Will employee advocacy replace traditional marketing?

Employee advocates have the potential to bring a brand to life by sharing their experiences

By Alexander Fox

Marketing can easily become too faceless, lack relevancy, or get lost in the pack — in order to draw potential customers, content must break through the clutter, but this isn't news to our audience. What might be news however, is the growing role of social media in how a businesses conducts marketing.

Leaning toward the grass-roots model of political campaigning, Employee Advocacy is when real people discuss real attributes of a company, as a way to draw the consumer's attention. As Andrew Eklund, CEO and Founder of Ciceron, a digital marketing and brand advocacy firm, puts it, “Employee advocacy in its simplest (and dare I say, over-utilized) form is … to use employees’ social reach to share brand messaging. This is all fine and dandy, but that’s really just using your employees as a channel to do marketing’s job... On the other hand, employee advocates are people who truly believe in the brand and share their experiences in intimate and very real ways, bringing a brand to life.”

As mentioned, an Employee Advocate is just that, both an employee and advocate of the company, and an important demographic that might be overlooked. Should a company not see their employees as their own biggest fans, a company seems to lose its self esteem, which can strain customer relations. For examples of healthy and flourishing Employee Advocacy groups and how they benefit the company, look toward 3M (a client of Ciceron) or Molson Coors from Canada, both of which have developed strong internal cultures, benefiting both the employees and the business. (If you would like to see an example to the contrary, SONY’s legal ramifications from the Playstation Vita could provide some valuable insight.)

So, should a company look to Employee Advocacy Groups to replace the marketing department? No. The take-away is this: If you’re looking to simply market via social media, use a marketing team; but if you are trying to build a strong company, listen to Eklund: “Employee advocacy is as much about building and cultivating internal cultures of excellence as it is about external communications. If you build the former, you’ll get the latter...only with much more panache and truthfulness.”