The path of Employee Advocacy over the last decade has been interesting to see.
The initial stats, which I have no reason to disbelieve, suggested that a new paradigm of marketing was upon us. As the quote below from LinkedIn points out, with very few exceptions, employees have a massively larger social reach than the company itself. And content shared by those employees is seen as more authentic, and is clicked far more than company distributed content.
So why, as the decade progressed have so many providers pivoted away from their employee advocacy roots and towards internal communications? LinkedIn closed down their Elevate product earlier in the year. Smarp pivoted to Internal Comms ("The #1 Employee Advocacy solution" changed to "Reach and engage your entire workforce") as did Dynamic Signal ("Find, engage and form lasting relationships with social amplifiers" is more recently "Reach every employee. Cut through the noise.")
One reason is that there is a great deal of money in Internal Communications. But the second reason is that 'pure play' employee advocacy - "here's something interesting, you should share it" - simply does not work.
Or rather, it does not work without the right content. Content is first, distribution is second. Roads are pointless without cars.
Content, at a minimum, should be of genuine interest to your employees' connections otherwise they will not share it. Or worse, if they do share, it'll waste your clients' time.
It really is a massive ask of a central marketing team to create content on an on-going basis that is of real value to the diverse range of clients serviced by a large Professional Service firm. So advocacy often doesn't work and over time, it would seem the technology providers have acknowledged this.
BUT now the good news
In Professional Services, the practitioners are experts in their field. And unlike most other firms, what they have to say on their core topic, almost axiomatically, is of value to their clients and their team. It does reflect well on the sharers and it does provide value to their audience. So people do use it.
To make that process work, the experts must make the content. Company technical experts, by the way, are the most trusted of any group (see here from Edelman). And it must be delivered to the right employees: not everyone, just the handful who work in that field.
If you can do that, then it works beautifully. And yes, their collective reach is enormous and, yes, it has very high engagement levels. With highly relevant content, employee advocacy makes a lot of sense but that's not about the advocacy technology; that's helpful, relevant, expert-driven content.
Why should you create an employee advocacy program? Employees are exponentially better at reaching your desired audiences. First off, your employee’s networks are collectively about 10 times larger than your company’s followers, so they can greatly expand reach. When employees share content, it’s viewed as three times more authentic – so messages have more impact and cut through advertising clutter. In fact, when employees share content they typically see a click-through rate that is 2x higher than when their company shares the same content.