In Part 1 of our series on the power that social media can have on your brand, Janine Buis explains why you should leverage employees as ambassadors for your company by cultivating relationships with customers, industry experts, alumni, and potential candidates.
Social media has become embedded in our lives. According to Pew Research, seven in 10 Americans now use social media[i]. As new features and functions become available, the use of platforms such are YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkdedIn and Twitter continue to grow and shape how we connect, build relationships and share content.
Like many new technologies and applications, social media started out as a tool for personal communications, but has now crossed over into the world of work. Organizations of all sizes and types are leveraging social media to build brand awareness, nurture prospects, promote thought leadership and credibility, and stand out in the face of intense competition for customers and talent.
The proliferation of media has made it harder to build authentic relationships that differentiate the brand. The increased transparency social media has enabled, means that your customer is no longer just the person that buys your products. It is also the person thinking about applying for a position, working on a “gig” with your company, or working with one of your partners or suppliers.
At the same time, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in business and all institutions continue to decline. This lack of confidence is causing consumers and candidates to rely more heavily on input from their trusted networks of friends, family, and peers.
Employees can play a valuable role in bridging the trust gap by acting as ambassadors for the company and cultivating relationships with customers, industry experts, alumni, and potential candidates. Employees become brand advocates when they endorse their employer’s brand, share content and information about the company and available job postings, recommend the company, share positive experiences with the company, and engage in conversations on issues relevant to the business. And, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “an average employee advocate is two times more trusted than a company CEO.”
LinkedIn’s analysis supports this. They found that the click through rate (CTR) of content shared by an employee is 2X higher that when the content is shared by the company.[ii]
Benefits of Employee Advocacy
Empowering employees to become brand advocates generates significant advantages. When employees share content to their networks of connections, friends, and followers, the company message reaches more people at no cost. These personal connections can be customers, suppliers, partners or potential candidates. Extending online presence can translate into increased traffic to the website, interest in career opportunities and even deliver sales benefits.
Research by LinkedIn and Altimeter found that employees at socially engaged companies are 27 percent more likely to feel optimistic about their company’s future and 15 percent more likely to feel connected to co-workers beyond their core teams.[iii] The same research also found that being socially engaged companies also helps to attract talent.
Employee advocacy initiatives engage employees on multiple levels. It reinforces the reasons they joined the company. It is a sign of trust when they are encouraged to share their experiences, and engages them in new ways with the enterprise. Promoting their company on social media also offers employees an opportunity to acquire new skills, connect with different parts of the organization, build their professional brand, and participate in meaningful conversations about the business with external stakeholders.
Research by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard’s Department of Psychology suggests that self-disclosure provides intrinsic rewards because, “individuals ﬁnd opportunities to disclose their thoughts to others to be especially rewarding.”[iv]
Research by the Altimeter group found that companies are recognizing this opportunity. According to the research, interest in employee advocacy grew 191 percent between 2013 and 2015, and 45 percent of respondents named it a top external objective.[v]
The bottom line is that relationships matter. Social media offers an opportunity for companies to engage their employees and at the same time develop and nurture relationships with candidates, employees, customers and partners.
Coming tomorrow!: Part 2: The Power of Social Media: The Role of HR Role in Employee Advocacy
[ii] Linked In, The Official Guide to Employee Advocacy, How to Maximize Reach and Engagement by Empowering Employees to Share Content
[iii] LinkedIn and Altimeter Relationship Economics Report