Over the years, employee advocacy became less of a “trend” among B2B companies and social publications, to more of a necessity for improving brand visibility, marketing, recruiting and sales.
If you are not familiar with employee advocacy, it’s simply the promotion of a company by employees who share their support for a company’s brand, product, or services on their social networks.
An effective employee advocacy program can also extend beyond social and employees may also use other outlets like email, chat, forums, discussion boards and more to spread their company’s brand and mission.
And because of the rising popularity and the positive ROI of employee advocacy programs to companies of all different sizes, employee advocacy platforms like EveryoneSocial have become a preferred tool in marketing and sales tech stacks.
Yet, achieving positive results and success takes more than throwing a software solution in the mix. It takes patience and a few steps to ensure your company has a high-performing employee advocacy program in place.
Here are a few steps to follow in order to build a successful employee advocacy program within your company.
Start with a clearly articulated social strategy, aligned with your brand priorities
The key to getting started with an employee advocacy program is structure – but not in the way that you might be thinking about it.
Successful employee advocacy programs are structured without being too rigorous. You want to make sure that you tie your efforts into your company’s long term branding goals with a framework for measuring results.
What you don’t want to do is micromanage the day to day sharing activity of your team. Give employees the space that they need to share what they want, when they want, and how often they want. You don’t want to force employee advocacy on your team.
Just make sure that you know what goals to measure (in terms of metrics and overall corporate branding objectives), and keep your fellow employees consistently looped in.
Create and distribute a company-wide social media policy
Generally, when it comes to employee advocacy programs, two common concerns generally pop-up:
- Company leadership is worried about the risks of on-the-job tweeting/Facebooking
- Additionally, companies are not sure about how to set standards and specifications for what employees should (and shouldn’t) be sharing
The fact is that social media is an organic process. If you tell employees what to share, they’ll instantly feel turned off. The desire to share must come from within – however, your company does need to take steps to ensure that team members have enough direction. This is where a social media policy comes into play.
A social media policy should do a few things:
- Empower employees with an understanding of your company’s brand goals
- Provide direction as to what your company stands for and how team members can show support
- Be open-ended enough to keep the team feeling inspired instead of constricted
- Welcome feedback from team members, no matter what department or job level
Different employees will be communicating in different communities. You want to give guidelines, suggestions, and best practices. You need to make sure that they are getting the right support. Ask yourself how to create a program that helps them educate their communities and answer questions – to keep the fuel in the fire.
One example to follow is Cisco, a company that actively encourages team members to participate on social media. What Cisco realizes is that employees need guidance, not boundaries. Since the very early days of social media (2010) Cisco has given its employees a comprehensive social media policy. It’s available online for anyone to view.
Nominate and train team members to pilot your employee advocacy program
An employee advocacy program is a significant undertaking that requires patience and practice to refine. You may not want to roll out the program to every team member at once – or you may want to limit the program to employees who opt in.
One way to get started – and to practice before you release – is to nominate specific team members who might be interested in participating and actively providing feedback on your employee advocacy program. Make sure to provide ample training so that team members have a strong sense of
Help team members build their personal brands
Successful companies are positioning their employee advocacy programs as a way for the employee to build their own personal brands and profiles in the social space. Employees love the idea of being positioned as subject matter experts – and having the company support to successfully do it.
Emphasize the direct benefit that employees should expect to see – visibility inside and
outside of an organization as well as the opportunity to become a recognized
subject matter expert. Show that your social media team is available as a support
Don’t just unleash people. Think deliberately about what you want the employee to do
on behalf of the brand. If you’re not serving the employee and helping them get value for themselves, you’ll ultimately have a failed program.
Hold training sessions to make implementation easy
With the right structure and plan in place, your company can get up and running within a few hours. Most employee advocacy software works right out of the box and doesn’t rely on IT resources and you straight into setting up email distributions and content workflows while quickly onboarding employees.
However, advocacy program managers have to have a strong policy and governance model. They need to understand how these programs fit into their overall business model.
- What do you want your employees to do on behalf of your brand?
- What’s in it for the employees?
- How can your organization build a sustainable program?
Even after an initial training session is complete, there should be some sort of weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly session. This will allow for new changes to be discussed, cover social initiatives, help employees who are considering getting involved to explore the space, and for others to ask questions or make suggestions.
How frequent these are held is up to your company or employee advocacy program leaders, which can depend on company size, those using the software, and more. But there should always be some recurring session in order to ensure continued success and knowledge building.
A high-performing employee advocacy program is essential for the success of your team in adopting social selling and digital sales practices.
Everything from boosting brand visibility, increasing web traffic, improving lead quality, increase in sales pipeline, boosting overall deal size, and improving the talent pool with more quality job candidates.
All those benefits (plus more) are exactly why companies from various industries and top recognized brands liked Dell, Cisco, HPE, T-Mobile, and IBM for instance, have dedicated time to employee advocacy and encourage employees to get social.
Yet, as exciting as it is to get started , you also need to take careful steps and planning to ensure you not only have a high-performing employee advocacy program, but that you are set up for success in the long run.
Looking for more about successfully launching an employee advocacy program? Get this complete employee advocacy launch plan from EveryoneSocial.
Todd Kunsman a digital marketing executive having worked in various industries, start-ups, and remote positions. He writes in his spare time about marketing, tech, music, and personal finance.