Employee Advocacy (or Brand Ambassadorship) isn’t a new concept - but it has rapidly emerged as one of the most potent and impactful methods of building awareness of your talent brand on social media.
It makes perfect sense: in an age where consumers and candidates alike have lost trust in corporate and leadership messages, the voices of your employees are twice as likely to be believed than your CEO (Edelman Trust Barometer).
Your company voice may now reach fewer people than ever before, but your employee profiles have never been more powerful.
Employee Advocacy 1.0 : a Positive but Imperfect Model
Imagine a world where your employees’ professional social profiles are all on-brand and up-to-date, with well-developed networks of industry peers in place. Good start.
Even better, imagine your company content receiving high-levels of engagement from your employees on social media, boosting organic reach to unprecedented levels. Great!
And now imagine you've 'gamified' the process with incentives & rewards, driving uptake across the business and highlighting your most socially engaged advocates. Swag for shares - what's not to like?
What I've described above is the basis of Employee Advocacy 1.0. Done well, it can be hugely effective (we'll have a look at the stats later) - it's no wonder it's one of the fasting growing areas for marketing, employee engagement & talent acquisition, with a host of new technologies to boot!
However, while impactful, you could argue that the model is also fundamentally flawed.
Even with incentivisation, many employees will be too busy (or simply unwilling) to engage. They don't want to robotically share corporate content with their social networks. In fact, LinkedIn estimate that only 3% of employees share company content. That's a dismal statistic if true.
The problem with Employee Advocacy 1.0 seems to be that it is too EMPLOYER-CENTRIC. The business controls the conversation, and the employee simply becomes a mechanism for second-tier distribution. Other than a bit of swag, what's in it for the employee?
A New Wave of Employee Advocacy (Employee Advocacy 2.0?)
But there is another way...
We're seeing a new wave of people-centric organisations empowering and encouraging their employees to take control of the conversation - by becoming the content creators.
We all know that content creation is now within the reach of any staff member with a smartphone – and ‘employee generated content’ has become the backbone of some of the most successful, modern, employer branding initiatives.
In a way, the Employee Advocacy 1.0 model can be flipped on its head. The employees create & share the content, and the company account is part of the audience, cherry picking the best content to repost through the corporate account.
Employee Advocacy 2.0 works because it is an EMPLOYEE-CENTRIC model. The content is far more authentic, achieves greater reach, is more impactful - and provides for a better #EmployeeExperience all round.
Where Are Your Employees on the Journey?
To help visualise this journey, the image below shows the typical 'hierarchy' of the Employee Advocacy role within an organisation:
Realistically, you'll have many different people at different stages of 'maturity'. Your aim should be to progress them upwards.
Moving an employee from Level One (silent & unbranded) to Levels Two & Three - where they become brand-aligned and then share & engage with corporate content, represents the journey we've seen so far with Employee Advocacy 1.0.
Taking the step from Level Three to Level Four, where employees are trusted to become content creators takes trust, support, guidance & encouragement. And some businesses aren't ready to take that step.
Employee Advocacy: Training & Development
There can be lots to learn, even for those employees who are savvy social media users in their personal lives - using social media in a professional environment can be a very different matter.
So, we're seeing the companies at the forefront of Employee Advocacy 2.0 investing specifically in social media training for their employees to ensure they have the skills and the guidelines to share their professional 'stories' with confidence.
It's a win-win. The employee gains new skills and feels trusted & valued by the business, and the business benefits from a steady stream of high-quality, authentic 'life' content permeating it's social feeds and branded hashtags.
And the Results Are Impressive...
A round-up of the latest research shows that a successful Employee Advocacy programme is anything but a touchy feely HR initiative. The results deliver ROI for businesses in a number of different ways:
Increased employer brand reach & employer brand 'activation'
- Your combined employees have, on average, 10X the audience of your corporate account (Cisco research).
- 90% of your employee network is new to your brand – so you’ll reach previously untapped audiences (Dell research).
- Your brand messages reach a 561% bigger audience when shared by employees vs sharing via a corporate channel alone (Aberdeen Group).
Attracting more top talent
- Socially engaged organisations are 58% more likely to attract top talent (LinkedIn).
- 44% of people say they are more likely to apply for a role shared by a friend / contact than other means.
- Diverse employee storytelling attracts a more diverse audience & applications.
- Targeted advocacy can attract critical skill-sets in critical locations and help to build stronger talent pipelines.
Increased employee engagement, loyalty & retention
- 74% of employees feel they are currently missing out on company information (Gallup). Employee advocacy programmes increase awareness of company news and activities.
- Employees are 20% more likely to stay at socially engaged & sharing organisations (LinkedIn)
Increased revenue & performance
- Employee advocacy programmes have also been shown to increase revenue by 26% year on year (Aberdeen Group)
- The best-in-class companies by industry sector are 3X more likely to have well-developed employee advocacy programmes in place
Put bluntly, it’s never been more important to harness the combined power of your workforce on social media, so it's no wonder that brands like Cisco, GE, Starbucks, & Vodafone have all introduced formal Employee Advocacy initiatives.
More about Stuart Jones, Founder of InSource Talent
With a career spanning more than 20-years in recruitment & talent acquisition, I now work as Consultant, Trainer & Speaker within the UK in-house recruitment, talent & HR sector.
I'm the founder of InSource Talent (talent acquisition skills training & consulting), an official partner of the World Employee Experience Institute, and a regular speaker at Talent Acquisition, Employer Branding & HR conferences across the UK.
Since delivering my first Social Media For Recruitment workshop in 2011, I've helped 1000s of in-house recruitment & employer branding professionals (across 100s of leading brands - see a few below) to get the best out of social media & build high-performing talent acquisition functions.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn on March, 19, 2019.
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