What is employee advocacy or internal influences?
Employee advocacy refers to the promotion of an organization by its workforce. It can take many forms, but today, the most common and effective channel is social media. Often referred to as internal Ambassadors, Influencers.
Word-of-mouth remains the top influencer for buyers. Studies show that employees are more than twice as trusted as a CEO, senior executive, or activist consumer. Cisco notes that employees’ social posts generate eight times more engagement than posts from their employers. People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend about a brand than from the brand itself.
In addition, employees often already have social media profiles. And it’s likely that they are on some platforms that your brand is not.
Plus, employee advocacy is as effective for small businesses as it is for large corporations. According to Pew Research Center, the average U.S. internet user has 200 Facebook friends and 61 Twitter followers. A staff of 20 means a potential reach of 5,000.
There are sideline benefits to employee advocacy as well. An employee might be able to create publicity, attract top talent, or influence people on a news story to inspire and motivate.
It’s not only about company. It’s about both company and employee. Employees get something out of advocacy too. Developing their personal brand.
Perhaps the most important reason to consider employee advocacy is:
- it is still in its early days,
- it is effective in driving brand value internally and externally,
- and costs less than traditional channels to implement and execute
7 steps, how to create an employee advocacy program
1. Build trust, inspire and create a workplace culture
For employees to become brand ambassadors, they need to love more about their jobs than just their paychecks. In one study, 18 percent of employees said that a corporate culture would increase their loyalty and engagement with a company.
This is especially true of millennials. In 2016, a Fidelity study found that workers in that generation willing to take a pay cut of up to $7,600 for “an improved quality of work life.”
To this end, develop a high-trust culture. This means making authentic connections with employees. It also means providing access to an array of learning and development opportunities. Demonstrating fairness in promotion and decisions. Walking your talk as a leader and sincerely investing in meaningful project allowing employees to find and fulfil their purpose.
Linking employees’ work and contributions to a broader purpose earns trust. Of course, not all businesses have a higher social purpose—or at least, an obvious one. To help employees connect to their work, you can offer different frames. These might include:
- Identifying your company or brand as an industry disruptor that inspires innovation
- Giving back (i.e. through initiatives that show environmental responsibility or charity work.)
- Focussing on service
- Showing support for employees in times of need
- Emphasizing your company’s reputation as an industry leader
Also, encourage in-house communication. This not only spreads company news but can also bring employees together. Getting people to share stories about a common cause that makes us all feel good or feel part of a bigger story.
Get employees on-side.
You’ve created an attractive, interactive workplace environment. Now, you need to get employees to advocate on your behalf. Talking and sharing information to one’s personal social network is becoming more and more a calculated affair. Shared information reflects personal brand first and then company brand. To get people on your side here are a few key points.
Content is king!
This is by far the most import success factor to any social media campaign. The content must touch the hearts and minds of the audience at an emotional level.
One global company changed their annual incentive reward programme to being purpose-focused and not destination focused. This made the incentive trip meaningful, relevant and emotional for the whole company and not just the lucky few. This made posting easy for those who won the reward as it was relevant for others, not just personal reward. We call it authentic and sincere content.
Ask, don’t mandate.
Show how it can benefit them. It is often overlooked but let them know that its OK to post and show them how. Let them know that their stock goes up as thought leaders in their field.
Recognize their work. In a recent study, 72 percent of businesses said that recognition for high performers had a significant impact on employee engagement. An “employee of the month” program or notice in a monthly newsletter sounds old-fashioned, but can still be effective. Setting aside time in team meetings to recognize certain employees. Today there are innovative apps that can help share recognition within companies.
Make advocacy a game. Create a leaderboard to show metrics on who’s getting the most impressions or engagement. Make a hashtag around a new development in the company. Then organize a draw among team members who create posts with that hashtag.
Make advocacy easy. Creating and sourcing the content as a marketeer is the #1 challenge for all social media campaigns. An alternative approach is creating experiences for employees and making it easy for them to create content.
Recognize individual talents or accomplishments. Everyone is a micro-influencer in their own right. Perhaps someone is a renowned food blogger, or an expert on all things Apple.
Show enthusiasm. Remind your team about the program and give updates on new, shareable content. Enthusiasm is contagious, so play up your brand initiatives and goals. Also get senior leadership to play their part. They are the influence on the influencers.
Set goals and measure your employee advocacy program
Your colleagues may already be posting about work on their social media feeds. They may be doing so on their own. But without an organized system, you have no way of tracking results.
The more you define your specific goals, the more your employees will be able to help. Goals might include improving organic reach, increasing traffic from social media, and expanding your demographic.
Help employees and share social media guidelines
Employees need to know not just what the message is, but also the best way to communicate it. What kind of language should they use? How often should they post? How should they respond to comments?
Be careful, this is freedom of speech and it’s about personal brand first. Leadership by example is your best bet. Making this a formal business requirement will risk you losing the sincerity of your messaging. Nothing wrong with best practice, tips and social media guidelines.
In addition, guidelines can help protect your company’s reputation and ensure legal trouble and security risks.
Some guidelines are just common-sense—for instance, avoiding vulgar or intolerant language. Others might be left to the legal department. But you can ask employees themselves for their input. Engage staff early on—they are more likely to buy in.
Also, make the guidelines easy to understand and follow. Guidelines should enable advocacy instead of restricting it. Include recommendations on what, where and how to share.
Educate employees on social media best practices
People’s social-media comfort levels will differ. So, bring everyone up to speed on social media best practices. This extends to employees across all departments and seniority levels. Training everyone on company policies and guidelines creates a level playing field.
Self-generated content is best. Creating situations, projects and initiatives that people experience. Then encourage them to post and share. Collect and manage the best posts. This will help guide your thinking and future communication. Be consistent in offering new and shareable content helps employees also be consistent and create new social media sharing habits. Offer a mix, if possible, of fun, shareable content, and industry trends but keep it meaningful and purpose driven.
Want to ensure best practices across the board? Put your employees’ social media education in the hands of professionals. Hootsuite Academy offers free social media training and courses. Or work with agencies such as Cparla to help link company/brand values to meaningful, purpose-driven initiatives to generate content and feed social media channels.
Appoint employee advocacy leaders
We are still in the early days of internal advocacy channels. You either naturally make advocates or you choose them. If you choose them, why not empower your top performers. They have gained an internal reputation and respect and usually don’t want to stop doing good things.
A cascaded process streamlines the launch advocacy initiatives. An employee advocacy leader needs to communicate the message only once, to a smaller group of people. They, in turn, will pass it down to their teams.
The initial excitement of having an employee advocacy program won’t last forever. People will start to share less often or stop altogether. To minimize drop-offs, you need to focus on driving the right content. That means keep creating meaningful, purpose drive experiences and help design great posts.
Track the right metrics to measure success
Social media initiatives need to demonstrate ROI and linked to at least one of your company’s primary business goals or company values. Decide on which social media metrics you will be tracking. These might include a share of voice, website traffic, and/or new sales leads.
Once the social media channel mission has wrapped up, summarize your results in a report that demonstrates social media return on investment (ROI). Include information on general metrics (increase in reach) as well as employee engagement.
Some key metrics to keep an eye on are:
- Top contributors. Which individuals or teams are sharing the most? Which advocates are generating the most engagement?
- Organic reach. How many people are seeing the content shared through your employee advocates?
- Engagement. Are people clicking links, leaving comments and re-sharing content from your advocates? What is the engagement you are getting per network?
- Traffic. How much traffic did the content shared by employee advocates drive to your website?
Most analytics tools allow you to track and attribute traffic from your advocates. This data can inform future employee advocacy efforts.
Lastly, share the results. Measurements like the above are concrete and actionable numbers. They can inspire your workforce. Both can learn from what worked and what didn’t.
Employee advocacy made easy with powerful content by Cparla.world
You know why employee advocacy is important, and how to encourage your workforce to get involved. The hardest part is not the execution but finding and generating the content that makes the communication easy. Cparla is an agency that specializes in building meaningful and purpose-driven corporate programmes that change people’s lives. A unique combination and service in destination management, social or environmental projects and mobile communication technology to help spread and drive brand impact. Helping companies (and employees) build trust, inspire and become the best in the world, for the world.
Click the link to explore some of our projects that make a difference.
By Marc Bouvron