Employee-generated content is a surprisingly powerful form of communication and content marketing. It simultaneously strengthens your relationships with new and current customers, top talent looking for work, and your current employees.
It communicates loyalty and trust throughout and—and within—your organization.
It lures the most qualified people to want to work for you and builds brand advocates.
And it expands your brand’s reach exponentially…organically.
But is it as easy as asking the people you employ to post about how much they like their jobs on social media?
No. You need to do more; you need a plan. You need an employee-generated content strategy. Otherwise, it will be free for all and you can actually harm your brand.
With increased engagement on social media, employee-generated content and social sharing have become more unrestricted and prevalent more than ever. When you get the employee-generated content right, it gives brands one of the best ROIs they can get on their content marketing channels.
What Is An Employee-Generated Content Exactly?
To understand employee-generated content, you must first understand employee advocacy—a traditional marketing strategy where an associate acts as spokespeople for your brand.
This employee is responsible for their regular job but might also be called upon to speak to reporters, give presentations to industry peers or new recruits, or even appear in commercials. They’re the people who work for you who have subject matter expertise by virtue of their hard skills, brand expertise by virtue of their integration with your mission, and who have the ability to foster trust by virtue of their communication skills.
You see, people are wired to believe people, not brands. As much as people love that Nike Swoosh, they still use celebrity spokespeople.
Allowing a celebrity gives your brand a certain panache, but when an employee speaks on your brand’s behalf it peels back the pretense found in so much marketing content (so common in celebrity and influencer marketing). An employee’s voice lets your brand communicate like a human, person to person, heart to heart, instead of like an advertisement or a paid endorsement. It humanizes your company, it makes your brand more believable, likable, and memorable.
Employee-generated content strategy, then, is defined as user generated content from your employees to bolster your brand’s image. It can be blogs, social media posts, images, videos, podcasts, presentations, or other content your employees create as it relates to your brand or on behalf of your brand. Oftentimes your brand spokespeople are already creating content. Typically this employee content gets distributed to your online community, but not necessarily.
EGC as it’s also known, is one instrument of employee advocacy, though many say the most powerful.
Top Benefits of Using Employee Generated Content
When an employee creates content for your brand, offers a different perspective, speaks in a language your audience wants to hear, accelerates social selling you can unleash the power and positive effects of employee advocacy.
People Don’t Trust Brands but They Do Trust Real People. Statistics show that audiences trust what employees and the team have to say by the sheer fact of their humanity.
According to Nielsen, 84% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family above all forms of advertising – and additionally, 77% of consumers are likely to make a purchase after hearing about it from someone they trust.
Employees Tend to Have More Followers Than Brand Pages. Unless you’re Nike or Apple, the fact of the matter is that a brand’s employees have on average 10x more followers than the main employer brand, and employee content gets 8x more engagement. When brands post content created by employees, it gets reshared up to 24x more than a branded post.
You can’t convince every employee with a huge following to transform their personal page into a brand page. However, you can encourage the right employees to share more content from your brand if their audience matches your target demographics.
Employee Generated Content Increases Employee Engagement (and Retention)
We all want our employees to be happy, but engaging employees means more than offering free donuts. Employee engagement is the psychological and emotional investment they have in your company, and it is a growth engine for profits.
In 2012, Gallup conducted an analysis on employee engagement using 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 49 industries and 34 countries. In more granular terms, they studied 49,928 offices and some 1.4 million employees. They discovered that engaged employees were 41% less likely to call out of work and 59% less quit.
But the icing on top? Brands with engaged employees earned on average 21% higher profits. Could the solution to “the great resignation” simply be more employee participation?
When existing employees are involved in user generated content for their company’s official page it keeps their head and their heart in the game. It makes someone who’d otherwise feel like a cog in the machine think more like a link in the chain. It turns associates into ambassadors…and it can even put a friendly face on finance.
Engagement isn’t giving away free donuts, it’s more like baking fresh donuts every day for your employees. Can you smell the happiness in those hallways?
You Can Construct a Powerful Recruitment Marketing Strategy
To talent eyeing you up and down for their next professional engagement, employee-made media can answer the burning question of what brand culture is like.
The recruitment marketing dancefloor is competitive, and your competition is playing for keeps. You’ve got all types of companies, from the heritage corporations to nimble start-ups and they all want to connect with the same few people you do too.
Talent, on the other hand, is sizing you up, and they want to know three things before they decide they want to commit to your company. Two you can tell them directly—salary and benefits. The third is the hardest to convey but it shows you both dance to the same kind of music—company culture.
Short of being able to interview your employees about what kind of employer you are (which they’re likely trying to do via friends on Facebook), the talent you want reads Glassdoor reviews, mines your website, stalks your socials, looking for any clues as to your employer brand, what it will be like to work for your company.
Brands that encourage employee generated content find that they’re able to more clearly communicate brand culture and attract top talent. They see happy team members. They feel comfortable coming to work for you. Simple.
User Generated Content from Employees Self Improvement
One true thing about the best talent? They’ll always be looking to improve their own personal brand, too. They want to be in on the thought leadership game. When brands promote employee generated content, it places a spotlight on them, which projects their leadership, grows their own personal brand, and encourages them to strive for the best. Keep them engaged. Keep them growing. Keep them yours.
Get a Different Take from Outside Marketing
No matter how hard your marketing team searches for advertising gold, million-dollar ideas still slip through. It’s easy to see why: other departments bring different perspectives. You’ve just got to find the buried treasure, and the X that marks the spot is sometimes found outside of the marketing department.
When Dominos Pizza got a barrage of bad reviews, they turned to their employees to tell the story of how they’d turn things around by coming up with a new recipe. It helped grow their share price 60 fold.
Create a Human Connection with Your Community
When employees cast your company culture to a wider audience through their own words, it cuts right to the core of likeability. Customers see the faces of the people behind the brand, they read their words, they feel the emotion your employees feel towards your brand. It’s infectious and brings people closer to your brand.
Fashion brands like DTC Swimwear and Lucky both feature employees in marketing material like look books and ads.
7 Great Ways To Leverage Employee User-Generated Content
There’s no right or wrong type of employee content but there are a few dependable devices that have set the standard. They carry all of the tension and messaging opportunity of a classic ad, except with thousands of willing viewers tuning in instead of tuning out.
1) Interviews & Webinars
Interviews and webinars can accomplish quite a lot and build relationships in addition to getting more employees in front of a target audience as thought leadership. You can have informational conversations to show off their expertise, talk about what life is like at your company, or dig deeper into their personal interests.
Interviews can run almost anywhere, from websites to social media, and can be written, video, or audio. It can seem like a lot; just keep in mind the distribution channel. Quick Q & As for TikTok and Instagram, long-form video and webinars for YouTube or LinkedIn.
For example, SEMRush, an SEO software platform, uses employee-based webinars to help customers get better use out of their technology.
There’s no telling where connections may lie. Asking employees for a quote about a relevant subject, such as Signify did for its International Women’s Day campaign, created touching moments between the brand’s employees and its customers.
Employees with expert knowledge who write can guest post on your company blog or write posts for LinkedIn, Medium, and blogs relevant to your industry. Guest blogging, they can talk about industry trends, personal experiences at your company, why they work there, their skills, how they build customer relationships.
Some brands empower employees to tell their story by lending them the keys to their social media accounts for the day, in a “social media takeover” where the employee has free reign of the account for a set amount of time. Not only does this convey considerable trust between the employer and its employees, but it unveils the human side of your brand to the customer. This Zoo does it to excellent effect.
5) Day in the Life
Like a takeover but with a little more polish, you can also have your social media team collaborate with one of your employees to create a TikTok, Reel, or another video format that lets target audiences sit in on your brand culture. You can showcase both the employees’ personal lives in a way that feels natural. We Are Intel incorporates posts about their employees’ lives in their Instagram feed.
An employee-generated recap ties the team together when they are in many separate parts. There are many ways to use employee-generated recaps. You can tell the story of virtual events, show everyone the stages of a complex project, reinforce on-page copy, or just foster team spirit like Harman International did at the start of the pandemic by making a recap of their employees’ cats (See, this stuff is pretty simple). When your employees are engaged in a big brand awareness project, you can support the initiative by releasing a recap behind the scenes video to support the initiative.
Create a hashtag to leverage user generated content just for your employees and encourage them to share images of themselves that capture the brand. You can create hashtags that focus on brand culture (for example #TNWlife, #hagergrouplife) or even create hashtag mini-campaigns (like #starbuckspride). Pretty soon you’ll have a wall of images telling your band story as seen through the employees. Easy and natural employer branding.
7) Employee Specific Social Media Channel
Who says you can’t create a social media channel just for your employees? Build your employer brand alongside your public-facing brand. Your marketing team can gather images and assemble a page that builds your workers’ enthusiasm for the company using their own content. Power Home Remodeling runs a @lifeatpower, an account dedicated to delighting their own employees.
Where Do You Share Content Created by Employees?
You can leverage employee-generated content anywhere on the web, such as mobile apps or anywhere you have an audience online. Usually, it will be your social media platforms, but don’t forget your company website or the halls of your headquarters.
The informal, temporal format of Instagram stories combined with its storytelling ability makes this a natural format for employee-generated content to help employees share their brand stories. Interviews, Take Overs, Quotes, recaps, Q&A, it all works!
TikTok has the uncanny ability to humanize anything it touches. Its quick and quirky format is ideal for showing off your employee’s wit and humor.
LinkedIn is the online living room of the professional community. Invite job candidates to learn more about your company culture from their future peers.
Any job prospects’ path to job placement runs through the careers page on your website. Images, testimonials, links to your employee’s own social media pages…let your company culture shine here by the light of your own smiles.
The concept is elementary – a social wall is hanging the work of your employees up for all to admire. Not unlike the halls of the school, showcasing your employees’ work and experiences inspires greatness, instills pride, and fosters community.
Podcasts allow you to go deep or keep things on the surface, but most of all they give your employees a voice that can be speaking to your target audience for 20 minutes once a week while they’re stuck in traffic.
Even though YouTube has recently gotten into the short format video game a la TikTok, your YouTube channel is still the number one place to put long-form employee-generated video content.
Best Practices for Employee Generated Content
Keep these ideas in mind when creating an employee content strategy.
1) Conduct Training Sessions
Even with an assignment in hand, many employees won’t know what to do if you ask them to make the content. So, don’t just throw your employees into battle. Arm them with the right tools. Train them in the company essentials and the formats you are using. Provide guidelines and briefs. Not only is this a best practice of engaging current employees, but it prepares them to create content on your behalf.
If you don’t provide proper training, a lot could go wrong. An employee could say something that attracts negative attention, misunderstand the assignment, or worse.
You don’t have to look too far for examples. Yahoo posts its guidelines online for employees creating content on their behalf.
Here are a few quick key points:
- Create a plan from start to finish.
- Have conversations about the direction of the content.
- Cover personal and company content.
- Assemble a blogging policy for employees covering company posts and posts employees write about their job on their own platforms.
- Review copyright and trademarks.
- Make templates.
- Employ an easy-to-use blogging platform.
- Meet with your bloggers often, review past work, and plan for the future.
2) Find the Right Employees
Before you can do any of this, you’ve got to find the right employee. Look for a true brand advocate, people who are engaged in the brand and company values, exhibit subject expertise, and understand the content creation process. They don’t have to be influential content creators already, but they should have a good idea of how social channels work and speak the brand’s values naturally.
3) Keep Employees Updated
When employees love where they work, they will often share information willingly. If you want the news to spread, take the time to keep them apprised. Send newsworthy memos and internal press releases to everyone, even Bob in accounting.
4) Showcase Wins
If your employee makes content that goes viral or wins a lot of business, let it be known! Include mention in a company newsletter or on the social wall. Build morale and grow engagement by rewarding good work.
5) Offer Incentives and Rewards
Employees know you benefit from their content, so be transparent about it and offer rewards to participate. Gift cards, swag, time off…you can be creative as long as it’s thoughtful. If you want content that performs well, increase the stakes.
7) Share Results with Stakeholders
Once you promote the employee-generated content, let that employee know the results. Was the blog widely read? Did people engage with the post? They will be looking for feedback so provide it (gently) and give them the tools to improve or ask for more! Just don’t leave them hanging, it builds resentment.
8) Participation Is Optional
Even if your chief data analyst is the best at explaining the numbers, if they aren’t comfortable being in the public spotlight, don’t force it. If your new sales rep has a billion followers on TikTok, still don’t force it. If you do, they’ll appear inauthentic and so will your brand.
You can gently nudge with incentives, but that’s it. Participation is not mandatory.
9) Engage with Your Employee Posts
If you ask your employees to post something, make sure the rest of the team knows. Encourage them to comment, like, or share the post.
Inject Your Employee's Own Personal Brand into Your Business Brand
Employee content is one of the most powerful ways a brand can speak to its audiences. It builds credibility and trust, attracts the smartest talent in the room, reaches large audiences, can help you find a million-dollar idea, and it’s great for profits. But don’t just go asking your associates to post more on social media. If you want to inject the power of employee influence into your content marketing, the best place to start is with an employee content strategy.