In today’s crowded social media landscape, many brands struggle to stand out and connect with their audiences. Even if metrics such as follower counts grow, engagement remains low and yields little value. Fortunately, companies have easy access to a secret weapon—their employees.
If brands can get their own employees to post about them on social media, they stand a much better chance of resonating with audiences and expanding their reach. This strategy, known as employee advocacy, works primarily because it gets to the heart of what’s required for companies to be successful on social media today, which is to act more like humans and less like brands.
My own experience includes putting in place employee advocacy programs, so I’ve seen firsthand how powerful they can be. Employees have credibility and influence within their own circles, and when they organically advocate for your brand within these communities, they get through to new audiences that you might not otherwise reach. That, of course, ultimately helps you grow your customer base and increase sales.
During a recent keynote presentation at Social Media Marketing World 2019, I shared advanced strategies and tips I’ve learned about how to build an effective employee advocacy program. Here, I distill my key points into an easy-to-follow, five-step guide to launch this initiative within your own organization.
1. Tell Employees And Department Leaders Why Employee Advocacy Matters
In order for employee advocacy programs to work, you need to convince others within your organization that it provides value. That means meeting with department heads separately and explaining the unique value proposition for each unit. For example, talk to HR about how a strong social media presence among employees can help with recruitment. Tell sales about how they will get more leads and deals by growing awareness and reaching new audiences with more impact.
The good news is that you don’t need to convince everyone right away. If you can get buy-in from one department, even if it’s your own marketing team, you can start to prove the value that employee advocacy brings.
2. Make Content Incredibly Easy For Employees To Share
Once you have buy-in, you can start to put a system in place to help employees share content on social media. The easier you can make this for them, the easier it will be to get them involved. Social media tools are available that make it simple to run employee advocacy programs; within many of these tools, employees can use a single sign-on, such as through their LinkedIn accounts, to gain access. From there, they can view prewritten content and click to share or adapt the message on their own channels within seconds.
By making it easy for employees to share content your company has created, you’re also helping to control your messaging. Employees are likely going to represent your brand one way or the other on social media, either by directly posting about it or by indicating where they work in their profiles. So if you have content ready for them to share, you help maintain the brand narrative you want.
At the same time, you don’t want to be overly restrictive on what employees can share or else you’ll discourage participation. Put tools before rules and create strong social media content that employees are excited to share.
3. Assign An Internal Lead To Manage And Update The Content
To keep employees active with an advocacy program, you’ll consistently need fresh content to share. This content will likely need to be a bit different than the content on your corporate social channels, as it will need to sound like it’s coming from employees and be something they’re interested in sharing. For example, employees might be more eager to share news about your brand’s community involvement or industry insights rather than announcements about new offerings. (Of course, you should still try to keep your corporate accounts sounding human.)
As such, you should find an employee or hire someone who can be champion your employee advocacy program. This person needs to create new content and coordinate with other departments to pull content that employees from these teams would be interested in sharing.
4. Keep Employees Motivated With Incentives
Once your employee advocacy program has kicked off, you may need to provide small nudges to encourage participation, especially after the initial intrigue for a new initiative wears off. These do not need to be elaborate incentives, but anything ranging from an extra PTO day, to recognition in an employee newsletter, to a pizza party for those who share the most could be the boost you need to sustain the program.
5. Regularly Report On KPIs
Finally, you need to measure and report on the performance of your employee advocacy program in order to get buy-in from other departments and gain the support you need for other marketing initiatives, such as getting more budget for social media ads. Define your KPIs and then show how they improve due to your employee advocacy program. Some of the social media tools that you can run your advocacy programs through help with measurement; you can also simply look at metrics such as the number of website clicks from social before and after the program started.
Launching and sustaining an employee advocacy program takes a lot of work, but in today’s social media landscape where personal communications have elevated in importance, it’s crucial to the success of your social media marketing. Following these tips can make your launch significantly easier and help you sustain participation.