Social media marketing is one of the most widely used digital marketing strategies. In a report published by the Content Marketing Institute, 92% of B2B marketers and 89% of B2C marketers use social media platforms as their primary channel to distribute content.
The reason? Not only is it cost-effective, but also when done right, it has the potential to boost brand awareness, generate new leads, and improve conversion rates.
That is, of course, if your social media accounts have an active follower base to begin with.
According to Andrej Ilisin, CEO of the camping resource site Outdoorser, this is one of the most prominent challenges startups face when using social media as one of their inbound marketing strategies.
“Developing a social media marketing plan is one thing,” says Illisin. “However, that’s only part of the equation. Executing it so that it delivers results is an entirely different story, especially for startups because they are fairly new. So, it’s very likely that their target audience hasn’t heard of them.”
“On top of that, startups have to work with a very lean budget to get them off the ground, get in front of their target audience, and convert them into paying customers. In the past, sponsored posts and paid ads on social media did the job. However, with social media sites like Facebook updating their algorithms to prioritize showing users posts from their friends than ads, startups will now have to come up with new ways to reach their audience without spending more or being penalized.”
This is where employee advocacy comes in.
What is employee advocacy?
Social employee advocacy essentially means transforming your employees into your startup’s brand ambassadors on social media by allowing them to share content about your startup on their own social media accounts.
This is not something new. In fact, according to the JEM State of Employee Advocacy Survey, 56% of the respondents said that they have already implemented an employee advocacy program in their business with another 24% saying that they’re planning to launch one.
Why should I use employee advocacy?
Increase brand awareness
According to a study done by Hinge Marketing, 96% of businesses point to increased brand visibility and recognition as the top two benefits they get from implementing an employee advocacy program.
The reason is that on average, each of your startup’s employees has 10 times more followers on their social network accounts than your startup’s actual social media accounts. And because they’ll promote these using their social media accounts, this increases the chances that those in their networks that match your target audience see the content they publish.
Develop trust among potential customers
Even though more CEOs and startup owners are now publishing content on their website, a report released by the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that consumers are beginning to trust these pieces of content less and less.
What’s interesting to note is that trust among company employees is growing, as you can see in the chart below.
Additionally, studies show that consumers are more willing to trust recommendations from their peers. That means when your employees share or recommend something on their social media accounts, their friends and followers will be more inclined to listen. Some would even be willing to give their recommendations a try.
Increase social engagement
Social media networks like Facebook are giving more visibility to business accounts that have high engagement rates.
When you tap your employees to become your startup’s social ambassadors, it can help increase the engagement rate of your startup’s social media accounts. At the same time, your employees are perceived as professional and knowledgeable in their field.
Tips to transform your employees into social ambassadors
1. Do an audit of your current marketing channels
Before you even begin getting your employees involved, you need first to review the content you already have on your social media accounts and the level of engagement of they’re receiving.
“Performing a content audit may be tedious, but it’s necessary before implementing any changes on your social media marketing strategy,” explains Scott Langdon, Managing Partner of HigherVisibility. “This helps you understand what you’ve done in the past that works and doesn’t work concerning reaching your marketing goals. It also helps you find those gaps in your content that you can now fill once you implement your employee advocacy program.”
2. Create a rewards program
Dr. BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, stipulates that three factors can get people to do what you want. One of these factors is motivation. You need to get them something enticing enough to get them to take the desired action.
That said, make sure that you provide put in place some type of rewards program for your employees to help get them involved. The awards don’t have to be monetary (although that would be a welcome thing). Sometimes, something as simple as recognizing their efforts in your internal newsletter or a voucher for a free lunch would be enough to get many of your employees onboard.
3. Provide training and guidelines
Even though your employees are attuned to using different social media networks, it’s important to make sure that you create a set of training guidelines and policies for them to follow. Not only will this ensure that the content your employees share is aligned with your overall goals, but also help them feel more confident about the type of posts they share.
One of the best ways to do this is by developing a training webinar using a tool like ClickMeeting, especially if your startup is made of a remote team.
For starters, you don’t have to require any of your team members to be physically present for the training. They can simply log into the training webinar room wherever they may be to join in the conversation.
Second, you can use the share screen feature to demonstrate how you’d like them to create and publish the content they’ll be sharing. If you’ll be requiring them to use a new tool or app, you can also use this feature to give them a complete walkthrough on how to use this.
Finally, you can record the entire webinar and use this as a training video to equip new additions to your team as your startup scales.
4. Listen to your employees’ feedback
Your employees are your front-liners to your target audience and customers. This puts them in a better position to provide input and suggestion to the type of content you share, where to share them, and how to share them. So make sure to pay attention to what they have to say.
After all, nothing can cause your employees to lose enthusiasm faster than to have their feedback and suggestions discounted, only to have these taken seriously if someone higher up echoes the exact message.
5. Provide sufficient resources
Along with training videos and policies, make sure that your employees are equipped with materials and resources to use.
Design toolkits are among the top must-haves to include in their arsenal because visual content gets more engagement on social media than text. Animated visuals get even more engagement.
Sadly, not everyone has a talent for graphic design. Using a design tool like Bannersnack allows your employees to quickly create static and animated branded visual content they can share on social media.
Once you set up an account for your team, they can choose from any one of their ready-made templates to get started.
These templates are already fitted to meet the dimensions specified by popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
For more visual content tools…
All your employees have to do is to edit the text and share.
Samples of posts that you like, hashtags, and even free goodies with your startup’s logo are other things worth including in the list of resources to provide.
6. Adapt a transparent corporate culture
As social ambassadors of your startup, your employees will serve as your representatives to your target market. That said, it’s crucial that they know not only about your ideas but, more importantly, your startup’s vision and values.
Having a transparent corporate culture can help because when you’re honest about what’s going on in the company, the challenges its facing, and where you want to go, your employees will feel that they’re indeed part of the team building your startup. As a result, it will breed a sense of loyalty, excitement, and enthusiasm about your startup.
These, in turn, will be communicated by your employees in the content they share about your startup on their social media accounts.
7. Make sure your content is share-worthy
No matter how loyal your employees are to your startup, they would still hesitate to share your content if it sounds like a sales pitch. Not only will these be ignored by your employees’ followers, but it can also cause some of your posts to get penalized.
That said, make sure that the content you’d want them to share will be helpful and full of valuable information. This increases the chances that people from their social media networks to click on the content shared and not just merely liking the post.
8. Encourage individuality among your employees
One of the reasons why using brand ambassadors to promote your brand is because they’re real people with their personalities. So allow your employees to create content that projects the image you want for your startup, and still let their individuality shine.
Tzvi Balbin, Head Of Digital at Datasauce, recommends brands to use Instagram Stories for this.
“Unlike blog posts and videos, Instagram Stories are quick snippets that are only available for a certain period. The reason is that they’re meant to tell narratives happening at the moment. It’s a perfect platform for your employees to use especially when you’re having a corporate event, product launch, or just want to show what it’s like to work in your startup.”
9. Invest in an employee advocacy tool
If you’ll be transforming your employees into your brand’s social ambassadors, they need to have the proper tools to use. A dedicated employee advocacy tool can significantly help you run your employee advocacy program.
When choosing an employee advocacy tool, it’s important to make sure that it’s got the proper features to make sure that it not only able for your employees to quickly find the content they can share but also make sharing it easy.
At the same time, it also should have an analytics feature so that you can keep track on how your employee advocacy program is performing. That way, you can make the adjustments to make sure you reach your marketing goals.
10. Make it fun
While it’s entirely understandable to ensure that your employees’ posts are converting, it’s important to be careful that you don’t end up pressuring them. When it becomes a chore for your employees, your employees will end up dropping out from the program one by one.
Your employees are more than just talented individuals that can help you launch your startup. They can also serve as your best representatives on social media. With their help, they start building a level of trust with your target market through their unique and authentic voice.
About the Author:
Kevin Payne is the Founder of Kevintpayne.com, an inbound marketing agency and HubSpot Partner that helps tech startup founders implement inbound marketing campaign sprints to increase their qualified leads.