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Employee Advocacy at Confluence of Marketing & HR

27th Sep 2017
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You might call this the age of the leaky silos. 

Data and technology are helping close the gap between the marketing and sales siloes, through closed loop analytics that measure impact across the complete customer lifecycle. Cross-team collaborations are building bridges between the marketing team and line-of-business subject matter experts, resulting in more compelling and relevant content. And employee advocacy is having a significant impact on many companies’ attractiveness as employers.

As silos break down and employees become more tuned in to helping build the image of their companies through social media, marketing teams are taking advantage of this opportunity to help – by making in-house brand ambassadorship easy, fun and rewarding.

As engaged workers share news about their companies and their work lives, they are giving potential job recruitment candidates a candid look at their corporate cultures – and that can go a long way toward attracting the right candidates as well as buyers.

Boosting Credibility as a Service Provider and Employer

Companies that start by encouraging their employees to become brand advocates are finding tangible benefits that extend well beyond traditional marketing metrics. The days of human resources departments trying to keep employees away from social media in order to maximize output are history.

“A few years ago we still ran into the argument of employees using time on social being counter-productive for their work, but this argument has faded due to the lack of evidence to back this claim,” says Roope Heinilä, the CEO of employee advocacy platform Smarp.

“Instead, making knowledge sharing and social interaction a part of the way a business operates has tremendous benefits. Also, to achieve these benefits, you only need a few minutes a day to check what’s new and relevant to your network and share this content.”

Take the case of Dallas-based TSP, a Texan IT services firm that’s been in business since 2003. Stepping into the void left when Honeywell eliminated the computer services support side of their offerings, TSP had a ready-made client base and saw fantastic growth in its early years, according to a profile recently published by Marketing Sherpa. 

In fact, they grew so quickly that, for the first dozen years, “we had zero marketing or brand presence,” explains Chris Skaggs, TSP’s senior director of talent and brand management. “It was kind of an internal joke around the company that we were the best kept tech secret around,” he said.  

As Skaggs tells it, everyone was wearing multiple hats daily. They didn’t need to be actively marketing on their social channels; in fact they were a bit reluctant to unleash the potential. “It was like, ‘What if we tell this story and it really resonates? Are we prepared to grow at that level?’

That all changed two years ago, when the company decided to step up and get truly strategic about their growth. They knew their employees were a significant asset to their brand – after all, their tagline is “our product is our people.” Leveraging that, they began creating marketing collateral and opening up social media channels, especially on LinkedIn. The result has been dramatic. Today they are up to with 8,500 followers on LI, with good engagement metrics to boot.

In the process, the company saw an unexpected – and eye-opening – result. Having their employees participate on social media helped them realize something that eventually became a cornerstone of their growth initiatives: Their strong corporate culture was at once a brand differentiator, a sales enablement tool and a competitive hiring advantage.

“We sell our people to our customers in terms of the kind of people we employ and the service they can expect,” Skaggs says. And thanks to employee advocacy, they also sell their people and their culture to potential candidates.

Amplifying Both Reach and Trust

Employee advocacy is such a powerful HR and sales tool because it significantly boosts a brand’s reach on social media in an age when organic engagement is increasingly hard to come by.

According to Smarp’s customer data, employee advocates have an average of 420 Facebook friends, 400 LinkedIn contacts and 360 Twitter followers. The potential reach – when you multiply the number of employees by the size of the networks – is huge.

Beyond reach, the impact goes toward building trust in your brand. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, the general public is increasingly skeptical of traditional authority figures. In fact, they found that only 37% view a company’s CEO as a credible source. 

On the other hand, an average employee is two times more trusted than the CEO. Clearly, leveraging this kind of social influence can’t help but improve your recruiting outcomes. Career Arc’s Future of Recruiting Study 2017 found that current employees were the most trusted source of information for a company, and 91% believe social media will become even more important in hiring over the next five years. 

The Next Step in Employee Advocacy

As for TSP, the company has since expanded its brand ambassadorship to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and the results have been great. Organic follows shot up in 12 months by 51%, and Skaggs notes that company recruiters are reporting good name recognition in the industry among potential candidates, an important element in attracting top talent.

Those who embrace the removal of silos of today’s forward-leaning companies are poised to benefit the most from employee advocacy programs. And the success realized by those who do encourage advocacy continues to make the case for enlisting your best assets to help share your brand story.

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