Tor Goldfield, Head of Content at Southerly – the creative content agency
Right now, there are two camps of marketers. There are some who still believe a well-crafted piece of content will resonate so naturally with the intended audience that it can be sent out into the world with little more than a nudge on social media and deliver the desired results. Then there are those who’ve realised times are changing and that it often takes a bit more to ensure that perfect piece of content is seen by the right people.
Change is upon us
When content marketing first emerged as a new and exciting way of engaging with potential and existing customers, social presented an opportunity to distribute that material in a relatively cost-effective way. Companies with a reasonable online presence could post content on their corporate pages in the knowledge that it had the potential to be seen by their friends, followers and fans.
Then, in late 2013 Facebook changed the game by significantly restricting the organic reach of brand pages. According to [email protected], just a few short months later the organic reach for pages with more than 500,000 likes had fallen from an average of 49% to a startling 2%, and ‘Facebook zero’ became a very real possibility for content marketers and community managers.
Nowadays, any brand hoping to get content in front of a Facebook audience needs to put its hands in its metaphorical pocket and pay for that exposure in the form of a boosted post, promoted post or newsfeed ad.
From a businesses perspective, this may sound like a step in the wrong direction, but it does have benefits. These forms of paid promotion help companies expand their reach beyond their ‘fans’ to the general Facebook population. That’s particularly relevant when you consider that one study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute suggested only 1% of fans who like the page of a major brand ever actually interact with that page.
Want more good news? A quick straw poll among my contacts suggests that Facebook ads aren’t as intrusive and annoying as they maybe once were. People agreed they regularly see ads and promoted posts that are of genuine interest, and many of us have not only clicked on them but also made a purchase. That’s music to any marketer’s ears.
While Facebook is currently the only social platform to distinguish between corporate and personal posts, the other networking sites offer a wide and growing range of paid options to increase the visibility of business content. For example, Twitter Promoted Tweets have existed since 2010, but earlier this year the platform introduced Quick Promote, which is designed to make the advertising process quicker and easier for small businesses. LinkedIn currently offers two types of paid promotion: traditional adverts and sponsored posts that sit within the user’s newsfeed. And let’s not forget the world of paid options beyond social, none less so than Google AdWords, which many brands are using to effectively extend the reach of their most valuable content.
Your employees are key to your social success
Paid promotion aside, there is another way to get around Facebook’s corporate restrictions and harness the value of personal recommendation at the same time, which can be summed in two small but mighty words: employee advocacy.
The premise is beautifully simple: rather than solely distributing content through traditional marketing channels, time is spent ensuring that the company’s employees are proud and motivated enough to share that content via their own networks. That could mean posting an employer brand video on their Facebook page or sharing a blog post on LinkedIn. There are any number of ways employees can help increase the reach of marketing activity far beyond corporate-owned channels.
And it’s not just about increasing your reach. A wealth of research suggests that people are far more likely to trust content that’s been shared by an individual than by a faceless brand. This infographic by Tiffani Allen at Ciceron is packed full of stats about the power of employee advocacy, including the fact that employees are the most trusted source of company information for 47% of consumers.
Employee advocacy doesn’t come out of thin air
It’s clear from these findings that employee advocacy can open doors that may otherwise remain locked, no matter how big or respected the brand. But, of course, it’s not as simple as producing a great piece of content and expecting your employees to just ‘get on board with the programme’.
Advocacy comes from a place of genuine engagement and that only happens when employees feel valued, respected and empowered. They need to understand and buy in to the company’s vision and goals, and have a reason for wanting to share corporate content, whether it’s to support the company, amuse their friends or build their personal brand.
It’s the marketer’s job to ensure that content is as closely aligned with the organisation’s values and capabilities as it is with the audience’s needs and wants. As the people experiencing life within that organisation on a daily basis, employees are quick to see through any mismatch between external messages and the internal reality, and that will impact on their willingness to act as a brand ambassador.
Use technology to achieve your goals
While there’s no denying that employees can make a real difference to a company’s marketing efforts, there’s no getting away from the fact that even the most engaged team member will only share content if it’s easily accessible. That’s why it’s essential make the process as simple and effective as possible, by ensuring content is readily available and employees have the tools and training they need to distribute it across their networks.
There are many options, from the humble email or intranet to advanced employee advocacy platforms such as Trap!t, Dynamic Signal, Circulate.it and Social Chorus, all of which help companies to encourage and reward advocacy. This can be invaluable for larger businesses, which may otherwise struggle to ensure consistency of message and distribution. When you consider that content shared by employees receives eight times the engagement of content shared by brand channels, it’s worth investing in the right technology to make the most of that activity.
If you haven’t experimented with paid promotion or employee advocacy, then now is the time to give it a whirl and work on invigorating your content marketing. Like many aspects of marketing, it’s a case of trying things out, measuring the impact and making changes accordingly until you hit on the right formula for your particular audience.
Featured image: Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/ by tec_estromberg, released under the Creative Commons License.