A Top 2018 PR Trend: Growth in Employee Advocacy

What’s ahead in 2018?

How will you continue to build your career through social media in the coming year? As a corporate professional, how can you best tell your story through social media – and promote your employer’s brand and your colleagues at the same time?

A top trend is the continuing growth in employee advocacy programs. Through them, companies empower their employees to be brand ambassadors.

Employees can share official news and information about the company and its brand through personal social media channels.

Some research I did this week got me thinking about this topic (opinions expressed in this blog are my own).

I reviewed recent literature and studies to identify the trends and challenges in marketing, branding and public relations for the coming year.

6 PR trends to check out in 2018 pointed to the expansion of personal branding and thought leadership beyond a company’s leaders.

“The more people on your team who are building their brands and, by extension, your company’s brand,” says the article’s author John Hall, “the more opportunities you have to distribute content and connect with your audience.”

This dovetails with the observation by IABC Fellow Shel Holtz that “employees are now your most credible spokespeople.” This is based on the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It also aligns with the “media fragmentation and loss of trust” that Robert Wynne covers in The biggest and most important media and PR trends for 2018.

In it, Bob Gold also speaks to the burgeoning challenge of getting noticed in growing media among the “ever-expanding communications channels.”

Another study full of interesting stats is the 2017 State of Employee Advocacy Survey. Conducted by JEM Consulting, it includes responses from 155 mostly U.S.-based companies:

  • Employee advocacy adoption grew by more than 25% over the last year.
  • In 2018, the top goal is to increase the number of employees participating as advocates.
  • Growth occurred for use of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Surprisingly, LinkedIn declined after being the top channel last year.
  • The most popular channels are Facebook (76% of respondents’ employees use it for advocacy), Instagram (62%) and Twitter (56%).
  • Twitter’s popularity went down 29% over the last year.
  • YouTube grew dramatically (35%) in its use year over year – to 43% in 2017, up from 8% in 2016.

“We attribute this shift to the increased variety of industries and type of organizations adopting employee advocacy, as well as the expansion of business objectives for these programs,” says Jen McClure, CEO of JEM Consulting.

“We’re seeing that all types of organizations are using visual media effectively,” McClure also says, “especially online video, which was one of our key recommendations from last year’s study.”

This is good insight for companies and individuals alike in planning for the coming year.

Personally, I’m looking at shifting my employee advocacy more toward Instagram and Facebook. This will be an interesting evolution, since I currently use those channels to connect with my personal networks (although the proportion of professional contacts is growing on those platforms).

And while advocacy seems to be declining in LinkedIn and Twitter, I’ll still focus on LinkedIn. The 500 million people on LinkedIn make it an ideal place to connect with other professionals. And the recent addition of video capability will be fun to explore.

With these data points, how will you create your social media strategy for 2018? What will you you continue? What will you change?

Make the Most of Your Employee Advocacy Program

Looking for a simple way to share great professional content in your social networks?

If your company offers an employee advocacy program, download the app and start sharing content that matches your professional goals for social media.

This can be a key part of your social media savvy strategy to personally brand and market yourself successfully in social media.

But first, what is employee advocacy?

It’s “brands empowering employees to support the goals of the brand, through employee-owned social media,” says Chris Boudreaux in Social Media Governance.

My employer makes it easy to share company-provided content with Social Circle, powered by Social ChorusNolan Carleton pioneered the approach, with much success.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions in this blog are my own.)

Here are 11 ways to make the most of your employee advocacy program, promoting your company while you build your own professional brand.

  • Download the app. Make it easy to share content by putting the app on your mobile devices. You can use snippets of time during the week to review and share content.
  • Choose content categories that support your professional goals. Align your own social media strategy with the available content categories. For example, you could focus on your company’s business strategy, the customer experience, the employee experience, career strategies or community engagement, just to name a few.
  • Customize your feed for your content categories. Once you know what types of content you want to share, see if you can customize the content you see. This will make the process more efficient as you choose what to share.
  • Select the social media platforms you want to post on. Assess how the available content lines up with the platforms where you’re most active for professional purposes. In my case, it’s LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Keep looking before you link. Just as you shouldn’t link to other social media content without reading it first, you should do the same with a company-provided message. Make sure it reflects well on your professional brand before sharing it.
  • Tailor company-provided messages to your voice. You can use the company-provided messaging to share links, or you can edit it to be closer to your own voice. Just be sure that the edits you make reflect positively on your company.
  • Share your pride in your company. Let your enthusiasm for your company shine through. Whether you love the employee experience, the products and services, or everything about your organization, share that sentiment.
  • Follow your company’s social media guidelines. Make sure to follow the spirit and the letter of social media guidelines at your company. When in doubt, err on the conservative side. While you’re acting as a brand ambassador of your company, that holds you to a higher standard.
  • Target 3 or more posts each week. Sprinkle your company’s posts among a broad variety of content you’re sharing. Don’t go overboard with excessive sharing. Since it’s company-related content, post it on weekdays. Your platform may enable you to schedule sharing in advance to post at a specific time.
  • Share social content from colleagues. Keep an eye on content from colleagues who also engage in the advocacy program. Share their content if it fits with your overall goals. This promotes your colleagues, your company and you – a triple win.
  • Experiment and refine your approach. Check the analytics for each of your social platforms to see how your community is engaging with content from your company. Make adjustments based on that, and keep fine-tuning as you go.

 

What if your employer doesn’t offer an employee advocacy program? Make a pitch to your Corporate Communications team.

Here’s a key data point. Consumers see recommendations from friends as the most credible form of advertising – as much as 83%, according to a Nielsen study.

And IABC Fellow Shel Holtz shares for corporate communicators that “employees are now your most credible spokespeople.” This is based on the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Also, check out the 2016 State of Employee Advocacy report from JEM Consulting and Advisory Services.

The study’s leader Jen McClure notes that, “Most employee and brand advocacy programs are still fairly new, and companies are still developing best practices.”

How are you using an employee advocacy program to promote your company’s brand along with your own?