Who in your company has the most Twitter followers, highest Klout score, or gets the most re-pins on their DIY Pinterest board?
Don’t know the answer? It could be costing you.
Though you may be familiar with advocate marketing using external influencers, some of the best brand advocates are the ones who are already working for you. These employee advocates have the ability to transform their own social networks into powerful referral engines, amplifying your brand-related messages to audiences that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Seven months ago I became the sole employee advocate for Bonfire Marketing— an unprecedented position that would need to be validated by data. As an employee advocate I was tasked with growing our social accounts, increasing our brand reach, and producing social engagement, which wouldn’t be easy considering how saturated the digital marketing industry is and how relatively unknown Bonfire was outside of Portland, OR.
Luckily, I had a secret weapon — my personal brand.
I recently ran a Complete Social Media Snapshot Report for Bonfire, and the results of my approach were most noticeable on Twitter, the platform I’ll focus on in this blog.
After observing the graph, I ran a more detailed Twitter account report to find out what was contributing to our increased Twitter engagement. I wanted to confirm my prediction that my personal networks had something to do with it.
There was our answer. While only 662 unique Twitter users engaged with @ThinkBonfire, the average follower count of those users is 7,009. That equated to over four million users potentially reached, and over 21 million potential impressions. Not too shabby for a small Portland marketing agency.
Judging by the average follower count of engaged users, the majority of people engaging with Bonfire were influencers themselves, and I knew exactly where they came from: Me.
Regardless of whether you have a team of employee advocates or just one in-house influencer like me, here’s three steps on how you can mimic Bonfire’s success with your own employee advocates.
Step 1: Have the Right Personal Brand
Not everyone has the opportunity to walk into their boss’s office and pitch a position change based on the amount of Twitter followers they have, but that’s exactly what I did seven months ago.
To quote a recent Simply Measured blog on why employee advocates are important: “Because people are more likely to share content when it’s recommended by people they know (versus brands).”
I couldn’t agree more, and for the last two years I’ve been diligently building my personal brand, Jacob Curtis, by owning my .com, producing social media video tutorials, guest blogging, and networking both online and offline. Hard work has given me the opportunity to meet some pretty influential people, make solid connections, and build an actively engaged audience around myself.
I knew when I became an employee advocate for Bonfire that I would find the most success on Twitter, as it’s the platform I’m most active on and the 6,000 followers I’ve accumulated over time aligned perfectly with Bonfire’s target audience. It was a no-brainer to focus on the network I was already influential on.
Key Takeaway: It’s likely your average employee isn’t going to have a massive pre-established network they can just plug your company’s messaging into, but don’t let that deter you from having an advocacy program. Ask your current employees or interviewees if they have a personal brand, blog, or preferred platform that aligns with your target market and invest your time where they already have clout.
Step 2: Have the Right Friends
There are numerous factors that play into the success of an employee advocate — most importantly it’s the reach and relationships they have within their networks. In my case, I had already established reciprocal sharing relationships with top industry influencers who were familiar with the blog content I produced on JacobCurtis.com.
When I began publishing articles on Bonfire in November 2013, these connections already knew me for my authorship and trusted what I was writing.
Remember how each of the 662 unique Twitter users who had engaged with @ThinkBonfire had an average of 7,000 followers?
Running a Klout and Influencers Report you can clearly see how out of 1,283 total mentions of @ThinkBonfire over the last seven months, 1,071 of those mentions came from users with a Klout Score greater than 50.
Digging even deeper into the Klout and Influencers Report you can see exactly who is most engaged, most followed, and users with the highest Klout.
From this list I can tell that nearly all of these Twitter users who engaged with @ThinkBonfire were introduced to our company through me or through a connection of mine that mentioned us.
For example, @MJasonHouck is one of Bonfire’s most engaged users and has 98,000 Twitter followers. Jason has been an online friend of mine for a while now and he shares Bonfire’s content because it’s recommended and authored by me. To help reinforce my association with Bonfire, I always try to respond to my connections that mention our company through my personal account as well.
Key Takeaway: To make a friend you must be a friend. The challenge for employee advocates is managing the time they have now to responding and maintaining their personal brand while also prioritizing the company they work for. Success also comes from consistent valuable content creation, reciprocal sharing, and always being present. For example, looking at our data you can see how our engagement, brand mentions, and reach dropped while I took three weeks off in April for my wedding. Remember, it’s called social media for a reason.
Step 3: Have the Right Tools
I didn’t buy my 6,000 Twitter followers or inherit JacobCurtis.com; I built my personal brand from the ground up and in doing so I’ve been able to find a few amazing resources and, even better, friends.
One of those resources is a blogging platform called Triberr, where like-minded bloggers read and share each other’s content. This means anyone with a passion and a blog RSS can connected with other bloggers (in this case influencers), share their content, and hope that they find your articles valuable enough to share with their networks in return.
Being an early adopter of Triberr I had already built up a good reputation by providing my own content, guest blogging for others, and sharing other influencer’s articles through @JacobkCurtis. This meant that when I began syndicating Bonfire’s blog articles on Triberr through my account, my tribe mates already considered them as quality content associated with me.
The benefit of Triberr couldn’t be more apparent in our Twitter Account Report. It was the top Twitter client used by those mentioning us throughout the date range.
Key Takeaway: Remember, social media and networking rely heavily on establishing and maintaining the online relationships you form. Simply signing up for tools like Triberr doesn’t guarantee that highly influential people will share your content. There’s also no data to back up personal sentiment, trust, and friendship online, but there are ways to identify external influencers your employee advocates can engage with regularly to build a human-to-human association.
The Power of Advocacy
This is just one example of how employee advocacy can do wonders for your company. Granted I’m a special case and had a personal brand, the right friends, and the right tools to help amplify Bonfire’s content. But creating a company of social advocates to get your brand-messaging in front of new eyes and potential influencers is definitely worth looking into, regardless of how that comes into fruition.
What’s your experience with employee advocacy at your organization? Let me know in the comments below. And if you want a sample of Simply Measured’s reporting analytics to track your own social advocacy program, simply click below for a free 14-day trial.
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