Back in March, we reported on “Facebook Zero,” a devastating blow dealt to brands on the social network. According to research from Social@Ogilvy, changes to Facebook’s algorithm have dramatically decreased organic reach. Brand pages can only expect their content to reach about 6.15 percent of their fans on Facebook, and Social@Ogilvy predicts that number will “approach zero in the foreseeable future.”
Facebook is not the only social media site making it hard for brands to reach friends and followers: Twitter introduced a mute button that lets follows ignore content from brands as they see fit.
As social networking sites cut back on brand reach, organizations are growing frustrated. “Right now, companies are really starting to realize that the content that they’re pushing out, the messages they’re pushing out from their official social media channels — there’s not as much reach there as they’d hoped, even in a paid environment,” says G.I. Sanders, director of marketing for Dynamic Signal. When even paid or promoted posts are ignored — or going totally unseen — brands need to look for new ways to share content effectively on social media.
This is why Dynamic Signal offers what Sanders calls “an employee advocacy solution” — that is, an enterprise platform that allows companies to turn their employees into brand advocates.
“One of the biggest untapped marketing opportunities for companies big and small is that they’re not really utilizing their employees effectively as a voice,” Sanders explains. By allowing employees to push brand-approved content on social media, companies can enlarge their shrinking reach.
But there is a lot more to employee advocacy than simple reach: it’s an issue of brand image and consumer trust as well.
Consumers Trust Your Employees — Not Your Brand
“It’s pretty simple: people like talking to people; they don’t like talking to logos,” Sanders says. “An employee is much more trusted than a brand.”
To understand exactly what Sanders means, let us try a short thought experiment: imagine you are a person on Facebook (you probably are, but just go with it). Now, imagine you come across a brand posting new information about a product. What are the chances you actually care enough to look at this post, even if it does show up in your newsfeed? It’s very likely that you’ll just scroll by — you don’t feel like being marketed to right now.
Now, imagine once more that you are a person on Facebook. This time, you come across an article shared by a friend of yours. Do you scroll right by? Maybe, but there’s also a pretty good chance that you’ll check out this content because a real person — a friend no less — posted it. Even if this content is about the company your friend works for, you probably won’t feel marketed to. Rather, you’ll simply feel like your friend is sincerely sharing information.
“An employee is a real person. They’re more authentic, and they’re more trusted,” Sanders says. “Therefore, what the say has better reach, better scale, and better impact.”
Sanders says that content shared by employees is seen by a lot more people and “actually trusted by those people, because they are actually friends or connections or followers.” Indeed, Mashable reports that “70 percent of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends,” according to Forrester Research.
Conversely, when a brand shares information itself, consumers are much more skeptical: Forrester Research found that only 15 percent of consumers trust “posts by companies or brands on social networking sites.”
All of this is great in theory, but how exactly can companies turn their employees into social media advocates? Such a strategy requires careful consideration, Sanders says: “What should the employee be allowed to say? What type of content should we serve up to them for them to amplify? What are the legalities around that? How do you facilitate that process and make sure that it’s efficient and convenient for the employee?”
According to Sanders, Dynamic Signal’s platform aims to help brands figure all of this out and turn employees into engaged advocates. It also does a lot more, he says.
The Added Benefits of Employee Advocates
While brand marketing seems to be the primary focus of Dynamic Signal, Sanders says employee advocacy strategies bring a variety of other benefits.
He first points to communication: “The bigger the company, the bigger the problem it is: just keeping your employees informed — what the latest content is, what the latest announcements and news are,” he says. Building a network of employee advocates could make this task easier. “You can use a different method of communication and engagement — that being a mobile app, or a Web hub, or a desktop environment — that allows employees not only to go explore and discover whatever information is the latest and greatest for the company, but also to push that information to [social media].”
“That’s definitely a big benefit: creating a greater bond on the communication side and the employee engagement side,” Sanders adds.
Sanders also notes that using employee advocates for recruitment is an idea that “is starting to come up a lot more.” He continues: “You can imagine — or you know firsthand — the struggle that it is to recruit good talent on a continual basis. We do have a number of clients already tapping into that. They’re getting their employees to spread job listings and new hiring announcements and things like that. In the end, [job postings] are kind of another piece of content, if you will.”
Other uses for employee advocacy include social selling, brand awareness, and broad marketing, Sanders says.
Dynamic Signal recently raised $12 million in Series C funding. Sanders says the company is confident in its technology and plans to use the newest round of investments to ramp up marketing efforts and the scale of the business as a whole.
“The next wave we see in the future is to empower the real people who are already working for you to be that voice for the company,” Sanders says.