Many of us are guilty of an occasional Facebook humble-brag about a new job title or completion of an important work project. We share anecdotes and stories from the daily grind with our Medium readers. We tag Instagram posts and Tweets with #joblove when we want to show off a particularly cool aspect of workplace culture.
All of these are examples of employee advocacy.
What is employee advocacy?
Employee advocacy refers to the promotion of an organization by its workforce. While it can take many forms, there’s no doubt that in today’s digital world the most common and effective channel for employee advocacy is social media.
Increasing social share of voice and online visibility via employees is often overlooked by organizations, who instead choose to focus on exposure from third-party sources. But employees are more than twice as trusted as a CEO, senior executive, or activist consumer to communicate on topics related to the treatment of customers or employees.
Another advantage of an employee advocacy is that, proportionally, it’s as effective for smaller businesses as it is for large corporations. Consider the numbers. According to Pew Research Center, the average US internet user has 200 Facebook friends and 61 Twitter followers. So if you’re employing 20 people in your boutique agency and leverage employee advocacy, you could be reaching an average of 5,000 people through staff alone.
While we can’t predict what makes people excited about employment at your company, we can provide an outline for an advocacy program that will encourage your team to talk about the brand. Here are six steps to inspire your employees to be your best brand advocates.
How to create an employee advocacy program in 6 steps
1. Make workplace culture a priority
For employees to become brand ambassadors, they need to love more about their jobs than their paychecks.
Businesses should be organizing opportunities for team members to socialize with one another beyond the once-a-year holiday party. Encourage employees to organize sports and hobby-based activities and involve their coworkers. This can be done by subsidizing the activities that promote workplace culture and recognizing employees who take the initiative to organize these activities.
But if your budget is limited, even something as simple as setting up an internal social network for employees can help people connect with their work cohorts. In addition to making people in all roles and departments accessible online, an enterprise social network can later be a great tool for communicating advocacy initiatives quickly and effectively.
2. Create social media guidelines and communicate them to all staff
Before you encourage your team members to post on social media, be confident that your brand’s message will be communicated properly. While you shouldn’t aim to control your employee’s online behaviors off the clock, ensure that all employees have an idea of what it means to be a representative of your brand online. This means setting guidelines around polite online behavior, such as avoiding abusive or intolerant language at all costs. It also includes brand guidelines outlining how employees should refer to your products and services online.
Finally, make sure to provide employees with resources to properly respond to any questions or comments that come up about the organization online.
3. Educate employees on social media best practices
In addition to a company-wide social media policy, your employee advocacy program will benefit from formal social media training. One of the best ways to encourage participation in advocacy initiatives is bringing everyone up to speed on social media best practices—across all departments and seniority levels.
Make social media education a part of your business’s onboarding process. Choose the desired level of expertise based on the goals of your employee advocacy program and the general trends in social media knowledge of your candidates.
4. Create an employee advocacy mission
As I’ve mentioned in the earlier examples, your colleagues may already be posting about work on their social media feeds without an incentive—but you as an employer have no way of measuring the impact, because this messaging doesn’t occur regularly or simultaneously. To observe the potential reach of your employee’s social channels, you need to provide them with a reason and a means to discuss something on social media and a reward for doing so.
For example, if your business is anticipating a new product release or a large hiring event, create a plan for communicating this internally first. Then, depending on what you’ve chosen as your primary business goal for the campaign, create an advocacy mission. If you’re looking to make it to the trending topics on Twitter, make a hashtag and organize a draw among team members who have created posts with that hashtag. If your target is share of voice, reward employees who have utilized several platforms in their messaging or posted more than once. Whatever you choose, make sure it suits the format of the social channel you will be targeting.
5. Appoint employee advocacy leaders
Before you begin scaling social media use throughout the organization, your executive team should have an established social media presence. Having higher-ups who are active on social sets a great example for the rest of the team; plus, thought leadership from your executives contributes to your brand’s authority, turning that online influence into profit.
Executives set the pace for social media use in the company, but you also need someone who’s responsible for communicating employee advocacy missions and creating proper incentives. This is especially pertinent to large organizations, where it’s difficult to ensure participation across all departments. That’s why it helps to appoint employee advocacy leaders in each department or team, who will be responsible for representing the brand on their social channels and encouraging their colleagues to do the same. A cascaded process streamlines the launch advocacy initiatives, as the message only has to be communicated once to a smaller group of people, who will in turn pass it down to their teams.
6. Track the right metrics to measure the effectiveness of employee advocacy
Finally, in order to create an effective employee advocacy program, you need to measure and communicate tangible results of your initiatives. Even before you create your first advocacy mission, make sure it aligns with one of your company’s primary business goals. Then make a plan for which social media metrics you will be tracking, whether it’s share of voice, traffic to your website, the number of sales leads, etc.
Once the mission has wrapped up, summarize your results in a format similar a social media campaign report, but with an additional focus on employee engagement. Keep an eye on such numbers as the percentage of team members who participated in the initiative and their level of social media expertise. This data will help you adjust how you communicate and incentivize your employee advocacy initiatives in the future.
Employee advocacy made easy with Hootsuite Amplify
You know why employee advocacy is important, and how to encourage your workforce to get involved. But the hardest part is often the execution—actually getting staff to share company messaging on social media. That’s why we created Hootsuite Amplify, an employee advocacy tool for your mobile device that makes it safe and easy for employees to share approved social content with their friends and followers.
How does it work? Watch the video below to find out.
Grow your social media reach through employee advocacy with Hootsuite Amplify.
This is an updated version of a post originally published in September 2015. With files from Michael Aynsley.