Join Michael Brito and other digital mavericks at  the 2016 Brand2Global Conference in Silicon Valley – Preconference workshops and networking starts September 27th , Main Conference September 28-29th.

Smart brands are activating employees as media to reach new audiences in social, extend the reach of organic content and humanize their brand. Many refer to this as employee advocacy. I call it participation marketing and the reason is pretty simple. Employees tell better stories than you do. Their voices are trusted among their peers and they already participate in industry conversations with your customers.

They are doing exactly what you want to do but doing it much more effectively. But don’t take my word for it.

Data Doesn’t Lie

Not only is it intuitive but there are several data points that make the case for mobilizing employees to participate and “tell the brand story.”

  • Peer recommendations are critical. Research and data from the Boston Consulting Group and the Edelman Trust Barometer are explicit when it comes to measuring trust. When it comes to trust and credibility, “people they know”, “consumer opinions” and “colleagues and friends” rank the highest when individuals are seeking information about a product or a brand.
  • Business people spend time online. While this is certainly anecdotal, I would challenge you to do a quick search on Twitter for “cloud computing” or “API development.” Undoubtedly you will find people talking about these topics and engaged in very deep conversation. Spend some time on LinkedIn and you’ll find the same thing.
  • Brands are investing in employee advocacy: Altimeter’s 2015 State of Social Business Report revealed that “building employee advocacy” programs are becoming a high priority and strategic initiative for marketers jumping from 13% to 45% in 2015.
    However, activating your employees just because everyone else is doing so is not smart. You must ensure there is value to all of your stakeholders – your employees, customers and the brand.

Branded Content Alignment

Employees aren’t robots and the last thing you want to happen is for them to do and say everything you tell them. There is a balance of what employees should be talking about online. While you want to ensure that they find their own voice, they should have some general understanding of the principles of the brand, the value proposition and the best practices for engaging in online discussion.

Having a firm understanding of specific audiences is also important. Audience platforms like People Pattern can surface unique characteristics, attributes and interests about any audiences. These insights can help frame the topics that employees can talk about, as it relates to their personal and professional interests.

Organic Reach in Social is Gone

It’s a known fact that social networks are adopting algorithmic newsfeeds, thus requiring brands to promote content in order to reach their audience. A study by Social@Oglivy in 2016 found that Facebook Pages with more than 500,000 likes are seeing less than 1% in organic reach.
A white paper produced by Hootsuite revealed some interesting case studies illustrating the success that employee advocacy programs are having with content distribution. For example, Whole Foods found that content shared by employees gained eight times more engagement than the same content shared on brand channels.

Other data suggests the same. MSLGroup in partnership with Forrester, Forbes and Dynamic Signal found that brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees versus the same content shared by official branded social channels; and that branded content is shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees.

Employee advocacy isn’t going to solve all of your marketing challenges but it sure will help reach new audiences, influence others and drive employee engagement at the same time.

BIO:michael-brito (1)
Michael Brito is the Senior Vice President of the San Francisco office & Head of US Digital Marketing for LEWIS Global Communications. He’s is also an Adjunct Professor at San Jose State University and working on his latest book, Participation Marketing: Mobilizing Employees to Participate and Tell the Brand Story” set to release later in 2016 or early 2017.

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