Word of mouth communication is an incredible tool for marketers. It can help you grow an audience, cement loyalty, and find new customers.
Yet, many of us make the critical mistake of assuming that word of mouth activation is totally organic. We assume there is little we can do to influence it except provide a good experience for customers.
While a good customer experience is essential, there are many things we can do beyond that to encourage word of mouth sharing. And one of the most frequently overlooked tools available to us is employee advocacy.
Focusing on employee advocacy is nothing new. However, its importance has increased as buyers rely more and more on social media to inform their buying process.
Guest Post from Samantha Stone, Founder, Marketing Advisory Network.
According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, messages from employees are more trusted than messages from a brand itself. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you should stop sending brand messages. It does mean, though, we must tap into the power of our employees to build trusted relationships. In fact, MSL Group reports that brand messages are re-shared 24x more frequently when employees share content, then when the content comes from the brand alone.
Still, according to LinkedIn, in the average company only 3% of employees share company-related content. This is the case despite those 3% being responsible for driving a 30% increase in the content’s total likes, shares, and comments.
To fully harness the power of employee advocacy we need to understand the ins and outs of what is holding employees back. To achieve this understanding, we surveyed 499 people and found out who typically shares on social media, what factors contribute to their willingness or hesitation to share content, and, most importantly, what organizations need to do motivate employees to become advocates.
Who is active on social media?
According to the 2017: Employee Advocacy Impact Study, the majority of respondents (78%) have directly said something positive about their employer to someone else. At the same time, only 27% have done so via an online comment or review.
Marketers might be tempted to assume this gap is generational, but that would be misleading. While the survey revealed that Millennials are the most active socially, Generation X employees are close behind, and even Baby Boomers engage in a great deal of social activity.
If it’s not simply generational, what is behind this discrepancy? It turns out training, professional passion, and whether or not an employee worked on- or off-site are the key contributors.
When it comes to high frequency sharers, location is a particularly critical factor. Surprisingly, only 13% of those working at a company location reported sharing “professional” content in the prior month (between 4–10 times). Compare that to 32% of those working at a client location, and 25% of those traveling between client locations.
What distracts employees from sharing?
The majority of respondents (70%) use social media professionally. When it comes to sharing company information, however, they report a variety of barriers. Luckily, we as marketers can help overcome many of these barriers with better content prompts and training.
As you can see, different employees experience different challenges when it comes to sharing company information. For this reason, just as it is risky to treat all buyers the same, trying to remove barriers by engaging employees with a broad-brush approach – by generation, industry or even location – is not going to be effective.
Nevertheless, we did find two approaches that do seem to be widely effective. First, employee advocacy increases when written guidelines and training are provided. Additionally, when employees clearly understand the company mission and feel passionate about the organization, advocacy becomes more likely.
Harnessing the power of employee advocates is an investment that pays off in many ways. Read the full Employee Advocacy Impact Study to dig deeper into the findings and learn how to engage and inspire your team.
Samantha Stone, author of Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook that Drives Sales, is a revenue catalyst who helps unleash the possible in organizations that have complex selling processes. She’s a fast-growth, B2B marketing junkie, researcher, speaker, consultant and persona coach who has also managed to find time to raise four boys with her husband, David. Throughout her career she has launched go-to-market initiatives and led marketing strategies for award-winning, high-growth companies including Netezza, SAP, Ascential Software and Powersoft. In 2012 she founded The Marketing Advisory Network to help savvy business leaders unleash the possible within their enterprises.