Employee advocacy can be defined as the brand promotion or exposure that an organization enjoys through the usage of the social assets of its employees. Today, those social assets refer to social media popularity and also include email, chat, forum, discussion boards and more.
Why should an organization engage in employee advocacy?
Employees are the most useful assets that an organization could ever have in terms of marketing, yet many employers don’t know this.
1. Increase in brand popularity and engagement
Employee advocacy offers strategic advantages such as improving the exposure and brand popularity of an organization through social media and other digital channels. A point to consider is the fact that collectively, there is a high probability that your employees will have a higher social connection and engagement than your brand especially on social media. Consider Facebook for example, it has an algorithm that pushes more content from individuals to users’ timelines than content from organizations or groups. This means that if your company has 1000 followers on Facebook and employee A has an equal number of followers, if both were to make the same posts at the same time, more followers of employee A would see the post than the company’s own followers. And as you already know, people influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.
2. Helps build up trust between users and brand
People tend to trust other people, not corporations. An advertising report published by Nielsen Global Trust showed that 92 % of consumers all over the world said they trusted recommendations made by people known to them such as family, friends, and other relations more than advertising, regardless of the form it takes. This cements the fact that employee advocacy helps to build up trust in an organization’s products when its staff becomes its brand evangelist; preaching the value of the products to both family and friends. By converting ordinary employees into advocates, they become knowledgeable experts on the organization’s products or service frequently assuming the role of spokesman for the organization whether online or offline.
Your engaged employees will also bring you more website visitors as a result of their online representation of your organization and help you to target potential candidates when you are also sharing career opportunities. People like to work with people whom they know and trust and your employees are also the best source of hires through a company referral program. You can reach people who perhaps don’t know your company, but are following your employees. Your company brand will be visible to a broader audience than before and on social media channels that you haven’t used previously for advertising.
3. Shows employees that they are trusted
Employee advocacy shows your employees that you trust them. This can lead to an increase in the level of employee engagement and communication within teams and at senior management levels. Better information sharing and this transparency will also positively affect your retention. People in corporations will see what the company is doing globally and begin to take pride in their company.
4. Improve an organization’s revenue
Research published by the National Business Research Institute reveals that a 12% increment in brand advocacy generates an increase in revenue of approximately twice that rate. In addition, companies that are engaged socially are about 56% more likely to generate sales leads.
How do you start an employee advocacy program?
First of all, prepare a plan for your advocacy program and also prepare the communication strategy to promote it to your employees, because they need to learn that your program exists along with its benefits and what you are trying to achieve.
Here are few guidelines to creating an advocacy program in your organization.
1. Culture of trust and freedom
First of all, you must be able to create an air of freedom and a culture of trust since you can’t force employee advocacy on employees, neither can you pay them to use their personal lives to advocate for your brand if they don’t want to. If your employees trust you, they will be motivated to share information on social networks about your organization. It will also boost genuine conversation about your brand. Freedom is important because despite the fact that you want your employees to advocate and be ambassadors for your brand, you can’t actually force them. You are also giving your employees power to state what is true or false that others say about your company.
2. Set goals and key performance indicators
To achieve anything, it is important to set goals and track progress over time. What do you want to achieve? What do you want your employees to advocate for? What should they share? What kind of results do you want to see? An increase in brand engagement? Social media shares? More sales? What kind of people do you want to see? What kind of demographics do you want to connect with? Are you aiming to increase positive perceptions of your brand? Is your plan to increase more traffic and sales leads?
All of these need to be in your employee advocacy program strategy. Setting goals and KPIs will help you achieve that.
3. Make guidelines clear to follow
Create clear guidelines for employees to follow, but not impose the guidelines on them, it will restrict trust and freedom. You should create guidelines on what to share, how to share, where to share the kind of content, and incentives for employees to be advocates. Train and provide support when necessary. If necessary, appoint an employee advocacy star (a point of contact) who can assist and give advice should employees need it. Before rounding this part up, understand that the content employees share is totally their own choice. You can’t force them to share your latest deals, products and services, or the latest content from your site if they don’t consider it relevant to them and their network. That’s why your content should cover an array of topics, to reflect the diversity in interests, opinions and voices among employees in your organization. So make sure there’s a full range of content available for them to share.
4. Create easy access to the company content and news
Create one place where your employees can access and share the company content and news about your company/products.
Sharing this content should go through one platform where you can easily add tracking and analytics so that you can see the results and reward the top sharers. And you need to make it very easy to share your posts and make it fun, so try to add some gamification elements like competition and rewards.
5. Reward employees
To make your employee advocacy program successful, it is important that you reward them. It may take the form of bonuses, exclusive access to events, internal recognition, etc. This should be dictated by the size of your budget anyway. If you don’t know exactly what they’ll want, why not crowdsource the idea? It just might work. Or do the old school survey among your people.
6. Your company hashtag
Create a hashtag to easily identify posts made by your employees #CompanyEmployee. One of the great ideas in this field comes from Natalie Kessler of Adobe. She started to promote the lifestyle that comes as a result of working for Adobe. Employees on Twitter are using the hashtag #adobelife so that you can easily see what people are sharing.
Sharing the same content at the same time
Sometimes you will hear that people are not willing to share the same message as others, because if you have 500 people sharing the same message during one day, it could have a negative impact. But even if all your employees share at the same time on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. they don’t have the same connections as their colleagues, neither are they likely to use the same social network to share the message.
How can you measure employee advocacy?
Lastly, let’s have a look at analytics and the best ways to measure employee advocacy. Ultimately, the kind of metrics you should measure are relative to the nature of your business, there is no universal standard. Here are a few examples:
- Employee conversion rate. How many employees are now brand advocates?
- Employee influence. How has this employee advocacy program improved your employees’ online influence?
- Effect of advocacy. Has your fan base increased since you started the employee advocacy program?
- Reach. Has your organic reach been boosted?
- Consumer demographics change. Are your advocates bringing in different groups of fans and followers?
- ROI in relation to number of hires.
In conclusion, it is recommended that you combine these metrics with your existing metrics. You can also track whether the program is bringing your company a larger number of candidates who are registering through your ATS; is the employee advocacy affecting the number of candidates that you are getting through the referral program? Further, how is this employee advocacy program affecting your retention? You can also measure the ROI of the employee advocacy program.
Generation Y or Z does not have to rely on what potential employers tell them about a company through PR articles and amazing ads, because people trust people more than they trust ads. A happy employee is the best marketing asset your company can have! If you find a way of engaging with them, give them the right content to share, the freedom to do it and the right guidance or training, they can help you to build a better employer brand.
There is no doubt that employee advocacy works when you are trying to foster brand engagement, sales or new hires for your company. You just have to find a way to tailor the employee advocacy program to your company, so that you get the results you need.
Originally published at LinkedIn