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The Secret Sauce of Successful Social Employee Advocacy Programs

More people mean more reach and engagement on social media. The concept of employee advocacy is simple enough, but its execution depends on more than just content and distribution.

Many businesses invest time in choosing the right employee advocacy platform and creating high-quality content for employee sharing.

Few businesses, however, invest time in other critical elements of an employee advocacy program, such as cultivating true employee advocates or creating an informed employee advocacy strategy. This post discusses important ingredients that go into making the secret sauce of successful employee advocacy programs.

Running an employee advocacy program – Two key elements that your business could be missing

What makes for a successful employee advocacy program?

1. An employee-friendly content marketing strategy

It’s best to create an employee advocacy program that’s not overtly promotional. A good employee advocacy program balances promotional and curated content to keep both employees and their connections engaged.

Remember, employees are people and will appreciate being treated as such. Employees should not be seen as billboards to display your ads.

2. Enthusiastic and motivated employee advocates

A consistent and long-lasting employee advocacy program has passionate employee advocates. The best benefits of employee advocacy can be experienced only from a long-term employee advocacy program, which requires the persistent participation of employees.

While gamification, which is offered by certain employee advocacy platforms such as DrumUp, does motivate employee advocates, company culture also plays an important role.

How to cultivate passionate employee advocates

When it comes to ensuring that employees become persistent and passionate advocates, an employee advocacy platform is not enough. It takes a lot of creative thinking, hard work and consistent personal engagement to keep employees focused on any one task. A company’s employee advocacy program manager is expected to find new, fresh ways consistently to keep employees keen on participating in that company’s employee advocacy program.

A company’s consistent success in any department comes from the bottom up, as in the case of successful employee advocacy programs. Use the following three strategies to create such a program.

1. Choose the right employee advocates
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Imagine how potent your employee advocate force would be if every participating employee considered the program a priority. One way to ensure success of your program is by choosing the right employees.

Most businesses who run successful employee advocacy programs begin with a force of client-facing employees who interact with clients as part of everyday work. Client-facing teams could also include influential employees such as VPs and directors from sales, services and support. You can also choose a different set of employees based on your use-case for employee advocacy. Choose employees who are –

  • Customer champions
  • Team players
  • Beyond the status quo
  • Internal enthusiasm catalysts
  • Versatile and willing

Once you the team ready, focus on getting them excited about the brand that they represent and advocating it on social media.

2. Make the most of employee knowledge

What’s amazing about employee advocacy is that it leverages the best assets of any company – its employees. Employee advocacy programs not only provide opportunity for companies to leverage employees’ knowledge, but also provide opportunity for employees to update their knowledge and build their online profiles.

Client-facing employees hold within them a lot of useful information – what they hear, see and understand when communicating with clients. It’s important to pay attention to the client-focussed improvements that they recommend with respect to support, product features and marketing outreach. Sales executives know what’s stopping clients from making the purchase and they can suggest content that you can use to accelerate conversions. Here’s how you can collect insights from employee advocates and include them in your program.

  • Circulate a survey every month or so asking client-facing employees important questions – what they think is slowing down lead conversions and how customer experience and communication can be improved.
  • Use customer insights to create a content resource on your employee advocacy platform, and use that content as part of your program.

DrumUp’s employee advocacy platform has a “Suggest post” option that allows employees to suggest content to the program manager.

3. Empower and enable your employees to act
As in any corporate initiative, enablement is critical. Employees who are inactive are not effective advocates. To cultivate active employee advocates, you need to create a powerful context. Share your goals with employees and get them invested in the program. Make participating in your program the easiest and most fun thing to do. Give your employees the responsibility of being catalysts and motivating themselves and others around them to participate in the program.

While this post did begin by suggesting that you focus on client-facing employees, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest of your workforce. Every employee is client-impacting in their unique role. You can encourage different sets of employees to participate in different applications Here’s how you can enable your employees to act –

  • Create an self-regulating program that’s run by your employees. Show them the way and trust them to carry on your program. Remember, the best employee advocates are those who are self-motivated and truly love their brand.
  • Give your employees the resources they need. Employ a fun and useful employee advocacy platform, and give them room to create fun ways to run the program.

Addressing potential problems

When implementing any corporate initiate, you are bound to run into roadblocks. The key to running a successful employee advocacy program is identifying potential roadblocks ahead of time and ensuring that they don’t affect the program.

Most employee advocacy programs are bound to have the same kinds of potential problems – the program sinks during onboarding, employees lose interest over time, the program manager can’t prove an ROI, etc. Program managers who foresee these roadblocks and create systems to solve them preemptively are the ones who succeed in creating successful employee advocacy programs.

Here’s a list of potential problems, and what you can do to ensure that they don’t happen.

How do you ensure that onboarding is successful?

Remember, only if onboarding is successful, you can properly test the potential of employee advocacy as a concept and the software that you have chosen to use.

Here’s a quick checklist of what you should do during onboarding –

  • Create a powerful context for your employees to participate in the program. It could be incentives or prizes for the best employee advocates every month or free training for employees in building their online profiles while also advocating their brand.
  • Help employees create an account. Once you have explained the program to employees, focus on helping them signup on your employee advocacy platform. Follow up with employees until they have created accounts and become comfortable with them. Give them all the information and support that they need.

If your employee advocacy program is to have >200 employees, choose a few community leaders and train them on the software first. Assign each community leader a group of employees and make it their responsibility to help those employees onboard the employee advocacy software.

DrumUp’s employee advocacy onboarding involves small prompts in the form of emails or dialogue boxes to ensure that employees find it easy to get their accounts setup.

You could even incentivize onboarding, but that should be left to the program manager’s discretion, because some employees respond well to incentives and others respond well to personal attention.

How do you ensure that employees don’t lose interest over time?

Employee advocacy has some great long-term benefits, such as powerful branding, brand recognition and recall, but you can experience such long-term benefits only if your employees don’t lose interest over time.

Here’s a quick checklist of ways to ensure that employees stay engaged over time –

  • Create a recurring calendar invite for check-in/training sessions for employees where they can meet and set up new employee advocacy goals for themselves, so they are involved and engaged in your employee advocacy program.
  • Run a monthly employee advocacy contest with prizes that are most likely to matter to employees, and plan a monthly get-together or ceremony where you award the best employee advocates in your program.
  • Ensure that employees understand the non-material benefits that they get from participating in your employee advocacy program. For instance, employees who understand that employee advocacy can help them with personal branding are more likely to stay active on the program long-term.

Without eternally engaged employees, your program is likely to show sporadic and inconsistent results, so ensure that you give a lot of importance to the points under this subhead.

DrumUp’s employee advocacy platform runs an automatic monthly contest to ensure employee engagement. The app awards points to employees, based on who shares first and tracks points on a leaderboard visible to the admin and participants of the program.

How do you measure the impact of your employee advocacy program?

There are different aspects of the employee advocacy program that you should measure to track its success and its impact on your business. Here’s a list of metrics to monitor and their significance.

  • Onboarded employees vs active employees. To measure how successful your implementation of employee advocacy is, measure number of employees onboarded against number of employees who are active.
  • Post engagement. To measure the success of your employee advocacy content, measure social media engagement on employees posts and employee engagement on posts shared by you to them.
  • Website traffic. If your content includes direct links to your website, you can create a special URL (with a tag) and measure the traffic coming from employee shares to even a specific page on your website.
  • Leads generated. To measure how many leads/enquiries arise from employee shares alone, use a special code for employee-shared promotions or create a small box near your enquiry/lead capture form where visitors can disclose what brought them to your website.
    You could also use special URLs here, but this use-case would also require you to create some backend changes in code so you can track referrals.
  • Brand reach. Impressions give you a sense of how wide-spread your campaign content is and how many people it has potentially reached. Social media reach is equivalent to viewership of TV and circulation of newspapers.

While the statistic isn’t completely reliable, it does give you a way to compare your social media employee advocacy efforts with your efforts on other media.

In the case of users of DrumUp’s employee advocacy platform we have seen that employee efforts are equivalent to $20,000 – $30,000 worth of advertising.

How to create an informed employee advocacy program strategy

Your employee advocacy strategy depends on your use-cases and goals. What do you want to accomplish using employee advocacy? Here are 8 use-cases that you can consider when implementing employee advocacy.

a. Brand building & PR
b. Social selling
c. Event marketing
d. Employer branding
e. Executive thought-leadership
f. Social recruitment
g. Employee engagement
i. Influencer marketing

For each of these use-cases, your strategy will change.

For instance, if you’re using employee advocacy for executive thought-leadership, your content will be videos, blog posts and podcasts that feature your company’s leaders, and the objective of your employee advocacy program will be to reach the content to people within the same industry.

But if your using employee advocacy for social recruitment, your content will be focused on job openings and the objective of your program will be to reach potential hires.

In each of these instances, your content strategy will change and the employees you focus on for sharing will also change.

Here’s a list of the elements you need to tailor based on use-cases to get the most out of your employee advocacy program

  • Content
  • Focus advocates
  • Time of posting (you can personally advise advocates to post at a certain time during one of your regular alignment meetings for employee advocacy).

DrumUp is one of the few employee advocacy platforms that also allows employees to schedule content in advance, so they can do so as per your instructions and get the best results for your employee advocacy program.

  • KPIs (what you measure will change based on your use-case. For instance, for event marketing you may want to measure impressions or event sign-ups, and for social recruitment you may want to measure recruit leads or successfully converted employees.

Wrap

A successful employee advocacy program needs enthusiastic employees, long-term employee engagement, the right content strategy and means to measure impact of the program. Once you have these covered, you will see a difference in the performance of your employee advocacy program.

Feature image via Pexels.com