Employer Branding

What Employee Advocacy Really Means

It’s not a fad or a gimmick but the most authentic way to push out stories about your organization.

In the foreword to our advocacy guide Neal Schaffer, CEO of Maximize Your Social points out that your employees are best suited to become your brand storytellers in social media:

  • People “own” brands through their perception of the brand, not the marketing department.
  • Who better than to influence the perception of your brand than those who truly understand it at its deepest level, your employees?
  • People trust people more than brands. Your employees are your brand’s secret weapon in building trust with the public.

The biggest benefit is not the mere “amplification” of your content; on the contrary, it’s the creation of content that is authentic and more engaging than anything your organization might create.

More and more organizations are interested in using social networking platforms to enhance their organizational online strategy. Social networking has revolutionized the way organizations connect, communicate and engage with shareholders, customers, suppliers, and employees.

In essence, advocacy broadens the message from a “one to many” to a “many to many” approach, when promulgating information and marketing materials. Employee advocacy shifts the focus from a top-down sales-and-marketing approach to a collaborative model that motivates and enables employees to take action in support of the organization’s efforts.

More than marketing

Social networking mimics dialogue but can be characterized as “multi-logical”, in that communication becomes not a two-way dialogue but multidirectional, as stakeholders interact with each other at the same time as posting messages “around” the network. It provides an opportunity to engage with receptive customers and influencers who may be hard to reach via other routes.

Advocacy works because advocate content and interactions are more valuable because buyers see them as authentic validation, not paid promotion. According to a Nielsen study, 84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, compared to 42% who trust banner adverts and to 37% who trust mobile-text advertising.

Obviously, in most organizations, marketing and PR play an important role in managing organizational reputation, but employee advocacy affords another means of spreading positive and strategic messages via access to social channels that are not usually part of the brand social strategy

Advocacy does so much more than marketing because it is associated with employee pride and belief in what the organization does. It is organic, in terms of the fact that employees build this pride and belief naturally, which in turn makes their advocacy authentic. It adds depth and breadth to your campaigns to drive sales and website traffic, or to provide better visibility and positive perception of the brand.

Connect, communicate and collaborate

The willingness of staff to promote the organization correlates with levels of employee engagement and a positive workplace culture. Advocacy arises from genuine engagement and only happens when employees feel respected, valued and empowered. For that to happen, they need to understand and buy into organizational vision and goals, and want to share content, whether it’s to support the organization, to amuse their contacts or to build their personal brand.

Charlene Li of Altimeter told us that what is required is to: “Create alignment and culture with a vision of how employee and customer relationships intersect. Leadership needs to develop an agreement about how employee relationships support overall business goals – especially around creating a culture where engaged employees help create great customer experiences in digital channels.”

What employees say about their employer, via their personal advocacy, goes beyond the reach of commercial advertising, no matter how original and creative, in connecting with potential customers. Building a brand depends on the whole organization, not just on a snappy advert, and social media is unique in affording scope to effectively connect, communicate and collaborate.

Adapted from the book Employee Advocacy: The Ultimate Handbook.

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.