Brands spend tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars every year on influencer marketing, which makes sense because 89% of marketers say it delivers a higher ROI than other marketing channels. But smart brands are now turning to employee influencers in order to save costs and provide the extra authenticity that shoppers demand.
Although brands understand influencer marketing’s importance, shoppers are no longer looking to their favorite celebrity for purchasing guidance. The tide has changed, and shoppers want to follow individuals they feel like they know and trust.
Bazaarvoice research suggests shoppers prefer content from micro-influencers such as brand employees, because they are more relatable, genuine, and authentic. Micro-influencers could easily be their next-door neighbor or best friend who genuinely enjoys and uses this product or service.
Employee influencers strategies
With this revelation, some brands’ influencer efforts are shifting to the people who know their products or services the best — employees. As the micro-influencer trend begins to ramp up, here’s the companies are leading the pack.
Spotlighting behind-the-scenes initiatives
Walmart is no stranger to the impact of social media. Beginning with local Facebook groups for almost 5,000 locations, Walmart gave its stores the autonomy to post unique content about the goings-on in their location. To take social media a step further, Walmart’s launch of their Spotlight program has begun to transform 500 employees into pint-sized influencers.
Under this Spotlight intuitive, employees become the brand by sharing behind-the-scenes content on their personal social media accounts. From the #WalmartHolidayShuffle TikTok trend to the Thanksgiving-themed Instagram campaigns, not only does the Spotlight program give shoppers an insider look at the brand, it also rewards employees for their influencer efforts.
The program is still in its infancy, but Walmart hopes to grow the influencer program to roughly 1,500 employees soon.
Purely social engagement
Dell has always been a social media pioneer. The company realized big dreams early on by launching response analysis and social media monitoring technology. Dell’s forward-thinking spirit inspires the brand advocacy of its employees. To capitalize on their employee’s brand passion, Dell created an employee-driven social sharing content strategy.
With over 10,000 employees participating in the program, Dell encourages advocates to use their platform to share inspirational content relevant to Dell customers. Only 20% of Dell’s content is about the brand itself, while the other 80% highlights the organization’s passions. Empowering the employees has exponentially grown brand advocacy and loyalty.
Strengthening company culture online
Zappos’ free-spirited persona seemingly attracts a large audience. To give shoppers insights into the brand’s daily operations, Zappos encourages their Zappoians (aka employees) to share content about all things happening within the company walls. From simple meetings to costume extravaganzas, Zapponians can post freely on the EyeZapp – Zappos’ official Twitter page, using the hashtag #CompanyCulture.
As a result of Zappos’ employee influencers efforts, shoppers and employees alike flock to be a part of its culture.
Coffee lovers unite
Early on, Starbucks understood the weight of empowering employees to share their voices. To amplify the impact of their brand’s message, they created the “partners” platform for their employees to share their daily activities with Starbucks enthusiasts worldwide.
Calling employees partners and encouraging them to share their love for all things coffee under the Starbucks brand increased its authenticity and allowed employees to have a sense of closeness and accountability.
As part of the Starbucks mission to engage employee influencers and brand advocates, they also crafted a social media account specifically for its partners, which grows weekly.
Exercising social media opportunities
In 2020, Peloton sought micro-influencers in the fitness community to broaden their reach, ramp up user participation, and increase their long-term bottom line. By combining social media, virtual events, and its digital power, Peloton enhanced the way instructors connected with riders while enriching their fitness experience.
Peloton continues to rely on its instructors and fitness enthusiasts’ love for promoting and sharing content about products and experiences they love.
Turn your employees into influencers
On average, research suggests that employee content sees 8x more engagement than content shared through a brands channel. Empowering employees to become micro-influencers and brand advocates not only builds trust and shopper confidence, but the employee feels valued and appreciated for their expertise – an overall win-win for any brand.