What Is Employee Generated Content And How Brands Can Benefit From It

What is Employee Generated Content and the Benefits Thereof?

A common marketing buzzword in recent times has been user-generated content (UGC). The most common “user” in a business is its customers. So, in most cases, UGC is customer-generated content. But customers are not the only influential group of any company. Employees can make superb product advocates. Therefore, employee generated content (EGC) is also a highly successful form of marketing.

We recently wrote about employee advocacy. A firm’s employees can make some of its most fervent supporters.

While a tightly controlled company may prefer to create any content that their employees share, the reality is that content produced by employees performs far better than anything put together by the marketing or HR departments and delivered through official channels.

The internet is a highly social place. It is no surprise that the generic name for sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is social networks. Traditional ads don’t work well on social networks, predominantly because they are designed for a one-way conversation. If one of your employees were to upload a typical ad to their Facebook friends, the post would probably sink without trace. But if they write their own posts, and then engage in conversations about the content with their friends, the posts hum and fly.


What is Employee Generated Content and the Benefits Thereof?


The Importance of Employee Generated Content

Employee generated content works well with social selling. Social selling requires a high level of authenticity and trust. Employee generated content provides that necessary confidence.

Today’s social media user is cynical. We are well past the point where you could say “it must be true. I saw it on the internet”. We have all heard about Nigerian email scams and identity theft. We see cases in the media every week where somebody has lost money to some form of online fraud.

Therefore it can take quite an effort to convince consumers that you are a genuine, authentic, trustworthy business. You certainly can’t win that support from sharing ads. Internet users today expect social proof.

User-generated content by happy customers provides some of that proof. But you can go further by also encouraging your employees to create content that promotes the company, preferably in a non-salesy way.


Keep Your Traditional Marketers and Executives Well Away From Employee Generated Content

If you have a traditional marketing team, they will probably want to keep a tight rein on any content that goes out under the company's name. Similarly, traditional executives like to keep close control, to ensure that anything that comes out of the business follows the “party line.”

The problem is that this idea is an old, pre-social-selling, concept. This is particularly so if you sell your product to Generations Y or Z, who are far too cynical to believe corporate-speak or PR hype.

The types of centrally-controlled messages that ruled businesses for years have passed their sell-by date. Consumers just don’t believe them anymore.

Modern consumers are still interested in what your business does, and what you have to sell. But they don’t want a censored, manicured, filtered version. They want to see your business for how it actually is. And they can see through the hype.

Some of the worst examples are large companies with massive marketing budgets. These organizations often try to massage their messages, becoming masters of spin doctoring. The problem is that modern consumers see right through this deception.


Your Content Needs to Build an Audience Relationship

The internet is awash with content. Even a relatively specific topic, such as “employee generated content” brings up 50 million results in Google. It takes something special for your content to stand out – particularly considering few people go beyond page one in Google search results.

It may be easier to provide content on social networks, but most of these have changed their algorithms recently, making it more challenging to deliver average content to your followers.

This means that for content to be shared and visible it needs to be high quality and authentic. But note, that when we say “high quality” we don’t mean polished. The technical quality is not that important. However, content does have to provide value to the users.

Employee generated content may seem raw and unpolished. Its lack of grammatical correctness, politically correct phraseology or color-matching may horrify a traditional marketing professional. But it is authentic.

Consumers may not trust employees quite as much as they do their fellow customers, but they are close. Sure, there may be some inkling that an employee will show some favor to his workplace, but overall consumers tend to give employees the benefit of any doubt.


Why Brands May be Concerned About Employee Generated Content

Not all businesses are comfortable with giving their employees carte blanche to create employee-generated content. They worry about what their employees may say. They are particularly scared of the possibility of rogue employees saying bad things about the company.

Sure there will always be some risks involved with employee-generated content. There may be the danger that a disgruntled employee says something rash. But in most cases, the benefits of having employees as advocates outweigh the risks of needing damage control.

It is not uncommon for traditional businesses to have heavy-handed staff social media policies. Quite a few companies still ban social media from the workplace. In the beginning, it was only the young who had social media accounts. But as Generations Y and Z age, more employees expect social media to be part of their everyday life. And with so much of the workforce on social media, attempts to keep a single corporate image are almost quaint now. There has been a behavioral shift, and even traditional firms have to come to terms with that.


Encourager a Variety of Different Types of Content

When you think of social media content, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a text status, perhaps with a picture attached for a bit of visual appeal. Often an employee may make a post sending interested readers to a company blog post.

But everybody is different, with their own skills, strengths, and interests.

Younger employees, who have grown up in the age of smartphones, may feel more comfortable sharing a video.

Visual social media posts perform far better than pure text ones, nowadays. According to PMYB, 4 times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than they would to read about it.  52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them “more confident in online purchase decisions.” 62% of people pay attention to video – the highest for any type of media. People gaze five times longer at video than static content on both Facebook and Instagram.

These statistics strongly suggest that employees who are comfortable making video content about their company should be encouraged to do so.

Not everybody is born to be a writer. Indeed, many of your employees would be horrified at the idea of writing a blog post – they left writing behind at school. But often they will be happy to be filmed talking about their job. They are glad to tell everybody about the great things that occur during their typical workday; they have no difficulty explaining why they love working for their employer.

Employees often know more about their company's product than anybody else. And this can be in any line of work. In New Zealand, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is tasked with building the country’s highways. They share videos each month showing the progress on each road. It is no surprise that the stars of these videos are the drivers of the diggers, the pile drivers, the bridge builders, and all of the other workers who actually build the roads. They then share these videos widely across social media.


Benefits of Employee Generated Content

1. It Can Reduce Costs and Increase Sales

Traditional marketing campaigns can be costly. Employee generated content is likely to be cheaper and more cost effective.

Also, the primary season that firms engage in EGC is that it works. It typically builds trust and sends promotional messages to people who the firm may never have otherwise reached. As a result, the firm is likely to increase the sales it makes, and the revenue it takes.


2. It Can Create More Motivated, Engaged Employees

Employee morale is always likely to increase if the workers believe that somebody is listening to their views. Employee generated content can give workers a voice, where they can demonstrate their understanding of the product, and that they care about their work.


3. Employees Can Effectively Tell the Company’s Story

Employees are often the most knowledgeable about their product and appreciate the chance to share their understanding.

They can often tell the company’s story better than anybody – certainly better than any manufactured campaign by an advertising agency.

The employees become the face of a campaign, and consumers find it much easier to relate if they can visualize a real person. Your employees are recognized for being able to tell a credible story.


4. It May Improve A Company’s Internal Communication

By encouraging workers from a range of departments to create content, a business is facilitating inter-departmental communication.

Employees will see what occurs in other parts of their organization. This in turn often encourages others to share content from their own little silo.


5. It Increases Consumer Trust

Consumers trust firms that give their employees free reign to create content. This trust is likely to follow through to increased sales. Consumers always trust recommendations from people, rather than brands. This even stretches to employees they don’t personally know.


Employee Generated Content May Be Improve Recruitment

One niche use for employer branded content is recruitment. Potential recruits are likely to take notice of the comments that current employees make on social media.

It can be tricky recruiting the best talent for your business. You may have hundreds of applicants for your positions, but if you don’t come across well, top quality applicants will be notable by their absence.

Job descriptions can only tell you so much about an organization. Sure, you can learn about the pay, preferred skills, and job responsibilities, but job ads don’t tell you anything about what it is really like to work for the business or anything about the company culture.

In the past, you might have tried to get to know an existing employee first, and then attempt to get “the gossip” from him or her. Nowadays, though, top job candidates can use employee generated content to gauge what the business is like from an employee’s point of view.

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And it is something of a red flag if you can’t find any EGC for a potential workplace. You begin to wonder, why. Does the firm suppress its employees, censoring their online musings? In that case, candidates tend to go to specialist sites like Glassdoor, which provides a more anonymous vehicle for employees to review their workplace.


Tips to Help With Employee Generated Content

A while back we wrote about the Top 10 Employee Advocacy Programs To Increase Your Brand Reach. All of these programs simplify the logistics of running an employee advocacy program.

Most of these programs require that firms appoint a liaison person to organize the behind-the-scenes part of an employee advocacy program. That person should also be an excellent motivator so that the program doesn’t quickly fizzle out.

Although you will usually want to encourage a variety of posts from your employees, one consistent feature your employees could use is a custom hashtag. Come up with a unique hashtag that all or your employees use with their content.

If you are worried about harmful content from disgruntled employees, you could always introduce a moderation stage before posts go live. The person responsible for your program may be given editing rights, to correct any apparent errors and discourage the posting of anything too hateful towards the business. Again, most of the software we have looked at, provide useful moderation tools.

While you will find that some employees will eventually become bored with making posts, you could have quite a few dedicated employee advocates. One way to encourage these thought leaders is with competitions. These can as act motivating factors to encourage improved and more frequent posts, particularly if you can find some form of tangible reward for the winners.