Do you want to grow your B2B company by using LinkedIn? What if you could tap into its power by turning your employees to promote your company and improve your visibility? Well, there’s no better way than social media employee advocacy (SMEA) which is a great sales and marketing tool that will help boost the growth of your business by engaging your employees on LinkedIn.
For any B2B companies planning an employee advocacy, LinkedIn is the network to launch it.
With over 722 million professionals using LinkedIn worldwide, it is the leading source of quality, relevant business leads for any B2B company among social platforms.
As such, it provides a unique opportunity to improve organizational performance through employee advocacy.
Here are some statistics highlighting the value of an employee advocacy program:
- Leads developed through employee advocacy convert seven times more frequently than other leads. (Source: Marketing Advisory Network)
- 75% of B2B companies make their purchasing decision using social media. (Source: IDC)
- A formal employee advocacy program helps shorten the sales cycle. Nearly 64% of advocates in a formal program credited employee advocacy with attracting and developing new business, and nearly 45% attribute new revenue streams to employee advocacy. (Source: Hinge Research Institute)
- 91% of consumers trust peer recommendations as much as they trust online reviews.(Source: Forbes)
At the end of this article, you will learn:
- How SMEA is defined;
- Why social media employee advocacy through LinkedIn is a powerful tool in business marketing; and,
- Tips for employers increasing a sustainable and effective social media advocacy program using LinkedIn to get better results
What is social media employee advocacy using LinkedIn?
Employee advocacy is when your employees take ownership of the success and growth of the company through promotion of products and services.
The goal of employee advocacy is simple: get more people talking about your product or service with the help of your workforce.
This can be done in many ways. However, we are going to focus here on how to do advocacy efforts using LinkedIn as the preferred professional network because:
- LinkedIn is the most widely used social media outlet among professionals around the globe and, therefore, provides your organization with maximum exposure.
- And since we are talking about employee advocacy, it can have a positive impact from an employer’s perspective to engage your workforce with their connections, like industry leaders, and your company, on LinkedIn.
Using LinkedIn, employees can advocate for your company by:
- Posting company content like company news, linked articles or blog posts
- Attending events
- Sending messages to prospects and customers
- Creating relevant content
- Curating original content from industry experts
- Promoting your LinkedIn company page
Why does employee advocacy work?
Employee advocacy works because employees are motivated to help their company succeed. Employees proud of their employer will advocate for policies and programs that benefit them and their coworkers.
When employees are engaged in promoting your company, they feel like part of something bigger than themselves. This makes them feel connected to the company and its mission.
And this feeling of belonging leads to higher retention rates and longer tenure at work.
What are the benefits of using LinkedIn for employee advocacy campaign?
There are many reasons companies use LinkedIn for their employee advocacy campaigns. Here are 7 benefits:
1. Reach a wider audience
Since LinkedIn reaches millions of business professionals every single day, it becomes an invaluable resource. This means that if you have an excellent strategy and plan, you will be able to target a large audience at once.
However, the reach is not limited to just other people; it also includes businesses and organizations where your content is shared and potentially seen.
That’s not all though…
2. The network effect
LinkedIn has become one of the most powerful tools available to marketers today. It allows us to connect with others who may be interested in our product or service.
Those people can recommend us to their friends and colleagues. And then their friends and colleagues can recommend us too.
This is called the “network effect” and it’s what creates word-of-mouth marketing.
3. Connections matter most
While you are certainly free to communicate directly with prospective clients and partners, in terms of business development, connection matters most.
Just imagine that each time someone shares something of value (positive content related to your product or service), they are also sharing you with their network.
And for every person who connects with you, they will be exposed to all of your other posts and activities. It’s no wonder how many people say they prefer working with brands that have engaged their network!
So, if you want to increase your chances of being discovered, then you need to take advantage of this feature through employee advocacy.
4. Boost brand loyalty
People trust these testimonials because they come from a trusted person – not a brand.
So, when your employees recommend your products or services, they are also telling their friends and families what they think about your brand.
5. Get more engagement through employees
The more engagement you get from your employees, the more likely they are to share positive content on social media.
In fact, studies show that employees who engage with their peers are up to four times more likely to share content compared to those who don’t.
According to Forbes “…brand messages shared by employees on social media earn 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels — and eight times more engagement.“
6. Increase sales
It doesn’t matter whether you sell online or offline, your sales will eventually come down to customer and network referrals.
If your sales team is looking for new leads, they should look out for potential prospects from within your existing network. Remember, LinkedIn is a great way to find those people easily.
7. Increase brand visibility through search engines
If your company has a strong LinkedIn presence, then you’re bound to benefit from increased search engine activity when people look up your brand name.
This means more traffic to your website, which means more conversions.
To summarize the benefits:
Social media employee advocacy programs are proven to increase awareness about a brand while generating qualified leads.
By building out a team of ambassadors and empowering them, you will see increases in brand awareness, website visits, increased lead generation, and improved marketing results.
With this knowledge, you should be working hard at spreading the good news about your organization through an effective employee advocacy plan, rather than letting it happen naturally.
This takes us to the next section.
How to create a sustainable employee advocacy program using LinkedIn
By using LinkedIn as a tool for employee advocacy, you can leverage your workforce to amplify your corporate message and help promote your company’s reputation in the community through their network.
Building a successful employee advocacy program requires commitment, perseverance and ongoing support.
Here are some tips to make sure that your employee advocacy efforts are successful.
#1 Gain buy-in from executives and leaders
If you want to create an effective advocacy program, then it’s important to involve top executives and the leadership team early on. This is because they have the power to direct resources wherever necessary.
The other reason to involve senior management early on is that it encourages buy-in from your staff. Involving senior leaders will also give you the opportunity to ask questions and clarify expectations early, preventing misunderstandings later down the road.
The key thing here is to ensure that there is executive sponsorship. So, don’t ask your interns to do the job.
Also, they may be able to provide insight into how successful employee advocacy campaigns have worked previously—or even what hasn’t worked so far.
So how to get buy-in from executives and senior managers?
You’ll need to explain to them why employee advocacy is so valuable to your business and what kind of impact it could have on your bottom line. You’ll also need to show them how it benefits both the company and its employees.
#2 Identify stakeholders and influencers
Now that we’ve established buy-in from our leadership team, it’s time to identify key stakeholders and influencers across your organization.
It goes without saying that you need a representative from every department so that there can be no bias towards any one area. However, not all departments are created equal – certain ones such as HR, Marketing, Sales, etc., typically have more interest and expertise in issues affecting these areas.
So, choose someone from each of these departments to represent each segment of your brand. This way, you’ll have multiple voices and perspectives.
#3 Set goals and KPIs for your social media employee advocacy program
Before you begin implementing your plan, you’ll first have to define what goals and objectives you hope to achieve. This will ensure that you’re measuring success rather than just posting content.
There’s likely to be a lot going on inside your organization, but you must decide which aspects of employee advocacy mean the most. These may include things like:
- Awareness: Is this program aimed at increasing awareness of your brand within the broader public, or simply encouraging current employees to share positive views about your company?
- Lead generation: Are you looking to generate new leads? Or merely encourage existing customers to talk positively about your brand?
- Positioning: Does your company need to improve its image with consumers? Or does it need to rebrand itself entirely?
- Reputation Management: Do you want to prevent negative customer reviews online? Or should you focus instead on promoting good experiences?
- Sales: How do we increase our sales during the month of our advocacy campaign? Or does it make sense to run our own ad campaigns outside of social media?
In addition, you’ll also need to set up specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) – measures of succes which can be tracked over time.
And remember: Some KPIs might overlap others, so think carefully about which ones will be relevant to your overall strategy.
For example, if one of your objectives is to drive sales, then you could measure whether your employee advocacy program led to increased revenue.
Don’t expect miracles overnight…and definitely avoid being overly ambitious. Instead, get started slowly by identifying smaller objectives and milestones along the way. Then break each milestone down further until you feel comfortable achieving them one step at a time.
#4 Set expectations and make them visible
Before starting anything, set expectations. Create a document or other type of communication that defines the purpose of employee advocacy and what employees should expect from it.
Also, make sure that your employees are aware of the goals of your program.
Then, help them understand the benefits of participating.
Develop clear guidelines for your employee advocates. You don’t want them to feel confused or unsure of what they should be doing.
Ensure that your advocates involved in the program receive clear instructions and guidelines. (More on guidelines below).
#5 Provide advocates ongoing training & support
Make sure to offer ongoing training for everyone involved in the employee advocacy program.
This includes managers, supervisors and co-workers.
It’s not uncommon for people to ask questions like “What are we supposed to post?” or “Who should I follow?”
Your employees also need to understand the nuances of their role and why this specific type of advocacy is important to you. Therefore, you should go beyond simple training and take a more strategic approach.
Keep in mind that some employees may not be interested in getting involved. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, your goal shouldn’t be forcing everyone to participate. You just want to make sure you’re covered from every angle.
#6 Define your advocacy program structure
To make the most out of your employee advocacy programs, it helps to define your structure.
A typical employee advocacy structure includes three main parts:
- A central hub to simplify access to approved content for employees and where all information related to employee advocacy is stored.
- An internal communication channel that allows employees to share content ideas and to collaborate. This can be content creation tools that provide users with templates to create new content. They can use different channels such as blogs, wikis, forums etc depending on your needs and preferences.
- External communication platforms that connect your employees to external sources such as social media networks, websites and news outlets that relate to your industry.
Whatever you choose, you should ensure that it supports easy dissemination from your employees by allowing them to easily upload content to these platforms.
The key here is to choose advocacy solutions for both internal and external communications. If possible, limit the number of tools used.
#7 Make advocacy rewarding and fun!
One of the best ways to encourage employee engagement is through rewards. When you reward people for sharing content, then you’re encouraging them to keep doing what they’re doing.
If you want to make your employee advocacy program more effective, then try adding gamification elements. Gamification involves using game mechanics to engage people.
For example, you could give points to employees for every time they share content. Then, you could award those employees with prizes based on their point totals.
For instance, if an employee has earned 1,000 points, he or she would receive a $100 prize.
The key here is to make it easy for employees to earn these rewards.
Reward programs are a great way to motivate employees to promote your brand.
#8 Be consistent
Consistency is key when it comes to employee advocacy.
Make sure you send out emails or other messages containing the link to your advocacy hub frequently. Employees will forget if you don’t remind them regularly.
If you only encourage your employees to advocate once every few months, then you’ll lose interest quickly. Instead, try to encourage them to be advocates regularly.
By consistently promoting your employee advocacy program, you’ll ensure that your employees stay engaged.
This will help you build up momentum.
#9 Be open to feedback
Your goal isn’t just to get people to advocate; it’s also to do it effectively.
You can also ask for input. Ask for ideas or tips on what kinds of content people would like to see created.
Feedback is important because it allows you to improve your efforts for your employee advocacy program.
For instance, you could have monthly meetings with all of your advocates. These sessions will allow your team to learn and discuss best practices and challenges as they arise.
#10 Social CEOs lead by example
As the executive, or senior manager, you need to set a good example in your advocacy program.
If your employees see that you’re engaging in the advocacy efforts your self, they’re more likely to follow suit.
Show your employees how to be positive ambassadors for your organization. Show them how they can use their personal relationships to spread awareness about your business.
#11 Assemble a team of content curators and creators
A successful program on advocacy on any social media platform would require one thing: content.
Your advocates will need company posts for posting on LinkedIn.
So you will need to assemble a team of content curators and creators.
These individuals will be responsible for content curation, and for creating original content for your advocates. You can either look inside your organization or you can outsource this.
Your social media content should be able to assemble curated content including links back to the company blog and website, as well as news articles that are related to the business’ industry or niche.
They should be able to create blog posts, videos, images, infographics, etc.
#12 Track employee advocacy program results
After launching your employee advocacy program, monitor results.
You can measure the effectiveness of your employee advocacy program through several metrics.
Analytics tools allow you to track and analyze data regarding your employee advocacy program.
For instance, you can use analytics tools to evaluate if your employees are sharing your content and engaging with it.
Analytics tools also allow you to evaluate the success of your program by tracking the performance of each recommendation.
Besides other metrics, LinkedIn has these for employee advocacy:
- Employee advocacy metrics: Total number of recommendations, posts from recommendations, reactions to posts, comments on posts and reshares of posts over a time period.
- Employees posting from recommendations metrics: Job function, seniority and location of employees posting the recommendations.
- Recommendation engagement metrics: This covers all recommendations published to employees within LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn followers’ metrics: Job function, seniority, location, industry and company of LinkedIn members who interacted with your employees’ posts that were generated from recommendations.
It’s important to remember that these numbers won’t tell you everything about your program. But they can help you gauge whether your implementation was effective.
Social media guidelines for your employee advocacy platform
When employees use social networks like LinkedIn, they’re representing your company.
To make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to social media etiquette, establish a set of clear guidelines that outline acceptable behaviors.
Typically, social media policies will outline how employees should interact with customers and potential clients.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Be positive: Maintain an upbeat tone throughout your posts.
- Don’t gossip: Keep discussions focused on the topic at hand. If there’s something negative you’d rather share outside of the workplace, do so privately.
- Avoid profanity: It’s common courtesy to refrain from using strong language.
- Don’t post personal information: You should only post professional information that doesn’t jeopardize your privacy or violate policies. Don’t post financial records (like income tax forms), private health data or contact info of clients, vendors or potential employers.
- Respect others’ opinions: Never try to sway people into taking a certain point of view. Also, avoid spreading rumors or false information. Stay away from controversial topics, such as politics or religion.
- Respect people’s privacy: Never post other people’s private details without permission.
- Consider the audience: Also, consider how your content fits with your organizational values.
- Keep your profile current: It’s best to update your LinkedIn profile regularly to reflect recent milestones, promotions, awards, and certifications.
One more thing, the guidelines should also explain what information employees can and cannot post.
From work force to marketing and sales force
Employees who are encouraged to adopt an advocacy mindset will increase your organization’s visibility.
Your employees’ actions can play a big role in creating raving fans and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.
And, the more engaged your team becomes, the higher your chances to drive sales and create loyal customers.
If you’ve launched an employee advocacy program using LinkedIn page, what has worked for you? Share your tips and experiences below!
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