As the market for Employee Advocacy and Influencer Marketing begins to leave the confines of early adopters we need to turn a critical eye toward measuring success on a consistent basis.
During the initial growth in any market, early adopters (defined as roughly the first five percent of a market) invest in various technology solutions based on a thesis, “newness” of a technology, or the desire to solve a yet unclear problem.
During these earlier periods, the focus is placed on validating solutions/technologies, establishing usage patterns, and examining potential positive and negative impacts on the business.
To use the Gartner “Hype Cycle” as a guide, these solutions are moving from a technology trigger (for example, the impact of social media on business) through the Peak of Inflated Expectations (wow, what if everyone in the company was sharing content, imagine the impact) through the Trough of Disillusionment (Why are only 10% of our employees using this and how are we measuring the effectiveness?). Next, we have the “Slope of Enlightenment” and this is where we find ourselves today.
While this market is further developing, there are new considerations that take center stage which includes a well-defined business problem (social selling, engagement/thought leadership, talent attraction) and the focus on measuring the results. This blog will explain the ROI you need to consider for your program.
Why do Anything? What are the Business Drivers Leading the ROI?
Ninety-one percent of B2B buyers are now active on social, and 84% of senior executives use social to support purchase decisions according to Forrester.
Through the ’80s & ’90s, the seller’s knowledge and relationship with the buyer was a critical aspect of the selling process; today most buyers have never likely met face-to-face with the individuals they are buying from. They are also much more informed and less dependent on the vendor for information.
In the ’90s and early ’00s, we could expect to place three or four phone calls into a prospect and reach them to discuss their needs and educate them on our product or service. Today, the range is 10-15 phone calls to get a single connect and this doesn’t even mean a scheduled meeting.
Finally, in the early 2000s through to 2010 we could send about 8-10 emails and get a reply but today that number is as high as 20-30 to get a legitimate reply.
While the use of phone and email have not disappeared, we all know that the number of individuals screening, or filtering calls or email is critically high. The interesting part is that these prospective customers and applicants are almost all using social networks including LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook with a growing number on Instagram, WhatsApp, and other platforms. In fact, in a B2B environment over 75% of business leaders note that they usually use social media in their decision-making process according to IDC.
I’m not personally surprised by that as I see this in a number of different ways with our business at PostBeyond. For example, the majority of individuals coming inbound already have read blogs, analyst reports, review sites like G2Crowd, recommendations from colleagues, webinars, and podcasts to develop an informed perspective typically supported through social channels.
While I can happily continue to drill into the business drivers, I want to flip the discussion to ROI with an assumption, at least for now, that social influence is seen as a critical “third leg” of the stool. Even if the business drivers are not abundantly clear, perhaps looking at the measurement side will reverse the problem and lead to that understanding.
Metrics Matter for your Employee Advocacy Program
First, let’s pull back the curtains a bit on some things your partner/vendor should be upfront about in developing a business case with you. Consider the 1-9-90 rule, which talks about how social media is used by most people.
Typically, about 1% of social users will create, share and view content, 9% will share or view and 90% will simply view. Therefore, if your goal is to focus on reach, engagement, and influence, you should not expect a majority of your company to take on that activity.
Our focus through our platform is to “unlock the potential for influence within everyone” with a target of driving the 1% to 5-10% and 9% to 20-30%. Therefore, your goal should be 20-30% participation which can lead to breakthrough results. Looked at differently, regardless of how excited your engineers are about your product, they are unlikely to share “en masse” about it. (unless it’s on GitHub which is not a target-rich environment unless it an engineering-focused product).
When we work with both our potential and current customers, we focus on several core metrics in the following groupings (depending on the desired use case):
1. Increase in Potential Social Reach
Social media reach has a material impact. What most organizations fail to realize is that the reach of their employees typically far exceeds the companies reach.
For example, let’s say you have 9,000 followers in total across LinkedIn, Twitter and perhaps a Facebook Business Page with a healthy size for a company of 100 employees. Imagine if 30% of those employees were sharing content (the average person sharing has a combined network of about 500 people) then you would have an increased reach of 15,000 (a 167% increase in reach) for a total of 24,000.
The other major consideration is that the same message shared by your company is trusted approximately 6-8x more when sent by your employees. So not only a huge increase in reach, it is a far more trusted reach.
2. Driving Website Traffic
Consider the net result of sharing branded content and its potential impact on driving traffic to your website. Using the social reach of your employees, if on average your company produces 40 pieces of new content every month and 50% of that content is “branded” (your company’s content) and of that branded content only 50% of that is shared (so 10 pieces of content per month per “sharer”) this still amounts to over 150,000 opportunities to drive traffic.
If we assume only 2% of that possible traffic results in a clickthrough, you would have driven an additional 3,000 visitors to your website. Now, most of your additional website visitors are coming from a trusted and relevant source. This also positively impacts your website by reducing bounce rate and increasing total time spent on website.
3. Earned Media Value
Earned Media Value is the amount that would have been spent by your organization to drive the equivalent amount of traffic as a result of your employee advocacy program.
This is calculated by looking at the average pay-per-click (or 1,000’s of impressions) served across the various networks. Using the values found in steps 1 & 2, the earned media value would equal approximately $126,000 dollars.
The dollar value impact here is directly driven through your employee’s social engagement without having to make that media buy.
4. Funnel Metrics (For Marketing, Sales and/or Talent Acquisition)
The next step in the process is to effectively bring together data from your employee influence program and the inbound data through the website.
In the case of PostBeyond, every piece of content shared is tagged with both the “Content ID” (what content was it) and who shared the content. Using this data, it is possible to calculate general funnel metrics that provide insight into the potential conversion of a “click-through” as provided in measurement 2 then run the funnel metrics.
For example, if we are driving 3,000 additional visits, how many new opportunities or new applicants should we expect? If we assume that only 2% of those 3,000 visits results in a lead and 15% of leads convert to marketing qualified (a total of 45) and 50% of those MQLs become opportunities (22) and the value of an opportunity is $20,000 then you can estimate that approximately $440,000 in new opportunities should be created.
You can apply your current close rate to understand what should convert to new sales. Leveraging platforms such as Google Analytics (or Adobe Live) within your marketing group you can validate in real-time the number of inbounds.
The same approach can be taken with talent, using the funnel in a similar way, but assigning a typical cost per hire instead of a sales opportunity to demonstrate a cost takeout for hiring.
In a properly executed program, there are many other key metrics to consider. While these four principle areas provide the ability to examine ROI, there are many additional metrics that assist in tuning the program for success.
- Who are the top performing content sharers (your employee influencers) in the company?
- What content is leading to the highest level of engagement (and in what networks)?
- What aspects (intents within the content) are leading (you should share more of this)?
- What is your internal engagement (content creators/sharers/viewers)?
- How many new inbound prospects or applicants have come into your digital properties?
- Which social platforms are performing best?
- What are the types of interactions (likes, shares, comments) with each piece of content?
We are now moving into the mainstream market with employee advocacy and the three use cases of social selling, thought leadership, and talent attraction. So, it is critically important to measure what we are expecting and drive thinking around measuring results through a quantitative approach, not simply qualitative.
If you’re curious about what your ROI could be, check out our Employee Advocacy ROI Calculator which uses your company’s metrics to build a realistic view on the impact employee influence can have on your business.