Sprout Social recently published some data about B2B employee advocacy programs outweighing influencer marketing both from a budget and value perspective in their The 2018 Sprout Social Index. Here are a few data points that caught my attention:
- 71% of social media marketers are leveraging employees as influencers today or want to in the future, while only 19% of marketers surveyed had any budget for an influencer marketing programs.
- 61% of consumers said that they would be more likely to research a product or service that a friend recommends on social media, compared with 36% for influencers or celebrities.
The index also surveyed marketer’s goals for 2018. I was a little surprised at the below graph (I recreated it because I’m weird like that) due to the lack of ROI-driven goals. I was also sad to see that only 15% of marketers were looking to grow their influencer marketing programs in 2018.
Here’s my take.
If you know me even a little, you know that I am a huge advocate of B2B employee advocacy programs and even wrote a book about it. Not only can employees be trusted brand storytellers and distribute content all over the internet, but the internal and cultural benefits are really what can drive real business value.
In my mind, there is a very strong link between employee advocacy and influencer marketing, especially in B2B environments. They should not be managed in a silo. I’ll be quick.
A successful B2B employee advocacy program can be categorized into 3 components–people, process, and platforms:
- People: Who are the employee advocates, how will they be identified, trained, etc.?
- Process: What are the processes for training, content distribution, crisis, etc.?
- Platforms: What technology applications will use to make employee sharing easy?
Within the context of people, a diverse set of employees should be identified and trained to ensure that the content created and/or shared reaches and engages with the right audience.
Engagement in this context is with several groups of external stakeholders–customers, channel partners, the media and influencers. A sophisticated employee advocacy program should be built in a way that connects employees to influencers and vice versa. For example:
- An influencer writes an article about Blockchain and its effect on the U.S economy. An employee (subject matter expert or executive) is notified, shares the content and hopefully engages in some level of dialogue. This can be the building blocks of a relationship or perhaps all they do is share each other’s content. I see this happening all the time.
- Someone in the media Googles something like, “latest on artificial intelligence and Blockchain in 2018.” And it just so happens that your CTO recently write a blog post or byline that touches on that exact subject. The journalist finds it in Google and reaches out for an interview.
There are hundreds of other examples of different connection points between employees and influencers. The reality is that the media, influencers, and analyst don’t love talking to PR people or marketers. They want to talk to those that are building products and on the front lines of technology and innovation. They want to talk with employees.
Influencer marketing is just as important as employee advocacy, social media, lead gen, public relations and all the other ways B2B brands are trying to reach their customers.
That 15% needs to go up.