Did you know that the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that 58 percent of general population employees see their employer as a source of trustworthy information? They also look to executives to communicate with openness and transparency. Imagine if your employees have such faith in your employer brand and executive team? And since people tend to trust other people over brands, as pointed out in the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer findings (see embedded SlideShare in this post), your staff could help spread the word about your brand and deepen trust with your audience — including customers, prospects, employees, and job seekers. Big wins all around.
But it has to start from the top down.
Start at the top by identifying an executive to take on the mantle of brand champion and ambassador. Help him or her build a personal brand worthy of influencer marketing status — as well as a personal brand that authentically supports the corporate brand, too. With a human face representing your company on social media, you can dramatically increase your social media engagement, traffic, and leads. Add a layer of employee advocacy to the recipe, and you’ve got even more power to drive positive returns on your various content and promotion investments.
1) Influence is a valuable online currency.
When you take the time to support executives and other employees to build their influencer status within your industry or niche, they can draw the attention of other industry authorities to help share your content. Additionally, these team members have connections online that your “logo” simply doesn’t have. Help them build their influence, and your brand will see growth, too. After all, people trust other people “like themselves.”
“That’s really the secret to growth and visibility and brand name recognition: just be authentic. Be you. People will connect with you no matter what shape, size, or color you are if you’re just you.” Darryl Praill, CMO, VanillaSoft — Episode 13 of The B2B Mix Show
Also, remember that influential people want to continue to build their personal brands even when advocating on behalf of their employer. They want to develop more credibility and add more influence and trust for themselves. If you have something to bring to the table to help them enhance their own social/professional presence — training, perks, rewards — you’ll be much more likely to build a thriving executive and employee advocacy program.
2) Micro-influencers are important.
Niche and trade sites tend to bring in plenty of visitors to B2B brand websites. The majority of these visitors will listen to the opinion of a micro-influencer as much as they will a mega-influencer. That’s good news for B2B and niche marketers. You don’t need Kim Kardashian advocating for your brand. You need Joe Schmoe — the go-to guy for widgets in the Southeast (or whatever). Depending on your product and industry, you don’t necessarily have to choose the biggest influencer out there. Investing in several key micro-influencers may be just what you need.
So if you’re worried about “my brand is too boring to have employees and executive social media influencers,” stop worrying. They don’t need to be mega-stars. They need to be respected and trusted by the people whom you want to buy from you. One benefit of going with a group of micro-influencers is that you don’t have to worry so much about egos getting in the way. Also, you’re not putting all of your eggs (and budget) in one basket. You’ll have a much better foundation to bring in nourishment for your site and ultimately your brand. Branded online communities for your influencers may be just perfect for your business.
How to build a successful community.
3) Developing executive and employee advocates can be better than paying outside influencers.
Brand advocacy programs are becoming more and more about gaining the support of potential advocates rather than paying for it. Brand advocacy and employee advocacy marketing work best when there is a reciprocal, give-and-take relationship. Create a brand and content marketing that is so valuable that your employees are proud to be part of this “in crowd” your developing. Help elevate your executive visibility so that team members are excited to share their content. Just remember to train them and put policies in place so that you’re compliant with any rules and guidelines like the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guidelines.
Suppose you meet someone who tells you about a great new product. She tells you it performs wonderfully and offers fantastic new features that nobody else has. Would that recommendation factor into your decision to buy the product? Probably.
4) You can more easily reach the people who are sick of advertising.
AdBlock Plus didn’t hit the 500 million downloads mark in 2016 for nothing. People are tired of advertising. When you work with advocates, you can create a native advertising experience that is less about interrupting a reader and more about adding to the experience. With that said, you still need to remember those FTC rules!
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5) Succession and planning is important
As Darryl Praill recently shared with us on The B2B Mix Show, cultivation of other public-facing, company advocates is important. After all, the more visible your executives and employees become, the more other companies may want to scoop them up. However, that’s no reason to put the breaks on advocacy programs. If you’re creating an awesome corporate culture, happy employees will stick around longer. Those who leave will leave with a positive experience and may still promote and recommend you.
Are You Ready to Humanize Your Brand with Executive and Employee Advocates?
These are just a few issues to think about as you consider building your employee advocacy and executive influencer programs. Want to hear first-hand how executive visibility has helped a Jackson Marketing client? Listen to this episode of The B2B Mix Show featuring VanillaSoft CMO Darryl Praill.
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