The most recent benchmark report by Influencer Marketing Hub predicts that influencer marketing is expected to grow to be worth $ 21.1 billion.
No wonder 80% of marketers intend to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2023 — without a doubt, you’ve probably set up a budget that’s running already. Yes, right?
Why not? Influencers like Alexa Collins, who has more than two million followers, told Insider that she charges at least $1,000 for a sponsored story on her Instagram account. That means you can set a budget of 5,000 dollars and above for influencer marketing.
But before you spend another dime on influencer marketing, do you know that there are influencers that money can’t buy? No joke. You can get results with influencer marketing without paying a dime to get an influencer.
You see, most marketers ignore the best brand ambassadors that money can’t buy, who are showing up for the very brands day in and day out: their employees.
I believe organizations are too quick to explore outside their established ecosystems for “new” influencers. Many times, great advocates with pre-baked topical knowledge are already affiliated with the brand in some way.
So how do you create this culture of employee influence in your brand? This post will guide you through everything you need to know about employee influence.
But before we get into it, let’s discuss the definition of employee influencers and how you can implement this strategy in your brand.
Employee Influencing – The Gem in your influencer marketing toolbox
Employee influencing is simply using your employees to promote your brand, marketing, and sales-wise. It does not involve using external influencers.
So who’s an employee influencer?
An employee influencer is someone working for a company vetted with authority to increase awareness of the company’s brand and products among a specific demographic.
Before any of your employees play the role of an influencer, you must have given the authority for them to do so.
Picture this; You’ve showcased your organisation’s unique cultural differentiators to your employees when they were job seekers. You told them the perks they get to access when you hire them.
Now, they are part and parcel of your brand’s ecosystem, so what next? Try to make them part of the employer’s branding system in your company.
That way, they are motivated to promote your brand and influence new employees coming into your organisation.
But why is this important?
- It’s a cost-effective leverage asset for your company
While other companies are spending dollars hiring influencers — which isn’t bad — you are busy getting results from the untiring influencer efforts from your employees.
Less cost, more results. But this is not the only benefit that tickles any founder’s fancy. So what else?
- It positively impacts your influencer marketing plan
There are two ways this happens.
- More positive results from content marketing
An Analysis of LinkedIn network activity backs this up—the click-through rate (CTR) on a piece of content is 2x higher when shared by an employee versus when shared by the company itself.
- You get to work with influencers that have a better understanding of the internal relations and marketing plan in your organization.
This means — less stress trying to explain the role of influencing to your employees because they are part of the culture already.
Influencer Roles Your Employee Can Play
McKinsey anticipated the rise of influencer marketing in 2014 with the completion of a survey involving 20,000 European consumers.
From the analysis, it was observed that most of influencer marketing’s impact came from so-called power influencers.
But the survey also identified an emerging—and largely untapped—market of less active influencers with smaller followings. In recent years, we’ve seen this phenomenon play out with the rise of micro- and nano influencers
Today, employees play the role of micro-influencers, and sometimes macro influencers as the case may be.
What differentiates these two classes of employee influencers is the role they play:
66% of marketing professionals felt the pandemic spawned a huge increase in the amount of thought leadership in the marketplace
In an era where B2B executives and decision-makers are still drawn to thought leadership, there’s room for employees to play this role in the organization. It can be your CMO, content and SEO manager or even your writers in the marketing teams.
And lovers of Animalz testify to this. Here are shots of some praises by top marketers in the game.
- UGC amplifiers/Social media advocates
User-generated content (also known as UGC or consumer-generated content) is original, brand-specific content created by customers (at no cost to you) and published on social media or other channels. It comes in many forms, including images, videos, reviews, and testimonials.
Jeremy Moser, in one of his articles — How to Optimize Your User-Generated Marketing Campaign Using Influencers, said: Influencers have powerful reputations, clout, and large, curated audiences that know, like, and trust them. This makes them invaluable advocates brands can leverage to scale their user-generated content (UGC) efforts in record time.
Your employees can serve this role too. If you own a SaaS product, there’s no doubt that your software engineers know how to use the tools so well; that means you can request that they make a testimonial video or a review and share it with their network.
This way, they become social media/brand advocates.
3 steps to implement employee influencing in your company
1. Create your employee advocacy plan — system and goals
One of the vital aspects of implementing employee influencing in your organization is to set up an employee advocacy plan or program.
Content marketing or creation is the bedrock of most influencer marketing campaigns. For example, if an influencer with a big following markets a smartphone product — of course, we expect photoshoots, word of mouth or video content —the combination of all marketing actions will be under the umbrella of content
If it’s a photoshoot, you’ll expect a short, enticing copy; if it’s video content, you expect the influencer to talk about the product based on their experience using it.
Now you see the role content plays as an influencer. So what about your employees?
How do you get them to share smart, quality content with their social networks?
Do you know that, on average, employee networks have 10x more Linkedin connections than a company has followers?
So, how do you achieve it?
Employee advocacy! Feel free to say it aloud as you read the definition below.
Employee advocacy — empowering your employees to share smart, quality content with their social networks
Using the power of your staff has enormous benefits for your organization, such as improving brand awareness, drawing new customers, top personnel, and generating sales leads.
Similarly, a strong advocacy program benefits employees by assisting them in developing their professional reputations, expanding their networks, and becoming more engaged with your organization.
Here’s what Lucas Mast, a content leader and former vice president of social corporate media at Visa, had to say about Employee Advocacy:
Here are questions to ask yourself while creating your plan:
- Who are the experts in my organization that can play the great role of an influencer?
You might search for follower base, authority on social and more.
- What are the KPIs to measure the success of employee advocacy?
Because measuring results is the best way to see the value of employee advocacy.
- Which audiences are you reaching, and how are your employees growing their networks and professional reputations?
An employee advocacy system relies on the employees knowing when the posts go out on the different company pages — Instagram, Tiktok or LinkedIn — and what to do with them.
It’s important to notify your employees in advance when the posts will be going out on the company pages. This enables each employee to block out time in their diary to take action.
Now that you are done planning an employee advocacy system, what next?
2. State the role of your influencers — clarity
Akzonobel achieved employee advocacy and quadrupled the size of their audience on LinkedIn via their employees’ networks — all with just 272 people
One of the challenges they faced was that some employees were unfamiliar with influencer roles, so they quickly realized that to get more employees involved, they would need to get their less active employees up to speed and educated on the benefits of social media for work.
So they took action to educate these employees with training and team meetings
Clémence Lepers, a Marketer, further emphasizes this in one of her posts on Employee influencing:
When you are set to launch your employee advocacy program, you realize that employees may need to be educated on how sharing impacts their brands.
That’s one more reason why you should set clear roles.
So what are your goals?
Now you know what setting goals look like, what next? Set a strategy on ground, preferably a content strategy. And you need to strive for a balance of content ideas so every employee influencer is carried along in the quest to promote your brand.
Before stating the roles of your influencers, ensure you tick this checklist:
- Create a positive and engaged workplace culture of learning
- Provide employees with the tools and resources they need to be successful advocates
- Reward employees for their advocacy efforts.
- Make sure your employee advocacy program is aligned with your company’s overall goals.
Most times, founders and decision leaders think it’s not easy to enforce an employee influencing program, but it’s not so. You need to understand the fundamentals first and apply; forget the XYZ secrets and gimmicks; what matters is that you effectively get results using these little principles. So, what’s the last step?
- But remember: Employee advocacy is not a one-and-done exercise; it’s a new way of engaging that requires sustainability for maximum impact.
3. Take action and be intentional about tracking the results of employee influencers
After setting goals, making plans, setting up a strategy and training your employees, take action. Encourage everyone to be intentional. There are no mathematical issues to be solved here; obey the principles and watch it perform.
One mistake marketers often make is not tracking their employee advocates efforts. That’s wrong. Well, I love the advice LinkedIn gives about measuring your employee influencer program:
“Measure Your Results:
Remember those goals you set at the beginning? It’s now time to track how your employee advocacy program is performing against those metrics.
At the most basic level, you’ll want to see engagement rates on shared content. You also need insight into employee activity levels by tracking the number of active users, share rates, and engagement by content type.
And finally, you’ll want to understand downstream outcomes such as the demographics of those you’ve engaged, page views, and the impact on new followers. With the right platform, you will see how all this engagement has driven new site traffic, new hires, and additional sales.”
“Build with advocacy, follow with influence. Your employees are your biggest brand advocates” — Jay Baer.
Employees are powerful representatives of their organizations, and you must realize this as a leader. These people are powerful spokesperson that can grow your business beyond your expectations.
So it’s clear what you need to do — Build with advocacy, follow your employees with that influence you have as an executive influencer and watch them become one of the most effective brand advocates you have.
If you want your employees to become great influencers or you want to become a great B2B executive influencer, then see this — Our exclusive community provides members with the tools and resources they need to determine a successful strategy for becoming a B2B influencer.