Employee advocacy and influencer marketing are two programs that are typically run by completely different internal departments. Employee Advocacy often sits within Communications whilst Influencer Marketing firmly sits within the domain of marketing. But these two disparate programs are more connected than you might think.
Recently I presented at Ignite B2B with Tim Williams from Onalytica about the power of awareness, credibility and trust when you engage employees as influencers. Whilst the audience was primarily marketing, the presentation was designed to spark the connection between the two programs.
As more businesses turn to digital as a way of connecting their business, we know from research that advocacy is beneficial to business growth:
- 65% of brands report increase in brand recognition through employee advocacy (Hinge Marketing)
- Leads developed through employee advocacy are 7x more likely to covert (Marketing Advisory Network)
- 92% of customers trust recommendations from people over branded content (Nielsen)
But often advocacy is misunderstood. Employee Advocacy tools are there as an enabler to support your employees with content sourcing and sharing. Programs are not there to amplify brand content via employee networks. Successful employee advocacy programs are employee-led.
So, what has influencer marketing got to do with employee advocacy and why should the programs align?
Here are my top 5 reasons:
Employees Can Be Just As Trustworthy As External Influencers
Not every employee in your business will become influential or indeed want to become influential…and that’s okay! However, of those experts that are willing to learn and build their digital presence online they can behave as influencers just as much as external influencers would.
Building an influencer community internally and putting those experts front and centre in front of your logo, their brand reputation will lead, and the company brand will follow e.g. invited to speak at events, guest blog, video interviews etc.
Your Influencers Maybe Hidden In Your Employee Advocacy Tool
You don’t have to look far to identify who is already influential in your business. Digging deep into your employee advocacy platform data will bubble up some likely candidates.
Who is sharing content mindfully, generating high engagements or clicks per share? Who is actively contributing content to the platform? Who has a high network following on LinkedIn and Twitter?
In addition, look at your Enterprise Social Network platforms. Employees that are influential internally is also a good place to start. Those that are actively contributing, maybe even hosting, internal communities on your ESN platforms like Slack, SAP Jive or Yammer.
Connect Your Credible Employees To External Influencers
Influencer marketing programs are also often misunderstood – probably swayed by the #ad posts on Instagram by popular celebrities. Paying B2B influencers for short-term contracts is not a long-term strategy.
In B2B the relationships are far more complex, long term and driven by credibility. Content is created and co-authored out of authentic conversations.
Authentic conversations can only happen when external influencers are connected to your internal experts (your employee influencers). The conversations are more natural, insightful and valuable. Both parties learn something new and the relationship is setup for the long-term.
This brings me onto my next point.
Creating Influential Content That Reaches Broader Audiences
One of the most attractive benefits of working with external influencers is the reach they can achieve with your content. But, are you working with the right influencers? Understanding the audience profile of selected influencers is more important than number of followers. In that regard, micro-influencers might be a better fit for some of your employee experts.
Identifying the right influencers is just the first step. Once the relationship is established, co-creating content with your influencers is a good next step. This can take different forms from including a quote from influencers in your content to co-creating a video series together. It depends on the budget you have and the topic you’re talking about.
Either way, supporting your employees to develop content like this is key to long-term influencer relationships.
Amplifying Peer Content Via Your Employee Advocacy Tool
We work with many advocacy platforms with clients across all industries and if there’s one unifying trait that we notice is the performance of employee generated content versus brand generated content.
Put simply, your employees are more interested in sharing content that their peers have created than content marketing created. Why? Because it’s relatable, authentic and credible.
This ultimately comes back to the fact that people like to buy (and engage) with people that they know, like and trust. Influence is established upon the very same criteria.
The more you encourage and support your employees to create insightful content (albeit video, blogs, white papers etc) the more your employees, customers and prospects are likely to consume it.
This is where the advocacy and influencer cycle closes.
Building a network of influential experts internally who then connect with external influencers to create great content that is then fed into your advocacy platform for your wider employee community to share….and breathe.
I created a sketch which might help explain it better (and without losing my breath).