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The Value of Activating Employees as Media

Marketing guru Michael Brito explains his vision for participation marketing in the first installment of his four-part series, “The Employee Content Engine.”

Smart and innovative companies use their employees as a way to reach new audiences, augment organic reach in social channels and humanize their brand.
Many refer to this as employee advocacy. I call it participation marketing, and the reason is pretty straightforward. Employees tell better stories than you do. Their voices are trusted. And they already participate in industry conversations with your potential customers.
Whatever you decide to call it, research and data support the need to build a strategy for activating employees to participate in industry conversations and “tell the brand story.”

Data points to consider

  • People trust people: Data from the Boston Consulting Group shows that when it comes to trust and credibility, people seeking information about a brand are most inclined to turn to “people they know”, “consumer opinions” and “colleagues and friends.” The Edelman Trust Barometer has similar findings, also stating that “employees of a company” and “technical experts” are highly trusted by peers.
  • Business people talk to each other online: Research by the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) found that the most frequent use of social media among business professionals was interacting with their peers online. 65% of users participate to engage with a professional community of colleagues and peers via social media, and 82% join to exchange information with technical experts.
  • Brands are finally catching on: Data from the Altimeter’s 2015 State of Social Business Report revealed that the development of employee advocacy programs has become a high priority for social strategists. Since 2013 there has been 191% increase in interested companies, jumping from 13% involvement to 45%.

However, activating your employees because it’s the “next big thing” or because your competitors are doing so is not smart or strategic. There must be value for everyone involved – your employees, customers and of course the brand.
Consider this model. It shows the relationship that your brand plays in facilitating these conversations between your employees and customers, and what the parties involved stand to gain.

How the model works

1: Any successful employee advocacy program requires significant planning. This includes segmenting employees (job function, regions or level of social proficiency), managing content, building a training curriculum, planning a strategy to scale the program globally and deciding which technology to invest in.
2: The result of including employees in something beyond their “day jobs” reaps a multitude of organizational benefits. In 2014, the Altimeter & LinkedIn Relationship Economics Report found that employees of socially engaged brands are:

  • 20% more likely to stay at their company
  • 27% more likely to feel optimistic about their company’s future
  • 40% more likely to believe their company is more competitive
  • 57% more likely to align social media engagement to more sales leads

The result: happy, highly engaged employees – an army of brand champions – willing and able to represent the brand in a more human way and deliver long-term business impact.
3: The “output” of activated employees is trusted content that matters. Thought leadership, social selling, customer support and everything in between can be integrated across your brand’s media channels as well as on employees’ personal accounts.
4: The return on investment for “participation marketing” is when employees aid and influence their peers and guide them into the purchase funnel. This also results in brand advocacy among your customers and often draws unsolicited insights and feedback to improve your product. This is brand love.

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