Q: Can an employee be a successful Influencer on behalf of their company?
A: Yeah…. maybe… whatever. Employee advocacy is good. But since they are paid by the brand/company, their recommendation still don’t have the authority of 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 preach what OTHER trending articles promote. 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. 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 firms need to do is run “integrated Employee Advocacy” campaigns.
And THAT’s where I draw the line.
I’ve never heard so much crap. Actually, I have — 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.” And then: “watch my video about my brand.”
That just doesn’t inspire trust. It doesn’t usually come across as believable, right? And in fact, it 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…
HOWEVER, on the other hand, if there is someone who is active on social media and her name is Alisa. And Alisa 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, her followers 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.
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 — daily investment of 3-5 hours.
2. Even so, their influence will not be that great. People will NOT just listen because it won’t be seen as objective. They’ll have to add a disclaimer on every post (“btw, I work for the company”). And they just won’t be as influential as a THIRD-PARTY Influencer, which have been proven to be a winner in word-of-mouth marketing.
Even though Alisa the Influencer is paid by the company too, and includes #ad on her post promoting their product, her love for shoes and the community she has built are unrelated to the brand. Her Influence in #shoes pre-dates anything she’s done for the company that hired her, so her voice is still meaningful.
Smart brands 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 hire third party Influencers as part of that strategy.
And so, don’t believe that employee advocate influencers is a trend. It’s not — or of it is, it’s not a smart one.
Of course, there’s an exception for everything. @jayBaer works for Salesforce, and he uses social media to bring awareness about Salesforce and what they do. And because he is charming, and seems like a trustworthy and respectful person, he is influential. At the same time, people know that he will always recommend Salesforce over its competitors, so that recommendation is taken with a grain of salt.
So where CAN employees can be helpful? In RE-SHARING social content. That’s it — just rely on employees to amplify the brand on social media. Simple!
Good luck, Corporate America!
Dear Mishu’s Dad is the Author of “Influencer Marketing MASTERY” — a guide for brands to identifying, finding, and working with Social Media Influencers, now Available as an Audiobook – Listen to it while you drive or at the gym
Once you are ready to contract an Influencer, you can download our Sample contract Influencer-Brand contract which has all the information you need to establish a win-win, productive relationship with Influencers