Enterprises are investing 11% of revenues into marketing, according to Gartner's 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey; that's down after three consecutive years of increases. With budgets in jeopardy, marketers must deliver a solid strategy, killer execution, and exponential results.

social media, the fastest-growing marketing channel—where influencers and brand advocates play a huge role in reaching the right audiences with the right messages—offers marketers an opportunity to shine.

And their best resource might well be a few doors down or in the adjacent cubicle: fellow employees, who can be a brand's best influencers and advocates on social networks. Employee advocacy, therefore, is all but a business imperative in today's digital world. When done right, it drives trust, promotes brand awareness, and increases revenue.

The good news is that more and more marketers who are under pressure to deliver stellar results—in organizations both large and small, across various industries—recognize the importance of empowering their employees. Such organizations are giving employees a strategy and structured guidelines to share success and pride in the company within their social networks.

As a result, brand messages get shared at previously unobtainable levels, then reshared by employees' friends and followers, achieving reach many-fold greater than without employee social sharing.

Moreover, companies with high levels of employee engagement have higher customer satisfaction rates and greater revenue growth than those that don't, research has found.

Here are a  few tips to help drive advocacy marketing within your organization and create a win-win situation for employees and the company.

1. Get buy-in from the management team

Before you ask employees to become ambassadors, share your plan and strategy with the leadership team and get their buy-in on the business benefits of social media. Explain how employees can bring value by spending just a little time on this effort. For example, educate the head of Sales on how sales reps will discover and nurture new leads and interact with prospects in an informal way, which will eventually turn into revenue. Also ask the management team for recommendations on who from the board or advisory team would make good advocates for the brand.

2. Educate brand ambassadors

Identify brand advocates and coach them on the importance of social engagement. Share with them the benefit of becoming thought leaders in the industry and demonstrating their expertise. For example, let them know that as advocates they help reach the right audiences, attract smart new members to their teams, and maintain the culture they are all part of. Also, share with them the downside of going rogue and venting on social channels, which will hurt the company and have a negative impact on their own, personal brand.

3. Provide guidelines and framework

This may seem like a tip from yesteryear—after all, everyone knows how to use social media, right? Most people are comfortable sharing their personal details with friends and family. However, each ambassador should understand the difference between personal content vs. content share by a brand ambassador. They'll need to understand the importance of adhering to corporate guidelines, do's and don'ts, key hashtags, and the best way to engage online using company information. Host companywide informational sessions about how to manage social profiles and participate in social conversations, followed by separate sessions for various functions. You should also offer individual guidance to those who would like to learn more or those who are advanced social players.

4. Share branded and nonbranded content

Employees can share company- and product-related content—from data sheets and press releases to webinars and lead-gen campaigns. If you are livestreaming an event, the recorded content is also good for sharing. Posting pictures from tradeshows and company outings also helps the brand. Most marketing teams will create branded and nonbranded content—from videos to infographics—to drive awareness and engagement. Help employees understand the types of content that should be shared on various channels—such as on Instagram vs. LinkedIn—for goals such as building camaraderie or selling a product.

5. Show employees the results of their effort

Once the employees are active on social and sharing content regularly, it's important that you show them the results. That could be a report on new customers/revenue stream, brand awareness metrics, or engagement from their social interactions. Using specialized platforms, such as my company's (see my bio, below), you can personalize messages, see which influencers have the highest impact, and see how individual posts are doing through shares, clicks, views, and impressions. Sharing this info will help people understand their audiences. By giving feedback, you'll get employee advocates to be more engaged and willing to support your programs. Finally, you may also want to hold monthly contests and reward the top employees on the leaderboard.

* * *

Advocacy marketing is about empowering employees. It's about getting customers to trust a brand and engage emotionally. So why not let your employees engage socially and help generate revenue at the same time?

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image of Pushpa Ithal

Pushpa Ithal is the founder and CEO of Advo.Ninja, an advanced social-marketing platform.

LinkedIn: Pushpa Ithal