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How brands can build authenticity and trust with employee advocacy

Above all else, consumers want trust. When working with influencers, brands must think about who they align themselves with and whether or not it’s appropriate for them to work together. That’s why brands must be influenced by authentic human communication, rather than ‘corporate jargon’, says Stephanie Genin, global vice president enterprise marketing, Hootsuite.

Perhaps even telling the brand story through employees is the way forward, she suggests, to add that authenticity with to build credibility with audiences.

Ahead of The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019, of which Hootsuite are a partner, we speak to Genin on influencer marketing, why employee advocacy is a big trend for 2020, the ‘storification’ of social and why embracing the distinction between public and private social networks will give individual customers a better experience.

What is your view on the current state of influencer marketing?

Brands are seeing value in influencer marketing because consumers are more influenced by an authentic, human communication than by corporate jargon. In fact, 63% of businesses who budget for influencer marketing intend to increase their spending over the next 12 months (The State of Influencer Marketing 2019). But, from fake followers and strange props, influencer marketing has been no stranger to controversy. 

While the industry initially struggled, it has become much easier to spot a fake account and the ASA has created some hard guidelines to make sure all brand partnerships are authentic and properly disclosed. This is needed if this is to continue as a serious marketing channel — which is likely considering the rising number of brands investing. 

The growth in popularity of influencer marketing reflects the shifting consumer behaviour whereby above all else, customers are looking for trust. They invest time in influencers and build rapport with them, so when they are told a product is good, they believe it. This means trust must be integrated within all marketing efforts, because it will only become more important to consumers. Organisations should therefore look at who else can tell the brand story in an authentic way — for example, employee advocacy can be a powerful way to spread your brand message. Employees are engaged and knowledgeable influencers with a readiness to share stories, experiences and news within their communities.

What can both agencies and marketers do to prove the value of social media to the wider organisation?

Marketers face a challenge with attribution due to the increased focus on omnichannel. While there is no silver bullet to fix attribution, marketers looking to prove the value of social should showcase how social helps other marketing efforts, for example, using social data to improve audience segmentation for retargeting. As more technology is added to the martech stack, marketers will only be able to share its advantages with the wider organisation if they take a holistic view of measurement.

Currently, tech stacks are fragmented, with each piece of technology sitting on top of each other rather than working together. This causes a headache for marketers trying to create a single view of the customer, but more importantly, it’s not sustainable. As brands look to introduce the latest features to their tech stack, without integration it becomes impossible to manage. I believe there will be an increased focus on integration, which is why I am excited for the Open Data Initiative.

What will be the biggest trends for social media in 2020?

One of the biggest trends for 2020 is likely to be the growing impact of employee advocacy. Many businesses spend vast amounts on influencer campaigns, forgetting that the biggest influencers come from within – their employees. According to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer, 53% of all global consumers see employees as the most credible sources for learning about companies. 

Employee advocacy on social media offers a different level of authentic and human communication with customers, while also building further engagement amongst employees. Brands should never underestimate the power this can have. Those who have higher trust in their employer are more likely to be loyal and engaged, making them the perfect advocates for building and strengthening a brand’s reputation on social media. Over the next year, I believe that there will be more emphasis on employee generated content as customers see an increasing amount of value in how employees talk about brands online. Employee advocacy will, therefore, become a huge focus for marketers.

Stories are an excellent means of measuring community engagement and gaining consumer insight. Many brands have already made a shift towards this space but what’s next for branded Stories?

Controlled, highly corporate narratives are on the way out. Instead, we are witnessing a “storification of social” where video is used to show authentic footage, telling the story of the brand in a more human and engaging way. And customers love it. According to Facebook’s Q3 results, Instagram Stories is now being used by 500 million people daily.  

Stories are used by many brands for impactful customer engagement, but over the next year I believe we’ll see far greater use of the ‘swipe up’ feature to drive social commerce conversions.

There will be an increase in social media takeovers. For example, the Teddy Morellec takeover of Red Bull which showed how he shot behind the scenes footage for #WorldPhotographyDay. This format will increase tenfold because of the huge value it brings. Social takeovers are great because they help increase reach and shape the image of a brand; a vote of confidence from a trusted influencer can go a long way in terms of brand credibility. Similarly, when employees show behind-the-scenes footage of an organisation, the added authenticity builds credibility with key audiences. 

Consumers motivations are changing when it comes to social, with many finding news and content publicly but sharing privately. This creates a headache for marketers, but what does it mean for social?

Social strategies must, therefore, embrace the distinction between public and private social networks to give individual customers a better experience. This is going to be important with the rise of voice assistants as conversations will increasingly be more private, and social media will need to work out exactly how it fits into this new ecosystem. 

I believe brands with higher social maturity are using public social networks for top-of-funnel awareness and brand building in order to increase reach, and private social networks for building relationships to help with acquisition and customer experience. Zuckerberg has a vision for “a single private social platform becoming the centre of your social experience” and is exploring the idea of a connected and end-to-end encrypted messaging system between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. 

Marketers will have to be agile in keeping on top of platform evolution and adapting their tools and metrics accordingly.

Hootsuite are a partner of The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019, an event which celebrates all forms of social media marketing. The entry deadline has now passed, and the finalists will be revealed soon.

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