Why the ultimate content strategy requires employee advocacy
The rise of content marketing
As social media has been swamped by social media marketing over the last 5 or so years, interest in content marketing has rapidly risen. The reason is obvious — it is now much harder to be seen among the noise than it was a few years ago. The organic reach of Facebook Pages has dropped from 16% in April 2012 to well less than 1% today. Typically, today we see engagement rates across a range of engagement metrics as less than 1% in most social channels, with perhaps Instagram and YouTube being exceptions for the moment. Not coincidentally, the rapid rise of interest in content marketing started in 2012.
The importance of an effective content strategy
Effective content marketing requires an effective content strategy, and up until 2015-ish such content strategies were generally seen to be confined to the realms of the marketing team. The focus was on generating better content, more value-added content, more creative content — whatever it took to break through the noise. In 2016, 70% of marketers said they are creating more content than in 2015 according to a recent survey.
The outcome of more content being generated by the marketers is more owned media, and more paid media. However, paid media is the least trusted source of content, and owned media is in the middle ground of trust. Therefore, it stands to reason that even if the marketers’ content is better or more creative, the sheer volume will mitigate against better engagement rates unless the content is associated with a higher degree of trust.
To achieve a higher degree of trust, companies are required to engage with their employees as part of a team building relationships with people through social media.
That’s not a new thought. Companies like IBM, Dell, Cisco, Intel and parts of GE have been doing it for a long time. You can find GE and Cisco on Snapchat for example, where they offer very raw unfiltered insights into the company and the people. These companies realise that their employees are already social employees, as are their future employees. They also realise that everyone has a story, that the company has great stories, that their people are experts in understanding how to apply their products and services, and that they can trust their employees to interact in social media.
Employee advocacy drives sales
Most of us understand that employee advocacy drives sales, so why are so few companies today incorporating this into their content strategy?
The obvious reasons are lack of trust of employees, lack of will to train them in social media skills and lack of commitment to provide a widely available social media support infrastructure.
Sales correlates with number of people in social not posts
Less obvious is the lack of understanding that sales correlate strongly with the number of people who advocate for a brand, not the number of online posts or messages advocating for a brand.
It’s pretty simple, people connect with people, and trust people. How often have you decided not to follow a brand’s Twitter account, but you willing follow the people behind the brand?
Employees are your easiest and first port of call in building the number of people advocating for you. This is why the ultimate content strategy requires employee advocacy.
Let’s say all those well known reasons listed above which stall employee advocacy were overcome, what then is the roadblock? The most significant roadblock in our experience is the lack of a coherent and aligned content strategy. In most cases “content strategy” is an idea which is deprecated to simply more content production.
It requires a holistic strategy not more content
Typically, businesses have difficulties in executing their “content strategy” because of the lack of a process which aligns brand strategy, editorial and content strategy, employee engagement, social media, brand storytelling, participatory customer engagement, social media and content performance management into a well-integrated process.
There are three key components of an effective content strategy — a strategy which connects brands with people:
- Firstly, the “Brand Connection” component where the brand research is conducted and the editorial strategy developed, which in turn guides the digital and social strategies, and content themes.
- Secondly, the “Customer Connection” where the themes of the editorial strategy and the outcomes of the digital strategy connect to form the underlying infrastructure for content generation and storytelling – initially from the brand to customers, then from the brand to employees to customers, and then from customers to employees and the brand. This requires marketing stimulating content production and getting ideas to employees, and vice versa, and building internal advocacy support and operationalising employee advocacy.
- Thirdly, the “Content Connection” component is where the performance and benchmarking of content performance is used to inform further choices of content and also in validation of the Brand Connection outcomes.
The ultimate goal is to activate participatory storytelling not just with employees but with customers. Customer stories are the bridges upon which trust is built.
The more employees you trust to engage in social media as part of their daily job, the more likely you are to identify and generate customer stories which resonate far more strongly than content generated by marketing.
Employee advocacy is the bridge to customer storytelling, and perhaps customer storytelling should actually be the ultimate content strategy?