The Anatomy of an Employee Influencer

Todd Kunsman

Head of Marketing

17 minute read

Employee Influencer

There is no doubt that if you work in marketing or sales that you have heard about influencer marketing.

With the rise of social media and people who’ve built a following, many organizations (especially in B2C) look to activating these influential people to drive brand awareness and sales. 

It could be celebrities, musicians, athletes, or just social media personalities who built a decent following. 

At the onset of our digital revolution, organizations often overlooked key influencers right within their own company: employees. While the employee influencer may have a stronger appeal for B2B, more B2C companies are catching on to their value as well. 

And about 90% of your organization’s employee network tends to be completely new to your brand, leaving a new untapped audience unfamiliar with your company. 

Below you’ll learn more about an employee influencer, what makes them so valuable, and key traits to help your organization identify your top employee influencers. 

 

What is an Employee Influencer?

An employee influencer is someone within your organization that can positively impact the way external or internal audiences view, interact, or form opinions about your brand, product, or services. No matter their network size, an employee influencer can influence the behavior of audiences. 

To simplify that, an employee influencer is someone who’s insights and influence can drive results for your brand in various ways. 

Employees are the trusted face and source of information (and they should be if they are not currently). People are able to build a more emotional connection when there is a real human behind the content. 

And employee influencers’ voices help lift up the brand, drive more awareness, improve the reach, and even help with recruiting and employer brand. 

 
What do employees really think about social media at work? Do they care about having access to company content and more of it? Grab your copy of our employee feedback report about social media at work.
 

The employee influencer difference

The cool thing about employee influencers is anyone within your organization that has any kind of online network can be an influencer. 

General influencer marketing tends to look at the massive reach and potential, employee influencer marketing focuses more strategically on the close knit working relationships and communities employees have built via platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. 

Of course having 100,000 social connections from an employee thought leader can be great too, but many times those with a few hundred or thousands can make a stronger brand impact. 

 

The Power of Employee Influencers

Naturally, you can’t escape the data when it comes to your employees acting as advocates on your company’s behalf.

And if you know us at EveryoneSocial, we love looking at the numbers and statistics! 

  • Content has 2x higher engagement when shared by employees (LinkedIn)
  • On average, your employees have a network that is 10 times larger than your company’s follower base (LinkedIn)
  • 53% of all global consumers see employees as the most credible sources for learning about companies, according to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer
  • 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company. (Weber Shandwick)
  • A recommendation from a friend or family member makes 83% of Americans more likely to purchase that product or service. (Convince & Convert)
  • Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels (MSLGroup)

And while I mention plenty about the impact on your brand, remember that this impacts individual employees positively too. 

When they become influencers (whether micro or thought leader level) it improves their own networks, grows their personal brands, provides new potential career opportunities, and boosts learning that can add value to their current and future work. 

 

Types of Employee Influencers

There have been a few studies about influencers in general, employees included. All have defined these key personas in their own way, which is what we are also going to do. 

At EveryoneSocial, we look at the types of employee influencers in terms of a few key categories and traits.

You can use these to understand how to start thinking about an influencer strategy and how to begin developing a program. 

Here are the four types of employee influencers:

 

1. The Silent Participator (Under 1,000 Social Connections)

The Silent Participator
 

These are the employees who generally aren’t very active on their social media accounts and may occasionally post, like, or comment on their connections content or even brands they follow.

But there can be long periods of time where they aren’t posting or engaging. 

Typically this person isn’t concerned about having the most optimized social profiles or actively expanding their networks. If a connection request on LinkedIn is sent, they may accept but aren’t going out of their way to send requests to others. 

Additionally, this person usually doesn’t worry about gaining attention or recognition.

Instead, they like to support their colleagues and friends by cheering them on. These employees are those who may be more active internally with their company, then actively engaging on social media. 

However, with some guidance and options to make it easier for them, some of these silent participants may get more involved in social media and other company initiatives over time. 

 

2. The Engager (Typically under 2,000 Social Connections)

The Engager
 

Another type of employee influencer is what I’d dub as “The Engager.” A good majority of employees will fit this persona type, which is why employee advocacy for content sharing can be mighty impactful. 

These are people who have clean and optimized social media profiles, they get the value of social networking but aren’t overly obsessed with it either. 

They are sharing content, occasionally commenting on their networks content to share opinions or ideas, and often engage with their networks more periodically. 

And they tend to take an interest in connecting with others online, even if they do not know them personally. This group has potential to expand their own networks and begin the stages of a stronger personal brand. 

And generally, these influencers will also be more interested in company initiatives with social media and are more likely to actively participate in your employee advocacy program. 

Yet, not everyone that is an “Engager” has social media etiquette or best practices down, so some guidance will be needed. 

 

3. The Thought Leader (2,000 – 3,000+ Social Connections)

Thought Leader
 

The third type of employee influencer that your organization will have is someone who is considered a thought leader. You’ll probably find multiple people from various teams that are considered thought leaders by their peers and social networks. 

A thought leader is someone who is highly knowledgeable and is considered an expert in what they do. For example, your company’s Chief Marketing Officer will have tons of experience, insights, and guidance that many outsiders would love to learn from. 

Your thought leaders will start to cultivate a social following and trust, but oftentimes they are not active on social as frequently as they may like to be. Additionally, the thought leader will be sought out for podcast interviews, quotes in articles, and even speaking engagements. 

This person also isn’t usually actively sending out connection requests or following others, but people are connecting and following them – which the thought leader is usually open to. 

 

4. The Social Unicorn (5,000 -10,000+ Social Connections)

Social Unicorn
 

Although this one is similar to a thought leader, The Social Unicorn will take social media and personal branding to the next level. Not every company will have more than one and some may have none at all, but having a social unicorn in house can be huge for the brand.

While this type may have a funny name, I chose this for a reason. 

In the business world, a unicorn company is when a start-up surpasses $1 Billion valuation – a somewhat rare happening but still plenty of them exist.

Similarly, an employee who has thousands and thousands of social followers can be The Social Unicorn. You typically see these people on LinkedIn and will have tons of engagement from people who look to their knowledge and content. 

These unicorn employees are those who represent their fields and are considered the leaders that people look to get insights from. This influencer type is highly engaged, writing unique copy and insights, super connected, and will drive people to take action based on their content. 

I’m sure you could name a few people you see in your social feed that you either follow or your connections follow and you see their content consistently. Those are the social unicorns! A few that I follow have 10,000+ connections on LinkedIn and every post gets tons of action. 

 

What Happens When An Employee Influencer Leaves Your Company? 

One of the concerns we’ve heard from organizations about helping employees build up their personal brands – especially those employees who gravitate towards doing so – is what happens if they leave the company? 

It’s a natural occurrence even if your company is great to work for – some employees will look for new opportunities or passion projects of their own.

However, stifling their growth and looking for ways to limit their potential only does more harm the good. 

But by utilizing employee advocacy and getting employees involved, you have a team of influencers instead of relying on just one or two people to guide your initiatives. 

For example, Adobe has 900+ employees as influencers and they have an average of 4,000 connections. Even if a social unicorn or thought leader moves on, they still have a team with a massive reach and influence! 

By creating an advocacy ecosystem and helping fuel all types of employee influencers, you diversify your engagement opportunities. Your risk is then mitigated as your influencer program is not reliant on a particular person to drive further brand engagement. 

But giving your employees opportunities to grow into thought leaders or social unicorns can improve their work happiness, increase their level of engagement, and they can even be looked at as internal leaders that help increase other employees’ social involvement. 

 

Remember: Every Employee Can Be An Influencer in Some Way

Whether your employees are active on social media, blogging about their knowledge, taking on speaking engagements or are more of a silent participant – most can be influencers for your organization.  

Yes, even those who may have no interest in growing their social networks or being the face of the brand can absolutely be considered employee influencers. Everyone can provide value when a company organizes a social advocacy portfolio of diverse engagement styles.

Remember, employees can be internal influencers too, which has benefits for your internal brand, company morale, and work culture. 

Employees who aren’t active publicly as influencers can be those who cheer on others internally. They can show their support and give recognition to their colleagues, share knowledge internally, teach others, and engage, etc. 

All of these aspects still make them employee influencers, just in a different capacity than those who like building a personal brand online.

You can’t force anyone to be an influencer for your organization, but you can make it a part of the culture, provide leadership and training, and make it easy for employees to get involved without making it sound like a chore. 

 

Don’t Forget An Employee Influencer Platform 

Harnessing employee influencers in one central location is no easy feat.

But this is where employee advocacy software was born and how our platform EveryoneSocial helps top brands like Adobe and T-Mobile create a diverse influencing strategy. 

 
Datasheet

The software can easily harness employee networks to be external (and internal) influencers. But also organize content, make employee-generated content a breeze, while your company can keep everyone informed and engaged. 

You can have employees creating and sharing content to influence their public networks and grow thought leadership.

And you can have employees who aren’t interested in sharing to their online networks, but will engage internally and show support to others like commenting, liking, and tagging fellow colleagues. 

Each side of the coin plays an important role in employee engagement and productivity.

87.2% surveyed recognized employee advocacy contributed to expanding their professional network and 76% believed that it helped them keep up with industry trends. (Hinge Marketing)


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