Who is an employee advocate?
An advocate is one that supports and argues for a cause. If your employees are passionate about your brand, they can talk it up to anyone who listens. It is very likely that they are already promoting your brand in their network and telling people how awesome your products & services are alongwith some insider information! That’s exactly when they become “Employee Advocates” for your brand.
Employee advocacy gives you Authenticity, Trustworthiness, and Reach. Many brands are overseeing one of the most valuable types of advocates – their employees. Powering employee advocates is one of the best methods to leverage social channels because it extends the footprint of marketing plans. It’s also a great place to start leveraging advocates to share your brand story. Also such programs prove to be highly beneficial in terms of employee engagement and empowerment.
Why Is Advocacy Important?
Often an organization’s employees are overlooked when it comes to advocacy development. However, if you can’t “sell” your company to your employees, how do you expect customers to jump on board? Advocacy for any brand is a sign of trust. People purchase from companies that they like and trust. Study shows that as compared to your company’s social pages, the reach is 10 times more when your employees share content. This is important as most consumers are more likely to buy a product or avail a service when recommended by a friend.
Employee advocacy programs only work if they are voluntary. Employees should be able to share what they want, when they want, and most importantly only if they want to.
For all those who are looking to activate their brand’s biggest social advocates, the plan is to start with a small group of your employees and slowly scale to new groups.
Technorati: “Engaged employees build engaged customers – How does advocate help you engage?” 8 October 2011 http://technorati.com/engaged-employees-build-engaged-customers-how-does-addvocate-help-you-engage/
Step 1] Strategize
- Social Media Policy – Create a social media policy to ensure compliance with the program. The policy should ideally be easy to understand and should provide guidance to the employees about what and what not to post. Also it is essential to note that mentioning the company’s name in their social profile should be a mandate for all the employees who participate in this program.
- Set your objectives – Identify and set your objectives. With the help of this program, it is possible for your company to reach target audience, drive leads for business, create brand-awareness and perhaps also build the social media skills of the employees who have participated.
- Involve the Executives – With the involvement of the higher management in the program, the program will run more smoothly and will gain higher success in the long run.
- Prepare the content strategy – Create a plan for the content to be used in your program considering the upcoming events and activities. Pull out the most engaging topics which your employees can share.
Design a structure to share the content emails or posts, weekly or bi-weekly. Do not forget to thank and reward your employee advocates from time to time in order to motivate them.
Step 2] Identify and invite
- Identify the most socially active employees for the program. This is the step where community managers are indeed a vital component, to ensure the right people in the company are connecting with the right customers and other constituents as conversations unfold in social environments. Enlist and guide mass participation. To begin with the program, anywhere between 10 and 50 people is a good number.
- Invite the employees for the program via email and share the entire program overview with them. Also highlight the importance of their participation and feedback in terms of the program and ultimately the brand.
Step 3] Train your A-team
- Once you are done recruiting the advocates, it’s time to train them. The approach can be anything, from in-person to webinar to video. The important thing is to ensure the training is simple and to the point. It should cover every aspect of Employee advocacy – program importance, using social media, best practices, employee guidelines etc. Make them realize how crucial their contribution is! Another important thing is to ensure that the advocates sign terms and conditions to maintain the trust levels at both ends.
Step 4] Go-Live and Let everyone know
- After the core training is over, it’s time to go live! Provide your employee advocates with approved content to share and make sure that the content is updated atleast once a week. Maintain the level of engagement by sending out the most recent content. Like any other social network, the response from people will deteriorate if the content is not fresh and interesting!
- Take your steps slowly into growing your program. Initially, send out pre-designed content, later allow the employees to tweak or generate their own content according to their personal styles, keeping in mind the end objective. Let them feel a sense of ownership to facilitate the creation of unique and awesome content! Thanking your employee advocates and encouraging feedback should also be a part of this process.
- Once you have figured out what works and in what manner, it’s time to expand your horizons. Let everyone in your company know what the program is and how it helps. Promote the program using internal social channels. The first trained batch of employees is now the champion! Allow them to encourage and train other employees in various departments in your company.
Step 5] ROI
- Measure the success rate for the program by mapping the employee participation with the help of the social tools. Analyze the engagement level of the audiences, number of active advocates and the total reach. The number of active advocates is a crucial key metric as it will ensure the continuing success of the program. Engagement corresponds to the likes, comments and shares that the content receives. And finally, total reach is that which represents the amount of audience that was reached. The key here is to keep the numbers growing and to keep the engagement levels high at all times!
One of the reasons that employee advocacy programs are so successful is because people trust recommendations from people they know over all other forms of advertising. In any aspect of society when one wants to cause a change, one goes about using advocates, to help seed, speedup and enable the change. Employee advocacy is still a relatively less appreciated component of social business strategy and we’re hoping that this will change as the successes it leads to are identified and recognized more broadly.