A guide to understanding what is employee advocacy and the steps you need to take to build an employee advocacy program for your organization.
When someone advocates for your brand or business, they extend the reach of your message by sharing it with their network. With an employee advocacy program, employees are the ones doing the advocating.
What is employee advocacy?
Employee advocacy is the promotion of an organization by its workforce. This could mean that employees share information about specific products or campaigns. Or, it can mean that employees share the company culture online. This can help boost brand reputation and make recruitment easier.
Employee advocacy can take many forms, but the most common and effective channel is social media.
The reasons why are simple.
Your employees already have social media profiles. They may even be on some platforms that your brand isn’t. And they definitely have followers that you don’t. Plus, they may already be sharing business content on their personal channels. Especially if they’re enthusiastic about their work or about showcasing their industry expertise.
An employee advocacy program provides guidelines, resources, and rewards. It standardizes how employees share brand content and makes it easier for them to do so.
It’s not just the company that benefits. Employees get something out of advocacy too. They can enhance their credibility and position themselves as industry experts. For salespeople, an employee advocacy program can provide a great basis for social selling techniques.
Bonus: Download a free employee advocacy toolkit that shows you how to plan, launch, and grow a successful employee advocacy program for your organization.
Employee advocacy stats
It’s easy to imagine how employee advocacy could help your brand spread your message. But you don’t actually need to use your imagination. These employee advocacy statistics spell out exactly how much your brand could benefit from an employee advocacy program.
- More people trust a regular employee (53%) than a CEO (47%). Even more people (65%) trust a company technical expert.
- Nearly 86% of employees involved in a formal advocacy program say it had a positive effect on their careers.
- LinkedIn found the employees of a company tend to have 10 times more followers than the company itself.
- LinkedIn also found that while only about 2% of employees reshare their company’s social posts, they are responsible for 20% of overall engagement.
- Job seekers (i.e., potential recruits) say current employees are the most trusted source of information about a company. They also rank social and professional networks as the most important resources in their job search.
Employee advocacy best practices and examples
Make workplace culture a priority
For employees to become brand ambassadors, they need to love more about their jobs than just their paychecks.
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 67% of employees expect their employer to have “a greater purpose” and their jobs to have a “meaningful societal impact.” Nearly three-quarters expect the company culture to be “values-driven and inclusive.” And 80% say they expect their employer to offer “interesting and fulfilling” work.
Linking employees’ work to a broader purpose and meeting their expectations helps create trust. And it’s critically important to develop a high-trust culture. Employees who trust their employer are twice as likely to engage in employee advocacy.
Of course, not all businesses have a higher social purpose—or at least, not an obvious one. To help meet employee expectations for trust and social impact, you could:
- Identify your company as an industry disruptor that inspires innovation
- Focus on service
- Show support for employees in times of need
- Emphasize your company’s reputation as an industry leader
- Give back (e.g., through environmental responsibility programs or charity work)
Target employees share the volunteer work they do with the social hashtag #TargetVolunteers. It’s a great way for employees to showcase company culture and Target’s corporate social responsibility efforts at the same time.
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Target Volunteers (from all over our district) and Save Our Shores Beach Clean Up Event! Thank you Clark for doing such a great job! #target #targetcapitola #targetvolunteers #saveourshores #capitola #california #seacliffbeach #seacliffstatebeach #district245 #beach #beachcleanup #clark_c #cementship #packyourtrash
Get employees on-side
Creating a fulfilling work environment is the foundation of any good employee advocacy program. Next comes creating trust.
Once you’ve got those components in place, you need to reach out to employees. Let them know about your advocacy program and tools.
Here are some methods to increase advocacy in your workforce.
Identify potential influencers within your workforce. Reach out to them as beta testers of your employee advocacy program. They can help guide your strategy and provide honest feedback.
Ask them to help you learn what kinds of tools and resources employees are most likely to use and share.
Make the benefits clear
Employees won’t promote your brand out of the goodness of their hearts. There has to be something in it for them. Make sure they understand the industry benefits.
These might include increasing their visibility and credibility as a subject matter expert. But you may also want to offer some internal incentives for sharing brand content.
Ask employees what kinds of incentives they would like. The more engaged employees are in the process, the more they will feel like they have a stake in the program.
Ask, don’t mandate
You should never force employees to share brand content on their personal channels. For one thing, this is not a great way to foster trust. (And remember that trust is a critical component of organic employee advocacy.) For another, forced social shares will lack the enthusiasm and excitement necessary to connect with your employees’ social connections.
Bonus: Download a free employee advocacy toolkit that shows you how to plan, launch, and grow a successful employee advocacy program for your organization.Get the free toolkit right now!
Recognize employees’ work
And not just their advocacy work.
An “employee of the month” program or notice in a monthly newsletter may sound old-fashioned, but it can still be effective. So can setting aside time in team meetings to recognize certain employees. And, of course, everyone appreciates concrete rewards like gift cards, bonuses, and even company swag.
Recognition or a re-share on the main company social accounts can also be a great motivator.
Make advocacy a game
Create a hashtag to promote a specific employee advocacy campaign. Then create a leaderboard to show who’s getting the most impressions or engagement for the hashtag. Organize a prize for the leader, or hold a draw for all team members who create hashtagged posts.
Cisco held a contest for its 2019 summer interns, encouraging them to share with the #WeAreCisco hashtag. The prize? An Apple Watch.
Make advocacy easy
Give employees something interesting or fun to share. This could be a new product announcement (one that they’re genuinely excited about) or a great new video. But don’t stifle their creativity either. Encourage them to share what excites them personally about your brand.
Lush employees are major brand advocates on social media. Their posts create a sense of community among themselves and their customers alike.
Colorado Lush employee Lilly Flynn posts colorful photos of her tub filled with Lush bath products. When one bath experience went amusingly awry, she posted that too.
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Hes sparks. His dad is gonna kill me. I forgot to wash out the tub and here we are. #glitterbug #hegetsitfromhismomma #glittercat #lushieforlife #instalush #lushcosmetics #lushie #bathtime #lushbubblebar #lushcosmetics #lushbathbomb #lushcocktail #lushaddict #lushobsession #lushexlusives #lushemployee #lushchristmas2017 #lushmas #lushchristmas #lushchristmas2018 #lushieforlife #instalush #instalushie #lushstash #lushstagram #lushvideo
Since we all know the Internet loves cat videos, it’s not surprising that post got more than 9,000 views. But even Lilly’s more brand-focused posts get great engagement. This post showcasing her love for the company got a 4% engagement rate.
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I love love love my job. Thank you to @lushcosmetics for our celebration bath bomb staff box!!! I feel sooo privileged to to apart of this world. #werunthisbath #wethebathers #lushcosmetics #lushcosmeticsparkmeadowsmall #lushcosmetics #lushstaff #lushemployee #lushlife #freshnewlush #freshnewlushbathbombs #lushieforlife #lushieofinstagram #lushcollection #lushcommunity #lushlabs
Be a brand cheerleader
Enthusiasm is contagious, so play up your brand initiatives and goals. When employees believe in the brand and are excited to come to work, they’re more likely to share brand content on social.
Set goals and KPIs for your employee advocacy program
Employees may already be posting about work on their social media feeds. But without an organized system and clearly defined goals, you have no way of tracking results.
The more clearly you define your goals, the easier it will be for your employees to help. If your goal is to increase awareness, encourage employees to post about the brand in general. If you’re launching a new product, create shareable content employees can be proud of.
When Hootsuite launched a new training and certification, the employee advocacy social media posts supported the goal of encouraging registrations.
Hey, Social Marketers! Learn how to measure and present social results that will prove ROI with Hootsuite’s new Social ROI and Value Analysis training and certification. Save 50% with my promo code "friendsofowly": https://t.co/sQ94KZYPx8 pic.twitter.com/962FFa0duX
— Ben Cathers (@bencathers) May 30, 2019
An advocacy campaign should align with at least one of your company’s primary business goals. Then decide which social media metrics to track. These might include share of voice, website traffic, or leads.
Once the campaign 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 per network?
- Traffic. How much traffic did the content shared by employee advocates drive to your website?
But don’t let these targeted employee advocacy campaigns get in the way of more organic employee social shares. These more casual posts can really highlight your culture. We’re all about #Hootsuitelife and #Hootdogs, too.
Establish 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?
An employee advocacy social media policy takes the guesswork out of these and other questions.
Guidelines also help protect your company’s reputation and ensure against legal trouble and security risks. Some guidelines are just common-sense—for instance, avoiding vulgar or intolerant language. Others might best be left to the legal department.
Ask employees themselves for their input. Engage staff early on to encourage buy-in.
Make the guidelines easy to understand and follow. They should enable advocacy instead of restricting it. Include recommendations on what, where and how to share.
Starbucks posts its employee social media guidelines right on its website. Here are some of the highlights:
- Share your passion, but don’t let social posting get in the way of your job.
- Take the high road, and remember who can see your posts.
- Be clear that you’re not a company spokesperson, and direct media enquiries to the media relations team.
- Don’t share future promotions or insider financial information
Finally, they encourage employees to use the #tobeapartner hashtag. This Instagram post, from a new manager at a North Carolina location, got 244 Likes from 833 followers. That’s an unheard of 29% engagement rate.
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I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a District Manager role with @starbucks in Charlotte, NC. Everyone that knows me, knows that I love Starbucks and my “Super Chai”. The mission at Starbucks is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit-one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time”. I could not be prouder to work for a company that believes in corporate and social responsibility. Through a culture of inclusion, opportunity for all, sustainable coffee (99% ethically sourced), greener retail and strengthening communities, Starbucks delivers! I’m thrilled to take my experience and skills to a new industry. Come follow me on my journey and let’s have some coffee talk. #Starbucks #opportunity #coffee #greenretail #leadership #sustainablecoffee #community #tobeapartner #charlotte #clt #alltogethernow
Educate employees on social media best practices
Each employee will have a different level of comfort with social media. Start by getting everyone up to speed on social media best practices. This means all employees across all departments and seniority levels. Training everyone on social media in general, as well as on company policies and guidelines, creates a level playing field.
Regularly offer new and shareable content. This helps employees create consistent social media sharing habits. Offer a mix of fun, shareable content, and industry trends.
Appoint employee advocacy leaders
Company leaders are often the company’s most visible social media sharers. (At least, until you put an employee advocacy program in place.)
But they are usually not the most logical leaders of an employee advocacy program. Instead, tap people who are natural social media users, who are enthusiastic about the company and the brand. Empower them to help build your employee advocacy program. Engage them in defining and communicating campaigns and goals or creating proper incentives.
You may see an initial flurry of social shares when you launch your employee advocacy program. But without effective internal leadership, this enthusiasm will peter out over time. Employee advocacy leaders help make sure that advocacy is an ongoing focus.
Employee advocacy case study: Oslo Metropolitan University
When Oslo Metropolitan University (commonly referred to as OsloMet) wanted to increase engagement with its social content, the university developed an employee advocacy program.
The university used social listening to determine which topics would most interest its audience. Then, they created content that spoke directly to those interests. The university built a content library to make it easy for employees to share on social. Here are some of their results:
- 15 shares by student and employee advocates had the same social reach as a post on the university’s Facebook Page (which had 30,000 followers at the time)
- Advocacy posts had a 25% lower bounce rate than social ads.
- The advocacy program led to a 2% increase in conversion rate on student recruitment content
- 30 advocates drove 40% of the traffic to the website for the university’s Girls and Technology Conference
Employee advocacy tools
Now that you understand the value of an employee advocacy program, here are some tools to help you put one in pace.
The hardest part of employee advocacy is often the execution. How do you actually get staff to share company messaging on social media?
Hootsuite Amplify is a mobile employee advocacy tool. It makes it safe and easy for employees to share approved social content with their friends and followers.
Amplify also integrates with Workplace by Facebook. This makes it easy for employees to share social content from a platform they already use every day.
Hootsuite Analytics allows you to create custom reports that can help track the progress of your employee advocacy campaign. Getting real-time updates on campaign results can help build employee excitement and encourage even more shares.
Plus, of course, analyzing your results is a key part of proving the ROI of your employee advocacy campaigns. You’ll also get real data to help plan ways to improve future results.
Not sure whether an employee advocacy campaign is right for your business? (Or maybe you’re convinced, but you need some help getting your boss onboard?)
We’ve created a calculator that estimates the number of new people you could reach by harnessing the power of your workforce.
Give it a try on this page.
Tap into the power of employee advocacy with Hootsuite Amplify. Increase reach, keep people engaged, and measure results—safely and security. Learn how Amplify can help your organization today.