Did you know brand messages shared by employees are reshared 24 more times than when reshared by a brand?
The reason is simple: people trust people more than brands.
Amid the pandemic, remote content production surged, which forced businesses to rally their teams and create content from a distance. To no surprise, 72.2% of marketers reported more responsibilities in 2020 than in 2019. To alleviate the challenges that come with content production – including time, budget, and team size – brands will increasingly focus on employee advocacy and employee-generated content (EGC).
What is employee-generated content (EGC)?
If your content isn’t generating the reach or engagement you desire, EGC can help you fill in the gaps. At its core, EGC is content created by a brand’s team – from executives to employees – and can include blogs, testimonials, videos, images, audio, and more. But what makes EGC special is that it is a form of authentic influencer marketing where employees promote, advocate, or share content about their organization without expectation.
In fact, social media platforms – like TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram – are redefining what influencer marketing truly means. Competing algorithms, artificial intelligence, in-app editing, live streaming, and shoppable features are all making it easier for the average person to create and consume content. As social media continues to weave itself into the daily life of consumers, companies must find opportunities to do the same. They need to turn their most loyal fans, customers, and employees into advocates for their brand.
“It goes beyond employee advocacy, which involves asking your employees to share company blog posts on their personal social media channels,” says Michael Fulwiler of BrandStreet. “It’s about empowering your employees to build their personal brands on social media by sharing their thoughts, opinions, and learnings.”
Before you ask employees to share content, start by training and developing them. After all, the best EGC comes from people who:
- Positively represent a company
- Boost awareness and exposure for a brand through their channels
- Understands your product, services, and target audience
- Can be a credible source, thought leader, or spokesperson for your brand
What are the key benefits of EGC?
There are various benefits to EGC and ways to get your team to advocate for your brand. There’s also a chance you may have already accomplished this without realizing you were transforming your team members into influencers.
Here are 5 ways you can use employee generated content to position your brand as the leader within its space:
1. Attract top talent
Chipotle often uses user-generated content (UGC) and EGC in its marketing strategies. For example, Chipotle’s careers page features EGC across multiple touchpoints – from its welcome banner to a web gallery titled #PeopleofChipotle. If you pay close attention, the gallery features content submitted by employees through social media. They share what it’s like to work for the company.
In this case, Chipotle’s goal is to attract and recruit potential talent. So they’re using EGC to build trust and increase conversions. With AI-powered technology, Chipotle collects and curates employee-generated content (EGC) from relevant hashtags and re-shares it across multiple touchpoints their audience will come in contact with (like social media and careers pages).
2. Boost engagement
When companies use EGC in their social media strategy, their chances of converting a lead into a customer are 7x more likely. By engaging, incentivizing, and re-sharing EGC with other team members – and across brand channels – marketers can build trust internally. It also reinforce behaviors and encourages more team members to participate in the content production process.
In essence, EGC increases conversions and can strengthen the connection with potential talent. It’s a fraction of the cost of staged content. However, this doesn’t mean marketers should merely give the team a pre-written post and slap a logo on it to share on social media. It means giving your team the freedom to create relevant content they are genuinely excited about. And in a format they feel comfortable with.
On the other hand, if employees are already sharing content, but you’re not garnering the engagement you hoped for, the issue could be that expectations are too limiting, unclear, or irrelevant. If anything, employees know what resonates with their audience. So give them the flexibility (and resources) to share content when and how it works for them.
3. Build credibility
In the State of User-Generated Content 2021 report, seventy-two percent (72%) of marketers reported more responsibilities because of the pandemic. To maximize efforts, brands must focus on developing internal influencers. It’s important to develop their strengths, understand motivations, and give employees the resources to succeed.
Refine Labs is a company that seamlessly promotes engaging content created by its team. However, instead of using EGC to recruit talent, select members of their team create content on their own channels to capture demand, engage their audience, and reveal new insights. Hopefully, it will drive traffic back to the brand.
Regine Labs’ chief executive officer (CEO), Chris Walker, creates short videos on LinkedIn. She educates and challenges marketers about best practices. Their chief customer officer (CCO), Megan Bowen, shares videos to help brands build relationships with their customers. And their director of demand generation, Sam Kuehnle, shares written content to capture demand from a different angle.
Notice it’s the team (and not just the brand) sharing content and teaching the audience from their profiles. This boosts credibility for each “internal influencer” and the brand. It also establishes opportunities to track engagement, expand reach, see what people are resonating with, and uncover insights to guide future content. However, Edelman’s Trust Barometer study states that buyers trust employees over a CEO, spokesperson, or marketing department to help them with their purchase decisions.
This doesn’t mean brands should avoid elevating the voice of their leadership team online – quite the opposite. By having members of the leadership team collaborating in content production, sharing their expertise, and building their personal brands – companies can set standards and model the behavior they expect the rest of their team to take.
4. Collect feedback
According to TINT, ninety-three percent (93%) of marketers believe that consumers trust content created by people more than by brands. As more people turn into content creators, this means branding and marketing no longer apply to just the marketing team. It extends to everyone in the company – from sales to product and customer success.
By helping your team develop their online presence and personal brands, you can analyze the engagement that pours in from your content. It also helps you collect feedback (and testimonials) from your fans’ responses – whether from customers, prospects, fans, or a random passerby.
“If there is no information or reviews about your business online, potential customers are more likely to go to a competing business that does have an online presence,” says Danielle Duran, owner of Boxwood Digital Marketing.
Think about it this way… If a fan or prospect comments on your team member’s content, asks a question, or even sends them a private message – that can be considered feedback or a cue that something is working. Essentially, brands can use content created by their internal influencers to stimulate engagement, capture user generated content (UGC), collect feedback to improve and reshare across their channels. This saves time, resources, and money it takes to produce engaging content.
5. Access a larger audience
When your team shares content on their profiles, they are sharing content with their network. This drives traffic back to your brand. For this reason, brands must ensure they are giving teams the proper training and resources to create and share content. Otherwise, content can feel inauthentic, underwhelming, or self-promotional – and that can damage brand perception.
“By allowing employees to blend their professional and personal interests by using social media for professional purposes at work, their networks feel more connected and view them as trusted sources of information,” says Michael Brenner of the Marketing Insider Group. “It also further strengthens the bond between employee and employer as it’s viewed by the employee as a perk, something special that their employer supports that most others don’t.”
People are becoming increasingly aware when they’re being sold to. For the most part, it’s fairly easy to distinguish an organic post from an ad or self-promotional message. If brands expect or ask employees to share branded content with their network, it needs to be thoughtful and properly formatted for each channel and its consumption behaviors, so it becomes more shareable and appealing to their audience.
Companies shouldn’t force employees to share content because the authenticity (or lack thereof) can reflect on them, their content, and their brand. Marketers must be thoughtful and intentional about the influencers they work with (internally and externally). They should also be careful about the content they ask people to share on their channels. Social media scales word-of-mouth, so having a clear strategy and collaboration will go a long way. Bonus points if you train your team (and give them the resources) to develop content their audience will want to tell their friends about.
Summary on employee generated content
Employee advocacy and EGC are not new concepts. They are becoming increasingly popular for their high conversion rates, engagement, and low production costs. As social media continues to accelerate new consumption behaviors, brands face immense pressure to stand out among the noise.
As an effective measure, more brands are turning to their customers and teams to attract talent. It also helps boost engagement, establish credibility, capture feedback, and reach a larger audience.
Hootsuite may have mentioned that 86% of employees involved in a formal advocacy program said it had a positive effect on their careers – but before developing a formal employee advocacy program, start by asking your team if anyone is interested in creating content or developing their personal brand. You’d be surprised at who’s willing to step up to the plate. You never know who wants to learn, has experience on a certain topic, or has been dreaming about this moment.
This guest blog post was written by Ivonne Aldaz, writer at Future of Marketing, a weekly newsletter by TINT that analyzes global trends, brand strategies, and marketing campaigns embracing user-generated content (UGC). You can connect with her on LinkedIn.