In 2020, brands are waking up to the fact that buyer attitudes are changing. Put simply; people no longer trust brands. Of course, there are exceptions, but nowadays, people are more likely to follow the people who work for an organization than the company itself. In every sense, employees are becoming the face and voice of organizations.
For a while, brands have been trying to combat this decline in trust, namely through the use of social media influencers and product placement. However, as is too often the case, buyers became increasingly savvy to this new form of marketing, following changes in consumer protection law and one too many well-publicized blunders.
In recent months we’ve seen a steep incline in brands conveying important updates and messages through their employees. With the now well-documented pandemic taking full effect, senior management and less-senior staff alike have been taking to social media to assure their client-base, customers, and followers that the business is operating despite the public health emergency.
In 2019, we saw a spike in articles and research that declared a want for transparency and authenticity from brands, as buyers have become increasingly frustrated by those not fulfilling expectations or partaking in one too many dodgy dealings. Think 2018 when the scandal arose surrounding Cambridge Analytica that left Facebook having to answer to more than just the court of public opinion.
The solution is simple but clear: people trust those they know. A study conducted by Olapic found that 76% of people are more likely to trust someone they know over any form of branded content. How are brands using people to communicate if social media influencers didn’t work? The answer is the most untapped resource for companies of all shapes and sizes – their employees.
Here’s how your organization can leverage your employees’ networks to effectively disseminate information, promote and enforce operational transparency, and restore trust to build a truly people-based organization.
Leverage Your Employee Influencers
As a business, your employees are some of your most trusted and reputable ambassadors. They are your internal influencers and experts in both your company and the industry within which you operate. Not only this, but your employees will have an average network size of 1,180 people. According to research conducted by LinkedIn, if you total that up your employees will have an average cumulative reach that is more than 10x your corporate accounts. That’s quite the audience! Specialists in strategic communications and engagement, MSL Group, found that brand messages are shared 24 times more frequently when employees shared them—proving that in today’s shifting climate that’s lacking in both certainty and consumer trust, in order to truly amplify your message, your employees should be at the center of your communications.
Why is this important? The logic and theory behind employee influence is something of a no-brainer. Firstly, you have the marketing benefits of amplified reach, increased engagement, maximized social selling, and reduced cost-per-click, among other things. With the studies and statistics mentioned above taken into account, there’s no denying that your content would be able to reach and engage a much broader audience through your employees’ collective sharing.
Look no further than sports nutrition brand, Grenade, for examples of exceptional employee influence, and using employees to lead the charge in company communications. The brand exudes positive company culture, with the company holding what appears to be a fairly relaxed social media policy, as employees frequently share behind-the-scenes content onto LinkedIn and other sites. Often just one influential employee will generate more engagement on their post than the brand itself, which means not to say that Grenade isn’t trusted as a brand. Rather it’s that their employees hold much more influence, especially on a platform like LinkedIn.
Grenade’s power to leverage their employees’ influence was recently demonstrated when they launched their first-ever Easter egg, with employees taking to social media to talk about it before Grenade had officially launched it on their website.
The second most significant benefit of employee influence is the branding benefits it builds. Employee influence wields both employer branding and company branding benefits. How? Well, actively encouraging your employees to create and share content on behalf of your organization is a fantastic way to empower your workforce. It displays trust in your employees to represent the brand online, while telling them that they are just as much a part of the business as senior management, the board, and all of the above.
Alongside employee empowerment, employee influencers give you a chance to showcase your company culture on social media. Displaying positive company culture via your employees carries with it two main benefits: crowdsourcing authentic company content from your employees, and promoting your employer brand to a sea of potential top candidates.
Your employee influencers give the public a chance to see what life is really like at your company, and they tell the story of the day-to-day goings-on that lead to your successes! Take a look at conversational marketing platform, Drift, for example. Drift has famously stated that they never use stock photography. Everything you see is in house and genuine. From their slide decks and resources to their brand book, what you see is what you get with Drift! Not only do practices like this display full transparency, but it gives a potential candidate a genuine look at what it’s really like to work there.
It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges facing marketing teams in 2020 is creating this level of company content at scale. Most companies rely on their social media community manager or agency partners to take pictures and videos, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Employee content creation tools like Lens by DSMN8 give your employees a platform to capture and upload those special moments from within your organization, then submit them for company use. Even managing the transferral of usage rights from within the app itself.
No doubt, as a business, you will already have employees who are on social media and actively advocating for your organization, though you may not know it yet. In fact, a study from Weber Shandwick found that of those surveyed, 39% of employees had spoken positively about their employer on social media. Whether by sharing your content or posting content they’ve created, your employees are already posting about your company on social media; the key is to leverage and encourage this activity. Encouragement can come in the simplest of forms. It could be a like or a comment on their post, or simply dropping them an email to say that their efforts are recognized!
If you’re having trouble finding your employee influencers, a helpful tip would be to search your company name and company-related hashtags on social media.
Of course, the most effective way to leverage your employees’ efforts and amplify your content would be to centralize this activity within an employee influencer platform. Using a formal program, you can invite your employees to participate and even incentivize the processes of content sharing and content creation with leaderboards and rewards. Select platforms even offer internal communications features, allowing senior leadership to broadcast video updates straight to employees’ feeds! After all, one of the toughest parts of any CEO’s job is consistent communication.