Guest post: The emergence of organisational influencers on LinkedIn

In this guest post, Oliver Kozsla of Bournemouth University explores how companies can harness employee advocacy.

Recent studies by Schivinski and Dabrowski have found that information shared by others is judged more authentic and credible by external audiences than information shared by the organisation directly. While it is becoming more and more common for customers to ask for recommendations from others and read reviews, it opens up an opportunity for organisations to consider recommendations from employees.

With employer branding becoming more prevalent on organisations’ home pages and employee stories and testimonials used to recruit and improve image and reputation, there is an opportunity to leverage this form of influence.

In this highly competitive environment for human capital, organisations can capitalise on the communicative strength of people by transforming employees into ‘professional influencers’ who convey organisational messages with a personal voice (Pekkala Luoma-aho 2017). This adds another tool to the arsenal of organisations that can help to fight for the increasingly plummeting attention span of audiences.

Although relatively new, the concept of employee advocacy is increasingly recognised by organisations. Empowering employees can serve as a very effective tool to reach more audiences, increase engagement with organisational messages, products and services, not to mention the automatic endorsement.

So how can we make the most of our employees’ feedback and encourage them to share our organisational messages?

One example is a tool created by LinkedIn in 2015 called Elevate. The platform allows companies to empower employees to share curated and recommended content relevant to the organisation. That’s all great and dreamy, but how do we find the right people?

My colleague (shout out to Balint Brunner) and I decided to investigate whether personal branding on LinkedIn can help identify potential professional influencers.

As part of the research, we have analysed 363 Elevate and LinkedIn profiles of a large UK organisation. The research captured data from all aspects of a LinkedIn profile as well as the number of articles a selected employee shared over a year via Elevate.

We were hoping to find out whether high levels of personal branding will predict high levels of advocacy. Our research found that high levels of personal branding on LinkedIn can predict whether or not a person is going to be a good advocate. We found that people who have a title, high number of connections, a summary, volunteering experience and a bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to be active advocates. These employees have shared between 100-1000+ articles through the Elevate platform.

Measurements and insights such as this can be used by an organisation to help determine who would be the best candidate to advocate their messages. Knowing this can increase engagement with the organisation, improve reach and increase the overall reputation. What an exciting time we live in.

*keep an eye out for our co-authored chapter with the full research coming out in Spring 2019.

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This is a guest post from Oliver Kozsla. You can connect with him on Twitter, @KozslaOS and find him on LinkedIn here.