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Infusing recruitment marketing strategies with employee advocacy

Sheridan GaengerDecember 20, 2016AwarenessConnectionEmployee CommunicationRecruitment Campaigns

employee advocacyAccelerating Communications to Drive Trusted Brand Awareness

The size of social media networks today is mind-boggling. As of September 2016, Facebook alone had 1.79 billion monthly active users (that's more than five times the population of the entire U.S.!). The scope of social media hasn't escaped the attention of talent recruiters, according to Jobvite, more than 90 percent of recruiters are using social media as part of their recruitment efforts. But if companies only have their recruiters using social media as part of their recruitment strategy, then social media is being totally underutilized.

How can your company really tap into that social media network of more than 1.9 billion people? Two words: employee advocates. Here's why you need to make employee advocacy a key part of your recruitment strategy, and how to make it happen:

Employee advocacy: Talent's secret weapon

Employee advocates may be the the biggest and best weapon in your recruiting strategy arsenal. Why? It's the power of word of mouth. People trust other people far more than they trust brands, or even other people who may register as having an agenda. For example, a 2014 global study by Edelman found that those surveyed thought regular employees were more credible than CEOs by nearly 10 percent. Not to mention, employee advocacy feels more authentic and personal than more traditional recruiting strategies.

Many employees are already sharing positive messages about their employer unprompted, nearly 40 percent of employees have shared positive messages or praise about their employers online, according to Weber Shandwick, so a formal employee advocacy program just builds upon employees' natural inclination to share.

What's more, employee advocacy is the next logical step in an omni-channel recruitment strategy. Omni-channel is all about building a recruiting system that's composed of multiple channels that work seamlessly with one another to create a more holistic experience for candidates. Your employee advocates play a crucial role in an omni-channel approach by sharing content that links to employer-owned channels (like your career website, for example), on their own social media sites. And not only will employee advocacy help you reach more candidates, but it will help you reach the right candidates, quickly and with ease, cutting down on time-to-hire.

Our social media networks are generally full of people similar to us, so if your current employees are great fits for your organizations, then it's likely that their networks are full of potential candidates who would also be great fits.

Plus, employee advocacy is a boon for business far beyond recruitment. Writing at Recruiting Trends, Andrew R. McIlvaine reports that a recent survey revealed that companies with advocacy programs in place designed the programs to reap a variety of benefits, including "enhancing the company's ‘thought leadership position,' extending the reach of branded content, reaching new audiences and improving employee engagement."

From sales to marketing outreach, employee advocacy can make a huge difference. And there are plenty of numbers to back that up: More than 78 percent of sales reps who use social media to sell outperformed their non-social-media-using peers, and brand messages reached 561 percent further when shared by employees than when shared by a brand's official social media channels. These numbers reveal that when you invest in employee advocacy for talent, it'll pay off in a whole host of ways for your company, particularly in the realm of marketing and sales. Think of it as a three-for-one investment!

Putting employee advocacy to work with a "what, how, who" strategy

So, what's the secret to employee advocacy that works? It starts with creating compelling content for your employees to share. Keep in mind, though, that not only should your content be irresistible, but it should be in alignment with your employer brand. Again, it goes back to authenticity, your employee advocates will feel icky about sharing content and messaging that they don't think accurately represents their company. As Crystal Miller, writing at ERE Media, puts it, you should "help your employees tell their best story and ensure that their message is aligned with brand messaging. [...] Not only will it help employees streamline their stories in a way that creates the right impression, but it has the added benefit of being a crowdsourced brand validation."

Once you have the "what" down, it's time to figure out the "how." It's all about creating a frictionless experience for your employee advocates; the easier your content is to share, the more likely your employees will be to share it! Invest in solutions that extend your omni-channel recruitment marketing strategy by allowing employees to post content to their own social media channels with ease, for example, content delivered to advocates via text or email is a lot easier to share than content that can only be accessed through an unwieldy library system.

The final piece of the employee advocacy puzzle? Determining the "who." If you're developing your first employee advocacy program, you'll have to be strategic about who among your company will pilot the program. Miller suggests seeking out those employees who people naturally gravitate toward both internally and externally; she writes that "employees who fit into these two categories (socially active and influential) are likely those you would want to invite into your initial program." Employees with large social media followings and the respect of their colleagues are ideal advocates.

Other prime candidates for your program? Recent hires. Urging recent hires to use their voice through employee advocacy is a powerful way to close the recruitment loop. In fact, recent hires are often your best advocates,they're fresh out of the application process and still so in love with your brand. Studies have shown that employees are most engaged within six months of being hired, so harness that engagement by inviting them to be a part of your employee advocacy program. Plus, by doing so, you'll also increase that engagement by making your new employees feel valued with your invitation to participate.

Employee advocacy has the power to radically transform your recruitment strategy, not to mention your company's sales and marketing units as well. To infuse employee advocacy into your existing recruitment strategy, start with these steps:

  • If you don't already have an omni-channel recruitment strategy in place, start developing one now, and be sure to build employee advocacy into the program.
  • Pinpoint key employee advocates who can help disseminate your employer brand far and wide, while maintaining respect from those within your company and industry. These will be your "natural leaders," whether or not they hold actual leadership positions within your company.
  • Research your options for software solutions that will make employee advocacy easy and effective by allowing your advocates to push out brand messaging and content with, essentially, the push of a button.

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