When employees talk positively about or promote their companies on a public platform, it is called employee advocacy. It is a marketing tactic where organisations select a few loyal employees and turn staff into advocates to improve company image.
People trust user-generated content more than content created and shared by brands and that’s why employee advocacy works. When a company’s employees say good things about the company, people find it easier to believe than when a company promotes itself.
In this post, we will talk about how you can leverage employee advocacy and design a successful program to organise and structure your efforts. But, before that, let’s first understand why you should use employee advocacy and what benefits can you derive.
Guide for Creating an Employee Advocacy Program:
Benefits of Employee Advocacy
Employee advocacy is an effective marketing technique used by a lot of companies like Cisco, Buffer, Oracle, etc. There are a lot of marketing and business goals that you can achieve through employee advocacy. Here are some of the benefits of using employee advocacy for your business.
Amplifies Your Social Media Reach
Converting your employees into brand advocates is an effective way to tap into their social networks. And, if you have a substantial number of brand advocates with large follower bases, you could reach even more people than you could have on your own.
Moreover, content posted by regular people gets much higher engagement than that posted by brands. This is due to the fact that this content is considered more authentic and relatable than promotional content created by brands. In fact, per data collected by LinkedIn, employee posts get twice as much engagement as the same content shared by companies.
Helps Improve Company Image
If you want to know about a company and its culture, there’s no one better to ask than its employees. So, when employees talk positively about their employers, especially on social media, people tend to believe them. This enhances the company’s image in the minds of both potential customers and potential employees.
Having a good brand image makes prospective customers prefer your brand over competitors. And, being known for a good work environment and positive employee experiences, helps you attract better talent to your organisation. In fact, according to this study, current employees are considered as the most trustworthy source of information about a company.
Humanises Your Brand
In a lot of industries like finance and technology, companies find it difficult to connect with people and don’t have many interactions with the end consumers. And, consumers also think of such companies as big corporate giants and don’t relate to them. As we all know, people prefer buying from brands that they can connect with or hold in high regard.
This is a challenge that a lot of companies face as they fail to form meaningful connections with their customers. Employee advocacy can help you overcome this challenge. When employees talk about the company they work for, they put a face to the brand and a human interface. A regular person might not connect with a big technology company, but they may relate to another regular person talking about the company.
Your brand advocates work like any other influencer and help you reach their followers or social network. This provides you with the chance to promote your brand or products to this new audience and generate leads for your business. You can ask your employees to add your website link while talking about your brand to direct people to your website.
How to Create an Employee Advocacy Program
Here is a detailed guide on everything that you need to know to create an effective employee advocacy program for your company.
Set Your Program Goals
The first step towards a successful employee advocacy program is to set clear goals that you want to achieve. Having clarity about your goals will help you measure the performance of the program against those goals.
Here are some examples of goals that you can set for your employee advocacy program:
- Increase website traffic
- Grow follower count
- Generate leads
- Enhance brand image
No matter what your goals are, be sure to write them down and set KPIs to measure the program performance of those goals.
Set Clear Policy and Guidelines
Before you start your employee advocacy program, it is important to set some clear guidelines on what is expected. There is a lot that can go wrong when you give employees the freedom to post on the company’s behalf, unsupervised. Someone could post something inappropriate or controversial and that could do more harm than good.
Therefore, it is essential that you set some boundaries on what is acceptable and what isn’t. Having a clear set of rules means that you don’t need to supervise every employee’s posts while ensuring that the company’s image is not tarnished in any way.
For example, Starbucks has clear guidelines for their employee advocacy program. Here are some highlights of what’s included in it.
- Do not let social media posting get in the way of your job.
- Don’t act like a spokesperson for the company and direct all media queries to the right person.
- Do not post any sensitive or confidential information that should not be publicly disclosed.
- Employees are encouraged to use the #tobeapartner hashtag on all their company-related social media posts.
Here is an example of a post by Starbucks employee, Jeffery, promoting a newly-launched product while following all social posting guidelines.
Get Employees to Participate
The most important steps are informing your employees about the program, finding the most suitable ones to lead the program, and executing the program.
But, before you start asking your employees to become brand advocates, you need to create a good work environment and culture. Your employees will talk positively about your company only when they’re happy with their work and proud to work with your company.
It is also important to build a level of trust as employees who trust their employers are twice as likely to turn into brand advocates.
The next step is informing employees about the advocacy program, what you plan to achieve, how they can help, and what’s in it for them.
Here are best practices to follow while trying to get employees on-board.
- Ask them if they would be willing to join the program instead of mandating it. No one will want to post about the company from their personal accounts if they are forced to do so.
- Make it clear what employees will get out of it, whether it is just recognition or incentives or something else. Telling people what they can get is a good way to encourage them to join the program.
- You can always start small by identifying a few employees who are willing to participate and have some social influence. You can always expand the program later, to include more employees.
- Use gamification to make it more interesting for employees and encourage them to participate. You can hold a contest and invite employees compete for creating the best social media post or getting maximum engagement.
Cisco organised one such contest and asked their summer interns to share their experience of interning at Cisco. The award for the best post was an Apple watch. Here’s one of the many social media posts that were created as part of this contest.
- Provide employees something interesting to share. It could be an event, a newly-launched product, etc. This will make it easier for employees to be brand advocates as it will give them content for their posts.
Create a Program Hashtag
Once you have enrolled enough employees to participate in the program and are ready to start it, create a branded hashtag for the program. And, you should clearly guide your advocates to use this hashtag on all their branded content.
This will help you keep track of all posts generated as part of this program from a single page. This is also a great way to allow the program to expand organically as any employee can use the hashtag and participate in the program.
As with any other marketing program, it is important to measure the performance of your employee advocacy programs as well. This will help you assess if it is worth the effort or not and also identify ways to improve.
You can specifically look at things like which type of posts do better than others to understand what works with your audience. This will help you improve your program and get better results from it in the future.
You also need to assess whether your program was able to achieve the intended goals or not. This will determine the success or failure of the initiative.
Recognise and Reward Good Performers
Apart from measuring the performance of your program, you also need to identify top-performing advocates and reward them. Rewarding people for their efforts is essential to keeping them motivated to continue putting in effort.
You may want to have a rewards and recognition program in place to thank your employees for being your brand advocate. Appreciating everyone who participated, regardless of the performance, is also important to encourage other people to join.
If you want to improve your brand image and connect with consumers in a more meaningful way, you can ask your employees to become your brand advocates. People can relate to your employees more than a faceless brand and will believe them when they talk about your company.
Use this post as a guide to create a successful employee advocacy program for your company.