How to Leverage Your Internal Influencers

The modern buyer journey is changing and becoming
increasingly more social. At the same time, a buyer’s trust in
brand messaging is at an all-time low.
More than ever,
consumers (both B2C and B2B) are seeking out authentic feedback in
social media as part of their decision journey. Simultaneously,
brands are encouraging employees to become that trusted voice
through employee
advocacy programs
.

In their recent report,
Employee Advocacy 2.0: Leveraging Influence to Drive a Connected
Organization and Employee-Led Buyer Journey
, Onalytica (with
help from Tribal Impact) produced a thorough guide to help
companies build and optimize these programs while avoiding common
missteps.

Employees Are Powerful People

The reason employee advocacy is so impactful is because of an
employee’s unique position within the company. They know all the
details of the brand and product and are usually perceived as
having valuable “insider information” to share.

“Employees have the potential to be brands’ biggest
champions and can be the key connectors between your brand and the
market influencers.”

According to LinkedIn, employee-shared content is
regarded as being three times more authentic and, therefore,
typically sees a click-through rate that is twice as high as when
the corporate mouthpiece shares the same data.

According to @LinkedIn, employee-shared content is regarded as
being three 3X more authentic a CTR that is twice as high as when
the corporate mouthpiece shares the same data.

Click To Tweet

In addition to increased reach, engagement, and brand
awareness, employee advocacy allows brands to have a voice earlier
in the buyer journey.

The report cites that 85% of customers seek out trusted expert
content when considering a purchase and 84% of C and VP level
buyers use social media in their decision-making process. Because
of this, most of the buyer’s journey is complete before the buyer
is even known to the company, increasing the value of early
influence. This is reflected in the fact that leads generated
through employees have been found to convert seven times more than
any other lead gen source.

85% of customers seek out trusted expert content when
considering a purchase.

Click To Tweet

There are also less quantifiable benefits, such as increased
brand trust and confidence and more effective retention and
recruiting efforts as visible, motivated employees help attract
future talent.

Brands Can’t Just Buy Employees’ Influence

Brands are realizing that employees are a powerful influencer
group they can always access, but they should not assume that
access equals control. An employee’s personal influence is just
that —personal — and usually not for sale. Companies may find
ways to incentivize broadcast sharing of branded content, but,
unless the employees are internally motivated, the full potential
of their advocacy is falling short. Shifting the company view
of employee advocacy from ‘owned’ to ‘earned’ media is a
fundamental and required mindset shift. 
Finding what motivates
the employee advocate to go beyond sharing branded content to
creating their own content and connecting with external influencers
is the secret to unlocking the power of these programs.

‘Employee advocacy 2.0’ describes moving from Content
Amplification to Employees as Influencers.

Here is my favorite advice from the report on leveraging your
own internal influencers:

Find What Motivates Employees

In a study conducted by Hinge Research Institute, 46% of
millennials saw employee advocacy as an opportunity to develop
skills high in demand; 39.4% view it as access to more job
opportunities and 38% saw it as differentiation from
peers. Brands should focus on helping employees develop skills
and become more influential rather than viewing them as a
broadcasting channel. 

46% of millennials see employee advocacy as an opportunity to
develop skills high in demand.

Click To Tweet

Key ways to do this include:

  1. Helping employees identify personal goals that align with
    program goals
  2. Prioritizing valuable, “share-worthy”, branded content
  3. Identifying external influencers and engagement
    opportunities
  4. Providing tools and training to make it easy and remove
    doubt

Help Employees Identify Goals

Often employee advocacy programs are hindered by three main
barriers:

  1. It’s not clear what content to share or how to share it
  2. Expectations are not defined
  3. Employees don’t see the value of using social media in the
    workplace

To begin understanding what motivates employees, conduct an
audit, grouping likely participants into
persona
categories based on audience size and social activity
to allow for customized training and activation efforts.

The idea is to help employees simultaneously increase their
network size and social activity if that’s a desired goal; not
all employees will move to the ‘influencer’ persona, based on
their own motivations and alignment with the company message.

Prioritize Valuable, “Share-Worthy” Branded Content

Integrating disconnected employee advocacy,
social selling
and
influencer marketing
programs begin to leverage the content
creation efforts across the sales and marketing teams. Focusing on
content that prioritizes problem-solving and innovation in highly
relevant and relatable terms builds upon unifying themes and lead
to more authentic and useful content. Encourage employees to engage
with industry content and create their own commentary or responses,
rather than relying solely on branded content.

Identify External Influencers and Engagement Opportunities

Every employee has passion and expertise related to his/her
field and role, and this passion is the conduit for connection to
external influencers and experts. Facilitating these
connections gives employees both permission and a shortcut to begin
building relationships with key external influencers.
In
addition, empowering employees to follow these influencers more
closely expands the brand’s social listening capacity and
responsiveness and helps make future content creation efforts more
relevant to target audiences.

Provide Tools and Training to Remove Friction and Doubt

A key shortcut to avoid is using the same training and
activation content for the various personas. Instead, craft
training materials and set expectations based on the employees’
current skill set, personal goals and preferred learning style.
Craft a simple and approachable social media policy that outlines
expectations and success. Implement social listening, content
sharing and influencer mapping tools to help make the process as
easy as possible. Build confidence by encouraging C-Suite and
senior management to pilot the program to lead by example.

Measure the Success of Your Internal Influencer Program

Defining desired outputs and outcomes is essential to analyzing
program success, but brands must also exercise patience. Avoid
trying to accelerate results through stringent KPIs or risk losing
the authentic voice that makes employee advocates so valuable. Some
structured metrics are in the table below, but it’s just as
important to celebrate the one-off and individual wins that program
participants achieve that are the early building blocks to long
term employee advocates.

Turn These Tips into Employee Advocacy 2.0

As you consider your own business, here are 3 actions you can
take right away:

  1. Evaluate your content through the eyes of your
    employees. 
    Is your branded content so valuable employees are
    happy to use their influence to share?
  2. Level up social listening and external influencer
    efforts. 
    Finding and activating employee advocates is only
    part of a successful program. Can you begin building the topic hubs
    and influencer lists that will eventually map back to specific
    employee efforts?
  3. Pilot a program with senior leadership. Where do your
    senior leaders fit in the persona category chart? Are there
    influencer networks you can tap into? What are the basic first
    steps to modeling this behavior in advance of a company
    rollout?

These first steps will help prepare your company to mobilize and
motivate employee advocates. Ready for the next steps? We work with the
world’s most interesting brands
,—let us help you build your
plan of action.

The post
How to Leverage Your Internal Influencers: Key Findings from
Onalytica’s Latest Research
appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social
Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting
.

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