Employee Advocacy for Financial Services: 12 Frequently Asked Questions
It’s no secret that financial services have embraced social media for brand awareness, thought leadership, and customer relationships. But their journey hasn’t always been easy. Tough regulations and compliance requirements around how to best communicate with the public have made it challenging for finance marketers to maximize the full potential of social media.
So how does the concept of “employee advocacy” fit into this world? Is it even possible to get employees to share company content without breaking the rules? I sat down with Andrew Davies, Director of Digital Marketing and Creative Services at Capco to answer 12 commonly asked questions about employee advocacy for financial services – how they’re facilitating, measuring, and capitalizing on employee advocacy to reach their business objectives.
First off, tell us about yourself, your past experience, and your role at Capco?
“I’m Andrew Davies, an Associate Director at Capco, the world’s largest technology consultancy that specializes in financial services. Within my current role, I have the pleasure of heading up the digital marketing and creative services team.
Over the past year and a half, I have been in charge of implementing a wide range of marketing technologies including a new content management system, employee advocacy program, CRM alongside data and visualization solutions for analytics.
Prior to my role at Capco, I managed a small digital campaigns team at KPMG UK, performed a similar role at Nuffield Health and spent a few years working for the NHS in marketing and communications.
I’m also a proud Yorkshireman.
1. What does “employee advocacy” mean exactly? Is it something new?
Employee advocacy certainly isn’t something new. Employees have spoken favorably (or not so in some cases) about their employees and shared their ‘content‘ since the start of time. Simple word of mouth if you will. However, with the rise and dominance of social media, we now have emerging platforms such as Oktopost that make it easier for us to grow our advocacy programs online and most importantly, measure the impact.
In a nutshell, employee advocacy is the activation and empowerment of your employees to share and engage with brand-related content.
2. How do financial services facilitate employee advocacy while staying compliant with regulatory requirements?
Understanding and meeting regulations require input and collaboration across the whole firm. Expecting a social media or marketing junior to understand the ins and outs of any regulation is unrealistic and will create silos, while also putting the firm at risk, so it is important to establish good relationships with your brand and risk compliance teams, along with legal.
There’s a safety net when using employee advocacy platforms, driven by marketing or communications usually owning the software and scheduling of content.
Apart from your standard disclaimers (views are my own and not those of X organization) to distance the brand from the individual, making sure your digital team are the most approachable and contactable within the business, helps ensure compliance.
3. Seeing as 49 of the top 50 financial service companies already have a presence on at least 1 social network, what are the top reasons for launching an employee advocacy program?
Following the financial crisis of 2008 and further negative media stories throughout the past decade, people have lost trust in faceless corporates. Instead – and somewhat unsurprisingly – humans want to communicate with other humans and lose the faceless and corporate social media accounts.
Now, pair those factors with the old adage ‘a recommendation always comes stronger from a friend’ (or connection) and the reason is clear. In 2018 and beyond, your employees’ networks and are far more valuable than your corporate channel networks.Building trust, loyalty, and rapport should be the driving forces behind your decision to embark on an employee advocacy program. Click To Tweet
In summary, building trust, loyalty, and rapport should be the driving forces behind your decision to embark on an employee advocacy program.
4. What are the top 3 benefits that financial services can reap from adopting an employee advocacy strategy?
Let me summarize this in 3 points:
- Sharing high quality thought leadership content through social media reinforces personal and brand expertise.
- Social media engagement helps employees to establish relationships with prospect audiences and peers, while developing loyalty and rapport with existing connections.
- Many employees lack the confidence to fully embrace social media, fearing that the risk is greater than the reward. A successful advocacy program is the stepping stone to full social media engagement and content creation.
5. A financial service company decided to launch an employee advocacy program – which employees/departments/teams would you recommend for them to onboard first?
Focus on a department that has a good content pipeline. Provide them with a number of social media training sessions, communicate with them regularly, gain an understanding from the data into the success of the program and feedback any data you gather. Build a case study and methodology around that team and once it is successful, they will not only become your case study, they’ll also become your biggest advocates.
6. What types of content should finance marketers provide their employee advocates to share on social media?The purpose of sharing content is adding value to the end user. Therefore, you should always provide content that is relevant to your users. Click To Tweet
The purpose of sharing content is adding value to the end user. Therefore, you should always provide content that is relevant to your users. To help you achieve this, I follow a very simple set of rules. All content must:
- Enlighten: or
If your content doesn’t do one of the three things above, it shouldn’t go out via your social media channels.
Finding or creating the right content should also be relatively simple. Identify your organization’s subject matter experts (SMEs), gain and understand into the current challenges of the industry (or their clients), then create short (blog) or long (white paper) content that will help someone benefit from your organization’s expertise.
7. Which metrics should financial services focus on when measuring the success of their employee advocacy program?
Number one: Links clicks and traffic to your website. Whether it is recruitment-based content about your culture, or launching your latest white paper, driving traffic to your website will help you convert career searches or paper downloads that you can measure.
Number two: The percentage of active users to your employee advocacy program. This metric will help you to understand if your users are seeing value in the employee advocacy tool. It could also be the measure of their interest in the content you’re sharing. If the number falls, you know you need to re-engage with your advocates to understand their requirements.
8. 1/3 of B2B buyers use social media to engage with vendors. Based on this statistic, how does employee advocacy help financial services bridge the gap between companies and buyers?We’ve moved past an era of business to business (B2B) marketing and on to peer-to-peer marketing. Click To Tweet
I touched upon this briefly in one of the earlier answers, but we’ve moved past an era of business to business (B2B) marketing and moved to a peer-to-peer marketing model. Humans want to connect with humans, and social media has allowed us to connect more freely and easier than ever before. We’ve been able to drop the sometimes salesy, single channel and often one-way approach to communication and moved to a more personal and adult way of managing relationships.
9. More and more B2B companies are turning to a “pay-to-play” model on social media. Based on your experience, how is employee advocacy a more “cost-effective” strategy than paid social?
I attended a social media seminar around five years ago where the founder of a well-establish UK agency said that in the future, social media would be a pay-to-play landscape. At this time, I hadn’t been able to create a successful employee advocacy program, so I believe this to be true.Employee advocacy is the biggest competitor to the pay-to-play model. Data has been key to proving the above statement, with employee advocacy outperforming paid recruitment ads. Click To Tweet
However, what I’ve seen over the past three years makes employee advocacy the biggest competitor to the pay-to-play model.
Data has been key to proving the above statement, with employee advocacy outperforming paid recruitment ads. Using the same content across both paid and organic social media channels, we’ve seen paid traffic convert site visitors to career searches at under 4%. Traffic driven by advocacy has converted visitors at above 50%. This is just one example – without giving away too much data – but over the years I’ve heard and gathered many anecdotal stories of business meetings and win, stemming from increased social media activity.
10. How do you see ‘employee advocacy’ evolving over the next 10 years as a communication channel?
I believe we’re still in the early stages of employee advocacy for financial services. It will certainly grow over the next ten years, but we could ruin the potential if we misuse it.
Misuse of advocacy programs by trying to cheat the system and creating an army of human bots, will eventually result in thousands of users all sharing the same content. Mass syndication without a genuine value exchange between advocate and their networks is the biggest threat.
However, if we educate our users about adding value and prove the benefits, employee advocacy will become an established method of communication with the early adopters seeing a period of dominance while the rest play catch-up.
11. What advice would you give financial services that are looking to embark on an employee advocacy program – but don’t know where to start?
Before diving in and purchasing the technology to support an advocacy program, make sure you have an agreed approach to content production, quality control (this may include brand and risk compliance) and resources to communicate regularly with any number of potential program participants. Successful programs are not achieved overnight, they are the result of on-going high-quality content production and educating the business around the benefits.
12. Lastly, what would you say to financial services that are still wary of employees sharing company content on social networks?
The reward is far greater than the risk. Educate and trust your employees to behave online the same way you do when they attend business meetings or send external emails.
Within my current role, we pride ourselves on being an adult organization, which means we embrace a “be yourself at work” culture and trust our employees to be brand ambassadors and act responsibly, be that on or offline. We certainly do not have a big brother culture whereby we monitor every single social media post shared by our employees and this builds two-way trust.
Embrace that above approach and monitor your data closely. You’ll see the rewards across both social media and also the attitude of your employees.
Employee Advocacy for Financial Services Starts Here
Want to learn more great insights? Watch our recent webinar, ‘Breaking the Barriers: How Financial Services Are Taking Social Media to the Next Level’ to gain 6 practical social media tactics for building audience trust, humanizing your corporate image, and measuring the true impact of social.