Employee advocacy: the holy grail for finance brands

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Crusade for social reach
By Susan Burchill, staffer. 30 April, 2019
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When it comes to employee advocacy, a highly-regulated industry like financial services needs the help of platforms like LinkedIn’s Elevate or one of a raft of other tools to formalise the process. We take a look at what innovative financial brands are already doing globally to harness their employees’ social reach.

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How effective is employee advocacy for a brand?

LinkedIn says employee networks have on average 10 times more connections than a company has followers, and employee sharing helps generate twice the click-through rate on content. Edelman’s Trust Barometer study confirms that buyers trust employees over CEOs, spokespeople, or the marketing department when researching purchase decisions. And it’s Millennials doing the hard yards, with this US employee advocacy impact study finding that 81% of Millennials share information about their job, compared to 47% of Baby Boomers and 72% of Generation X.

So if decision makers find staff more believable than brands, how do you go about making it fast, easy and rewarding for employees to tell those stories, while maintaining control over the content?

If decision makers find staff more believable than brands, how do you go about making it easy for employees to tell those stories, while maintaining control over the content?

Getting the stories out there

Increasingly we’re turning to employee advocacy platforms which allow employees to choose from hand-picked content, share it, view analytics and importantly – use built-in compliance tools.

Options range from LinkedIn Elevate and Hootsuite Amplify to the millennially-monikered Sociabble, Everyone Social, Smarp, Bambu, Post Beyond, Dynamic Signal, Social Toaster, SoAmpli and Ambassify... we could go on - and on, as this comparison site shows.

A well-established employee advocacy program can drive traffic to your website, build your brand story, attract top talent, promote your people as thought leaders, and develop relationships between your employees and customers. LinkedIn Elevate is a widely-used platform that’s especially useful for its ability to give demographic information about people who are engaging with employee-shared content.

LinkedIn Elevate in action

ANZ decided they needed to “break down barriers to employee advocacy”. According to the LinkedIn case study, after ANZ began using Elevate, employees started sharing 6 times more than previously. Their content sharing has influenced 4 times more company page followers, and employee-shared content via Elevate sees an engagement rate of 2.3% on average.

Joe Watkins, Social Media Marketing Leader for ANZ’s wealth division explained that part of the program’s success is due to employees being able to see their connections across LinkedIn growing 4 times faster (on average) than before. To encourage employees to share more, ANZ has fostered some friendly competition through leaderboard data which highlights top sharers, and they regularly share case studies of successful sharing.

[Full disclosure: The Dubs is a rostered content agency to ANZ]

HSBC was looking to help build employee social media profiles, to show how social can help with employees’ jobs, and to leverage content through employees. Through LinkedIn Elevate, employees now push out a mix of HSBC and non-HSBC content. HSBC’s global digital and social media marketing manager Camilla Romuld says that the LinkedIn company page has gained more followers, more prospective hires are applying than previously, and the average employee advocate drives 3 times more impressions with Elevate than without it. On average an Elevate user shares content eight times more than a non-Elevate user.

On average an Elevate user shares content eight times more than a non-Elevate user.

Wells Fargo used Elevate to boost recruiting efforts encouraging “hundreds of employees on the recruiting team to share company-approved content on social media”. According to the case study, the program generated 1.2 million impressions and resulted in 113,000 engagements (likes, clicks, comments, shares) in the first half of 2018. It also resulted in nearly 3,000 job applications and 180 hires of candidates who viewed or engaged with content pushed out by Wells Fargo recruiters before applying for and landing a job.

Elevate isn’t the only platform with success stories

Believers in employee advocacy since well before the advent of Elevate, MasterCard developed social media playbooks to educate staff on how to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn in 2013, even involving employees in the development of its social media guidelines. The MasterCard ambassador program sees hundreds of staff sharing brand-related news and other content across their personal social networking accounts as part of a commitment to talent development.

Another famous case study is that of Massachusetts-based community bank Avidia which has an internal employee advocacy programme called Avidia Smarties driven through a Hootsuite dashboard. Employees in various branches and departments are encouraged to “show brand love and drive overall reach”, getting training in how to use social media to promote the brand successfully, then sharing content on their personal social media channels – from branded messaging and thought leadership to company news and content supporting individual product launches.

Within 12 months of using the Post Beyond employee advocacy platform, MD Financial, a financial advisory firm for Canadian doctors, improved the reach of its messages by a factor of ten. The key here, according to MD Financial’s social media specialist Louise Beirne, is to get company leaders taking part in the effort – and rewarding top advocates with things like gift cards and write-ups in company publications.

One final piece of employee advocacy advice

Through their ‘Social Associates’ program, US bank Capital One offers a mix of specialist content to fit specific areas of interest for different teams across the company, served up via the Digital Signal advocacy platform. An important note here is that while content is pre-approved, Capital One encourages staff to write commentary in their own words, lending a more authentic feel than the standard brand voice.

Advice from Andrew Grill, Global Manager Partner IBM Social Consulting reinforces the importance of advocates using their own voice. Grill believes that just repeating what his company is saying will dilute his personal brand and his usefulness as an authentic brand advocate will be compromised.

“My audience knows where I work and the fact I am likely to share only favorable news about IBM,” Grill says. “But it is also looking for my point of view from where I sit and my expertise on a particular topic. It’s an important point for ambassador programs to consider.”

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Image: Paramount Pictures

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When Susan was a youngster she didn't know what she wanted to be, but somehow she fell into advertising; then digital was invented so she worked on websites for a while. From there it was a small leap over to TV producing, scriptwriting, promo writing, and some copywriting.... Then when content marketing became a 'thing', she somehow fell into that. It's worked out ok so far - luckily she's always landed on soft things.