When I buy something online, one of the first things I do is scroll down to view the customer comments and feedback. And if I want to buy something expensive like a new smartphone or camera or even visit a different restaurant, I will always try to check with people I know who use that phone, have that camera or have eaten at that restaurant. Why? Well, call me cynical but I don’t always believe the marketing spiel the company selling the product or service provides. And it seems that I am not alone – a recent survey found that only 33% of buyers trust the brand while 90% of customers trust product or service recommendations from people they know. In a climate of low trust for big corporates, politicians and the way news stories are conveyed, people are looking for a more personal and reliable point of reference.
Until fairly recently this type of try-before-you-buy research was quite time consuming and not even that available for some things. But, thanks to online forums and social media, we are now never more than a few clicks from the review we are after. And it is not just for consumer goods that this feedback is available.
Our latest Global Perspectives survey found that 45% of people would prefer to find out what a new company would be like as an employer from the employees who work there. This compares to only 18% who would choose to look at either the company’s website or recruitment site. Potential employees don’t have to look very far to get the information they are after; 50% of people say they post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer. While every organisation would like to think these posts exude glowing reports of what a wonderful place it is to work at, 16% admitted to sharing negative comments or criticisms. But in the main, employees are pretty keen to advocate their employer. When we asked employees in our latest survey whether they would recommend their organisation as a great place to work, 63% agreed, and when we asked them if they would recommend their organisation’s products and services, 70% said yes. And these scores have improved over time, particularly in the past four years.
Advocating things is becoming a way of life. I lose count of the number of little thumbs up buttons I click in an average day. We do it to show support and to demonstrate our approval of a product, service or comment. And it is hard not to be influenced by the number of likes or stars we see attached to piece of information. Personal advocacy creates an emotional connection, even if the people doing the ‘liking’ are not in our immediate social circles.
So, as employers we have a choice. We can choose to ignore the growing presence of online advocacy and try to prevent it from infiltrating our business in case the things that are said about our organisations don’t leave us smelling of roses. Or we take the view that, as we can’t do much to stop it, let’s use the power of advocacy to our advantage. And we are seeing more organisations do the latter: using employer advocacy as part of their employer branding. Organisations that embrace this approach tend to be ones who have a pretty good employee engagement track record. They identify the employees who they believe would be good brand ambassadors and empower them to promote positive messages about their employer on social media.
If using your employees as part of your employer branding is something you’d like to consider here are some tips:
1.Take a good look at your current levels of employee engagement and your employee experience first and work at boosting them as a priority.
2. Ensure your communications to employees are open, honest and cover the whys behind the whats.
3. Make sure that you do have some great stories for employees to shout about, that working for you really is a great thing. Our tips on creating a winning workplace will give you a good starting point as will our upcoming employer brand white paper (due in October).
4. It’s also worth constructing some online advocacy rules so employees know what they can and can’t share and the tone of voice you would ideally like them to use when talking about you.
Advocacy is a big lifestyle trend right now and with society’s trust continuing to be eroded globally, it will remain an important security blanket to cling to. So, providing we take an open and honest approach to promoting our business’ products, services and employment offers through our people, it can be a powerful branding and marketing strategy.
Want more information on how you can develop an authentic employer brand? Download our recent report here…