During my most recent exhibit at a B2B marketing conference in London, I met and spoke with lots of great customers, partners, and prospects. Although they came from different countries and industries, there was one common theme that stood out to me: the decline in organic reach and engagement on social media.
And they were certainly not blind. With a quick Google search, I discovered that only last year, organic reach for Facebook pages plummeted by 52 percent. The same goes for organic content engagement. While the output of company content increased by 35 percent, content engagement decreased by 17 percent. These numbers speak loudly about the way social networks are pushing company pages towards a pay-to-play model.
Looking at the facts, I understood that B2B marketers need to rethink their social media strategy. Simply being on social media and posting content is no longer enough. If you want to boost brand awareness, increase click-through-rates, and drive more website traffic, paid social may be the easy way out, but it’s not necessarily going to build a strong foundation for your social brand. From my experience working with B2B clients, I believe there is a smarter way of thinking about social media marketing: social advocacy.
It’s no secret that employee advocacy can help you break through the social media obstacles. How? By empowering employees to share company content across their personal channels, you can amplify your reach dramatically and in turn, increase your brand awareness.
Let’s do some math. If you open up your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter company pages, how many followers do you have in total? Now try to add up the number of connections your employees have all together across the same networks. The result will astound you. On average, your employees are connected to 10 times more people than your company alone.
By unleashing the power of employee advocacy, you can very easily leverage these connections to boost your online reach. And even better, you won’t be doubling up on the same individuals—rather, you’ll be reaching a fresh audience.
Our awesome customer and leading Japanese Information and Communications Technology company, Fujitsu, witnessed this first-hand. In 2016, it launched a social advocacy program, and the results were extraordinary! Within just six months, employees had actively shared over 23,000 content pieces on their personal social networks, growing the company’s reach by 70 percent. Fujitsu’s success with advocacy demonstrates the potential of employees to improve the depth of your relationships and drive your online presence.
Besides boosting your online visibility, employee advocacy can pull you out of the engagement nightmare. Of course, engagement levels are influenced by multiple variables, including the quality and volume of your content. However, the manner in which people interact with your content—either by liking, commenting, sharing or clicking it—is also determined by the relationship between the sender and the receiver.
Put it this way: When was the last time you built a friendship with a brand? When was the last time you clicked a company post or shared it? With the explosion of social media, your average audience member is bombarded with thousands of content pieces each day. That’s a lot of words and messages to absorb.
The ugly truth is that your average audience member doesn’t want to be friends with your brand. He or she wants to form a relationship with someone like them—someone they can trust and relate to. In fact, only 15 percent of people trust brands, while 84 percent of people trust people they know. This is where employee advocacy comes in.
Employees can help you build up that missing trust. For one, they are human, not a company, which makes their content recommendation more authentic. Secondly, they are naturally perceived to be less self-promotional than your company. Hence, when they post an article, it’s received with more gratitude and is seen as more credible.
Another interesting study by Social Media Today shows that content shared by employees generates eight times more engagement than content shared by company channels. With its advocacy program, Fujitsu saw a 29 percent increase in clicks coming from employee accounts versus its corporate accounts. Another one of our B2B clients, Pyramid Analytics, implemented an employee advocacy program and saw that 27 percent of its engagement can be attributed to employees.
But Fujitsu and Pyramid Analytics are not alone. According to a new study by Altimeter, 90 percent of companies surveyed (companies with more than 250 employees) are pursuing or have plans to pursue some form of an employee advocacy program. B2B companies are beginning to realize the potential of advocacy: the potential to cut through the social noise and stand out among competitors.
The facts are there. Today, it’s not as easy to reach and engage your audience organically on social media. To tackle these challenges, I’m seeing many B2B companies using employee advocacy program within their existing social media strategy. Employees are like your new social voice. Not only do they humanize your company, they also add a layer of trust to it. In total, they have a huge number of untapped connections. These connections can be leveraged to amplify your reach, push your content forward, and engage hundreds of fresh faces.
If you’re near the San Francisco area, I’m going to be attending theMarketo Marketing Nation Summitthis month, so come say hi. I’ll be collaborating with global service providers such as Position2, Hileman, and Digital PI to advocate for advocacy!
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