There are approximately three million businesses that promote their products, share their content, and engage with their target audience on Facebook. Unfortunately, the immense volume of ads and sponsored posts making their way News Feeds has been the cause of disappointment for many Facebook users. This, combined with the recent Cambridge Analytica fiasco, is causing enormous problems for brands relying heavily on Facebook for their social media marketing campaigns. As if this isn’t bad enough, Facebook’s announcement of changing its algorithm to prioritize posts from real people in your network over brand content. This is like adding salt to injury to the already depleting organic reach Facebook pages are experiencing since 2014. Because of this, many brands using Facebook marketing will now have to resort to spending more on Facebook ads to get the same results. This may not appear to be a problem for well-established businesses. However, for startups that have to work with a very lean budget, this can be potentially problematic. Which now begs the all-important question: is it still worth to market your startup on Facebook? Believe it or not, the answer is still a resounding YES! That’s because, despite everything, Facebook continues to be the most widely used social media platform with 2.2 billion monthly users. 66% of them log into their accounts at least once a day. Facebook Users 2018 Source: Statista Moreover, even though some project that Facebook ad prices will increase, the rate is still significantly cheaper than other forms of online paid advertising. More important is the number of leads that become paying customers. Facebook delivers an average conversion rate of 9.21% across all industries. Facebook Ads Benchmarks Source: Wordstream

Understanding the changes to the Facebook algorithm

One valuable marketing lesson I’ve learned comes from Lao Tzu’s The Art of War: “If you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Facebook is not a startup’s enemy when it comes to engaging with their target audience and scaling their business. However, if you want to be able to achieve your social media marketing goals with Facebook, you’ll need first to understand how their new algorithm works. Only then will you be able to maximize it to your advantage. Facebook’s updated algorithm is, in reality, is a step backward to the main reason why it was created in the first place: to become a platform that brings people closer together. In his post, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that they would be doing a series of updates that will prioritize posts from friends and family. Mark Zuckerburg Screenshot from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook The hope is that with these changes, these posts will spark meaningful conversations and discussions among its users. Facebook clearly explains how the new algorithm will work in the video below. [Video Link: https://www.facebook.com/facebook/videos/10156988765141729/] It’s because of this why brands have slowly shifted their Facebook marketing strategy incorporate and capitalize on employee advocacy.

What is employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy is a marketing strategy where your employees share content promoting your brand and your products using their social media accounts.

Why even use employee advocacy?

That’s an excellent question. After all, strategies like content marketing still works despite the changes happening on Facebook, right? Well, for starters, recent events have caused people to lose their trust towards branded content, particularly content coming from their CEOs. Interestingly enough, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that consumers are shifting their faith towards employees of the company. Employers Trust Source: Edelman This growing skepticism is due to the fact they have become increasingly aware of tactics companies use to market their brand online. 60% who participated in the study said that CEOs are driven more to make a profit than provide content that will genuinely help and deliver value. Comit To Long Form Content Source: Edelman Since your startup’s brand is the cornerstone of your relationship with your customers, it’s crucial that you capitalize on those that your customers trust. That is why 96% of those that have used employee advocacy on Facebook and other social media networks have been reaping the benefits below.

Promoting brand awareness

The top two benefits companies experienced with employee advocacy have to do with increasing your brand’s messaging to your target audience. Benefits of Employee Advocacy Source: Hinge Marketing As a startup, your brand’s message is crucial to your success. It’s what you communicate to your customers regularly. It’s also the critical element to help you build relationships with them so that they trust you enough that they’re willing to avail of your products and services.

Increase your social reach

Employee advocacy and influencer marketing have many things in common. They both have followers that trust what they say and recommend. They both are knowledgeable in their respective industries. They both share content on social media. The main difference between the two lies in the fact that influencer marketing involves collaborating with influencers who are not affiliated with your company. This can lead to many of your target audience becoming skeptical about the sincerity of these influencers when they promote your brand to their followers. In fact, customers are now becoming aware that many of the influencers they follow on social media are compensated by the brands they recommend on social media. On the other hand, employee advocacy taps into the social media network of your employees. Because their friends, family, and followers on social media are aware that they are part of your startup, sharing posts about your brand and your products becomes more genuine. That’s why brand messages shared by employees get shared 24 times more than if these are posted using your brand’s social media account. Now, if you think that your employees don’t have the same reach potential as influencers in your niche, think again. True, the average number of friends a Facebook user has is 338. However, these same users generate an average of over 166 engagements on their posts. Earned Facebook Engagement Source: Statista Do the math, and that’s a 49% average engagement rate!

Grow your bottom line more quickly

Brands that have an employee advocacy program in place grow twice as fast as those that don’t use employee advocacy according to StoreKit. One reason for this is that having an employee advocacy program will transform your employees into your brand ambassadors. That means that they will need to have a deeper understanding of your brand and products to make sure that they’re promoted to their followers in a sincere, natural, and genuine fashion. What’s more, employee advocacy taps into the power of word-of-mouth, which remains as the most influential type of marketing among customers. Not only does it help brands close seven times more leads, but also increase their customer retention rate by 37%. Activate Your Advocates Source: SlideShare

Leveraging employee advocacy on Facebook

By now, you see how launching an employee advocacy program can significantly help your startup circumvent the new Facebook algorithm, and increase your engagement rate. Now, the all-important question: how do you do it? Here’s a 7-step action plan to help you launch an employee advocacy program to boost your Facebook marketing campaigns.

1. Create a share-worthy culture for your employees

Even before Starbucks launched its employee strategy program, it already instilled a culture within their company where they consider their employees as their partners, regardless of their position. By doing this, Starbucks created a workplace where their employees feel that they not only belong but accountable to the brand’s reputation and image. This sense of belonging and accountability eventually carried over to their Facebook posts and other social media activities when they launched their employee advocacy program. Starbucks Image Source: SlideShare In the same manner, make sure that you develop a culture in your workplace where your employees feel valued and happy to work before you launch your employee advocacy program. Not only will this ensure the quality of the posts your employees share on Facebook, but also give them something to share about that will spark curiosity and engagement.

2. Set your goals

Make sure that you set clear goals and benchmarks for your employee advocacy program. This will help you direct your strategy and create content that will resonate with your target market. Your goals will also help you monitor your employee advocacy program to make sure that your employee advocacy program resonates with your target audience. When it comes to setting goals, I always recommend to my clients to follow the S.M.A.R.T. formula to make sure that the goals they set are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. That way, your goals are not just for you but your employees as well.

3. Explain the benefits to your employees

It’s crucial to highlight the benefits your employees will get from participating in your employee advocacy program. People crave for attention, and the need to be recognized. When your employees feel that you genuinely value them and put their needs first, they’ll be more willing to come onboard. In fact, one study published in the Harvard Business Review shows that 72% of businesses that recognize their top performers experience higher employee engagement. Your employees also have already a lot on their plate. This is particularly true with startups where it’s quite common for some of the job responsibilities and descriptions become blurry. So, expect that your employees would initially view your employee advocacy program as another chore that they need to do. More important, understand that you’re essentially asking them their permission to tap into their personal network on Facebook to broaden your brand’s social reach. Most—if not, all—of your employees consider their Facebook profile and connections very private, and they may see your employee advocacy program an invasion of their privacy. Incentives and recognition don’t necessarily need to be in the form of monetary compensation (although that will still be very much appreciated). Here are some of the benefits employee advocacy can give your employees to get them on board:
  • The potential to become respected thought leaders in your industry
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • Sponsorship to industry-related conferences and workshops

4. Invest in an employee advocacy platform

As with most social media marketing automation tools, getting an employee advocacy platform like Smarp will make launching and monitoring your program quicker and easier for you and your employees. When choosing an employee advocacy platform, here are some things you need to consider:
  • Connected to major social media networks. Employee advocacy platforms are not created equally. Make sure that the one you choose seamlessly combines with the top social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  • Accessible through mobile devices. Nearly 80% of people use their mobile device to access social media networks, particularly on Facebook. It’s essential that the employee advocacy platform you choose to use can be accessed on different mobile devices regardless of its operating system. That way, your employees will be able to use it and share content wherever they go.
  • Ability to view analytics. Analytics is the most critical feature your employee advocacy tool must have is its ability to provide you with comprehensive analytics in real-time. It should also be able to cohesively integrate with Google Analytics and other marketing platforms your startup uses. That way, you get detailed insights into the effectiveness of your employee advocacy campaign in increasing your engagement rate on Facebook.

5. Provide your employees with training

Studies show that 54% of companies don’t provide training to their employees before and during their employee advocacy program. Perhaps it’s because of the number of people using Facebook and other social media networks. While that may be true, it’s vital to provide your team with ample training and guidance before and during your employee advocacy program. Only then can you maintain a consistent voice on Facebook. You’ll also need to train your employees in using the employee advocacy you chose to use for your program. By doing this, you reduce the likelihood of your team becoming frustrated or confused in using them. Otherwise, this can become the reason for them to drop out from your employee advocacy program altogether.

6. Provide shareable content that sparks conversations

Always remember that one of Facebook’s goals for making changes to its algorithm is to spark meaningful conversations among its users. So if you want to increase your startup’s engagement rate on Facebook with employee advocacy, the content your employees share here must do just that. For this to happen, you need to make sure that the branded content you supply your employees is helpful, informative or entertaining to others. Even though these are your employees, providing them with nothing but posts about press releases and product offers will not get you anywhere. Also, give your employees some liberty to create their own posts about your startup to share to their network. These kinds of posts appear more natural for those in their network to see. Not only will people from their network be more willing to engage in the posts, but your employees won’t think twice about sharing them on their personal network. At the same time, it also gives your employees more participation and involvement in the program. When that happens, they won’t feel like they’re being ordered around to post whatever piece of content your marketing team creates. Have social media posting guidelines in place before the launch of your program. That way, you can be sure that your employees won’t post anything that would reveal sensitive information about your startup or put it in a negative light. This is where using an employee advocacy tool also comes in handy. Having a central hub where your employees can upload and share content from gives you the ability to screen and review the posts your employees create before they get published. By doing this, you’re able to make sure that every post shared is aligned with your overall marketing goals.

7. Keep things interesting for your employees

When you launch your employee advocacy program, everyone is excited. However, this excitement won’t last. Also, it won’t sustain itself unless you become proactive about it. If you don’t, there’s an excellent chance it would slowly fade until your employees completely forget about this. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you assign a point person who would be responsible for keeping the flame of your employee advocacy program alive among your employees by getting their feedback and asking their questions or suggestions.

Key Takeaways

Facebook’s decision to take a step back to its mission may initially be disastrous for startups using this platform to promote brand awareness and engage with their target audience. In reality, this will only happen if startups aren’t willing to adjust their social media marketing strategy. Implementing an employee advocacy program is one way to help increase your brand’s engagement rate here. By transforming your employees into your brand ambassadors, you’ll increase the chances of your startup’s content making their way into your target market’s News Feed. However, your employee advocacy campaign is only as good as the quality of content you share online. Even though you got your entire workforce onboard, if you don’t provide them with content that’s share-worthy, you still won’t get the level of engagement you’re hoping. Worse, it can discourage your employees to take part in the program. Creating quality content aligned with your goals, encouraging your employees to take an active role, and giving them ample training and resources are the keys to using employee advocacy to increase your engagement rates on Facebook.