How do you tap into the power of an engaged workforce on social media? To find out, I've had a chat with Ed Terpening of Altimeter Group who has done extensive research in the employee advocacy space.
Tell us about "Social Media Employee Advocacy: Tapping into the Power of an Engaged Workforce.
"Every year we conduct a benchmark of what's happening in terms of social business, and we define 'social business' as basically the application of social media within a business. And in these annual benchmarks we ask how mature are you in service, in support, in marketing, in recruiting, in all the different ways you can use social? And one of the areas that really popped out as a growth area was employee advocacy which for years was down, way down the list of priorities of strategists.
And we saw a huge jump - a 191% increase between 2013 and 2015. And actually, in the research we'll talk about today, we saw a further jump. So now we're seeing that 90% of brands are either piloting, mature in their use of employee advocacy, or they're considering it. So we just thought it was a very interesting area to look at, because one of things that we all have to deal with regarding technology disruption is this idea of a bright, shiny object. So it's this over hyped idea that may not meet expectations.
And so I wanted to study that because I wanted to make sure that our readers and the brands we work with understood that this is not a be all, end all, that there are some obstacles, and to understand this disruption realistically."
What results do brands expect when they invest in employee advocacy?
"There are three that we looked at. Basically the most popular was engaging customers. So 45% of brands said, "We're doing this because we want our employees to engage with customers through further reach, through answering questions perhaps, by getting more brand page followers, by getting product ideas and feedback," that sort of thing. So that was the first.
The other was engaging their own employees. If you look at the research on how engaged or disengaged employees are today, the numbers are pretty dismal - there's a very small percentage of employees that report that they're truly engaged in their work. And so what we found is that many brands are actually using employee advocacy as a way to just inform their employees about what's going on within the company.
And then the third was a direct financial return. This would include social selling for example, looking for an ROI in terms of campaigns and product offers that might go through employees, that sort of thing."
How does employee advocacy scale?
"I think it's going to take time. The brands that we spoke to that are very, very mature in this space, it took them between five and seven years to get there. And the reason it took them so long are multiple. One of them is content. So you have to have the right content for the right employee at the right time.
So if you're a large complex business, your accountants should have one stream of content that's appropriate to the accounting world or to their world of finance versus perhaps your sales people versus product developers or security professionals or whatever the role might be. So that's one thing that I think is slowing down brands is just getting the right content to the right employee at the right time. And then deciding how much of that content that is shared is created by the brand and how much of it is curated from new sources. That's also a mix that they have to think about.
The brands that are most mature at this, they actually integrate sharing of content within their internal social networks. In fact, it was astounding to us - we found that 80% of those who share actually also happen to use internal social networks at work. So whether it's Facebook at Work, which you may know is in testing right now, or Yammer or other internal facing kind of social experiences, we found a very high correlation between those folks that share internally and those that share externally.
So that's kind of the journey we're seeing among the mature brands. They really think about how to get a content engine in place, and they also start to integrate sharing as a natural part of their daily work life. And if they use an internal social network to collaborate among employees to share information, that's the natural place for them to share externally as well, rather than having a separate process or a separate tool in place."
Follow Ed on Twitter @EdTerpening.