Marketing departments know that to build a trusted brand, they need to deliver consistently on their brand promise. More recently, marketers have been using storytelling and ‘community’ to humanise the brand, thus building an emotional attachment. It’s this emotional relationship that turns buyers into loyal customers, and brand advocates. Think Apple, Lego and Nike.
‘Brand Advocates’ are not a new species. They’ve long been identified as someone who talks favourably about a brand or product, and then passes on positive word-of-mouth messages about that brand to other people. These ‘personal recommendations’ have been around since the dawn of trade. Until more recently, most advocacy was simple word-of-mouth, but the internet, and more specifically social media, has changed all of this. Think Trip Advisor, Glassdoor … or simply a comment posted on FB or Twitter, either public or private.
So you’re probably asking yourself, what’s all this got to do with branding?
The fact that customers, job seekers and employees are overexposed to direct advertising is a major problem for brand marketers. They are having to think up new ways to break through the noise and be heard.
One of the ways they are achieving this is to blur the lines between marketing constructs and employee generated conversations. Employee advocacy does just this, it breaks away from tradition and enables employees to generate and publish their own content. By doing so, customers and job seekers are able to see inside the organisation and associate specific values and behaviours with that business. Thus humanising ‘The Brand’.
One of the biggest pain points for all marketers is the sheer quantity of content required to engage audiences 24/7. The fact that social is never “off” can appear extremely daunting. Even the most advanced social companies are struggling to generate the volume of quality content required to consistently humanise the brand. Using employee generated content alleviates content generation fatigue – CGF (yes, I just made that name up).
If you come from an employer branding background, you’ll know that an EVP (employee value proposition) balances aspirational stretch and everyday reality. To understand the reality, there is only one group of people you can talk to: namely, those on the front line delivering the service day in day out. For this reason, employee advocacy breaks down psychological barriers that customers, jobs seekers and employees experience when exposed to direct advertising. They know that what they are seeing and hearing is the truth – and can therefore be relied upon.
Ultimately the true power of social media advocacy hinges on the buy-In from your own employees. Letting your own employees promote a living, breathing and evolving employee value proposition. It’s fair to say that if you wish to embrace employee advocacy as an brand marketing strategy, you need to accept that you are going to lose a little control. That’s not to say that communications can’t be moderated, but does mean you need to ensure you have a social media policy in place and employees have been trained on the associated technologies. Giving your employees a brand voice increases ownership, and we all know that ownership bestows pride and belonging (those feelings associated with workplace happiness and great culture). Employees who advocate the brand are engaged individuals. They have bought into the company’s missions and vision, and openly promote the organisation.
“Improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.” (Source Mckinsey&Company)
This is why employee advocacy is so exciting. It can’t be faked. It can’t be controlled. It is ‘Reality’ – and therefore, in my mind, it’s the future of brand marketing. I also believe we’re at the tipping point of advocacy being the main currency of employer branding. Why? To date, employee advocacy has been reserved for larger organisations and mainly for social selling. However the talent industry is starting to wake up to the fact that employee advocacy is an incredibly powerful employer branding tool.