The Boston Consulting Group Turns Passionate Employees into Brand Advocates
March 30, 2017
We work in an age where our marketing strategies are shaped by our audiences. Most of us have come to this realization, which has caused fundamental shifts in our content strategies in recent years. But when we look out at our audiences for direction, inspiration, and support, we often look past our internal audiences, and out onto our external audiences. When we do this, we are missing more than we may think.
Employee advocacy starts with a few realizations: 1) your company's greatest assets are your passionate employees and they have the power to influence how your brand is perceived both internally and externally; 2) to have a competitive advantage in marketing today, employee advocacy needs to be at the top of your agenda; 3) employee advocacy can be your greatest security, and without it, it can leave your company appearing and feeling vulnerable, disconnected, and confused.
At The Boston Consulting Group, we came to these realizations in 2015. We were overhauling our social media strategy and in the process saw advocacy as a hole in our program. We knew we had impassioned employees who took great pride in building and maintaining their online networks of highly regarded industry leaders, who produced industry-leading thought-leadership content, and who loved what they did and where they worked. Content plus connections plus enthusiasm: a perfect recipe for employee advocacy. But we didn’t have a tool to help us orchestrate – and orchestration is key.
Advocacy doesn’t just magically happen - you need a plan and a platform
Trying to launch an employee advocacy program without a platform is like trying to get a group of people to perform a concert with an orchestra without a composer, song sheets, instruments, and a place for everyone to gather. Without a plan and a platform, your efforts quickly become noise and it looks and feels disconnected (internally and externally) because people are singing different songs in different tunes, some of which you likely don’t approve of.
On the other hand, with an advocacy tool and strategy, you can easily get everyone in the same room singing off the same sheets, harmoniously and with grander - your employees feel gratified, like they are part of something bigger, and external audiences are left impressed.
But choosing a platform requires time and consideration. Before committing a tool, we asked ourselves a few questions: Who are the employees that are least likely to use this? What will be their hesitations? What narrative do we need to create to sell them on this? We decided that we needed a tool that our employees would feel comfortable using and trust, because the first obstacle you face when getting people to join an advocacy platform is getting people in the door. If they feel comfortable when they first step in and they trust that they are in a safe environment, they can easily navigate around without much direction and they'll likely stay and make use of the space. From a marketing perspective, we needed good analytics and a relationship with the team running the platform so that we could optimize and grow. Enter LinkedIn Elevate. It checked all the boxes, now it was time to sell it into leadership.
Turn small wins into larger successes
An employee advocacy program requires a well thought out strategy, but it also requires leadership support. We knew early on that we had to convince our leadership team that advocacy was a worthwhile long-term investment and not an ephemeral trend. So early on, we conducted some research with LinkedIn. One of the most compelling findings was that at the time only 10% of our employees were actively sharing news and information about our company on LinkedIn. It was evident that we had a lot of room for improvement.
We brought our strategy and copious findings and statistics to our marketing leadership team, including our CMO, and asked for their approval. In our case, the initial goals were to increase the reach of our thought leadership, help our experts build their own personal brands, and create a more socially engaged organization. Once we had approval, it was time to engage employees.
During our meetings with our leadership, we asked them for their endorsement of the program. Having leadership actively share their endorsement for employee advocacy with the organization is a must, and these public and widely shared endorsements gave employees a deeper comfort level about engaging in content-sharing and set the stage for our early success.
To encourage engagement with advocacy, we asked employees what topic areas they would want to see when we were curating content. It’s important to go beyond your company’s marketing agenda when choosing topics – you might miss out on subjects that employees believe are valuable to outside audiences, and you need to curate content for employees that they want to share. If your employees don’t like what you are curating for them, they won’t engage. So, do your due diligence prior to launch and find out what your employees are already willingly sharing and want to share. It’s just as important as supporting your core marketing topics.
Because this was our first foray into advocacy we knew we would need to convince skeptics that this was worthwhile, so for launch, we honed in on a group of social media savvy employees and we began to test and learn. This allowed us to skip the social media 101 and dive right into training and activation. We kept the topics narrow and focused, making sure that we were covering our core thought leadership topics and then some. We were focused on turning small wins into a big success.
Positive feedback from employees and clients
A year and a half later, we can confidently say that we are a more socially engaged company and that our experts are building their personal brands in ways we’ve never seen before. Our employee advocacy program may have started small, but it’s taken off. Employees are sharing content 9X more than before using Elevate, and their sharing is influencing 5X more views of our LinkedIn Company Page. It’s also delivering a 1.8% engagement rate on employee-shared content, and it has influenced 9% of our hires on LinkedIn since our program’s inception.
We’re also hearing anecdotal evidence that employee advocacy is working. We are hearing from our consultants that clients love what we’re sharing; one employee told us about being invited to speak at a conference as a result of sharing thought leadership content. Now that we’re becoming a more social company, we’re showcasing our best work to a much wider audience. And we’ll soon start using advocacy to tell more stories about our successes here at BCG, attracting more people to the company and driving more success.
To learn how to turn your passionate employees into brand advocates download the Official Guide to Employee Advocacy.