When you think about social media marketing, chances are you're thinking about getting your customers to talk, share and like your brand's content. Yet you already have an enthusiastic group of individuals who you're not taking advantage of — your employees.

Think about it. Aren't employees already your No. 1 fans? The people who deeply believe in your brand's mission? Who recommend your product to friends and family whenever they can?

Creating an employee advocacy program can amplify your brand's message in a big way. Read on to learn why it's worth investing in employee advocacy programs and how to create one from scratch.

Why employee advocacy programs work

1. Outperform competition. Companies with engaged employees outperform their competitors by a staggering 202 percent, according to Dale Carnegie Training and Gallup.

2. Reach new audiences. When employees share content on their personal pages, you're reaching a new audience. The average American has 338 Facebook friends, according to a 2014 Pew Research. Now, compound that number for even a small company of 100. You're instantly reaching a new audience of nearly 34,000. When Dell implemented an employee advocacy program, they found only an 8 percent overlap between their employee and the brand's Twitter followers. So, you're tapping into a new, truly captive set of eyes.

3. Produce trusted content. 90 percent of people trust brand or product recommendations made by someone they know. Only 33 percent trust messages from a brand, according to Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey.

4. Better click-through rates and shares. When employees share brand content, they get double the CTRs than when the company page shares it, found a new LinkedIn study. Similarly, you get eight times more engagement than content shared on brand channels, according to Social Media Today.

5. Higher conversions. Leads developed through employee social marketing initiatives convert seven times more frequently than other leads, found IBM.

How to create an employee advocacy program

1. Start small. Rolling out an employee advocacy program companywide is a big, daunting task. To begin, pick a handful of consistently high-performing employees. With their help, you'll create an initial prototype, fine-tune it and create a proven program to roll out to the rest of your employees.

2. Make it easy. Your employees shouldn't have to be racking their brains figuring out what to say. Instead, find a way to create a centralized, social content bank. Update it weekly with ready-to-publish posts, weekly talking points and lots of images. Also, be sure to train employees on your brand's social media guidelines and how to best handle negative comments.

3. Provide employees goals and incentives. Your employees love your brand, but their personal social profiles are inherently their space. Give employees the option to create a work exclusive social profile if they choose. Then encourage your employees to participate by offering incentives when they hit goals. Highlight the week's goal in the same space when you host the social content and update it frequently to motivate. As far as rewards go, cash awards aren't the best motivators. Instead, offer time off, company outings and other perks to improve their day-to-day work life.