Employee influence and influencer marketing are becoming increasingly popular methods for brands to promote their content, expand their reach, and drive maximum engagement. The two ideas are extremely different and not to be confused, though each will prove incredibly effective when implemented correctly.
By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of both types of influencer, as well as some guidance in choosing which to opt for in your next marketing campaign.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing that involves the promotion of a product or organization by influencers.
Not long ago, the world of influencer marketing was almost exclusively limited to celebrities and sports personalities. Now, anyone with a significant following on social media who also generates engagement is considered a social influencer, and in 2019, they are certainly a hot topic.
Why Social Influencers?
The use of social influencers actually helps build a brand’s credibility in the eyes of the consumer. Say, for example, a beauty influencer is endorsing a product on their Instagram page. This person’s followers likely follow them because they believe that they are an expert in a certain field, and so any recommendations from them will be seen as trustworthy and viable.
A study from Twitter found that users were more than 5x more likely to make a purchase based on an influencer tweet, while 40% of people said that they had made a purchase as a direct result of an influencer’s endorsement.
It’s also worth considering that when social influencers promote content, it doesn’t come across as pushy or as in-your-face as branded marketing. Their followers have chosen to follow them and their content, and so are less likely to be phased when they post branded or sponsored content.
However, it’s not always plain sailing with influencer marketing, as there have been many widely-publicized instances of poorly executed influencer marketing.
Take this example of reality TV star Scott Disick as an example of how not to do influencer marketing.
It’s because of infamous instances such as this, among others, that target audiences are becoming much more switched-on to influencer marketing tactics.
“Responsible influencer marketing involves being upfront and clear with the audience, so people are not confused or misled and know when they’re being advertised to” – Shahriar Coupal (Director, CAP)
In 2018, the ASA, in collaboration with CAP, set out new guidelines for influencer marketing that made it even more difficult for influencers to promote branded content in an authentic way. It is now illegal for influencers to post sponsored content without disclosing it within the post, with brands and influencers alike being hit with hefty fines.
Brands had previously worked around this by gifting influencers with products, in the hopes that they would then talk about it on social media. However, the ASA has cracked down on this too, with guidelines now insisting that social influencers disclose even gifted products.
What are Employee Influencers?
The world of influencers is changing as customers are becoming more in-tune with product placement and influencer marketing tactics. But if old advertising techniques are dead, and people don’t buy from celebrities anymore, then how should you advertise? Well, have you considered that your most valuable asset might just be your employees?
Employee influence is very similar to employee advocacy, as ultimately, your employees will be advocating for your brand. However, what sets employee influencers apart and makes them different is that they will also be creating authentic on-brand content and sharing it on behalf of your company.
Why Employee Influencers?
Organic Reach & Elevated Engagement
Your employees provide your company with the ability to reach and engage a much wider audience in a more organic way. Studies show that consumers are more likely to be influenced by people they know compared to branded marketing. Thus sharing through your employees is statistically more effective than sharing through your corporate pages or individually paid social influencers.
Social Media Today reported that 79% of people say user-generated content profoundly impacts their purchasing decisions. A similar study from MSL Group found that, on average, brand messages are shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees. This is likely because 84% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family above any other form of advertising, while 77% of people say they are more likely to purchase after hearing about it from someone they trust.
Social selling is effectively harnessing the power of social media to listen to, engage with, and build rapport with prospective clients, ensuring that you are the first person that comes to mind when a prospect is ready to buy.
An employee influencer program can be brilliantly useful in maximizing your employees’ social selling capabilities, and 63.4% of Social sellers reported an increase in company sales revenue. By sharing your company content, they are visibly exercising their knowledge of your company to their networks.
In doing so, they are establishing themselves as industry experts in the eyes of their prospects, and 92% of B2B buyers say they are willing to engage with a sales professional who is a known industry thought leader.
Reduced Cost to Hire
Hiring is never a cheap nor easy process; a recent report from Glassdoor states that 76% of hiring decision-makers say attracting quality candidates is their biggest challenge.
Employee influencers posting job opportunities directly to their social media communities is a more proactive and cost-effective way of filling a position. In 2019, Employee referrals account for only 7% of all applicants but 70% of all hires.
It’s clear that both social influencers and employee influencers are effective forms of influencer marketing, and each can be tremendously useful when appropriately implemented.
However, it’s hard to ignore the change in public perception of social influencers, and changes in guidelines and legality are making it harder than ever for brands to utilize social influencers authentically.
Social influencers aren’t going anywhere, but whether you’re a B2B business or B2C, it may be time to consider your employees as the most authentic ambassadors for your brand.