How social advocacy can supercharge your employer brand




Huw Morgan

The business case for employee advocacy on social media is compelling, but too many businesses are missing a trick by focusing on quantity over quality.

Content shared by your employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels and, according to LinkedIn, companies with a successful employee advocacy programme are 58% more likely to attract, and 20% more likely to retain, top talent.

Most of the employee engagement campaigns I’ve been involved with over the years have included an ambitious advocacy percentage target as a KPI. But many companies are being hamstrung by failing to recognise the distinction between employee advocacy and influence.

I think of an advocate as an employee who endorses the company’s purpose, products, services or culture in conversations with friends, colleagues and customers, plus through their social media interactions. It’s great for providing an insight into workplace culture and raising awareness around initiatives, so something more businesses should be encouraging more of their employees to do more often. 

But if there’s a criticism with employee social media advocacy, it’s that it tends to lean towards regurgitating approved content on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn through sharing and likes rather than offering any personal take or comment from the employee.

By contrast, employee influencers create company-related content that reflects their opinions, passions and personality. In that regard, they are similar to a brand influencer. The big difference being that, while employees are often incentivised, they are rarely paid to post. But, when internal influencers hit the sweet spot, their impact can put brand campaigns in the shade. 

Companies with a successful employee advocacy programme are 58% more likely to attract, and 20% more likely to retain, top talent 

The Guardian recently ran a feature on prominent employee influencers in retail; a sector which tends to be the most fertile ground for success. The article showcased M&S Longbridge store worker Craig Field whose influencer spark was ignited when his TikTok clip about how to use the store’s self-scanning technology went viral, garnering more than 1.3m views. Such is his local appeal, a cardboard cut-out of him has been erected in store for customer selfies on the days he isn’t working.

Meanwhile, the fashion retailer New Look (one of our clients), incentivises its team of employee influencers, known as Newlookers, to share their passion for fashion socially by giving them early access to new clothing and accessories ranges.

Influencer traits and behaviours

While anyone can be an employee advocate, there are certain traits essential for those aspiring to be successful. These include – a real passion for the brand and its purpose; a specialist knowledge in a particular product or service; a relatable personality; a healthy network of social connections beyond the business and bucketloads of energy or commitment.

While these traits are not exactly common, there are many potential influencers out there who have them in abundance yet to be discovered. According to the social participation rule, in most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% contribute a little, and 1% account for almost all of the social activity.

Applying this rule to an organisation with 10,000 employees, we could reasonably expect around 100 people to become active influencers with impact. The opportunity for businesses is to find them, unlock their potential and activate them to advocate through their passion and expertise.

3 step influencer approach

We help companies to find and develop their influencers with a 3-step approach (Identify, Develop and Amplify) that has a lot in common with the way HR goes about talent attraction.

Identify is about spotting, attracting and onboarding potential influencer talent within the business; recruiting for the typical influencer traits mentioned above.
Develop focuses on giving people the practical support they need to hone their skill set and align their passion with purpose.

Finally, amplify is about helping influencers to find their voice and the most effective social platform through which to share it.
These three steps may sound simple, but they require the sustained sponsorship and support from businesses to make them work, together with an acceptance that influencers can’t overtly just plug their employer’s brand if they want to maintain the engagement of their followers.

The organisations prepared to invest in finding, equipping and empowering their influential 1% to share their authentic voice will realise the benefits of a supercharged employer brand. And in such a competitive labour market right now, that has to be an increasingly valuable asset.

Want to discuss how we can help with your internal communications & employee engagement? Get in touch or read more about our services here.

Huw Morgan
Huw Morgan

Director, Internal Communications

Huw's passion is for targeted campaigns that bring brand strategy and purpose to life from the inside out. Huw has a wealth of client-side experience leading colleague engagement for major brands, including Telefonica Digital, Virgin Media and O2.

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Huw Morgan

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