With the proliferation of social media, social employee advocacy as a form of strategic marketing is imperative in today’s digital landscape.
Furthermore, the benefits of employee advocacy are two-fold—it benefit your employees, and your bottom line. What more could you ask for?
While there are some definitive advocacy program no-nos, an authentic and successful employee advocacy program is lucrative to attracting new talent and new business. When it comes to reviews, an employee advocate is two times more trusted than a CEO (source), and companies with a successful employee advocacy program are 58% more likely to attract and 20% more likely to retain talent (source).
Today’s blog will be all about the steps you can take to implement a successful employee advocacy program, as well as some mistakes to avoid along the way. Let’s get into it!
What is Employee Advocacy?
Simply put, employee advocacy is the promotion of your company by the people who work for it. It can take many forms, and even something as small as an employee liking a post published by your company can be considered a form of advocacy. In most cases, employee advocacy involves employees sharing branded content and information on their own social media profiles.
An employee advocacy program is a strategy designed to boost advocacy across your organization. Rather than simply hoping for advocacy, companies with an advocacy program in place will strategically encourage the rest of their company to share branded content.
The Purpose of Employee Advocacy
When it comes to employee advocacy as a marketing strategy, there are typically three core desired outcomes:
1. Attract new business.
You know when you see a brand or a product over and over again on social media, and you just can’t help but check out what all the hype is about? This experience is a key goal of employee advocacy programs. Employee advocacy can help by boosting the visibility of your content, thus increasing the likelihood that a potential new customer will see it.
2. Attract new talent.
In the same way that employee advocacy can draw in new business, it can also help catch the eye of new talent.
Say you’re an employee who is currently unhappy with your company culture, and all you see on LinkedIn is employees from another company posting fun photos from company events, employee outings, or exciting projects they’re working on. When you’re finally ready to start applying for a new position, that company will be in the back of your mind.
Candidates are 40% more likely to submit an application if they are familiar with the company brand (source), and employee advocacy on social media is a great way to expose your company to potential new hires.
3. Increase employee engagement.
Yes, employee advocacy certainly contributes to your branding efforts and improves your bottom line. However, it’s just as important that employee advocacy programs benefit your own employees. In fact, nearly 40% of companies expect an increase in employee engagement after investing in and implementing advocacy programs (source).
By making employees feel like they are an integral part of the company, you will boost overall morale and satisfaction. At the end of the day, your best-performing employees are your most engaged employees.
Why does employee advocacy work?
A successful employee advocacy program does much more than boost visibility to your brand on social media. Let’s look at some of the unique benefits of employee advocacy:
1. It expands your digital reach.
Employees have, on average, about ten times more followers and connections than the company itself does (source). Individual employees have a far better digital reach, and their shares are twice as likely to be viewed and clicked on than corporate content. When employees share and post information to their personal accounts, your content is viewed by a totally new audience.
2. It’s more authentic.
Just like customer testimonials are trusted more than direct forms of marketing, employee advocacy is also seen as more authentic than typical corporate messages. In fact, customers are three times more likely to trust a company employee rather than a CEO or higher-level executive (source).
Think about it: a company’s official profiles are always going to share messages that reflect their brand in a positive light. But when employees willingly use their own profiles to promote their employer, it comes off as much more genuine and therefore, trustworthy.
3. It promotes alignment across your organization.
Employee advocacy doesn’t just benefit your marketing team. Advocacy programs are actually extremely beneficial to every department of your organization, from sales to HR. And, employee advocacy programs force the different departments to work together, share a specific platform, and so on.
How to Launch a Successful Employee Advocacy Program
1. Create measurable goals and objectives.
Goals and objectives provide you with tangible things to measure, and measurements allow you to track how well a new or existing program is doing.
When it comes to employee advocacy, your initial goal should focus on engagement. In other words, how many employees participate in the program, how many posts are being shared per day, etc. From there, you can establish more business-oriented goals such as
Since most advocacy will be done via social media platforms, consider developing a social media strategy that outlines when and how employees can share content. Having a strategy in place allows employees to have a clear understanding of objectives without feeling micromanaged.
Additionally, segmenting advocacy into boards can have positive results in terms of establishing alignment with campaign goals. By creating content that is specific to each board, you can align content creation with overall strategy.
2. Communicate the purpose of the program to all departments.
If your employees don’t know what employee advocacy is, or how to do it, it probably won’t happen on as consistent a basis as you would like. Extensive participation is predicated on you establishing clear and cohesive objectives and then sharing those with your employees.
When communicating the strategy of the program to your employees, make sure to share how they also benefit from employee advocacy—i.e., sharing content on their social platforms establishes them as individual thought leaders.
3. Get leadership buy-in.
In order to be successful, an employee advocacy program requires participation across all departments. Simply asking employees to participate isn’t enough: you need to start at the top and get your leadership on board.
Upper-level employees have the most influence and can set the bar for the rest of the company. While you want your employees’ original voices to be heard, a top-down approach is a great way to catalyze your advocacy program and provides a clear starting point for employees.
4. Consistently post relevant and engaging content for employees to share.
In order to share content, employees need, well… content. While something like posting a selfie from a company outing is great, you want to strike a balance between casual status updates and company-created content. Make sure you have enough content posted for employees to share on a fairly consistent basis.
One way to do that is to assemble a team of content curators. This team can consist of employees from any department and would ultimately be responsible for working with the content marketing team as a way to pick out the types of content that are most likely to resonate with employees and inspire them to share it with their network.
Additionally, once you’ve selected the content you want your employees to share, you should make it easily accessible to them. Employing something like Bambu or LinkedIn Elevate can place all of your content in once place, where employees can then choose what they’d like to post about.
Employee Advocacy Mistakes to Avoid
While there are some definitive steps you should take when implementing your employee advocacy, there are also some very definitive mistakes that you should be careful to avoid.
Making advocacy mandatory.
There are a host of reasons why making your advocacy program mandatory would be a step in the wrong direction:
- Top-down initiatives that operate in this way are never sustainable.
- Audiences can tell the difference between a mandated corporate message and an authentic one.
- Employees should feel inspired to share out of genuine enthusiasm, not because they feel they have to.
The best way to run your employee advocacy program is to keep it as an opt-in decision. Make sure your program gives employees the autonomy they deserve by allowing them to post candidly and on their own terms.
Putting too much emphasis on the incentives.
Incentives are always a little tricky—you want to encourage your employees to participate, but you don’t want the program to become all about the prizes. While incentives can inspire healthy competition, you risk losing the focus of the program.
Putting too much weight on the prizes obscures the true intent of employee advocacy, and people can lose sight of what the actual purpose of the program is. Instead of placing a heavy emphasis on prizes, focus the “competition” aspect on the actual goals of the campaign and the company.
Viewing employees as marketing tools.
Yes, employee advocacy has a strategic marketing purpose. You should have specific goals and KPIs associated with employee advocacy, just as you would with any other marketing tactic.
But, it’s important to remember that you are responsible for the success of your program. If the sales reps aren’t sharing as much content as you’d like them to, that doesn’t give you the right to send them rude emails about how they need to do more. Instead, gather information about why employees from other departments aren’t engaging. Consider a new approach, but don’t criticize employees for not participating in an optional activity.
Final Thoughts on Employee Advocacy Programs
It’s crucial to have a plan in place before you launch an employee advocacy program, and the above guide is a great place to start. But remember: no matter how well you plan your program, your employees will only share content if they want to. And they’ll only want to if they feel engaged and excited to be working for your company. A great company culture where employees are respected and valued is the single most important contributor to a successful employee advocacy program.For more help building your B2B brand, contact ZoomInfo today. Our leading B2B contact database has the tools you need to scale your marketing efforts and grow your business.