With Nielsen reporting that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family, there's no denying that word-of-mouth is one of the most trusted and effective marketing methods for swaying buying decisions. Many businesses have tried to take advantage of this by deploying employee advocacy programs, seeking to share brand content through employees' social networks for all their personal connections to see.
In March 2016, LinkedIn uncovered some rather astonishing results regarding the effect of employee advocacy for brand engagement and how this differs when an employee shares versus when a company does. We've since compared their results with our own to help evaluate this a bit further.
For every post that's shared, LinkedIn discovered that employees receive, on average, a 2x higher click through rate than when the same piece of content is shared through an official company channel. Their statistics back up Nielsen's results about trusting recommendations from people we know.
Their research further uncovered that the larger the company, the more they benefited from employee advocacy - companies with more than 10,000 employees saw click through rates 2.4% higher than the company shares, and companies with less than 10,000 saw click through rates over 1.8% higher. This isn't overly surprising - it makes sense for the click through rate to increase the more employees post it, due to it having access to a wider audience.
While there's no doubting that employees should always be fully utilized and share brand content to their network, I do, however, believe that you need to be realistic about the type of results you'll receive if you only ever post brand content.
Our results show that employees will only receive that 2x higher click through rate if the employer has built a 'thought leader' status. Our figures, in fact show that, on average, employees won't generate higher engagement than your company. Well not unless they're willing to make some serious changes to their current social activity.
- Thought leadership - You can't expect all employees to become highly recognized in their industry overnight just by sharing one of your posts. It just doesn't happen, especially when all employees are sharing exactly the same content, some even choosing to not change the post title. To truly stand out you need to be willing to work for it.
- Invest in your personal brand - Timothy Hughes, a thought leader in the world of social selling, has written a fantastic post about making time for social media. You have to be dedicated and engaged with social media. Using a social automation platform is just not enough, you need to reply and engage with the community if you expect to get noticed and build your status. Don't be fooled into thinking that you'll receive instant gratification, it takes time to establish thought leader status.
- Range of content - Let's think of this logically: If you only share brand content, what will make you stand out from the company itself and other employees all sharing that same material? You need to bring more to the table to receive a click through rate 2x higher than the company itself. You need to humanize your social presence by engaging in the community and sharing others content. Show your followers that you have a personality and that you're not just a robot.
Let's not forget though, it's not all doom and gloom - you do still, on average, have 5x more exposure than if you were to just share content through your companies social media account. So don't give up on employee advocacy in your business, let it long continue. Just be realistic about the results you can achieve, because after all the best results come to those who put in the work.