Employee Advocacy is the Key to Content Marketing

Many companies have a content marketing strategy in place. The success of the program rides on several important aspects. The one constant is that the quality of the content must be high. However, high quality by itself does not guarantee success.

Every month I talk to a handful of businesses about their social media marketing strategy and of their content marketing. One of the biggest misses I see with almost all the companies that are ineffective on social media is they all lack advocacy from their employees.

Last year, I was in a client meeting with nine of their top executives and managers present. They had a content marketing program that was failing. The first thing they asked me was about the quality of the content. Was there a problem with their writing styles, titles, images, the times they were posting, etc. They had a CEO that was an exceptional writer. They had other employees that were writing good blogs. They had a social media manager that was posting creative content to their company social sites. Clearly the problem was not their content.

The meeting was just after lunch. That morning the CEO had published a blog post on LinkedIn. It was an incredible piece loaded with great insights from the career of the company’s top executive. The post was performing miserably. It lacked engagement, and the lack of views was an insult to the high-quality piece of content that had been produced.

During the first 30 minutes of the meeting, I sat there and mostly listened to them tell me about their company’s woes with their content marketing and social media strategy. The excuses they gave were all pointed toward external factors. They blamed the lack of engagement on platforms. Then they turned it to blaming the content itself and said things like, “well, nobody ever really reads blogs anymore.” Finally, when it was my turn to talk.  I asked a simple question:

How many of you liked, commented, or shared the CEO’s blog post this morning?

What do you think the response was? After shifting uncomfortably in their seats and some visible signs of quick thinking in search of a way to spin their answer so that they weren’t guilty. None of them had so much put a like on the post. The CFO was the most vocal person and began blurting out excuses like, “I was busy with “XYZ.” As the CFO, I don’t ever even use LinkedIn. What’s the point? It’s not like I’m looking for a job. Honestly, I just don’t have time for that.” It was clear that the CFO didn’t like me much. The CEO, on the other hand, had a big grin. It was an aha moment and the beginning of a change in the company’s employee advocacy program.

Another time I was on a conference call with about 25 employees from a company that was also looking to change their culture around employee advocacy. To get the participants thinking, I asked them about their favorite sports team. Then, I asked them to think about how many times they had posted about their favorite sports team on their Facebook page. Next, I asked them about how many times they had posted content from their company to their LinkedIn page. Then I asked them to think about which one they posted more frequently. One person admitted to a ratio of 100 to 1 in favor sports posts on Facebook over company related posts on LinkedIn.

To make my point, I asked them how many times their favorite sports team had paid their mortgage, help put their kids through college, or bought them dinner out on a Friday night. While I couldn’t see faces, I could sense that they began to see social media in a different light. Many of them confessed to having their priorities screwed up. They realized that their social media activities were doing more to line the pockets of wealthy athletes and powerful franchise owners than to help the very people that were providing them with a paycheck every two weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, my beloved Denver Broncos just won the Super Bowl! Yes, I have been posting about it on Facebook. As a matter fact after, after I’m done writing this I think I might just head back over to Facebook to put a few likes on the memes of Cam Newton throwing a fit on the sideline after the Broncos defense crushed him in the Super Bowl, or share a few videos of the fantastic victory parade in downtown Denver.

However, I post far more about my business and the businesses of my colleagues on LinkedIn, than I do about my favorite sports team on Facebook. Why? Last time I checked the Broncos didn’t fill the tank in my car with gas, pay for my daughter’s dance lessons, or even buy the $5 Starbucks I’m drinking as I write this post.

Why should you encourage your employees to share company content?

  • Increased SEO and traffic to the company website
  • Studies show consumers will listen to individuals more than brands
  • Companies with employee advocacy have far better results with their content marketing and social media strategy

Studies show that consumers are far more likely to consider a product or service recommendation when it comes from an individual via word of mouth rather than from a brand using traditional advertising. Consider these statistics from recent studies:

91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word-of-mouth when making their buying decision. [USM]

61% of IT buyers report that colleague recommendations are the most important factor when making a purchase decision. [B2B Magazine]

Not only are people more likely to read your content if it comes from a personal page as opposed to the company page, but the reach of the content grows when employees get involved. Consider a mid-size company with 2,500 followers on social media. Now let’s assume the company has 100 employees with an average of 250 followers on LinkedIn and 100 on Twitter. Now that reach just grew to 35,000 followers. Try sharing a blog post to 2,500 versus 35,000. The difference in the number of potential readers is tremendous. And not just any reader, consider that employee networks are full of colleagues and other industry professionals.

Employee Advocacy 2

However, implementing an employee advocacy program and getting them talking can be quite challenging. Here are some common objections from employees and how your company can overcome them:

Objection: I’m not in the marketing department. Why am I being asked to do their job?

Solution: While, employee advocacy via social media should never be a requirement; this employee needs coaching on what it means to be a team player. They should be reminded that the financial well-being of the company is in everyone’s best interest, not just marketing. At healthy organizations, many people perform duties that are not in their job description. Point to someone in your organization that routinely does tasks that are outside of the scope of their immediate position without being told it is “mandatory” and how by doing so that person is contributing to the over-all well-being of the organization.

Objection: An employee that says, “I see the benefit to the company. But what do I get out of this personally?”

Solution: For these people it’s all about them. To get them to buy in, you will need to show them that there are professional gains to be had in developing a strong personal brand. Here is the scenario I’ve used that usually results in a change in attitude. Ask them to imagine they are a finalist for the position they have in mind for their next promotion. Then tell them that it is virtually even between them and the other finalist regarding experience, education, and their performance in the interview process. Now ask them to consider that by participating in employee advocacy and enhancing their personal brand online, they would be able to tell the interviewer that their activity on social media helped generate brand awareness and lead generation while in their current role. Who do you think gets the job?

Objection: An executive or someone in HR says, “we already have company social media pages. What good will it do to have our employees on there too?

Objection: Someone in C-level says, “With increased activity on social media will hear from more detractors and customers that had a bad experience, I don’t want to run the risk of more people talking bad about our brand. This has the potential to have a negative effect on our brand.”

Solution: Guess what! If you suspect that your brand has detractors and that they may be talking poorly about your brand online, then they probably are doing so. Having your employees engaged on social media on business sites, will give you more trained eyes to not only spot the detractors of your brand but give you a chance to make amends with them. Doing so will prevent them from continuing to bad mouth your brand, and in the case, the issue is fixable it might turn them back into customers. Ignoring detractors or pretending they aren’t there does nothing to eliminate them and may even enable them to do more damage to your brand’s reputation.

Objection: “I value my privacy outside of work and never mix the two. My social networks are my own, and I don’t want them to turn into a billboard full of corporate advertising, even if it for my company.”

Solution: Don’t ask your employees to share content that is clearly an advertisement. Stay away from asking them to share things like: “Buy one get one free, hurry in today to get this offer before it’s too late, or your wife called and said it was ok for you to buy XYZ.” Instead, ask them to share value based content that is not a blatant product slam.

Objection: “This sounds great, and I would love to have that kind of reach for our content and participation from employees, but there is no way the CEO and others will go for this. They are old school, and their idea of content marketing is spending thousands to advertise in trade publications. How do I get buy-in from our execs?”

Solution: To get buy-in from your company’s top executives they will need to see a provable ROI. The best place to start is to show them specific examples from your competitors. Save yourself a ton of time and visit the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s (WOMMA) website. There you will find case studies, whitepapers, blogs, and statistics from well-known brands and non-profits that have used employee advocacy to grow the reach of their word of mouth advertising on social media.

Objection: “Everyone is already really busy. Now you want me to tell them they should be spending more time on social media at work? It seems really time-consuming and complicated. Are there any tools out there that make this a little easier to manage?”

Solution: Yes, there are two that come to mind. Check out LinkedIn’s Elevate and Hootsuite’s Amplify. Both of these tools will help you get started and assist with sharing content.

Objection: “Getting started on something like this seems nearly impossible. It wasn’t long ago that we blocked all social media sites for employees with the exception of LinkedIn for the sales team. How would we get started with this?”

Solution: Employee advocacy starts at the top. Getting buy-in and participation from your company’s top executives is a must. The executives in your company are the true thought leaders and have the potential to yield the most influence with consumers. Start your program with a select few. Gather some initial results after you begin to see a measurable impact. Then, hold a training using for your employees. Show them how the company can benefit and already has benefited from the small test group.

A sought out some insight from one executive that really understands the value of employee advocacy in his business. Ben Walker is the CEO of Denver-based, Transcription Outsourcing:

A company’s employees are their experts in the marketplace. It should be part of the company culture to always let experts be experts! Why discourage an expert from offering solutions in the marketplace? Instead, encourage employees to share their expertise on social media in a way that demonstrates value.

Hopefully, you’ve found the information in my blog helpful to either start an employee advocacy program or improve your existing one. However, I’d like to ask you to remember just one thing if nothing else, regardless of whether or not your company has an official employee advocacy program for content marketing, if the CEO writes a blog post, put a like on it. Just sayin…

About the Author: John White is a recovering 13-year veteran of the wireless industry, current owner and chief marketer at Social Marketing Solutions, and is a contributing writer to The Good Men ProjectDice, and more. When he is not blogging or Tweeting, John enjoys being a dad, playing tennis, and eating Mexican food. Call or text me: 970-692-3270.

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7 Comments on “Employee Advocacy is the Key to Content Marketing

March 3, 2016 at 5:19 am

Excellent blog!

Social Marketing Solutions
April 6, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Thank you, Nicola! Thanks for stopping by!

Mitali Bahl
April 22, 2016 at 11:58 am

By aggregating all brand communication – both internal and external – , an employee advocacy platform makes it easy for businesses to engage their people in the latest company activity and, through sharing content with their own social media connections. Empowering employees to share company content on their own social network accounts increases their sense of involvement, and drives a culture based on ownership and open communication

Social Marketing Solutions
April 6, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Thanks, Mitali. Great comment and absolutely agree with what you have said. Thanks for stopping by and engaging on the site!

December 29, 2016 at 10:47 pm

What’s the source on that “91%” stat? I’ve been looking for “USM” for days and can’t find the original source.


[…] Strategy: Employee Advocacy – Employees can reach an audience 10x larger than your […]

June 5, 2018 at 7:01 am

By totaling all brand correspondence – both inward and outer – , a worker promotion stage makes it simple for organizations to draw in their kin in the most recent organization action and, through offering substance to their own internet-based life associations. Engaging representatives to share organization content individually interpersonal organization accounts expands their feeling of contribution, and drives a culture in light of possession and open correspondence


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