Social media has rapidly proven to be a critical component to branding success. It allows companies to boost awareness, connect with their audience and shape overall reputation. Yet, despite these benefits, companies of all shapes and sizes still struggle to capitalize on their social media potential.

The truth is, there’s more to your social media marketing strategy than what’s posted on your company handle. Today’s employers have the valuable opportunity to reach and engage with an audience beyond just their initial circle of connections, and it becomes possible by enabling employees to act as extensions of your brand.

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By proactively implementing employee advocacy elements into your social media strategy, you can super-charge your brand reach, earn your audience’s trust and develop new opportunities for growth. Today, the best social media engagement happens when employers encourage social sharing to be a company-wide habit, arming them with the resources they need to cultivate true social success.

Amplify the Power of Your Social Media Reach

Social media is a powerful way to grow your brand. It optimizes search results, creates more opportunities for content shares and starts customer conversations. When you incorporate employee advocacy into these social media efforts, you create the opportunity elevate each of these components to a new level and dramatically increase your social impact.

Put simply, more people advocating on the behalf of your brand means more potential connections. Compare the social reach of one company’s social media account with the reach of all their employees combined, and you’ll quickly see the difference in power.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should just spread your employees out across a variety of social platforms and wait for the results to roll in. As with any social media strategy (especially one that’s engaging), you’ll need to make sure you’re reaching the right audience members.

Build a Community With Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

When it comes to improving the power of your social media solution, it’s not just a numbers game. You need to also create and foster relationships with your audience members if you want to reap the benefits of their loyalty. While businesses can begin to do this by themselves, employees are by far the most credible voices in any company work environment.

Content shared through employees gives your organization an additional layer of humanity that comforts customers in both B2C and B2B environments. Today, an employee advocate can leverage twice as much trust as a CEO. They break through the “promotional barrier” that often prevents customers from responding to corporate content, creating stronger relationships with your target audience.

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Once you’ve found the right channels for your social engagement plan, ask employees to show their unique personality by communicating with your audience—ask questions, start conversations and interact with posts. Employee advocates may even inspire word-of-mouth marketing by encouraging conversations about your product or service. Since 74% of customers identify word-of-mouth to be a key influencer in their buying decision, it’s not a strategy you can (or should) overlook.

Use Employee Advocacy to Create Engaging Content

The content you share is a primary component of your social media branding strategy. It helps to define your share of thought-leadership within your niche and ensures that you have an avenue for engagement with your customers. While the content you share on your company handles is important, content shared by employee advocacy is equally as powerful, receiving 8x more engagement than that provided by brand channels.

What’s more, the posts published by your employees are re-shared 25x more frequently as well and leads convert 7x more often. When you embed employee brand advocacy and this element of social selling into your social media efforts, you expand your reach and earn measurably improved results.

Once you’ve got the right stakeholders, networks and departments involved, you can create a range of content to appeal to your social channels—from videos, to checklists to compelling infographics. Keep in mind that visual content is often the most effective, with 27.9% of people surveyed stating that they’re more likely to buy from a sales representative when they post videos and pictures. Millennials are even more drawn to a visual social experience—37.1% of this generation say that they’re more likely to buy from someone who posts videos and pictures.

Try the following content options:

  • Behind-the-scenes videos of employees in their work environment
  • Images of employees working on products or in team meetings
  • How-to videos from employees showing customers how to make the most out of company products or services
  • Blog-based or article content that answers common audience questions
  • Insightful infographics

To maintain a consistent voice and social media presence, you should give active members in your employee advocacy program plenty of information about how to use their social channels. Share an editorial calendar with the entire company and create a detailed social media policy with guidelines for posting on social.

Identify Opportunities for Social Media Engagement

As mentioned above, today’s buyers are looking for a relationship with the brands they follow. People want to know they’re interacting with reliable organizations and often crave connections with brands they feel a connection to. Employee advocacy is a great way to add to your brand story on social media channels, increasing your customer base and expanding your insight into the networks around you.

Today, 84% of people of B2B buyers start their purchase with a referral. While your brand account can leverage some of this crowd, it can’t be in all places at once. Consistent social media activities through your employees can deliver opportunities to participate in impactful, relevant conversations that would be impossible with a single handle.

With about 2.3 billion active social media users sending millions of messages each day, there are always conversations happening within your industry, often directly relevant or related to your company’s products or services. The only way to influence the direction of those conversations is to become a part of them. By teaching your employees how to search for brand mentions, track industry terms and keep a pulse on competitor information, you can transform them into your own personal social media army.

Here are just a few of the many examples showing how you can make the most of your social media engagement strategy by leveraging your employees:

Respond to Brand Mentions

  • Teach your advocates how to track brand mentions and reach out to people who are already interested in your company. They could start conversations, “like” posts, and invite new leads into your network.

Monitor Surrounding Conversations

  • By getting a pulse on industry terms and trending topics, you keep employees up-to-date on language and themes used in the space (hopefully resulting in them incorporating similar language in their own posts). You could even share a list of important phrases or terminology for employees to use each month.

Encourage Employees to Do the Talking

  • Use your employees to reach out to both new customers and potential hires for your company. Your employees have access to and connect with far people than your business alone, so the opportunities for growth through those connections are astounding.

Optimize Your Company’s Branding Efforts

Regardless if your social media marketing strategy is fueled by employee advocacy, it’s imperative to constantly be tracking, monitoring and optimizing your program if you want to ensure the best results. By monitoring the results of your employee advocacy program, you gain access to an astronomical amount of important customer and market data.

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In a world where customers are searching for better, more personalized experiences from their favorite brands, the amount of information and analytics you have the opportunity to gather can transform your social strategies to drive more traffic, revenue and conversions.

The more your employees share different styles of content on their social media accounts, the more you can learn about which posts drive the most engagement and growth. You can then use that information to update your employee brand advocacy posting guidelines, giving your team a better idea of how and when to share content. Since 91% of brands use 2 or more social channels, you can even create different brand advocacy programs for each platform you use, responding to the analytical information you gather about the different channels.

A great social media branding strategy is rarely set in stone. Like your employee advocacy program, it requires constant work and change in order for it to perform at its best over-time. The more data you gather from your employees, the more you can make informed decisions about the future of your brand.

It’s Time to Add Employee Advocacy to Your Social Media Strategy

Though the world today is more connected than ever before, interacting with your audience on social media isn’t always as easy as it may seem. Customers are constantly overwhelmed with messaging from countless brands, and employee advocacy programs can help you to push through the noise and build connections with your target audience.

Your employees are your voice—they humanize you, create authenticity, develop trust and add a layer of value to your brand. When it comes to making the most out of your social media strategy, employee advocacy is the secret formula that amplifies your reach, improves engagement and forms deeper connections with thousands of fresh, valuable leads.