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The Power of Employees: Predicting the Best Outcomes for Brand Advocacy

The situation

Social media is getting louder. New platforms are emerging, algorithms are changing and more and more people are logging on. As social media becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, businesses are using it for everything from marketing to R&D to customer care. The business value of social can’t be overstated.

At the same time, many of the traditional tactics are becoming less reliable. Organic reach on Instagram dropped 29% from 2021 to 2022, which isn’t a surprise for any marketer worried about decreasing organic opportunities. As marketers shift their budgeting focus to creators and emerging technologies like the metaverse, virtual reality and augmented reality, the organic posts that make up the majority of a brand’s feed are getting left behind.

Increasing post reach and engagement is getting complicated, regardless of the platform. Marketers need to find creative ways to get their message out there without getting lost in the noise.

Employee advocacy is an emerging strategy to combat the issues of organic reach. The idea is simple–if employees post about their company to their personal audiences, the post will, by definition, reach a wider audience.

Guiding questions

We surveyed 1,110 US social media users across industries and tenures to discover what makes for a successful employee advocacy strategy. We investigated three key areas of interest for employee advocacy.

  1. Which employees make the best advocates?
  2. What kind of content engages employees?
  3. How can you activate your employees?

Survey findings

Which employees make the best advocates?

Section 1

Insight: More than half of all users spend more than an hour a day on social media

It’s no surprise that some people spend more time on social media than others. We’ve identified two groups of social media users, engaged and casual.

Engaged users spend more than 60 minutes a day on social media platforms, with casual users spending less than an hour daily. Over half (59%) of respondents identified as engaged users.

Breakdown of engaged versus casual users
Engaged Users

59% of users average 60 minutes or more a day on social media.

Casual Users

41% of users averages 59 minutes or fewer a day on social media.

Insight: You can find engaged users on any platform

As a group, engaged users don’t dominate any particular platform. Engaged users browse according to their personal preferences, so some may be most comfortable on Twitter while others spend their spare time on TikTok.

Daily platform use by user type

Engaged UsersCasual Users
Daily platform use by user type

Insight: Engaged users are increasing their social media usage

Social media use is rising for everyone. Two-thirds (66%) are spending more time on social than they were two years ago.

However, engaged users are more likely to report increases in their social media usage over time. 78% of engaged users have increased their browsing time over the past two years.

Users who report higher social media use over the last two years
Engaged Users

78% of users average 60 minutes or more a day on social media.

Casual Users

62% of users averages 59 minutes or fewer a day on social media.

Insight: Engaged users think it’s important for employees to post about their companies

Engaged users are more 11% likely to think posting about their company is important. People live more and more of their lives online so adding their professional selves into the mix only makes sense.

Importance of employees and employers posting about each other

72% of users think it is important for employees to post about their company.

76% of users think it is important for companies to post about their employees.

The verdict: Engaged users are the ideal target for employee advocacy programs.

As your team builds out an employee advocacy strategy, it makes sense to target employees who are already spending meaningful time online. Your internal engaged users already see the value in employee advocacy, making them prime targets for a pilot program.

Since engaged users outnumber casual users, your company has an untapped resource that’s ready to be activated across platforms. Usage increase trends indicate that employee advocacy programming opportunities are only set to grow in the future.

What kind of content excited engaged users?

Section 2

Insight: Engaged users are more likely to share content they find enjoyable

Engaged users like to share content that excites them with their friends, families and colleagues.

Engaged users like to learn from and relate to the content they share. Educational content takes the top spot but they’re also engaged by employee-centric content (i.e., peer recognition, new job updates and milestones). Personal stories resonate with audiences.

Types of social content employees find the most engaging and are most likely to share
Educational content | Engaged UsersEducational content | Casual UsersEmployee updates | Engaged UsersEmployee updates | Casual UsersCompany content | Engaged UsersCompany content | Casual UsersTrending topic commentary | Engaged UsersTrending topic commentary | Casual UsersGiveaway or challenge | Engaged UsersGiveaway or challenge | Casual Users
Most engaging54%50%54%49%47%40%45%38%37%32%
Most likely to share49%46%51%45%44%36%42%35%39%33%

Insight: Engaged users have a favorable opinion of companies that post about their employees

Employee content resonates with engaged users. These posts make brands appear more authentic, approachable and interesting to engaged users.

Brands are described as “blank” when they post about their employee’s achievements and stories

The verdict: Engaged users can provide insight and depth to your social strategy

Your social media strategy should be based around the preferences of engaged users. Your employees can serve as an in-house focus group for the content types you should focus on. Creating content that appeals to your internal, engaged users can boost your strategy–and your reach since employees are more likely to share it through brand advocacy efforts.

Engaged users are also a great place to start for an employee spotlight series. Since engaged users can’t get enough of employee-centric content, they’ll be ready to share and personally invested in your employee advocacy.

How do you activate your employees?

Insight: Engaged users are ready to start sharing employer-provided content

We’ve established that engaged users are more likely to see the value in posting about your company, but are they ready to act?

Our research shows they are. Overall, 62% of all employees would post company content to their personal pages if their company wrote it for them. Your engaged users are 10% more likely to want to post than your casual users. If you provide the content, they’re ready to share it.

Insight: Engaged users recognize that sharing content can help them achieve their goals

Engaged users spend a lot of time on social media and recognize the benefits it can have for their professional lives. Sharing company content helps employees accomplish their day-to-day tasks and long-term goals.

These users are personally incentivized to share content about your brand. Employees report that sharing on social can help outside audiences understand their brand’s values, provide new leads and ways to engage with them, expand your potential reach and engagement and communicate important messages internally.

Brand Awareness | Engaged UsersBrand Awareness | Casual UsersSocial Selling | Engaged UsersSocial Selling | Casual UsersMarket Amplification | Engaged UsersMarket Amplification | Casual UsersInternal Communication | Engaged UsersInternal Communication | Casual Users
Ways employees believe sharing company posts on social media helps their role

Insight: Engaged users can be incentivized to join employee advocacy campaigns

It’s clear that employees want to engage in employee advocacy, but understanding why can help you tailor your program.

Even though these users are already motivated to participate in an advocacy program, it helps to nudge them in the early days. Employees can be persuaded by both internal and external methods. Financial incentives, like gift cards or prizes, are an obvious but effective tool for kickstarting your advocacy efforts. But soft incentives work well too. Job satisfaction, company reminders and encouragement, and general pride in the content or company are also powerful motivators.

My company provided a financial incentiveI am happy with my job at the companyMy company encouraged us to share posts on socialI am proud of the content I’m sharingI think my network will find value in the content I’m sharingThe content will help build my personal brandOther coworkers are sharing the post or story

The verdict: Engaged users are ready to join your social media marketing team

Your employees are ready to join your brand advocacy efforts. You have to empower them with the tools they need. Whether you’re building your program from scratch or looking to improve your existing employee advocacy metrics, engaged users are your secret weapon for expanding your reach and increasing social engagement.

Quantify the power of advocacy

The data is clear. Employees are your secret weapon for increasing your reach and engagements. By identifying your engaged users, curating content that speaks to them and activating their marketing potential, you can make a major impact on your business.

Looking to find out just how much of an impact advocacy can make for you? Try out Sprout Social’s Employee Advocacy ROI Calculator to quantify just how valuable your engaged users are.

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