Many professionals look to LinkedIn as merely a ‘job search’ medium. Of course, LinkedIn is a valuable tool to connect potential employees and employers. However, it is much more than that. LinkedIn is a powerful, yet often overlooked, tool for marketing, with a very attractive price to quality ratio. With stakeholder advocacy you exponentially broadcast your message, almost for free.
All stakeholders in your organization are potential evangelists of your corporate messaging. You may feel that your LinkedIn Company page is sufficient to engage with your target audience. However, the Company Page is nothing more than a ‘shop window’. People must actively choose to come take at look at. That is not a guarantee that they will ‘come in’ (i.e. click to visit your website or download a paper). The personal LinkedIn accounts of your managers, employees, and PR and marketing partners, have 10x the reach of your Company page.
So, stakeholders are the sign flipper in the chicken suit attracting people to visit your business? No. On LinkedIn, they are the trusted professionals people connect to for expertise and knowledge. For businesses, LinkedIn is a more valuable tool than Facebook or Instagram. Those platforms are used by private persons sharing private moments and thoughts (and pictures of pets). Twitter is predominantly a platform for loudmouths sharing their vile and frustration.
You spend a lot of time, energy, and budget on your corporate messaging. You engage with traditional and online media to publish content on your thought, product, and market leadership. You build your website to prove your expertise and USPs with whitepapers, Gartner reports, and customer stories. Once published, this content often ‘just sits there’. Perhaps you post a link to it on your own LinkedIn timeline. Perhaps you check your Google Analytics reports to see how many people you have engaged to visit your website, but, too often, that is it.
What is the value of stakeholder advocacy? You do the math. Calculate the potential reach of your LinkedIn posts by multiplying the number of employees by size of their network. This is a huge, trusted, and free (!), marketing channel that most businesses leave do not exploit. Why is that?
Stakeholders will not get into gear by themselves. They feel it is too time-consuming, it is not their task, and ‘someone else will do it’. Above all, often stakeholder advocacy is a matter of “asking employees to share company-related content on social media”: sending out a link to your latest blog or LinkedIn post and asking people to share it to their personal timelines. That is not marketing: that is spamming.
For stakeholder advocacy to work, the stakeholders must be encouraged to participate. LinkedIn users have become much more discerning in who to connect with. They must be able to rely that their LinkedIn contacts only share professional, personal, and relevant messages.
This is where stakeholder advocacy 2.0 comes in. Stakeholder advocacy 2.0 is all about ‘relation and relevance’. It is not about asking employees and partners to share the same corporate message on their timelines. It is motivating your stakeholders to share any content they choose, related to your brand or to their expertise. You then encourage them to personalize their posts. If they are uncomfortable with personalizing posts, you, or your marketing partner, should help them acquire the skills they need. This can be done through workshops, webinars, or online training.
Stakeholder advocacy is more likely to engage and share content if they have a relation to the person that encourages them to share. In addition, the post must have relevance to them and their LinkedIn contacts.
This means that each marketing team member should create smaller groups of stakeholders that they have a personal relationship with. According to the employee communication platform Smarp, companies sharing in smaller groups, practicing the relation and relevance approach, are experiencing double up in earned media value of stakeholder advocacy.
Smarp calculates that stakeholder advocacy is a prolific traffic driver: In the IT Industry, one stakeholder sharing generates on average 6,67 clicks. Smarp also provides a structure for implementing a ‘relation and relevance’ model for stakeholder advocacy:
#1 Get organized
Recruit your stakeholders as broad as possible. Get Marketing, Sales, CSR, Communications, PR, Branding, HR on board, and let them know the firm guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable: What kinds of content are they permitted to share? Who is the key contact to turn to for questions or crises?
Your first stages of your program can only be experimental if you do not have comparable data. Use your experiment phase to establish trendlines and determine your goals and objectives. Set your KPI’s and build a strong business case based on these results. How do you measure the success of this plan?
#3 Think business
Tie business goals to your efforts. The positive branding effects of stakeholder advocacy are vast, but you also need concrete business measurements tied to your program. Use measurable content landing pages frequently, align with your existing analytics and flows to prove the business values achieved.
#4 Be transparent
Continuously share results and learnings. Scout for strategic projects where stakeholder advocacy can contribute and use accumulated data to add execution, value, and insights.
#5 Cultivate and grow on best practices
Maximize efforts where results exceed expectations. Use it to discover new strategic business areas where stakeholder advocacy can contribute.
Stakeholder Advocacy helps to build your brand and thought, product, and market leadership. By employing their LinkedIn network, stakeholders they feel empowered to be a part of the conversation. It is a valuable contribution to your sales and marketing campaigns, that assures the conversion of visitors into relations and revenue.