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Employees as influencers: measuring employee brand equity in a social media age

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posted on 2024-03-25, 19:14 authored by Donna Smith, Jenna JacobsonJenna Jacobson, Janice RudkowskiJanice Rudkowski

Purpose: The practice of frontline employees articulating their brand voice and posting work-related content on social media has emerged; however, employee brand equity (EBE) research has yet to be linked to employees’ social media activity. This paper aims to take a methods-based approach to better understand employees’ roles as influencers. As such, its objective is to operationalize and apply the three EBE dimensions – brand consistent behavior, brand endorsement and brand allegiance – using Instagram data.

Design/methodology/approach: This qualitative research uses a case study of employee influencers at SoulCycle, a leading North American fitness company and examines 100 Instagram images and 100 captions from these influential employees to assess the three EBE dimensions.

Findings: Brand consistent behavior (what employees do) was the most important EBE dimension indicating that employees’ social media activities align with their employer’s values. Brand allegiance (what employees intend to do in the future) whereby employees self-identify with their employer on social media, followed. Brand endorsement (what employees say) was the least influential of the three EBE dimensions, which may indicate a higher level of perceived authenticity from a consumer perspective.

Originality/value: This research makes three contributions. First, it presents a novel measure of EBE using public Instagram data. Second, it represents a unique expansion and an evolution of King et al.’s (2012) model. Third, it considers employees’ work-related content on social media to understand employees’ role as influencers and their co-creation of EBE, which is currently an under-represented perspective in the internal branding literature.

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    Ted Rogers School of Management

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