Social media employee advocacy for brands is nothing revolutionary. Three-quarters of consumers report that social media directly influences their buying behavior. But here’s the thing: social media advocacy only works if you have an audience. Hundreds of Facebook posts are essentially worthless if you don’t have any followers to read them. Earlier this summer, Facebook shifted its algorithm, announcing it would start prioritizing posts from friends and family in the newsfeed over publishers. For brands seeking to become mini content houses via social media, that’s a pretty big hit. Can anything save Facebook for brands?
Content Sharing, Algorithms and Newsfeeds: Why Brands Lose Out
According to Contently, brands have been feeling the pain for some time now. Average total shares have fallen steadily since January. The average shares for link posts have fallen even more as Facebook prioritizes Instant articles (viewed within its ecosystem) over any posts with external links (content that takes the user outside Facebook’s walls). Photo post views, once a reliable source for engagement, are collapsing too. Videos, the one content form that’s still generating steady engagement, is also problematic. Embedded videos on Facebook have an incredibly high view rate because it counts a “view” at the three-second mark whether or not the viewer has even turned on the sound. The problem? Videos play automatically, which means 90 percent of people who see the video in their feed are counted as viewing it, even though only 20 percent actually do, argues YouTube creator Hank Green.
And that brings us to the challenge at hand: can brands do anything to stop hemorrhaging engagement on Facebook? Absolutely! Brands simply need their employees to share content for them.
Why Employee Advocacy Matters for Facebook
Let’s start with a little math. Say you’re a small business with 1,000 followers on Facebook. Not bad, right? But given diminishing returns from brand-published content, the number of followers who may even see your published posts, much less click through links or even watch videos is significantly less– potentially as low as 200. Your employees can significantly further this reach for you. Consider this: if every employee has just 250 unique followers on Facebook, then 10 employees have a total of 2,500 unique followers, more than your company has. Ask an employee to share a message, and you could instantly 1,000+ people.
Online word-of-mouth messages work. They get eight times more engagement than brand channels reports Social Media Today. These messages convert more leads thanks to a higher trust factor. In short, when employees and brands share an identical piece of content, the employee-shared piece will out perform the brand piece virtually every time. If you want to raise brand awareness and engage your audience on Facebook, you cannot assume that pushing out content over your own page will get the job done. Your employees need to be engaged with social advocacy, too.
3 Tips for Getting Started with Facebook Employee Advocacy
- Engage employees before asking them to engage your customers. Any attempt to force employees to share your content on Facebook won’t ring true. Employee advocacy is most effective when it is natural and voluntary. Start a brand engagement strategy with your employees who are excited to tell the world about your amazing new initiative or that insightful, industry-leading whitepaper your department just published. This is a long-term process that starts by intentionally nurturing a workplace culture where employees are engaged and enthusiastic. Get buy-in from employees before you announce your new social media plan.
- Appear spontaneous but follow a plan. Effective social media engagement is not a happy accident. It’s the result of intentional planning and execution. This same principle applies to your employees as much as it applies to your own business account. Last week, we touched on the importance of basic social media training to get your team up to speed for any social media advocacy program. Pre-drafting messages can be helpful for guiding sharing and providing initial inspiration.
- Align content with your audience. Just crushed your quarterly earnings goals or launched a new brand guide? That’s big internal news, not external. Your VP of Sales should NOT be posting the monthly earnings report to his Facebook page! Help employees master the basics of audience alignment and distinguish between what is a relevant update for their friends and what’s not.
Are your employees brand advocates for your business on Facebook? We’d love to hear what’s working and what’s not on our Facebook page.