Is Employee Advocacy the Key to Unlocking Organic Reach on Social Media?

Is Employee Advocacy the Key to Unlocking Organic Reach on Social Media?

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In the early days of social media, likes and follows were essentially subscriptions – you were all but guaranteed that a published post would arrive on the doorstep of your audience.

But as the space became crowded and platforms monetised, organic reach began to decline. Aside from a few noteworthy algorithm changes, the fall of reach has been almost imperceptibly steady over the course of a decade or more. But when you zoom out, the overall effect has been diabolical.

The most recent data suggests that organic reach now sits between 1% and 6%, depending on the profile and the platform. That means that your company may only be getting messages out to one in 100 of those who, in clicking ‘like’ or ‘follow’, have announced to the likes of Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn that they’d really like to hear from you.

Annoyingly, the obvious solution plays right into the hands of the Silicon Valley giants. If you want 2010 reach, you need to pay 2020 prices.

But there is another way.

The power of employee advocacy

Fact #1: People trust people. Where only 15% of people trust messages from companies, 90% trust recommendations from people they know. 

Fact #2: The average social media user broadcasts to a network of 500-1000 LinkedIn connections, 150 Instagram followers and 200 Facebook friends, and many have audiences of over 10,000.

Fact #3: It just so happens that your organisation employs such people, which means that you’ve got an incredible resource just sitting there, at their desk, waiting to be used. 

Welcome to the world of employee advocacy.

Last time your company made a really big announcement through its social channels, how many of your employees shared it? More pointedly, did you encourage anyone to do so? If the answers to these questions were ‘not many’ and ‘no’, you’re presented with a golden opportunity to increase your reach without paying a cent to social platforms.

A message shared by an employee earns 561% more reach and is reshared 24x more than the same message shared through a brand-owned channel. These numbers mean just a small percentage of your team sharing a small percentage of your company’s posts will do stunning things for your social media marketing efforts.

What does employee advocacy look like?

The first step on your employee advocacy journey is to understand the intent behind the advocation. There are three main reasons for a brand to post on social media (which often overlap):

  • To generate awareness: Increase brand recognition and generate sales.
  • To reshape messaging: To improve or maintain reputation, and to clarify the whats and the whys of the organisation.
  • To enhance their employer brand: To sell themselves as an employer of choice in order to attract top talent and lower recruiting costs.

An employee can advocate for your brand in a number of ways. The key is to balance control with authenticity; the less control you have over what an employee shares and how they share it, the more authentic the advocacy can appear. This balance can be summed up by the following three approaches to employee advocacy:

  • Greater brand control: Employees sharing company posts on their personal profiles.
  • A mix of employee and brand control: Developing a bank of content that employees can post and share in their own voice.
  • Greater employee control: Giving employees control over the development of content through blogs, vlogs and podcasts.

Remember that employee advocacy can shape the brands of your employees too, so if you give them greater control, ideally to the point where the content helps to position them as a thought leader, you’ll be far more likely to turn them into an advocate.

Developing an effective employee advocacy program

How does an organisation develop a program that realises the incredible potential of employee advocacy? The perfect program will look very different from company to company, but there are a few considerations that all organisations should make.

1. Understand the intent

An advocacy program without an overall goal is a ship without a captain. Understand what your aim is—whether generating awareness, reshaping messaging or improving recruitment—create content that works towards these aims, and set some measurable, achievable advocacy goals.

2. Decide your level of control

Will you play it safe and simply ask your employees to share the pre-approved messages posted on your brand’s channel, or will you be brave and give your employees free reign over creating and sharing company content? Greater risk goes hand in hand with greater reward.

3. Conduct advocacy onboarding

Once you’ve decided the rules of the game, educate the players through employee advocacy onboarding.

4. Create quality content

The best employee advocacy program in the world is doomed to fail if it isn’t powered by quality content. You need to produce meaningful, goal-oriented content that employees will be excited to share.

5. Develop a sharing culture

Begin by sharing content internally. Ensure employees understand the importance of the message in the content, then invite them—never compel them—to share it. Lead by example; if an employee sees leaders and stakeholders sharing the content, they’re more likely to do the same.

6. Incentivise employee advocacy

We humans are motivated by incentives. While monetising advocacy can result in a loss of authenticity, there are other ways to ensure that employees know there’s something in it for them:

  • Create content that enhances an individual’s brand.
  • Send sharers a personal message or shower them with public praise.
  • Subtly gamify employee advocacy.

A final note is that you should only ever reward those who demonstrate advocacy behaviour that you want others to copy. If it becomes obvious that an employee is only doing advocating to get that gold star, you need to take the star out of the equation.

There’s no reason not to advocate

In an age when organic reach is bordering on non-existent, and social media marketing has become as much of a monetary battle as any other form of advertising, employee advocacy grants brands an opportunity to once again experience the things that made social media such an exciting prospect in the first place; cost-effectiveness, visibility, engagement, and reward for quality content.

All the ingredients for an employee advocacy program are sitting right there in your office. You just need to find the will.

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