have on the brand. Break down how employee content can help your brand and help employees showcase their expertise. Show employees why this matters (for the brand and for them).
#3: Keep Employees Updated With Internal Communication
Poor internal communication is bad for business and just as bad for employee advocacy. If employees don’t know you have a new product coming out or are launching a new offer, they’ll never be able to talk about it online. Ensuring clear lines of communication across departments and that each employee knows what’s coming up is essential to a solid employee advocacy strategy.
#4: Show Them How Their Content Is Helping
In Shane Parrish’s The Great Mental Models, he explains the importance of closely connecting the results actions generate. “Organizations over a certain size often remove us from the direct consequences of our decisions.” Showing how employee-generated content is creating a positive impact and highlighting employees’ contributions to your brands is a huge part of a successful employee advocacy program.
#5: Create Support for Your Employee Advocacy Program
Your employee advocacy program shouldn’t run in the background with the *hope* that it will be successful. Creating the same systems that help your other marketing strategies find success is necessary for the brands serious about using their employee’s voices to advocate. Maximize value and identify the staff who are your micro-influencers with a tool like TINT.
Employee-generated content gets 24 times more shares than branded content, eight times more engagement, and can generate $1,900,000 in advertising value (with 1,000 employee advocates). Employee advocacy on social media is powerful, cost-effective, and time-saving.
TINT helps businesses find, organize, and redistribute user-generated content and employee-generated content. With UGC and EGC being one of the most engaging and high-converting content, TINT helps over 5,000 leading brands (like Coca-Cola, Nestle, Chipotle, Marriott, and more) turn UGC and EGC into content for their marketing channels.