The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that the most trusted people (when it comes to buying decisions) are your company technical experts. This has been consistently high in the research for several years.
Every company will have several influential individuals. People who are credible with customers, recognised within the industry and known as trusted experts in their field. They’re an asset to the business because they have built a reputation that is strong and trustworthy.
But what happens when they leave your organisation? What message does that send to your customers? What questions will the market be asking itself about your business?
Cultivating a pipeline of experts within your company needs to be managed with care. Recognising, development and investing time in building their social brand is a great way to accelerate their digital reputation.
As organisations slowly get to grips with employee social media activation and advocacy, few realise that these programs are in fact an ideal place to nurture their next generation of expert influencers.
In this video, I talk about the relationship between influencer programs and employee advocacy:
What Does An Expert Influencer Look Like?
People often mix up popularity with influence. In some cases, the two are intertwined but in the B2B world, having hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter doesn’t necessarily make you anymore influential than someone with a few thousand followers.
According to this article on Entrepreneur…
Influence can’t be achieved through intimidation or coercion. It comes from within -- from a person’s ability to inspire and motivate those around them.
Someone who is influential has 15 traits.
- Act deliberately
- Speak thoughtfully and listens
- Are action driven
- Continue to learn
- Connect with others
- Have integrity
- Have high expectations
- Focus on what really matters
- Understand themselves
- Focus on their strengths but understand their weaknesses
- Value others
- Make themselves indispensable
- Always analysing
- Make sure others are heard
- Inspire others
Ultimately, anyone can become influential. Where it gets special is when you combine these traits with topic expertise. This can be industry knowledge, technical knowledge, platform knowledge, product knowledge – the list goes on.
This graphic from Onalytica outlines the different kinds of influencers. All will demonstrate the traits, but each focuses on a specific topic or interest.
In terms of B2B employee influencers, you would typically expect to see someone:
- Consistently posting to LinkedIn with good engagement
- Regularly posting on Twitter
- Confidently using hashtags in their content
- Curating their own content from non-branded sources
- Publishing a healthy mix of branded vs non-branded content
- Dabbling in video or podcasts
- Maybe have written 1-2 blogs
Employees that demonstrate curiosity and experimental approaches to the social media channels are generally the ones that show the greatest potential. The willingness is there but perhaps the knowledge and confidence is not…yet!
How Do I Find My Potential Employee Influencers?
There are several ways to discover potential experts within your employee community. If you have an advocacy tool, this is a good place to start. Look for employees that are sharing content on either LinkedIn or Twitter. If they have a higher than average engagement per share and/or click per share, take a closer look at their profiles. This metric is a good way to assess if people are being selective about what they share to their networks – a good sign!
Look at their public profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter. How much content are they sharing from your advocacy platform vs curating content themselves. Expert influencers often like to be the first to know and share. They will likely be sourcing their own content as well as sharing from the advocacy platform. Another good sign.
If you have LinkedIn Sales Navigator, run a quick search on all the people that work for your company. Use the keyword filter to look for specific phrases, technologies or industries and then use the Spotlight Bar along the top to identify who shared content in the last 30 days. Review the profiles to see who is ready for their next step – content creation.
Finally, use a free tool like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for your company name. It brings up a list of people referencing the brand name in their bio and helps you to filter by followers and social authority. Here’s an example below using our friends at Sprout Social.
What Steps Should I Take To Support Them?
Once you have prioritised your list of potential employee influencers, it’s time to reach out. But what should you say? How should you approach them?
You’ve seen potential and that’s where you start.
First, this isn’t a mass marketing exercise. Approach each person with a tailored message asking if they would like to be involved in an employee influencer activation program – blog coming soon!
Explain what the program is about, what it involves, the commitment it will take from them but what they can expect in return.
This isn’t about activating every employee to become an influencer. This about laser focused training and support to help your most active employees build their brand further.
Investing in the authentic voices behind your logo will increase your reach, trust, credibility and visibility in the market. More than that, it supports your employees with the very same benefits.
The more visible your employee experts become, the more likely they are to be invited to speak at conferences. Customers will want to meet them. Prospects will view their content. They will become known and your brand will be closely aligned to that.
What Happens If They Leave?
Employees will move on – especially ambitious ones that are driven by their passion. Most employees are likely to leave when they don’t feel recognised, invested in or listened to.
Arguably, an influencer activation program will help retain your flight risk employees!
But if they do leave, don’t be disheartened. With the process outlined in this blog you won’t be left with a sudden dip in your metrics.
If you plan your activation program well, you will have a steady stream of experts all at different stages of their social media maturity. You won’t rely on just one employee. You’ll spread your risk and build a pipeline of employee expert influencers.