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How to use employees in influencer marketing

Internal influencers can be valuable asset for companies looking to connect with their audiences.

Visions of your CEO in a suit and tie might not be what you think of when you hear the word ‘influencer’, but the social networks of people within your company can be a valuable asset.

Having a human face behind your content can be a key factor in breaking through to your audience and establishing your organisation as an authoritative and engaging voice.

In 2014 a study found that 88 per cent of consumers trust online influencers as much as they trust personal recommendations. A more recent study found that more than a third trust what an influencer says about a brand more than they trust the brand itself.

In other words, people trust other people, and a recommendation from a trusted digital connection can be as powerful as a recommendation from a friend or colleague.

But unlike external influencers, who are generally paid per post and are positioned as part of a specific campaign, internal influencers are part of the fabric of your marketing strategy and are always amplifying content through their networks. Your audience can get to know the voices of people within the organisation, and deepen their engagement with your content and your company as a whole.

The right networks

To experience the benefits of influencer marketing, you need to find the right people in your organisation to connect with your target audience.

These people are not always the ones the largest social media following. For example if you’re a B2B tech company, someone with 100,000 followers on their cat-themed Instagram might not have the desired impact. Someone with a sizeable LinkedIn or Twitter presence who is constantly communicating with a highly engaged professional network will probably have more success.

If you have people like this within your organisation (and you probably do), you can create top-quality content for them, and continue to support them and widen their influence. Access to the data on their social media accounts or blog can help marketing teams measure their success and continue to amplify the content they share.

A social media star is born

Alternatively, if there is someone in your organisation who is widely respected in the field, usually the CEO or senior executives, who don’t have the time to build an online following, your marketing team can create one for them.

Media companies have proved particularly adept at doing this. While it is now standard practise to include a writer’s social media information in any piece of online content, some companies have taken this one step further. Vanity Fair has produced a range of podcasts, featuring its senior editorial staff members as hosts. These podcasts rarely feature people outside of Vanity Fair’s employees and often emphasise the connections the writers have with one another as well as their depth of knowledge and storytelling acumen. In the process they bolster the profile of their staff and encourage readers to engage more deeply with their written content.

B2B companies have implemented similar strategies. We have had great success with members of senior management at Salesforce across APAC who had LinkedIn profiles, but didn’t use them. We created two articles a month about issues that the individual managers were genuinely interested in, which we knew would connect with their audiences across APAC.

At the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum Danielle Uskovic, the former head of digital and social at Lenovo and the current marketing director at LinkedIn sales and marketing solutions APAC, spoke about the establishment of Lenovo’s highly successful social selling program.

The choice to use internal influencers was, for Uskovic, closely linked to building trust.

“When approaching content and thought leadership, you can build trust and credibility by enabling you executives to tell your brand story,” she said.

While she noted that it was important to teach executives to communicate authentically online, the program has paid off – 25 per cent of the top accounts the team has recently won are from the executive social selling program.

Group effort

The advantage of social media is that it can take advantage of a wide range of networks. It’s always good to use the authoritative voice of senior management in the content you create, but if your audience skews younger it’s worth asking some of your organisation’s rising stars to share the content on their social media profiles as well.

There are ways that companies can facilitate this internally, by linking employees to content on your company’s intranet, along with suggested copy for social media posts. Junior employees can then easily share it themselves and broaden the reach of the content, raising the social media profile of the original poster.

It’s also possible to do this with your most engaged customers. For many organisations there are communities of consumers that have formed around their brand. These groups are more likely to share content organically, but there are ways brands can further encourage this by reaching out to them directly and giving them suggested tweets and hashtags.

Community involvement is often the natural byproduct of a successful internal influencer marketing strategy. The more your audience is able to connect to your organisation and its people, the more likely they are to deepen their engagement with your content and, by extension, your organisation as a whole.

Instagram stories disappear after a day but can have lasting impact for B2B brands.
They are much more broad-minded than blogs. They’re more resource-driven than company websites.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia