In 2017, virtually every engineering marketer has a content strategy. Many have learned from experience that creating the content is only half the battle. The other half is getting that content in front of the right audience.
One potential game-changer for distributing your content is to leverage the social followers of your employees. This approach, called employee advocacy, is rapidly becoming an accepted practice that can dramatically increase how many people your brand stories will touch.
With social media so ingrained in everyone’s day-to-day it only makes sense that marketers are looking for ways to expand their social reach beyond just their own followers. One path forward is Employees who can have a remarkable multiplying effect on your distribution for two reasons:
- Employees are perceived as more authentic than your brand social channels, resulting in higher clicks and shares, and
- Your employees, when all added together, have a bigger reach than your brand channels.
So should you consider an employee advocacy platform? To help answer that question I spoke to a representative of one such platform as well as a lead marketer from a major engineering software company. They helped me to understand how these systems work and what their benefits are for industrial marketers. I found this topic incredibly interesting and I think you will too.
Employee Advocacy is now a thing
It’s no secret that the way that engineers find information in 2017 is different than even just a few years ago. The competition for attention has been dialed up. Your brand messages can easily get lost in the midst of that firestorm of content.
As Chad McCaffrey VP at PostBeyond (an employee advocacy platform) says, “It’s now a people-driven social world.” He adds that “Influencers are the brands on social, not companies.”
The siren song of employee advocacy is that it can engage your employees to help build your brand through their social networks.
Employee advocacy stats according to Hootsuite’s Amplify brand
Hootsuite says that employee advocacy can really boost your numbers:
- 8X jump in engagement when employees share content
- 92% of your employees’ followers are new to your brand
- 24X more re-shares when employees share content
So if your employees really do have more social reach than your corporate channels, and if they really can generate more shares per post, and if they are willing to help, then this should work. Right?
To find out whether the claims are true, I spoke to friend and colleague Sandy Adam, Global Social Media Marketing Manager at ANSYS, an engineering software developer. Referring to the LinkedIn Elevate program, Sandy said that, “employees are now sharing content 4X more than before, and their content sharing has in turn influenced 2X more company page views.”
Employees are now sharing content 4X more than before, and their content sharing has in turn influenced 2X more company page views
That makes sense to Chad, “Imagine that each of your employees has on average 500 connections across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Just multiply that times the number of employees you have and you will get an idea of the potential reach.”
One of the reasons that the ANSYS program has been so successful is that the company follows an 80/20 rule on the content that they share, with 80% being general industry content that does not mention ANSYS. This can include owned, earned and paid media. “I’ve included the ENGINEERING.com Twitter feed in my content stream for curation,” she said, (and I love that she said that!)
By respecting her fellow employees and their online reputations, her program embodies the spirit of content marketing. “I’m not trying to turn our team into a group of spammers,” she added.
That still leaves 20% of the content that is company specific, which is where the marketing brand messages can be delivered.
How does employee advocacy software work?
Think of employee advocacy software as a repository for all of the content that you would like your employees to share. To get started, companies nominate a person on their team to identify the sources of stories from inside and outside the company. That nominee then curates the flow of content to select the stories that are the best fits for the company’s brand and audience.
Sandy says that ANSYS did not hire an additional marketer to take care of this new distribution channel. Instead, she added employee advocacy to her other duties. To make this possible, she gave her most ardent employee volunteers permission to add stories into the content stream.
Example content stream for a curator – Courtesy of PostBeyond
As part of rolling out this program, Sandy built 17 content verticals along industry and geography lines. By creating sub-streams, employees have content feeds that are customized and not overwhelming.
The employees can surf the streams of content on their desktops or mobile devices and then share the content with their followers with a single click.
Employee advocacy platforms like PostBeyond are natively mobile
The software then tracks the results of the shares and reports to each of the users individually and in aggregate. With this reporting, marketers can prove to themselves and senior management that the investment in employed advocacy is paying off. Reporting also helps marketers to tweak their strategy when they find out what sort of content performs the best.
Reporting is a big part of the value of employee advocacy platforms – Courtesy of PostBeyond
Not all employees will embrace every post you make. But you may be surprised which of your employees are doing the sharing. While you would expect that the people in your sales team would use employee advocacy to support their social selling efforts, Sandy says that, “There is no consistent trend in who shares the most. It varies month-to-month. Employees who are quite active include executives, product managers, marketing and even IT, accounting, legal and administrative staff. So a nice cross-section across the enterprise.”
Sandy added that people share for their own reasons. They may be proud to work at your company, and want to share that with their followers. Or they may want to raise their profile to help build their career. These sharing platforms allow them to see how well their sharing is performing and how that is translating into more followers.
Is employee advocacy worthwhile for your brand?
It’s easy to measure the value of employee advocacy. You know how much it costs now to reach your audience through social media.
Start with estimating your cost per visit. Now estimate how many more visits and shares your stories will earn by being distributed through your employees using the metrics posted earlier in this article. If you can justify a few thousand dollars per month, then you probably have a good business case for investigating these platforms.
You can see a more formal way to calculate value with a tool like PostBeyond’s ROI calculator.
These tools aren’t for everyone. Smaller companies may have trouble justifying the spend. Larger brands will have to pay more for the platforms, but they will also have a much more compelling business case thanks to their much higher employee count. In fact, two of our larger advertisers have already implemented employee advocacy platforms. I suspect we will see many more.
Thanks for reading (and sharing),