How Employees are Driving Sales and Changing Influencer Marketing

When you hear the word “influencer”, what comes to mind?

You may think of famous people, models, actors… with hundreds of thousands of fans that will follow what they do and buy what they recommend.  

Most of the people will think of celebrity influencer marketing when they hear the word influencer. However, celebrity influencer marketing is out of reach of most of companies and many marketers have doubts of their effectiveness.

As shared by MediaPost, a recent consumer survey of more than 500 people revealed that only 4 percent of consumers trust celebrity endorsements and a mere 7 percent view professional athletes as a trustworthy source for a recommendation.

Is celebrity influencer marketing dead? Do companies have other options?

Now, clients are looking for authenticity and honest perspective. They feel better if they can contact with people just like them. A July 2017 study from the research firm Gartner found that 70 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know.

The chart below shows the most influencer types used by public relations professionals in the USA. It is based on a survey published in March 2019 of nearly 400 US-based PR professionals, 49% of whom currently use influencers to get their brand, story or key messages out. Not surprisingly, employees are the second type most used by PR professionals:

influencers types used by PR professionals

What’s the reason for this? Employees build client trust.

Turn employees into powerful influencers

Outside influencer marketing is like renting an audience when the company can own one. Employees are powerful megaphones for brands and are more important than celebrities for customer connection.

When it comes to learning about a company, employees know the organization best. On the other hand, people trust their employees more than anyone else because they tell authentic stories. Employees are best positioned to discuss the products and are actually the people behind the product features.

The way they speak about their work experience or share knowledge they have learned working for a company resonates in a completely different way. Consumers are very likely to believe them.

By this way, employees build crucial links with the people they serve.

A report published by FastCompany shows that content shared by employees can receive up to eight times more engagement than that shared on brand accounts. So, not only do personal accounts help boost the readership of the company’s message, they also help generate buzz for your brand.

Ways companies turn employees into powerful influencers

Current data is showing that people consume influencer content at a surprisingly low level across platforms—between 1-11% on average—which shows that current influencer programs aren’t driving the value marketers had hoped.

Therefore, some companies started to hand the microphone to their employees. Who is better to talk about the products?

Macy´s is hiring brand ambassadors and employees around the country became eligible to apply to the Macy’s Style Crew program, in which they share promotional posts on their own social media feeds featuring Macy’s products and services. There are more than 300 ambassadors sharing short video clips featuring related products carried by Macy’s in order to drive conversions. 

For example, a video showing an employee leading a bartending tutorial links out to glassware and other cocktail accessories at Macys.com, while another of an associate hiking in Los Angeles features athletic apparel and sneakers for purchase.

Macy’s replicates the commission model on social media and participants are incentivized by receiving a portion of the profit, similar to the way employees receive a commission on sales at brick-and-mortar Macy’s stores.

Another example is the Starbucks’ baristas team. Starbucks is a company with over 21,000 stores in more than 65 countries. They turned their staff into an army of influencers.  Starbucks urges its baristas to recommend products to their friends on social media and earn a commission for the referrals.

How to run your own Employee Advocacy Program

Your employees are your best brand assets since they interact with customers and prospects day-to-day. 

How do you turn your employees into brand ambassadors that can help cultivate trust in your brand and its products?

Let’s start step by step:

First of all, the company needs to find a leader to manage employee advocates. He will be in charge of the following tasks:

1. Recruit the influencers team

These employees will be the face and voice of the brand and will have an important role in establishing the company’s identity. Therefore, it is important to define key criteria to select the best ones.

Firstly, they must be interested in joining the program and willing to create and share content. Secondly, they must have the necessary skills and knowledge of social networks and have a strong presence on social media. Last but not least, they must be authentic. For example, senior leaders are the best advocates for B2B businesses.

2. Coach the influencers team

It is crucial to communicate the company culture and vision and develop a brand book to describe what the brand stands for and ideas for how to “live the brand.”

The leader will tailor the strategy for each audience and teach employees the talking points to align with. Millennials, Generation Z, Baby Boomers, Generation X require different approaches. For example, Boomers are more text-oriented compared to people in younger generations, who prefer images.

Last but not least, the company needs to make clear what it expects from the employees. The leader will set goals, protocols and rules, and help employees build their own personal brands as they build the company brand.

3. Make content available

The company will provide resources such as a social media field guide and video tutorials. If there are elements such as messages, themes or topics that employees need to share, the leader will share the information on a cloud-accessible program where they can easily download or use it.

4. Monitor the team

The leader needs to oversee and approve social media content. At the same time, he must collaborate with co-workers to come up with new methods, stories and ideas for campaigns.

Besides, he is in charge of defining metrics, leading the measurement and analyzing the social media efforts. Finally, he will check every week the reach and engagement of the posts, identify the best performing pieces of content …

5. Set a system of rewards and incentives

It is important to motivate and celebrate the successes and share the best practices with other members of the team. Keep in mind the reward system that Macy´s implemented in their employee advocacy program.

Conclusion

Employee Advocacy Program will succeed if the company has already built a great corporate culture, defined what they provide and how they solve the client’s problems.

Besides, the employees need to understand it, align to the company positioning, and be willing to take part in the program.

Some benefits of this strategy are:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Diversify the audience
  • Boost audience engagement
  • Reinforce trust and loyalty
  • Revamp the content strategy
  • Drive better conversion

What about your practice? Have you already implemented your employee advocacy program?

Leave your comment below!

P.S. Before you go, you may also be interested in the following articles:

How to make your marketing team your company’s biggest competitive advantage

How to build a Culture of Success in your Company

POST WRITTEN BY

Chema Lopez

A Madrid Polytechnic University International MBA has worked as global marketing director in B2B and B2C international leading companies implementing global marketing and communication strategies to ensure business objectives and to optimize brands reputation and visibility on a global level.

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