At its core, Influencer Marketing is about turning fans, followers, and devoted customers into brand advocates. Savvy marketers recognize the power of brand advocates to build awareness, generate leads, and deliver tangible business results.
The numbers make a convincing case for why “creating more brand advocates” should be at the top of your to-do list. According to McKinsey, a word of mouth recommendation is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions, and an Opinion Research Corp. survey reveals that 83% of consumers say online customer reviews influence their purchase decisions. Brand advocates are two to three times more effective than non-advocates in persuading others to purchase recommended brands. Who can argue with those observations?
While marketers have been eager to adopt Influencer Marketing as a component part of other intiatives—and I encourage them to do so given the intimacy and engagement that results—it’s clear to me that many are overlooking a critical source of potential brand advocates: their own employees.
Why are employees incredibly valuable brand advocates? Here are three key reasons:
1. Trust – Recommendations from customers have long been the gold standard for brand advocacy, but the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that employees also wield tremendous influence, with 50% of consumers finding them just as credible as customers. That rockets up to 65% for technical experts within the company.
2. Expertise – Even if the business isn’t in a technical field, employees still have in-depth, first-hand knowledge of products, services and the category that makes them valuable sources of information into which consumers can tap.
3. Reach – Employee advocacy quickly expands a company’s social media reach; these close person-to-person connections are very influential, increasing the likelihood that the shared information will garner attention and engender trust.
So the million-dollar question is “How do you get employees to advocate?” The answer: Make sure they’re engaged.
A Gallup survey found that 81% of engaged employees were willing to write positive recommendations of their company’s products or services versus a mere 18% of unengaged workers.
This fact makes perfect sense when one considers exactly what it means for an employee to be engaged. According to the National Business Research Institute, these 6 traits are the hallmarks of an engaged employee:
- Believe in their organization
- Have the desire to work to make things better
- Understand the business context and the bigger picture
- Are respectful and helpful to colleagues
- Are willing to go the extra mile
- Stay up to date with developments within their industry
So it’s no great revelation to say that employees who are engaged by this definition—those who are knowledgeable and passionate about their company and category—make natural brand advocates. The challenge? According to the 2012 Global Workforce Study (GWS), only 35% of workers fit this description.
So how can you engage your employees and turn them into advocates? Here are 4 tips:
1. Create a high-performance culture. The Global Workforce Study also found that employees want to be engaged, and a key factor in building that engagement is the company’s culture. To turn employees into passionate advocates, create a culture that nurtures thought leadership and values social sharing. In the case of Wasabi Rabbit, I love to show off the brilliant thinking of my team when they post on our company’s social media channels. They are encouraged and acknowledged to do so.
2. Lead by example. A company’s top executives can set expectations with their own participation. Take an active role in social media and encourage your employees to join in the conversation. The added benefit? Consumers are more likely to trust a company whose leadership engages with social media (source: Go-Gulf).
3. Make the right tools, sites and processes available. Studies show that social media adoption is a key way to spur employee engagement, which in turn helps to create advocacy. Make sure employees have the access they need to social media so they can share knowledge internally and advocate for your brand externally.
4. Lay out the ground rules. Uncertainty about what’s allowed and what’s not can discourage employees from taking to social media in support of your business. So be explicit about the rules, even if the rules are as simple as “use good judgment.” It’s understandable that some types of businesses, such as those in the financial services sector, may need to keep tighter control of information than those of us in the marketing field. If an approval process is required, create and formalize one, and make sure everyone in your company is clear about it. In short, remove ambiguity by sharing the rules of the road.
The final takeaway? Social media adoption drives real business results. Encourage your best advocates to get in the game.
There is still much work to be done on full-scale social media adoption across the enterprise. In fact, it’s estimated that only 3% of companies are currently taking advantage of social media across all stakeholders. Those businesses that act quickly and make employees a key part of their social media and Influencer Marketing strategies will stake out a significant competitive advantage moving forward.
According to a 2012 McKinsey report, there’s an additional $900 billion to $1.3 trillion (yes, with a “T”!) of annual value still to be unlocked in the enterprise use of social media. Engaging employees and turning them into brand advocates as part of your Influencer Marketing strategy is an important step to closing this gap. Engaged employees produce twice as much meaningful work as unengaged employees, and a 12% increase in brand advocacy, on average, generates a 2x increase in revenue growth while boosting market share. Awesome!