The amazing multiple benefits when an employee shares content

If you think employee advocacy is just about increasing your reach then you’re not doing a good enough job of selling it

January 31, 2017

Employee Advocacy

As a marketer, it’s easy to think of employee sharing as just bonus distribution – a quick and easy way to extend the reach of your content. That’s true, of course, but it also risks missing the point – and undervaluing the contribution that your employees can make to B2B content marketing success. Employee advocacy spreads ownership of your content strategy across your organisation, enlists skills and influence from everyone, and rewards them by increasing their own reputation and effectiveness in return. It’s when you engage your employees with these benefits that advocacy really starts to take off.

Employee sharing’s outsized contribution to content effectiveness
How big a difference can employee advocacy make to content marketing effectiveness? Research from LinkedIn shows that, when employees share content, they typically see a click-through rate that’s double that of their company.

Despite the fact that only 3% of employees share content, they generate 30% of all content engagement for a typical business.

Those stats show just how powerful employee sharing can be as part of your content marketing strategy – but they also show just how much potential is being left unused.

As someone who shares a lot of content – and who produces a lot of content that others share for me – I’m lucky to be able to see the benefits from both sides. It’s my belief that the reason 97% of employees aren’t sharing content is that marketing teams aren’t working hard enough to establish why they should.

It’s difficult to turn employees into advocates without a clear idea of what’s in it for them.

Employee sharing starts with a strategic partnership
If you want the extra engagement that comes through employee sharing of content, then you have to see your employee advocacy programme as a strategic partnership – not just a favour you ask, or something you force people to do. That partnership needs to be rooted in a shared understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and the benefits different partners get. Here are some of the most important reasons why employee sharing makes sense all round:

Marketing benefit Number 1: Shared content reaches more people
The numbers don’t lie. If your employees have an average of 300 connections each and you persuade just 10 of them to share an update, that’s 3,000 more people who can see your content – and without you putting any extra budget behind it. When we use the LinkedIn Content Marketing Score to track the influence of different brands on LinkedIn, we consistently find that the top performers have employees regularly sharing their content.

Amongst Europe’s most influential luxury brands, 90% have employee shares contributing to their influence score.

Employee benefit Number 1: Sharing content builds your professional brand
What do your employees gain from amplifying your content’s reach? They get to animate their connections in a meaningful way. It’s one thing to be a part of someone’s network; it’s another to appear regularly in their feed. Sharing content raises your employees’ personal profiles, pushing them to the front of people’s minds when it comes to new opportunities, and establishing their expertise. There’s real value in this for any professional.

Marketing benefit Number 2: Shared content is more credible content
The power of employee sharing doesn’t just come from the multiplication of reach. It’s a result of the very different impact that content has when it comes from a human being rather than a brand.

There’s a bit of neuroscience at work here. When somebody you know shares content with you, it positively influences your perception of the value of that content through the process of social validation. If someone like you saw the value in the content, then the chances are you will too.

Content shared by people also benefits from the scarcity principle. When someone receives content from a brand, they tend to assume that the content has been sent to a lot of people. When they receive content from an individual; they know that it’s only being shared amongst people that individual is connected to. The content is more exclusive – and therefore seen as more valuable.

Employee benefit Number 2: Sharing content expresses expertise
Why do people share any form of content online? A study last year of the most widely shared online videos concluded that it’s the opportunity to express an individual point of view that's often the trigger. Adding commentary to content establishes you as a co-creator – able to bring out relevance, add insight or simply recognise value when you see it. Something very similar happens in a professional context – the content you share establishes your expertise and understanding.

Marketing benefit Number 3: Shared content is more likely to be shared again
It’s much easier to join a conversation that’s already happening than it is to start one from scratch – and this is why content that’s been shared once is often more likely to be shared again. Once one person comments, the people in their network are more likely to comment as well.

Employee benefit Number 3: Sharing content helps your expertise evolve
The fact that sharing encourages a response from others leads to another benefit for those doing the sharing. As I wrote in a post last year, sharing expertise is the best way to make sure that your own expertise evolves. Employees who share are plugged into what’s happening – and that delivers big personal benefits. I know – I’ve built a career out of sharing advice whenever I can. It’s amazing what happens when you do.

Marketing and employee benefit Number 4: Sharing content helps your employees sell more
The benefits I’ve discussed so far apply to all employees – but there are also some very specific benefits that come when marketing builds a content-sharing partnership with sales.

If you’re part of a business that’s plugged into leveraging the most from LinkedIn then you’ll already know all about the benefits of social selling – whereby sales teams lead with content when reaching out to prospects. However, it’s worth quantifying just how dramatic those benefits can be. When LinkedIn analysed the characteristics of different sales reps engaged in social selling, we found that the most successful share 23% more content than the rest. Those top performing social sellers create 45% more opportunities per quarter and are 51% more likely to hit their quotas. In the process, they dramatically amplify the reach of content amongst some of the most relevant audiences for it. That’s a big win all round.

It’s not just sales teams that have a particular motivation for sharing content, however. Reach out to those managing recruitment for your business and talk about the types of content that could help them to reinforce your talent brand.

Building a content-sharing partnership
Understanding the benefits of sharing is the essential starting point – but you need a plan to build awareness of those benefits, in order to get an employee advocacy programme off the ground. Here’s a simple, framework for empowering your employees to share:

  • Identify the most likely advocates across different departments – the people who have the greatest motivation to share (eg. sales teams, HR or potential thought-leaders), and who are most active on social channels
  • Schedule time with these advocates, share your content calendar and talk about the pieces they have most interest in. Who would they share them with? How would they bring out their value? What can you as a marketer do to help?
  • Choose sharing channels that your potential advocates are comfortable with. The professional context of LinkedIn makes it the best place to start, but employees who feel particularly aligned with your business might well be comfortable using Twitter as well. You can suggest sharing styles, outline best practice (eg. copy length, hashtags) and even draft comments and tweets for your employees to help get them started – but don’t be too prescriptive. You’re enlisting them as partners not just distribution pipes.
  • Establish a system for sharing upcoming content – a weekly email with the updates that you’ve published, or that you have coming up in the next week, for example.
  • Measure the results, champion the employees who are getting benefits from sharing your content – and you’ll see enthusiasm quickly spreading.

Want some help to get started? LinkedIn Elevate is a unique platform that’s designed to support employee sharing on the LinkedIn platform. It helps to identify the most likely advocates, keep them informed and engaged about content and track the results that you’re generating. You’ll find some great ideas for using Elevate to amplify the impact of content in our Official Guide to Employee Advocacy for Marketers.