Chris Simmance (00:49.398)
Hello, hello, hello. Thanks voiceover guy. Hello, Kate. We’ve got Kate on the podcast today. How are you doing? Not too bad. Thank you Lee. Thank thank Lee. Thank God. I need to finish more coffee. How’s the, how’s things going? Thank you Lee today. Um,
Good morning. How’s it going?
It’s going quite well, I’d say. No, no, I’m loving the nuances and the new words. Let’s see if I can get another one in there by the end of the…
Chris Simmance (01:13.863)
We will do, I’m sure. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us a little bit about the agency. What is it that you do and what do you do best?
Perfect. Well, my name’s Kate. I’m based in Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been here for the last 12 years. And since I’ve arrived, I’ve been first of all, working as a sort of side hustle project on employee advocacy on social media, which I’ll unpack in a sec. And probably one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about doing that is that all the work for the side hustle has reinforced the work that I’ve been doing in house. I’ve now taken the agency and I’m trying to expand and scale.
And I will definitely go into a few case studies about all the great things that we’ve achieved. But yeah, I think it’s been a wild ride, especially during the pandemic. That was a real game-changer as it was for quite a few other agencies as well. So happy to go into all of it.
Chris Simmance (02:03.811)
Chris Simmance (02:09.186)
So a little bit about the journey then. So not only do you get the fortunate life of living in sunny Barcelona, first of all, what brought you out to Barcelona and then, how did you go through the journey into starting the agency?
What brought me to Barcelona was love. Like I would like to say it was a professional opportunity or something a lot more, let’s say corporate sounding. But no, it was a decision to build a family and live here. My partner’s working in video games, he’s a designer. And yeah, we found our feet here in Barcelona. Plan to leave, sort of two years here, two years there and go on a trip around the world, but no.
Chris Simmance (02:27.999)
We settled and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. And the agency was something that I did because I kind of took on that trailing spouse role and I was literally in a new location, no friends, no contacts, no language. It was really ground zero, plus the effects of the financial crisis of 2008, 2009 in the US were then still feeling, you were still feeling the impact in Spain in 2011 when I first arrived. So it was kind of ground zero in so many respects, but…
Chris Simmance (03:03.438)
Social media is always on the agenda. Whether we like it or not for businesses, it’s a non-negotiable. So I was able to somehow use my skills on social and start adding value for businesses great and small and have done until this very day.
Chris Simmance (03:28.747)
Chris Simmance (03:38.674)
And so employee advocacy, it goes, it’s a broad amount of businesses that may well need to work with you in your services. And literally every, every business that has employees to a certain level, assuming they’ve got the, you know, the cash to afford your fees. And what kind of, what kind of businesses do you typically work with in your agency? Have you got a specific niche that you look at? Is there a type of business that works best for you?
So businesses with a thousand or more employees tends to be the sweet spot in terms of type of client that would really benefit from this type of program. For those of us who are not too sure what employee advocacy on social means, I’ll unpack it in a sentence. Basically it’s creating a group of employees that a company could be from any team and giving them the skills they need to be able to build their personal brand on social media, typically on LinkedIn.
Chris Simmance (04:14.996)
And as part of their content strategy, they include company content. So it could be a company blog, it could be a landing page, a campaign that the company’s running, but they include the company content as a strand of their strategy. And so on the one hand, the employees win because they optimize their LinkedIn profile, they become an authority, a recognized authority in their niche and for the products and services that their company is providing. But at the same time, the company…
Chris Simmance (04:51.403)
incrementally grows its visibility online and on social media, because you’re not dealing with a couple of employees sharing company content once a week, you’re dealing with maybe a thousand employees sharing one piece of company content every week, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you think of how many people follow, yeah, it does, it really adds up. And it’s probably one of the least understood and least used organic social marketing technique. So that’s where.
Chris Simmance (05:11.74)
Chris Simmance (05:19.778)
Chris Simmance (05:31.063)
I tend to aim for, but recently I’ve been trying to crack the chestnut of helping startups, of which there are many here in Barcelona, with only 10 to 15 employees and trying to figure out how can we take this social sharing program and make it work both for the employees and the company for a much smaller organization.
Chris Simmance (05:41.08)
Chris Simmance (05:52.606)
Yeah, and you’re right. And absolutely Barcelona is the startup capital, it seems at the minute. And I think it’s trying to take the crown away from Portugal for sure, the whole country. Um, but so, I mean, it’s like that snowflake effect, isn’t it? So one person will do one post, but if there’s a thousand people doing one post, all getting a hundred impressions or something like that, then that’s quite a lot of impressions for a brand that probably helps them get new staff that probably helps them retain other staff.
It helps people see that they, you know, that these people actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to any kind of like connect connection network based sales and things like that. It’s, um, it must be a bit hard to kind of get the initial buy-in from the staff perspective because often they go, well, you know, I’m working Monday to Friday, nine to five, I really don’t want to have to do LinkedIn for my boss. Um, so where’s the, where’s the start point with that? Is it, is it, you know, this is what you get out of it? How do you, how do you do that internally?
So there are a couple of challenges that you’ve pointed out. One is the initial buy-in from the decision makers. Like why take on an agency to help you with setting up an employee social sharing program? So that’s the biggest challenge, easily. And the second challenge is, yeah, once you’re through the door and you’re building, how do you actually get people to participate? Because a lot of employees don’t have time, like you said. So the first challenge, the way that I’ve looked at it and tried to overcome it, because it’s a different situation with every business.
Chris Simmance (07:10.455)
The first way is by going with a business case. Normally most businesses, even the big ones that are quite established will really rely heavily on PPC and paid ads on social media. And as time progresses and the market gets increasingly saturated for what they’re doing, they have to pay more and more and more to get the same kind of level of visibility. So what I tend to do is go in and say, look.
Chris Simmance (07:43.361)
Here’s a business case. This is how much you’re spending right now, more or less on PPC. And these are the results that you’re getting. Your budget’s kind of doing that over the years and you’re still maybe not always getting the results you want. How about mobilizing a group of your employees to share one piece of company content a week on LinkedIn or Twitter or X as it’s now known, right? And creating all the incentives necessary for them to want to do that. And here’s the comparative costs and what you get out.
Chris Simmance (08:10.92)
And so for the companies that say have a CPM or a cost per mention from their ads of around $3, and they’re getting for what they’re paying, maybe their budgets around a million a year or whatever, they’re getting a certain amount, three million impressions from that, you can probably generate the same number of impressions by having a group of 1000 employees sharing once a week on LinkedIn, you’re not paying those employees.
Chris Simmance (08:32.302)
Chris Simmance (08:38.038)
Yeah, yeah. That’s crazy. Yes, it’s brilliant. The business case sells itself if you understand the maths, doesn’t it?
100%. And you know, the services that we provide are not, you know, by anywhere near the amount of money you’d have to spend on ads. So the tricky part and why an agency comes in handy is getting the buy-in from the employees, right? Giving them the tools. And that sort of comes to my second point about how do you actually get people involved and over a long period of time, because they’re time poor often. Automation is the short answer. So what we do is avoid using the company Slack.
Chris Simmance (09:08.19)
to say, hi guys, can you please share this week’s company, you know, article or whatever blog article. What we try and do is move from that to having a platform that’s usually very reasonable subscription cost per month. But what it does, this platform is put all the brand safe social media content in one library, just like an open window, right? All the posts that are already written with variations. So it’s not just a hundred thousand people, she’s doing the thing.
Chris Simmance (09:34.594)
Chris Simmance (09:40.791)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And then it’s sort of, you click and it just queues up the post via an API to your personal LinkedIn profile, for example. So it’s just click and share, click and share, schedule. And it’s super easy. All the topics are grouped by, sorry, all the pieces of content are grouped by topic. So it’s easy to find, you know, if you’re a sustainability fan, then you go to the same sustainability basket and you look at the newest content that’s appeared there. And you just click and share, click and schedule.
Chris Simmance (09:53.239)
Make it easy.
Chris Simmance (10:11.758)
So yeah, so I usually put position as your employees will invest 10 minutes per month, per month, clicking and scheduling. Okay. To have a whole month’s worth of content queued up and ready to publish on their LinkedIn channel. And that’s, that’s the end of the story.
Chris Simmance (10:26.762)
Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. The, the buy-in sells itself. Um, so if you could go back in time to when you sort of started this all off, this, this whole agency journey, um, what one piece of advice might you give, uh, your earlier days self?
Yeah, I think it would be talked to more people and understand how they talk about employee social sharing programs, because no one uses the same vocabulary. No one talks about employee advocacy. Only the agencies like me do. Um, the people internally, like the marketing director of a big company probably doesn’t use that phrase. Um, a startup certainly isn’t talking about that. They’re just talking about.
Chris Simmance (10:55.045)
why do I get crickets whenever I post a company LinkedIn post, you know? So it’s trying to understand the market better. That’s definitely one piece of advice I would have had for my younger self. And by talking to more people, you’re probably going to get there a lot faster.
Chris Simmance (11:12.312)
Chris Simmance (11:23.686)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think every business at a certain point in time asks themselves, they, they ask the question, how do I get better employee advocacy? But they don’t really ask it that way. They, they, why do I get crickets when I post on LinkedIn or we’ve got a Slack channel where we share a link to new content that goes live and no one does anything, all of that sort of stuff. And, and once they’ve realized that they can articulate the problem that they’ve got in a way that they’re
that connects it to a solution, then that’s when they’re probably ready to become a customer.
Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. And oftentimes I’ll get into conversations about something completely different, like another social media challenge that a marketing director has had. And then I posit the solution of mobilizing employees to sort of share company content and at the same time benefit from the personal branding on social and it’s sort of, there’s a light bulb moment where they go, Oh yeah. I mean, that makes complete sense. You know, how would we do that? And then the conversation flows.
nicely into a conversion and it’s like, well, so oftentimes you come into the conversation through a side angle or a side entrance, if you like, and then you end up delivering the same thing that you, don’t people talk about the piece of garlic with the ham on the outside? You give people what they want so that you can effectively do what they need.
Chris Simmance (12:31.178)
Chris Simmance (12:41.01)
Oh, I see. Yeah. No, it’s, it’s most people. Um, and it’s, it, when it comes to service based solutions that require people, um, oftentimes if you’re, um, if you’re, your own marketing as an agency is based around the problem that they have, you’re assuming they can articulate the problem that they have, if you’re focusing it around the solutions that they’ll gain, the chances are.
they’ll be able to see those solutions and work backwards to be able to articulate the problem. And sometimes it’s a case of being very curious and asking nice open ended questions which get them to, isn’t this the service that you want to buy? And they say, yes, of course it is. Absolutely. Thank you very much.
Yeah, a hundred percent. And it’s happened like that on multiple occasions with bigger companies and with smaller companies. I think the smaller companies have the bigger appetite because they’re the ones that are trying to grow fastest and they need the most visibility, but, you know, even a scale up or a corporate, you know, is still interested in the amount of reach that they get for their social media content and often organic social media is seen as a, a kind of a strange part of the marketing.
Chris Simmance (13:42.97)
uh, strategy in terms of, you know, I know that my PPC gets me leads and I know that my CRM nurtures my leads to completion. But what exactly does organic social media do for my business, for my bottom line? Well, when you start working with employees and the social sharing program, you said it yourself a minute ago, suddenly the, the retention and the attraction of talent just kind of goes up because more people see your company. They see that the company is
investing in the people, giving them skills on social media, but also giving them a voice to talk about the products and services, regardless of whether they’re from the procurement team, the marketing team, the PPC team, but encouraging them to show up on social and talk about the company they’re working for. And yeah, it sort of has a lot of incremental benefits, let’s say.
Chris Simmance (14:23.054)
Chris Simmance (14:38.556)
Chris Simmance (14:42.73)
Well, I think one of the challenges that you probably face in kind of getting that first conversation started is probably the talking heads in the industry that we’re in, saying, you can’t get organic reach on social media, you can’t get organic reach on social media. And then there’s someone who can’t do it because they’re not doing it properly, who as a business, and then they say, you can’t get organic reach on social media, which makes it really, really hard for them to understand that.
Yes, you can. And if you’ve got the right ways of attributing it, it’s not that complicated. Um, so I totally, yeah, I totally, I totally get it. Is there something that, um, in all of the time, like from day one, previously to start in the agency all the way up to now, is there something that you kind of regret doing that, um, has set you up for the, with this current like focus of, um, service delivery?
Yeah, I think it goes back to the vocabulary, insisting on using words like employee advocacy on social media. I think it’s isolated audiences. I think it’s left people feeling cold, like confused, like, what is she talking about? Like, and really what we’re talking about is an organic social media tactic. Okay. That, that overrides the algorithm as you’ve just hinted at. Um, the clue is in the name network, right? There’s it’s a social network.
Chris Simmance (15:35.199)
What’s network? It’s a group of people and it’s about building that network so that it serves you as a company and gets you the visibility that you’re looking for and have been looking for in pay to play platforms like meta ads and Google ads. And right. So yeah, it’s, it’s definitely a, a tactic that works tactic. That’s not easy to roll out. Hence why we offer this, the 90 day program.
Chris Simmance (16:23.716)
to really understand and influence map your company to then have the best chance of success, getting cohorts together to share company content. So that part’s not easy, but within 90 days, we crack the chestnut and then it’s all over to the company.
Chris Simmance (16:38.85)
Chris Simmance (16:46.462)
That’s it. And, and, and there’s, there’s layers to all of this. But I think when, when you’re, when you’re starting out for yourself as an agency owner, um, you often get into the, the blinkered approach in a sense, when you’re marketing for your own thing. Cause it’s like, this service does this thing. We know it’s great. It’s brilliantly delivered and it gets results. And the, the assumption is that everyone will kind of just get it because the results are so good and the solution is so good.
Um, and, and part of the problem, I guess, at some points is that, um, the service is sold as a product and what you’ve described is part product as the output, but service on the input. And that’s the bit that I guess, when you’re marketing these things out loud to people and they’re going, what’s she talking about employee advocacy for? They, they, they’re the solution. The outcome is this word employee advocacy that can be proven that works, which generates these results. But the input is lots and lots of people.
wanting to do this for their own good, as well as the businesses. It’s really hard to articulate that. But when you start, uh, starting an agency, everything is like a hundred miles an hour and all you want to do is say, I’ve got this cool thing. Big flag waving. This is my thing. Come and buy it. Um, and you do get into the jargon world and things like that. I, if you look on Google and you just search for, um, results driven digital marketing agency, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands just in the UK of homepage title tags that say that you should be results driven.
And therefore that’s not the right kind of language you should be using because anyone seeing that will go, well, obviously, hopefully that’s what you would be. And if someone’s knocking on your door, they’ve, they’ve come away from London. They’ve gotten on a plane. They’ve flown to Barcelona. They’ve got the taxi from Barcelona. They’re in the city. They’ve knocked on your door and they’ve said, Kate, give me one piece of advice. I’m just about to start my agency. What piece of advice would you give them?
Well, if you’re in Spain, I don’t know if you’re coming to Spain for a holiday, you’re just here to start the business. Okay.
Chris Simmance (18:39.928)
Chris Simmance (18:44.03)
So it’s in and out. They’re in and out. They got a morning flight in, afternoon flight out and they just come for your advice.
Wow, well, practice what you preach. You’re going into companies and giving employees a voice with tools and strategies and automation and tech, right? Do the same for your company, right? Don’t be the cobbler whose children don’t have shoes. Be the person who can give examples of how his or her own agency is flourishing in this way and getting the reach that it deserves in this way.
Chris Simmance (18:54.149)
Chris Simmance (19:03.831)
that then you can apply. I mean, the thing with small agencies is that of course, the reach is not gonna be as dramatic as if you have a case study with a thousand employees from a big corporate who have been sharing social media content, then you can say all kinds of amazing things about how much earned media value you’ve got, but I think wherever possible, practice what you preach. Share the values with your people that you’re gonna share with your clients.
Chris Simmance (19:43.562)
That’s it. And brilliant advice. And it would be worth the flight over for that. Kate, it’s been lovely to talk to you. Thanks very much for coming onto the podcast. And in our next episode, we’ll be speaking with another agency leader to hear their story and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Thanks very much for listening.
It’s a pleasure. Thanks, Chris.