Many small businesses rely on word of mouth referrals to acquire new customers. The mantra is simple – keep customers happy, and they will return the favour by recommending you to people in their network.
There is however one segment of stakeholders that business owners often forget when it comes to creating marketing opportunities – employees.
Think about it – your employees spend a good chunk of their waking hours helping your organization grow and make money. Like your customer, a happy employee is going to spread the good word about your business.
Enabling employees to drive your marketing efforts is popularly known by the term “employee advocacy”. While there are several ways this can be done, it is most commonly visible on social media channels that employees are a part of.
Employee advocacy is quite profitable for small businesses because it helps your organization reach thousands of prospective buyers with little to no marketing expenditure.
Here are a few examples of employee advocacy campaigns that we have all come across on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
- Employees rallying together to pool money for a charity drive
- Employees participating in a marathon wearing their company t-shirt
- People talking about the cool new product launched by their company
All these are great marketing opportunities that generate awareness of your brand, create positive branding opportunities, and also potentially contribute to leads or sales.
The results from such campaigns are spectacular. For example, consider an average small business with around 20 employees, and with each of them connected to at least 200 people on Facebook or Instagram.
One campaign can thus potentially reach as many as 4000 people. A sustained campaign can drive word of mouth referrals that can reach several thousands of more people.
So how do you go about creating such a sustained employee advocacy program? Here are a few actionable tips.
Increase employee ownership
It is commonly assumed that the only way to make an employee assume greater ownership of your business is by offering shares in your company stocks. While that does help, there are other, easier ways to achieve the same objective.
To begin with, proudly share the people behind your business everywhere. This includes your company’s ‘About Us’ pages, in your blog posts, on Facebook. When your employees become the face of your company to the networks they belong to, there is greater ownership and consequently, more advocacy from their personal channels.
Distribute business social media management responsibilities
A study published by SCORE found that over 77% of American small businesses today have a presence on social media platforms.
There are two ways these businesses manage their social presence – they either hire a third-party agency to handle their social media marketing campaigns, or the owners handle it themselves.
The first category of businesses hires outside help in order to avoid being distracted from “real” marketing campaigns while the latter do it because “it’s social media. How hard can it be?”.
One way to effectively improve social media success, as well as drive employee advocacy, is by letting your employees take turns in managing your social media channels. This gives them an opportunity to express themselves in front of a large following which really drives loyalty towards your product and brand.
This directly influences advocacy from their personal channels.
This is, of course, not viable in larger organizations with high employee counts or a stronger brand messaging to adhere to. But smaller businesses have the luxury of indulging in such campaigns.
You can, in fact, offer a primer on your social media strategy as part of the talent acquisition process so they know how to represent the brand better on social networks.
Finally, a very important driver of employee advocacy is treating this like any other marketing opportunity.
Just as you would be mindful of being consistent with your SEO, PPC or content marketing campaigns, it is important to stay consistent with employee advocacy as well.
This means, working on a roster of ideas to generate organic employee advocacy on a regular basis. Organizing team outings, charity drives and competitions all need to be a part of this roster.
Lastly, do not forget the power of a call-to-action. A gentle nudge to employees to share their latest experiences on social media can go a long way in improving advocacy.