Employee advocacy is a growing trend that can have huge advantages for your business – so why is it missing from your marketing strategy? In this post, Claire Trévien explains what employee advocacy is and how to develop a successful employee advocacy programme for your company.
Working smart means making the most of what you’ve already got, and this is why employee advocacy is such a powerful approach. You don’t need to hire anyone new or invest in additional tools. Everything you need is already there – it just needs a gentle nudge in the right direction.
What is employee advocacy?
Employee advocacy is an approach that empowers all your employees (not just the marketing team) to be ambassadors for your business. Having an employee advocacy programme in place means not just encouraging your staff to share company news, but also having them be actively involved in your marketing output.
Employee advocacy’s advantages are well-known for the business: from increased organic reach and credibility, to attracting top talent to your company. People trust people, so it’s no wonder that a member of staff’s tweet will have more weight than one coming from a corporate account. Yet, this is an approach that is still vastly underused by many businesses around the world.
The benefits for the employee aren’t often talked about, but they’re not small either. Feeling valued and empowered as an advocate for a company can increase a person’s job satisfaction. In terms of social status, sharing or creating insightful content regularly can also help your employee’s own brand as an expert in their field.
What does an employee advocacy programme look like?
This will vary from company to company, but some examples include:
- Encouraging your employees to share your company’s social media posts on their own profiles.
- Providing employees with a bank of company content for them to share regularly in their own voice.
- Giving employees control over their own company platforms – to vlog, blog or podcast for example.
Whatever approach you take to implementing an employee advocacy programme, a few things remain true:
- Make it easy for your employees. No one is going to pore over a 200-page document to find out how to use a piece of software that isn’t fit for purpose, just so they can share the company newsletter.
- Lead by example. If you’re going to implement the programme in stages, then start at the top – make every line manager and senior staff member take part.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before getting started:
- What are the aims of your employee advocacy programme?
- Who will be managing the programme?
- Who will be taking part in the programme?
- How will they be taking part in the programme?
- Why will they want to take part in the programme?
- What training will be necessary?
- What tools will be necessary?
- How will you measure success?
To help you answer those questions, follow these 7 top tips to ensure your employee advocacy programme is a success.
1. Onboard properly
A bit like breakfast, you shouldn’t skip onboarding, or you’ll spend the rest of the process on the wrong footing. Even if your employees are all incredibly social media savvy, this is still a necessary step for a few reasons:
- You get everyone on the same page by establishing clear guidelines
- You get to manage expectations.
- You show what software and platforms will be used and how
Guidelines for sharing and/or creating content are crucial to the success of your programme. You need to decide what is appropriate and what crosses the line. At the same time, keep these guidelines short (so they’ll actually be read) and don’t get too restrictive. You want your staff to feel like they can take your content and run with it without you breathing down their necks.
Expectations are also important: how much extra work is it going to be, and what will success look like? When it comes to commitment, it’s always best if this comes from the employee themselves, so ask them, can they commit to blogging once a month? Tweeting once a week? Write that commitment down.
Software and platform training is essential, as your team is likely to have people with varying levels of experience. There’s also a difference between blogging or using social media for a personal use and doing so as an ambassador for a brand. The right training will highlight the subtle differences.
2. Use the right incentives
Put simply, if you want staff buy-in, you need to explain to your staff what’s in it for them. This is why many employee advocacy programmes are gamified and offer incentives to encourage engagement. However, not all incentives and gamification techniques will work in the long-term – and it’s all about the long-term!
Behavioural scientist Dr Claire El Mouden has found in her research that KPIs and annual bonuses don’t have a lasting effect on employee engagement. If you want to create a step-change in behaviour with your employees, then you need to dig deeper. Some things to bear in mind with rewards:
- Social prestige such as public praise, personal messages, gifts, and so forth, can have a much more powerful effect on an employee’s engagement than an impersonal bonus. In fact, research has found that a pay rise will do nothing for an employee who feels undervalued.
- Competitions between employees can lead the way to social prestige, but if you go down that route, make sure the competition is between groups, not individuals.
- Make sure you reward people whose behaviour you want others to copy. In other words, don’t give that plastic trophy to a rogue genius like Donald Draper, because, good as he is, you don’t want an office full of Donald Drapers.
Whatever approach you choose, make sure you celebrate success.
3. Get your team involved
At its most basic, an employee advocacy programme encourages your staff to share the content your company puts out. But we’re not basic, are we?
If you’re going to put your team at the heart of your marketing strategy, then you might as well go the full hog and get them involved in your content creation!
Here are two options for you:
A) Feature them: interview them, showcase their work.
B) Include them: get them to blog, vlog, or podcast.
The key to making either option work in the long term is to make things as simple as possible. For instance, if you want to showcase a staff member every week, come up with a stock list of questions that can be easily adapted if needed.
If you’re getting them to create original content, you’ll want to create templates and other shortcuts to ensure those efforts become a regular habit. Examples of best practice and structures are all very useful for first-time bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters.
4. Content calendar for creators
Inspiration gets easier to find the more you create. However, when you’re first starting out, it can be a bit of an uphill struggle.
This is where content calendars come into their own.
A content calendar is useful not just for your marketing team and making sure you’re staying on brand with your content creation. It’s also a useful source of inspiration.
Introduce the monthly or weekly themes to your employees and give them suggestions for how they could interpret it in content form. For instance, if the theme is “Recruitment”, you could suggest the following (depending on what your business is of course):
- A day in the life of [person’s name]: what working at X looks like
- 3 tips to make sure your CV gets read
- The top questions my mum has asked me about my job
- What to look for when you’re hiring in X…
Here’s a free blogging calendar template for you.
5. Social media savvy
It’s not just about encouraging your employees to share your content online – you want that content to make them look good. Would you turn up in a ballgown to a barbecue? Actually yes, I probably would, but that’s beside the point.
Many businesses still forget that social media is a social place and not just a vacuum in which to dump your newsletter. If you want your employees to share your content, then you’re going to have to up your game.
Here’s a few simple approaches to consider:
- Craft your social media posts as carefully as your other content – get witty, get insightful.
- Pair your posts with media – a block quote with an amazing statistic in it! A video of your business doing cool things! An infographic about a problem you’re solving!
- Feature your employees. Tag them. Show them at work. Get a quote from them.
Alongside sharing company content, sharing industry news and other useful resources can help employees build their personal brand. Quuu is a great place to find and publish relevant, high quality content in your niche.
6. Using the right tools
Of course, you can do all the above without investing in new tools or pieces of software. However, they can make your life easier in the long run, especially if your company has more than 20 employees.
Employee Advocacy Management Tools:
- Passle. I am an ex-employee of Passle, so obviously I am biased, but they do provide great software to encourage even the most dinosaur-like employee to blog and share their content online. It has in-built gamification to motivate users, and has newsletter and podcasting facilities built in.
- Clearview Social. Again, I am biased as I blogged for them a few times. Clearview Social makes it very easy for your marketing team to create a queue of great content ready to share with your employees. With auto-scheduling and metrics to see how you’re performing, it’s fuss-free to use too.
- Oktopost. This social media management platform (for B2B enterprises) also has an employee advocacy branch, which makes it easy for your staff to see and then share your content.
- Bambu. Another social media management giant (Social Sprout) is behind this platform. Assigned ‘Curators’ select URLS to share and can add notes to them on a board viewed by staff (for example, whether it’s urgent or not, or if something should get mentioned).
- Dynamic Signal – a similar offering to the others, with a particular focus on being mobile-friendly.
There are many more you can explore.
Things you’ll want to look out for when selecting your tool:
- Are they easy to use? I like to ask myself if my mum could use them. If she could, it passes the test.
- Does it have the features you need? Sounds obvious, but sometimes you can get caught up in a sales pitch and realize too late that there’s no RSS feed, it’s not mobile-friendly, etc.
- What are the analytics like?
- Will users get reminders through it to post and/or share?
and so forth.
7. Measure, measure, measure!
How can you tell if your programme is successful if you haven’t measured it?
In terms of content, your metrics will show you whether the programme is increasing your organic reach. Find out which posts had the biggest reach, the most clicks, the most engagement: could this be replicated in the future?
Finally, in terms of your big picture measurement, you need to see whether the traffic generated by your employees is converting. Is the programme having an effect on your business as a whole?
These questions, and more, should be integral to your employee advocacy programme!