Q: Can an employee be a successful Influencer on behalf of their company?
A: Yeah… maybe…. Employee advocacy is good. But since they are paid by the brand/company, their recommendations still don’t have the same authority as a 3rd-party Influencer.
With something as new and trendy as Influencer marketing, about which a lot of people writing today don’t have a deep understanding, it’s natural that a lot of articles simply restate what OTHER trending articles are promoting.
These days what you see a lot of is the view that finding an Influencer who is the perfect fit can be tricky and requires too much effort and – so they say – who is better to fill those shoes than your own employees?
According to this view, leveraging your employees as influencers instead of hiring an influencer makes perfect sense. They are THE Influencers. The idea is that rather than overlooking the power of employee advocacy, you use it to your advantage and turn your employees into influencers.
Part of this argument is the view that employees are just waiting for their power to be “unleashed” and that all a firm needs to do is run “integrated Employee Advocacy” campaigns and they’ll have success.
And THAT’s where I draw the line.
The idea that employer advocacy can have a better effect than word-of-mouth influencer marketing by a third-party is as silly as… well, as the (related) idea that people have the attention span of a fish.
You see, the whole point of Influencer marketing is: people believe people. Brands? Not so much.
Why? Imagine this:
“I am Brand, I make shoes. Buy my shoes, they are so great and inspiring.”Brand
“watch my video about my brand.”
The video might be great and inspiring, but it just doesn’t inspire trust in the same way that person-to-person recommendations do. In fact, brand created content does not usually get more than 2 seconds (if that) of our attention (and trust). And then people are surprised that we have short attention spans…
Here is a real example:
Amanda – you must agree – is AWESOME. She shows her love for CoSchedule, and she does it well. She DOES influence, and I do feel she will inspire some. But to say that that this kind of post should be a brand’s only influencer campaign, and should replace social media Influencers who do not work at that company, that’s …hmmm…wishful thinking?
Now imagine someone named Alisa who is active on social media. She is so passionate about shoes that for the past 3 years she’s written and shared her passion on her Instagram feed and stories. And what she posts is beautiful – the pictures, the videos, the words she uses to express her joy for life…. and shoes.
And through that, she has built such a great relationship with anyone who comments on her posts, with anyone who writes to her, or sometimes randomly with people who also love shoes (she – like most professional community leaders/Influencers, spends >3 hours a day on engagement, every day!). Her followers are intrigued, they check her posts constantly. They spend not seconds, but MINUTES with her. They can’t wait for her next posts. They LISTEN to her. She is a community builder. She has INFLUENCE. She is an Influencer.
The idea that employer advocacy can have the effect of word-of-mouth marketing as 3rd-party #Influencers is as silly as… well, as the (related) idea that people have the attention span of a fish. #employeeadvocacy”
Now, even if a company wants its employees to be Alisa:
1. They need to release them from work to spend time building a community — a daily investment of 3-5 hours.
2. Even so, their ability to influence on behalf of the company will not be the same as Alisa’s ability to influence about her passions. The posts won’t be seen as objective, and they’ll have to add a disclaimer (uh… I work for the company) on every post.
Even though Alisa the Influencer is paid by the company too, and includes #ad on her posts promoting the product, her love for shoes and the community she has built are unrelated to the brand. Her Influence about #RedShoes pre-dates anything she’s done for the company that hired her, so her voice is still meaningful.
Smart brands, then, should (and I believe will) stick with an in-house social media strategy, run by social media managers who drive the brand presence and message. And those brand social media managers should hire third party Influencers as part of that strategy.
And so, don’t believe the argument that employee advocate Influencers replacing third-party influencers is a trend. It’s not — or of it is, it’s not a smart one.
So where CAN employees can be helpful? In RE-SHARING social content, and – as the above example (Amanda) add a personal note. That’s it — just rely on employees to amplify the brand on social media. Simple!
Good luck, Corporate America!
SMI* = Social Media Influencers