Brands are often afraid of the risks of employee-generated content and the lack of control involved. The answer lies in trust, authenticity and relevancy.
The internet is a pretty sociable place to be. It seems everyone is tweeting, going live, linking up and building relationships. But it’s not just the amount of time we spend online that has changed, the activities we undertake and the content we engage with is changing too.
Far from breaking society down, the prevalence of online interactivity in our day-to-day lives is actually building new kinds of relationships. And, in the business world, this is proving to be transformative.
You are, no doubt, familiar with the concept of social selling. These days, it’s so important to produce content that builds a deep relationship with your audience. Gone are the days of only hitting your marketplace with adverts, offers or lead-generating marketing campaigns. Trust, authenticity and relevancy are the order of the day. In order to achieve genuinely trusting relationships with your customers, you need the most authentic content there is: raw, unpolished material, generated by your employees.
Employee-Generated Content (EGC)
A variant of User Generated Content (UGC), EGC is exactly what it says on the tin. Content generated by employees in the form of videos, images or blogs, espousing the brand values, differentiators and benefits of the business they work for. And there’s the rub. Brands are understandably nervous of EGC; afraid of the potential risk of damage and the lack of control that asking your employees to be advocates for the business brings.
Why is Employee Advocacy important?
The answer comes back to those three little words: trust, authenticity and relevancy. Buyers trust experts and peers more than leaders and logos. In fact, Edelman’s trust barometer research found that company experts are trusted 66 percent of the time.
Compare that with Nielsen’s report that only 47 percent of global citizens trust corporate advertising and you can see the shift.
Our ability to look behind even the most powerful brands with the biggest marketing budgets is so refined that we have become more cynical than ever. Review sites, comparison models, and the focus on spin-doctoring on the public and political stage have combined to make us question everything.
We now place the most value on what we perceive to be authentic information: the word of the employee at the coalface. Real people, real stories. Employees feel the issues that customers are experiencing, so their content has relevance. They are best placed to write informatively about products or services and the value of their content is significantly enhanced for this reason.
Nurturing Employee Advocacy
For businesses, there’s already evidence of a behavioral shift when it comes to social media, and employee guidelines have had to adjust accordingly. Who remembers the days when using Facebook during business hours was a disciplinary offense?
Social media is no longer a frowned-upon break-time luxury; rather, it’s the platform of choice for a wide range of business-related social activity from selling to checking out future employers, getting product or service reviews and, of course, writing them.
Businesses are slowly coming round to the idea that they need to evolve their culture to accept – and encourage – Employee Advocacy.
EGC: Pros and Cons
- PRO: Lower cost – it’s cheaper than continually using your marketing budget to create content
- CON: It’s not free – the cost of employee time needs to be considered which doesn’t necessarily work in all business environments
- PRO: Goodwill – empowering your employees in this way will create a more inclusive company culture, leading to better retention, higher employee engagement and morale
- CON: Lack of control over the brand – allowing your employees to be your online voice can be risky, although some levels of control can be introduced
- PRO: Scalability – you’re no longer constrained by budgets or time spent planning content
- CON: Unclear narrative – it’s harder to stick to a planned story for the brand, although anything too contrived will arguably reduce engagement anyway
A Matter of Time?
You could argue that employee-generated content is simply a matter of time: the time it takes to manage the multiple social media channels of a large organisation; the time an agency spends creating your business narrative (and, for which you pay); the time a business spends analyzing its social media performance and then tweaking messages, or the time it takes to look for case studies or examples to illustrate key messages.
According to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research, some 50 percent of B2B and 44 percent of B2C content marketers say they struggle to create content consistently. The costs and sheer scale of social media content marketing means budgets are having to stretch exponentially.
Encouraging Employee-Generated Content
Finding the right people is the first challenge; sales and consultancy teams tend to be expensive and are better off spending their time building relationships. However, subject matter experts, development teams and customer success teams are well placed to understand what’s trending. They potentially already carry a detailed knowledge and even passion for the product or service due to their role in the company, although it’s important not to rule anyone else out of getting involved. Don’t forget, this is all about genuine interpretations of the business.
Like everything in the employer-employee relationship, the best approach is for it to be mutually beneficial. Businesses need to address the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor. If employees understand the benefits of content creation; that it boosts the business brand, raises their individual profile and could help them move into a position of thought leadership, they’re more likely to want to contribute.
Additionally, businesses can facilitate the sharing of content, while also introducing elements of control. For example, giving employees a platform on which to host their content – the company blog or Instagram account – makes it easier for them and means the company knows where all the content is gathered. Providing employees with insights – by sharing social listening studies, keywords and trends – will help employees feel part of the inner circle and give the business a way of guiding the type of content likely to be produced.
Amplifying employee-generated content is a win-win for a business. The best thing is that EGC is so authentic. Showcasing an employee’s content is motivational for them and it gives the brand a chance to stop talking about itself and actually demonstrate the content its experts are producing.
Lastly, companies need to train their employees in best practice; teach them to produce good content. By showing them what makes a good blog post structure, image composition, mobile video tips and so on, they are getting useful, transferable skills, and the brand can be more confident that their employee-generated content is risk-free.
About the author:
Sarah Goodall is the Founder of Tribal Impact, a specialist B2B social advocacy agency helping organizations shift their social media marketing strategies to the next level – Social Business. Sarah has spent 20+ years in B2B Marketing, most recently leading Social Business for SAP in EMEA where she trained over 3000 employees as part of the global Social Selling and advocacy program.