Employee advocacy involves sharing brand information and content with employees so that they can share it with their social media networks. In short, the employees become advocates for the company.
Employee advocacy can take different forms, from an employee sharing about an exciting project they are working on, to them sharing images of themselves in company merchandise. They can also share a report done by their company on an area of interest.
Some companies invest in a formal employee advocacy plan while others take a take a less structured approach.
In this article we shall discuss:
- Why you should embrace employee advocacy
- How to go about starting and then implementing one
- How to get employees excited about taking part
Why you should embrace employee advocacy
Strong marketing tool
One of the top reasons to have an employee advocacy plan is that it serves as a strong marketing tool. Marketing’s aim is to spread the word about a brand to as many potential customers as possible.
Consider the fact that the combined social media followings of employees might be larger than the following of an individual company. If you get more employees involved in the program, employee advocacy will increase marketing reach.
It will get more eyes on a company’s content, thus increasing brand visibility and grow organic social reach. It will also save on advertising spend while delivering more value. It is true that people believe people more than they do companies and that shares from employees (people) are seen to be more authentic than those from a company.
It can help you to sell
Social media is an integral part of how we live today and when it comes to sales, it is growing faster than the traditional channels for sales. Potential customers make their research on social media and search it for recommendations. This puts your employees in the perfect position to be these points of contact online.
They will already be sharing related product content and most importantly, will have a personal connection with your potential buyers.
It can help in attracting top talent
In addition to employees being able to share job ads with their networks, they are the first reflection of your work culture and what kind of workplace a new hire could be going into. If they are thought leaders, new talent might be excited to work alongside people with their experience. Employee advocacy can boost a company’s reputation and make it more attractive to the right talent.
How to start an employee advocacy program for your business
There are a few steps to follow to start and maintain an employee advocacy program. However, to give it the best chance for success, lay the ground work first and avoid these common pitfalls.
If employees are reporting low levels of engagement, they will be less inclined to talk about and share about the company. Look at some ways to improve engagement before introducing employee advocacy.
Employees need to know what the program is about, what both they and the company stand to benefit and what is expected of them. Provide an information bank that employees can tap into for resources to share with their networks.
When that is out of the way, implement your advocacy program in four easy steps:
Clarify the goal
Goals and targets will help to guide the program and the content that is put out. Include time frames as well as means to measure these goals. If the goal is to increase traffic to the website, then employees will be sharing content that has links back to the company website.
If the goal is to increase the company’s social media followers, then content will be geared towards that as well. That said, be willing to observe the results and adjust your objectives where necessary.
Create a content bank
What will your employees share? If you are using a formal employee advocacy tool, it will curate content for you but you still need to add a personal touch. Let the content capture the wide interests of your employees. It is much easier to share about topics that your employees are passionate.
At the same time, it is a good practice to assign people who will be in charge of populating this bank and whom employees can ask questions about the advocacy program when they need to.
Share the plan with employees
You need to get employee buy in for the program to be successful. This means sharing the goals, making the program fun and underscoring that it is voluntary. Not everyone will be interested but they should still know that the program is in place.
It is worth it to test it out on a small group of employees before rolling it out to everyone. This will help to get feedback, iron out any kinks and make the program more robust.
The results of employee advocacy will be revealed over time so it is important to keep the momentum going. Regularly update everyone about the results and insights attained. Recognise the impact that employees are having and let them see what their individual shares have. If they got 10 likes from sharing a photo, point it out. This will encourage them to continue.
Share tools and tips for employees to make the most of the program. Some of these might be as easy as pointing out someone in the field that they could be following.
Involvement of upper management can work to keep staff interested and engaged so buy-in and active involvement from senior managers is crucial.
How to encourage employees to participate in employee advocacy programs
The success of any employee advocacy plan depends on the employees and their willingness to talk up the company on their social accounts. While some employees will naturally gravitate towards it, others might be reluctant to share work content on their personal social accounts.
There are a number of things you can do to encourage employees to not only participate but to own the program and keep the momentum going:
Show employees that they can develop and grow their own personal brands
To make this work, employees need to be sharing information and engaging in topics that they are passionate about. You can take it a step further and train them on personal branding and honing their own unique voice. This can take them to thought leader status and help them grow their followings. This is something they can use even if they leave the job.
According to research, 86% of advocates said their involvement had a positive impact on their career in ways like widening their professional networks and giving them the opportunity to develop skills.
It is clear how the company benefits and it is important to show employees what they too stand to gain. Incentives work to motivate employees to meet all sorts of targets in the workplace, they can also work to encourage the uptake of employee advocacy.
Set targets and reward employees with both individual and group prizes. Take care not to only reward those who have the highest engagement as this can discourage those with lower numbers or followings. Remember that you want employee advocacy to be an ongoing thing in the company, and not a one off that only a few employees take part in.
Give them control
Employees have a way they interact with people on their social media platforms and they shouldn’t feel like this will change because they are part of an employee advocacy program. This means that you should allow employees to make communications their own.
This works for the company as well because employees’ followers will be able to tell that these are their authentic thoughts, rather than something they are mandated to do. Potential customers will respond to this authenticity.
Employee advocacy works to give brands a more human face and can turn employees into communicators and sellers. Companies stand to reap real rewards whether they take a more liberal approach or invest in designing a formal employee advocacy plan.