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How to Transform Your Employees Into Powerful Brand Advocates

Carrie Corbin

Talent Attraction and Employer Brand Strategies for American Airlines

A version of this article was originally published on the SmashFly blog.

It's no longer enough to be a great company—your company must be known as a great place to work. That's bigger than your own Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and what you say on your career site and what your leadership thinks about your culture. It's a blend of perception, reality, reputation and delivering on promises.

So how do you become known as a top place to work and stand out to the people you seek to hire?

The answer is sitting in front of you every day. No, not coffee (though caffeine can spark some ideas). It's your employees.

I know what you're thinking: Do employee advocacy programs really work? How do I get my team to take part on top of everything else I have to do? At the Transform Virtual Conference this year hosted by my company SmashFly, a marketing automation software for recruiters, I explained how you can unleash your employees as powerful brand advocates. And I know it's possible because I've done it at different companies throughout my career.

Why Employee Advocacy Matters

Employee advocacy is a marketing strategy based on your workforce's enthusiasm for the company. If your organization solely relies on corporate messaging and official, branded social media accounts to drive awareness and connect with people, you'll never build an effective employer brand reputation. Sure, your messages, tweets and posts are important; they're just not trustworthy.

Survey after survey shows people trust other people, not brands:

  • 83 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know
  • 60 percent of people trust peers more than a CEO

If your company creates the right brand, compelling content, an intriguing purpose, useful resources, your employees will share it.

Fueling Your Employees With Content

"OK Carrie, so how do we find or create that content?"

Well, I can tell you they don't want to blast out your sales pitch or your employer brand mantra or a formal paragraph from your About Us. They do want to share content that is personally relevant to their values, purpose and career goals, and helps establish them as thought leaders.

Here are some types of content that I've found to work:

  • Employee-generated content: People will share what they create, so involve employees in the content creation process, whether videos, blog posts, interview tips or their personal route to your company.
  • Inspiring human-interest stories: I'm sure plenty of your employees or managers have inspiring stories both in and outside of work. Your team will share great things their co-workers are doing!
  • Educational content: People like to be educated and teach, and this type of useful content really showcases your employees and brand as helpful.

Ideas to Get You Started

There are plenty of things you can do to drive employee advocacy, and most of them don't require a lot of money or effort. When I worked at AT&T, we saw tremendous results by simply tapping into existing employee networks.

Start some (friendly) competition: For example, we shared a list of jobs we had difficulty filling with employees, so they could share it with their networks. To amp up some friendly competition, we created a competition and offered incentives for the people who could drive the most qualified applicants.

Find your tribe: We created a "Twitter tribe" by identifying employees who were already tweeting about our brand, then invited them to share curated content we'd send every week. We fueled their feeds and made it easy, while they helped share our message. We had 1,200 employees participate the first year, and they sent over 10,000 tweets.

Look to other advocates: We had an extensive talent network at AT&T, and we surveyed the members to learn what type of content they wanted. Most wanted to hear about company news, so we shared that content, and many ended up sharing it with their networks.

These programs can work regardless of the size of your company because they don't require a ton of resources, just a little creativity. More often than not, your happiest and most effective employees are willing and eager to jump in, they're just waiting on the encouragement and support to get going.

Photo: Creative Commons

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