Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Consumers no longer trust advertising when it comes to making decisions about which brands they want to engage with. In fact, they are far more likely to turn to a friend or trusted individual for advice or knowledge about a company or product. It is this insight that drove the creation of the Internship, the employee advocacy division recently launched by media innovation hub Nfinity.

Divisional CEO at Nfinity Pieter Groenewald explains that theIntern-ship is a business that nurtures a brand’s own staff to become its influencers. Employees are a channel, and provided with the right training and direction, can become the ideal ambassadors for the brands they work for, he says.  “It makes complete sense, as employees have enough knowledge about their own companies to become subject experts in the field – they understand the company’s ethos, values and messaging, not to mention its products and services.”

In the offline world, information about brands has been limited to work of mouth, Groenewald explains. In today’s online world, all brands want more airtime for what they do, and while employees may not know how to promote or talk about their jobs and companies online, they’re an ideal platform that can be amplified and activated – both off and online, he believes.

The big take-out

Employees are an untapped platform to represent the brand to their social media communities – they just need to know how to do it.

He has the stats to support his claims: 84% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising (Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey); an employee is twice as trusted as a CEO (Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer); 40% of sales people say they have closed between two and five deals as a result of social media (Social Media & Sales Quota survey) and 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know (Nielsen).

TheIntern-ship makes use of a year-long programme designed to teach staff how to use their own social media platforms and communities to become brand advocates and learn the power of their own voices. “Brands can create a new communications channel from the inside out. Employees use their own social media platforms, where they have an existing trust base and relationship with their communities on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, depending on the brand requirements,” says Groenewald.  

While statistics show that many employees are not engaged with the companies they work for, encouraging employees to become brand advocates is an effective way for them to become engaged, he adds.

As brand advocates, employees inevitably learn new skills sets around social media – how to create a social media profile on various platforms, how to create content, what works with their communities and what doesn’t, and how to use social media networks to create sales opportunities and drive content about their brands to the right eyeballs.