The Role of Employee Advocacy in Building Thought Leadership
In the B2B world, you don’t just want to be looked upon as just another business selling a particular product or service. While, for plenty of retailers in the B2C world, that reputation can work out just fine, the world of B2B is different. Competition is always mounting, and the best possible way to separate yourself from the herd – to be treated as the source, not just a source – is to establish your brand as an authoritative resource positioned at the front of its industry.
Not only is this good for lead conversion and customer loyalty, but it’s good for SEO. Google’s algorithms are always changing, but those changes are centered on the need to identify the most authoritative, knowledgeable, and worthwhile sources on the internet for any given search result. And, of course, that’s exactly where you want to be because it’s where your customers are looking.
In other words, you can’t have one (trust from customers and leads) without the other (trust from Google), and you can’t have either without investing solidly into your thought leadership.
What is the purpose of thought leadership?
Thought leadership is all about content publishing – supplying readers, and the internet at large, with a rich and comprehensive supply of content that signals your authority within your industry, and generally makes the internet a better place.
Thought leadership is, in many ways, a form of competition between one business and the rest. But, unlike a temporary, eye-catching sale that diverts footfall toward your doorway for a couple of days or, at most, a week, striving toward thought leadership strengthens your reputation in a way that is far wider-reaching and longer-term.
Most of us can list off a few companies that, these days, just seem to know more than their counterparts – they have better insight, and more practice-based understanding – and most of us would rather lend those companies our business. Why? Because we trust them, and because they are masters at putting across the impression that they are at the forefront of their industry.
This is the purpose of thought leadership. From both a human and an SEO perspective, the ultimate aim for thought leadership is the same: make your business the business to turn to for insight, information, knowledge, and expertise.
But thought leadership isn’t just about conveying knowledge – it’s about wisdom, too. Recent insights from SEMrush found that the most popular purpose of thought leadership is to inspire and drive change, at 60.9%, rather than to merely educate (46.5%).
There is – and always will be – room in thought leadership for your brand’s voice and core values to take center stage, and for you to inspire your audiences in a way that fosters a more emotional connection.
It’s the difference between representing a knowledge-source, and representing an authoritative source that people can really identify with, and wish to align themselves to.
There are many different ways to build thought leadership – social posting, events, market research – but one of the most effective is to begin cultivating a pool of social media advocates, straight from your own workforce.
What is social advocacy, and how does it support thought leadership?
Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. At whatever level they operate in the company, they each have a unique perspective on the way it is run, and that context within the wider industry. Whether they’re in sales, finance, marketing, HR, or production, their role represents a singular viewpoint – one that yields plenty of fascinating insights throughout any given day, week, year…you name it.
So, what do we do with all that practice-based knowledge and insight? For the most part, we let it go to waste – buried under the day-to-day of operating a business.
But that’s far from a best-case scenario. The best option is to utilize that knowledge within your thought leadership strategy – to wield it for social posting, and building authority within your target market and industry. In other words, to embrace social media advocacy.
Employee advocacy is a broad subject. Ultimately, it refers to instances where employees actively promote their employer, often on social media.
Employees? The very people who hold all those unique perspectives and insights earned over the months and years they have spent working for your company?
You can see where we’re going with this. Employee advocacy boosts:
- Brand visibility
The more you post, the higher the chance that you’ll reach a wider audience. We know – revolutionary, right?
But, as obvious as it sounds, it needs to be restated here. Turning a strong employee into a social media advocate means that you can instantly diversify your reach across one or multiple platforms, and boost your online presence without investing in a high-profile marketing campaign or investing thousands extra into PPC.
- Audience engagement and trust
It can be hard for businesses to shake the business persona, even though all of their content is created by humans. Using social media for advocacy puts a face to a name in a way you just don’t get with any other strategy, and that’s very valuable for boosting engagement – and, at the same time, trust.
- Workforce empowerment
One thing that never, ever gets old? Being treated like an expert in a subject, whether that’s running a marathon or running a department, setting up the family’s home cinema systems or setting up a system that tackles one of the biggest bugbears of an entire industry.
But advocacy solutions aren’t ‘quick tricks’ to make your employees feel more engaged and motivated. It holds as many benefits for you as it does for your workforce. It’s just good business.
The practicalities: using employee advocacy to build thought leadership
Employee insight is a little like iron. First, it’s produced in the form of iron ore – a little rough around the edges, unpolished, and only useful to a small number of people. Once it’s sent through the blast furnace – or the business equivalent – and the impurities have been removed, it’s ready to prove useful to hundreds of thousands of different people.
Every one of your employees has knowledge and wisdom worth imparting – that’s what makes any business into the well-oiled machine it needs to be to grow and thrive. But, at the same time, our thoughts are a very rough first draft. We don’t think in perfect articles. We all have a habit of speeding over complex topics that, in our minds, are un-complex – or maybe lingering too long on a familiar point.
So, how do you sharpen employee insight into the sharp point it needs to be in order to lead your thought leadership efforts?
- The soft launch
You don’t need to make this a company-wide pursuit from the off, and you definitely don’t need to make it a mandatory exercise. Choose a relatively small group of people who you feel will be excited by the opportunity, and underpin the strategy with some really worthwhile, well-written content. Then, gradually, add more people into the fold.
- Create space
Invest time, and allow time to be invested. If content creation is consistently billed as a ‘just when there’s time’ task, it’ll be consistently pushed down the priorities list by every other thing that flies in during the week. The general rule is that it takes 3-4 hours to write a strong, well-researched article – not ten minutes here and there when there’s a lull between tasks!
If efficiency is an issue, then our platform allows you to integrate a long list of third-party software, including Slack, Salesforce, and Teams. Don’t forget, also, that each move you make toward taking control of your social media presence overlaps with another. Read about how social media listening can increase customer advocacy for more.
- Set your boundaries
One of the reasons advocacy on social media seems to fall by the wayside in so many companies is because entrusting your business’s online presence to more people inevitably means more risk, but that doesn’t mean the risk can’t be anticipated and minimized.
By introducing a clear social media policy, implementing an approval process for all content that ensures stakeholders maintain control, and banning potentially inflammatory keywords from content, you can establish clear, uncrossable boundaries that minimize the risks.
- Create structure
As important as it is to create time, it’s inevitable that some weeks will yield more content than others. We all know that the key to maximizing your impact on socials is to post regularly, so don’t flood the platforms with a handful of strong articles one week before dropping off for three more. Write content in advance, and cultivate a rich store of it on employee boards.
Employee advocacy is a key part of any strong social media strategy, so make sure it is part of that strategy, highlighting the importance of consistency. Scheduling social posts in advance will ensure a robust content strategy for employee advocacy platforms, so you’re never left scrambling for content to post.
- Give your creators access to relevant metrics
Maintaining interest in employee advocacy can feel a little tricky. How long before creativity starts to ebb, or busy schedules cause employees to shelve content creation indefinitely? This is a common issue companies run into, but it can be circumvented if you make full use of the metrics each post yields. Reach, conversions, impressions, and clicks come together to make success tangible – great for motivating the team, and turning social posting into a truly rewarding exercise.
Make your employees a key part of your social media marketing, and find out quite how much of a difference it makes not just to your performance metrics, but to the office culture, too.