Putting Social to Work for Your Business, Part 2: Employees Are Your Best Advocates

By Matt Foulger | 2 years ago | 7 Comments

White Paper Badge“Anatomy of a Brand Advocate / Employees Are Your Best Advocates” are excerpts from the white paper, “Putting Social to Work for your Business – A Guide to Organizational Models for Scaling Social.” In this portion, we look at the importance of leveraging your employee’s networks to increase your organization’s social media reach. To view the paper in its entirety, download below. [clear]

Anatomy of a Brand Advocate

  • Invested in your brand’s success
  • Willing to defend your company
  • Aligned with your core objectives

In social media, there is nothing more powerful than someone advocating for your brand. Advocates give their friends, families and colleagues trusted advice that is far more credible than any source of advertising. They defend a business against negative messaging in the countless small interactions that determine a brand’s health. They volunteer ideas for product and service improvements. And they do it all for free.

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It’s no wonder, then, that just about everyone is looking for advocates. Companies are executing deliberate social media programs to find, activate and maintain these vital assets. Understandably, current engagement efforts are focused on making evangelists out of customers, widely considered the most authentic and valuable spokespeople. Influencers in the news media, academia and other fields are also cultivated. But while enterprises reach out to these external constituents, the best potential advocates hide in plain sight — their own employees.

Employees Are Your Best Advocates

While not without its challenges, widespread employee advocacy is the surest, cheapest way to scale up a company’s social media reach. Instead of achieving linear growth in customer advocacy
through incremental investments in social media teams, an enterprise can magnify its reach at very little cost by activating a broad cross-section of its existing workforce. The following illustration compares the maximum achievable social audience of an average Fortune Global 100 company to the maximum achievable social audience of its employees.

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The maximum achievable social audience of an average Fortune Global 100 company vs. the maximum achievable social audience of its employees

The aggregate figures do not represent “unique” followers because corporate accounts have overlapping audiences, and employees have a number of social contacts in common with other employees. But in the case of employees, this overlap, or “network density”, is less significant than common sense might suggest. Pew Internet found that on Facebook, “people’s friends lists are only modestly interconnected”, with a network density “low in comparison to studies of people’s overall personal networks”. Your employees’ Facebook networks aren’t echo chambers, but viral gateways.

Each employee can be the first link in a long chain of intimate, person-to-person shares. By increasing the number of starting points for social sharing, a company greatly improves its chances of viral marketing success. Although many advertisers have sought the support of highly-connected “influentials” to initiate viral marketing campaigns, research indicates that the most likely path to virality is a “big seed” strategy. In this approach, viral ideas are seeded by a large selection of first-generation sharers, instead of a relative handful of highly- connected people.

Big-seed theory emerged from the computer simulations of sociologist Duncan Watts, but it has real-world evidence to back it up. A combined study of billions of page views by Buzzfeed and StumbleUpon found that “stories go viral when lots of people engage with their normal-sized circles to share content.” Marketing researcher Yuping Liu-Thompkins has also determined that when seeding content, “it is better to have a large number of easily influenced individuals than to have a few highly-connected hubs in a social network.”

Want to read the rest of the white paper? Download ‘Putting Social to Work for your Business.’

Read HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes’ thoughts on turning your employees into a PR army.

Learn more about HootSuite Enterprise or request a demo

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2 comments
Patrick McFadden
Patrick McFadden

When I speak about social media I encourage the founders, the CEOs, or the leadership of the company, the ministry, or the organization to Twitter and Facebook under their own names. Try to get as many links, I guess, or tentacles out there into the marketplace to try to bring people into your business. It’s all good. The benefit of the company will accrue to the individuals, and conversely the brand equity (because The Brand is The Talent) in the individuals will accrue to the company.

Everybody is an ambassador for the company or the organization, and the organization ought to be serving the individuals into it.

Matt Foulger
Matt Foulger

Thanks, Patrick. Great reply. I think employee advocacy is about getting the interests of the company and its employees in alignment so that all parties can mutually benefit from a transparent and authentic online conversation.