Editor’s note: This guest feature by Klaudia Tirico was originally published in Demand Gen Report’s “Industry Insights” column on April 6, 2016.
Social media platforms have become a common source for B2B marketers to engage with their client base and potential prospects, as well as share content. Some companies, such as IBM, MongoDB and PR Newswire, are taking it a step further, leveraging employee advocates and social media together to expand reach, increase engagement and drive demand.
B2B marketers are tackling the challenge of content distribution within and outside their organizations by encouraging employees to share relevant content for their company via social networks. According to a study by Weber Shandwick, 33% of employees post messages, pictures or videos about their employer on social media without any encouragement from the employer, showing that most employees are willing to be brand ambassadors for their employer.
This, in turn, positions marketing organizations to extend their reach and engage within a larger audience — one that they wouldn’t get with a single corporate social handle.
“The fact of the matter is, the average person has about 1,500 connections online today,” said David Honig, VP of Strategy and Corporate Partnerships at Dynamic Signal, an employee advocacy platform. “In this day and age, it’s more imperative than ever for brands to create new, engaging audiences. What better way to do that than with employees?”
While employee advocacy programs are still an emerging area in the B2B marketing space, IBM, for example, has seen the maximum value of their employees on social media first-hand. In 2015, the company created the #NewWayToWork campaign to predict the future of business. IBM invited select employees to participate in the program, which was centered around social sharing. They used the Dynamic Signal platform to manage the program on a global scale.
According to Honig, a single hub in the program had nearly 6,000 employees engaged, and over the year, IBM reported the following results:
- 250,000 social shares;
- 200,000 social reactions;
- 500 million impressions earned; and
- 50,000 leads created by the campaign.
MongoDB, an open-source database company, has also taken action by mobilizing their employees to act as brand ambassadors on their personal social channels.
“We work with our employees to help amplify the MongoDB message, and we use tools to help support our employees and offer them content,” said Mat Rider, Global Director of Digital and Social Media at MongoDB. “[These] can be anything from a stat that [the employee] can retweet to content that helps position them as industry leaders when they’re engaging prospects.”
In order to get a firm grasp on how active their employee advocates are on social media, MongoDB uses Sprinklr, a social listening technology, to understand what content is driving the most engagement and to gain insights on trending topics.
“We use Sprinklr for our social listening, and it’s really helped us understand not only our outbound content strategy or broadcast strategy — which relates to the type of content that’s going out, how it’s performing and how users are engaging with it — but also to understand our inbound content strategy. [That enables us] to understand the types of content coming in to MongoDB from a support position to potential prospects, business opportunities, brand advocacy, and also to create a larger group identity with users,” said Rider.
Using Sprinklr has enabled the MongoDB team to create a voice within their industry sector and increase engagement rates, such as user and content engagement through retweets, shares, comments and direct messages. The company was also able to create their own identity with their audience.
Social monitoring software can be an asset to employee advocacy programs, as it can effectively keep track of all engagement within an appropriate time frame.
“[Social listening software] is absolutely critical,” said Ken Wincko, SVP of Marketing at PR Newswire. “We’re in a real-time world, and if you’re not monitoring and enabling employees through social listening and other tools, you’re not going to be able to take advantage of some of these real-time moments and get them to engage in the conversation that’s happening.”
Building A Case For Employee Advocacy
There are a variety of ways that employee social advocacy can maximize a B2B company’s reach, according to David Honig, VP of Strategy and Corporate Partnerships at Dynamic Signal. They include:
Social selling: This enables employees to establish relationships with their prospects and customers on social media by sharing content, which can lead them to sell more efficiently.
Lead Generation: Employee advocates can enable organizations to increase sales leads and conversions by having an always-on marketing channel. This allows employees to connect with people that will be interested in getting specific content.
Event promotion: Employees can drive more attendees to events with real-time sharing.
Brand awareness: Increasing awareness through your employee’s authentic voice.
HR and company culture: Letting employees endorse the company to help with recruiting. HR is able to pass along open job recommendations to their organizations, track who’s sharing this content about open job positions, see how many people are clicking on it and uploading their resumes.
Kicking Off An Employee Advocacy Program
Before marketers can create an employee advocacy program within their company, they need to know which employees to target.
“When starting [an employee advocacy program], it’s important to recognize that not all employees are going to be active on social media,” said Andrew Spoeth, Digital Marketing Director at CA Technologies. “If you’re looking to get results, try to find [employees] that are active on social media or are interested in being active.”
By asking questions such as “Which employees have the largest following?” and “Which are interested in talking about the company?” marketers can figure out which employees are looking to engage on a professional level and which ones want to keep their social media channels personal.
In order to maintain steady employee advocacy, companies need to continuously encourage employees to stay engaged on social channels. This can include anything from internal messaging or a unique point system to reward employee advocates who are the most active on social media, as companies like PR Newswire and Salesforce have done.
“Our employees gain points through engagement of communication, and as the points build up, the company can recognize and reward them,” said Wincko.
Salesforce uses Dynamic Signal’s “leaderboard,” which displays a point structure that employees can monitor to see where they stand among their colleagues. “[Employees are given] a certain amount of points for shares, retweets and content creation,” said Honig.
The point system is also a way to recruit more employees into the program. If companies highlight top ambassadors in a company-wide email and follow it with a call to action, it can influence non-active employees to be advocates and build up the overall program.
Once a program is established, companies must provide their employee advocates with authentic content.
“It’s very important to choose the content wisely, and include third-party content,” Spoeth said. “Ultimately, you want to be a trusted source and objective source of information for your advocates and their audience. You have to be very careful and build up that trust by serving up content that’s not overly promotional for your company.”