When it comes to finding people to promote or champion a brand, companies typically look outwards in search of happy customers.

However, this means many could be overlooking a far more valuable internal asset – their own employees.

Employee advocates are those that actively promote the company they work for. This can be through posts on social media, word of mouth referrals, or by becoming an expert or spokesperson for their organisation. 

So, how can employee advocates enhance brand marketing – even more so than other customers? Here are just five benefits, along with examples of brands that have successfully used the strategy.

Greater reach

According to research from LinkedIn, employees collectively have social networks an average of ten times larger than a single corporate brand. 

So, by utilising these networks, brands can automatically extend their reach, ensuring that more people become aware of their company (and something positive relating to it).

Interestingly, LinkedIn also suggests that, when employees share content, they typically see a click-through rate double that of their company. This is all to do with authenticity, as the majority of people are said to be more likely to trust recommendations from people they know above all other forms of advertising.

Fujitsu is one brand that has capitalised on this notion, using its own employee advocacy program to hugely extend reach. Upon discovering that a large percentage of employees were already posting positively about the brand on their personal social accounts, Fujitsu created a platform to make finding and sharing this kind of content easier (and less time consuming). With 700 employees from eight countries getting it board, it went on to increase reach by 70%.

Increase sales

As well as marketing material, content created by employees can also be used by sales teams to attract new leads and develop relationships. 

At the same time, sales people that happen to act as employee advocates themselves can be all the more powerful, using shared content on social to give prospective clients new opportunities to connect. The benefits of doing so are said to be huge, with research suggesting that sales people who use social media in their efforts achieve 78% more sales than those who don’t. 

It appears the benefits aren’t just for the individual either. Aberdeen Group reports that companies with formal employee advocacy programs have a 26% increase in year over year revenue.

Reinforcing brand values

Another big benefit of employee advocates is that they can be used to embody and reinforce a brand’s values, which in turn helps to create a much more powerful and authentic message.

Lush is a particularly good example of this. The brand has a famously staunch set of brand values, ranging from its commitment to ethically sourced products to diversity in the workplace. 

Not only does this influence its brand marketing, it also informs its choice of employees, with the retailer typically employing people that align with its values and beliefs. This automatically increases the chances of employees championing the brand, as they already have an affinity and shared purpose.

Similarly, brands can capitalise on an employee’s ability to champion internal culture.

For example, Reebok encourages staff to use the hashtag #fitasscompany when talking about the brand online, specifically when it comes to workplace perks like fitness classes and sporting initiatives. This helps to reinforce values as well as keep conversation about the brand relevant and related to sport. 

Tapping into expertise

In addition to content distribution, employees can be utilised for the purpose of content creation. There are two big reasons for making use of employee-generated content. First, with content (across all channels) requiring extensive time and resources to produce, it can be a great support for internal marketing teams. Second, it allows employees to utilise their own expertise to provide valuable insight into their brand or role.

The National Trust uses this strategy, with Park Rangers (who undertake conservation work in parks) often featuring in online blogs and email communication.

Similarly, B2B companies tend to use internal expertise to simplify and help consumers understand complicated topics. One example of this is IBM, which positions its employees as thought-leaders in their respective fields. It does this by highlighting knowledge and expertise in content on YouTube and other social channels. 

The Edelman Trust Barometer suggests that this kind of employee advocacy can lead to greater confidence in an organisation, as people tend to place far more trust in technical experts rather than brand leaders.

Similarly, it also promotes the sense that the company is willing to invest in the personal and professional development of its employees.

Creates a cycle of happiness

Lastly, it’s been suggested that employee advocacy programs can lead to employees becoming happier and more engaged in their roles. Research by Hinge found that almost 86% of advocates in some kind of formal program said that that being involved has had a positive impact on their career.

This is likely the result of employees feeling more valued, as well as their being in a position to play an important role in the company's growing success.

This can have a knock-on effect on employees' advocacy, leading employees to not only champion their brand in terms of its consumer-facing offering, but also as a place to work. 

Many brands are cottoning on to the benefits of using employees for talent acquisition. Mastercard is just one example, launching a dedicated ambassador program to allow staff to share content on social media relating to life at the company. Sky does something similar, encouraging employees to share content using the hashtag LifeAtSky on social networks like Twitter and Instagram.

By doing so, brands are able to continue the cycle of advocacy, promoting both their brand and its company culture.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 7 June, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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