6 Steps To Launching An Employee Advocacy Program

on December 4, 2014

6 Steps To Launching An Employee Advocacy Program

Whether they’re on a quest for friends, fans, or followers, organizations of all sizes spend anywhere from a sizable chunk to a small fortune on social networking.

While this mission is worthwhile for reaching current and future customers, there’s a big piece of the puzzle that many organizations are overlooking: employee advocacy.

Your Employee Advocacy Mission

If you’re wondering why you should care about transforming your employees into social advocates, then stop speculating. It turns out that they’re already way, way, ahead of you. In fact, a Weber Shandwick study found that a whopping 50% of US employees (about 60 million) are blogging, posting, tweeting, and commenting about their employers.

As a marketer, your mission is to harness and leverage the immense power of employee advocacy. Encourage your team to effectively and enthusiastically use their personal social media profile (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) in a way that supports your organization’s objectives.

Accepting this mission is the easy part since some of your employees are already doing it on their own. Chances are likely that more will join them in the near future, especially social networking-addicted Millenials. Based on statistics from the US Bureau of Labor, Millenials will actually comprise a shocking 50% of the workforce by 2020.

Executing this mission, however, is the tricky part. Without a map, many well-intentioned organizations are lost in a sea of employee advocacy “good intentions”.

Fortunately, that won’t be your fate if you follow these 6 employee advocacy steps:

Step 1: Get with the Program

The first thing to do is to accept that employee advocacy isn’t an event; it’s a program. And while immediate results are possible, you really need to play the long-term game here.

Employee advocacy on social media is rooted in authenticity and trust. These take time to develop. If you hit the panic button because you aren’t seeing the ROI you expect from other advertising and marketing investments, you won’t merely undermine the program – you’ll likely cause it to backfire.

Step 2: Establish Your Metrics

While launching an employee advocacy program should give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, you obviously need a way to track and measure the results it’s generating.

Start this key process by identifying your B2B marketing KPIs, which could include: the number of employees participating in the program; the volume of posts, clicks, comments and conversions; the increase in your brand’s reach and influence, etc.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself changing the KPIs as time goes on to reflect the nature of your program, and the growing availability of powerful tools that measure this activity with seemingly NASA-like precision.

Step 3: Create a Team

Despite the fact that it’s a relatively new concept, an employee advocacy program is a legitimate marketing function, and therefore needs a budget, plan, and team that can be represented at the organization’s boardroom table.

Although the size and consistency of the employee advocacy team differ for each organization, there should at least be an identified leader.

Coordinators and administrators, preferably from the marketing and human resources team, should be appointed to support his or her vision. Indeed, without a suitably authorized and well-resourced team, a social advocacy program can die on the vine.

Step 4: Train & Repeat

On a basic level, most of your employees are either already active on social media, or they can learn in a matter of hours (okay, some might need days). However, integrating this usage with a robust employee advocacy program isn’t automatic. For that to happen, your leadership team (see Step 3) needs to provide orientation and training, particularly with respect to proper usage.

Remember, these employees are being asked to use their own social accounts to help achieve organizational aims. As such, the training has to reflect this fact. In other words, it’s not about directing, it’s about encouraging.

Help employees identify and embrace the role they can play in helping current customers and attracting future ones, and guide them on how to provide info, answers and advice. By contributing in this manner, they will be helping themselves, their colleagues, and the organization at large.

Step 5: Monitor the Program

Some employees are going to get it right and be actively involved, while for others it might take some time. Regardless of your initial results, it’s essential to monitor your employee advocacy program to ensure that it’s moving in the right direction.

For the glass-half-empty among us: it’s necessary to ensure that employees aren’t running afoul of the program’s guidelines, either by unknowingly posting and sharing the wrong messages, or sometimes, doing it on purpose.

The key here is to proactively ensure that all employees are aware of the implications involved in what they may post or share on personal social profiles. These implications can potentially impact not only the organization – but also the employee’s career.

This explanation should not be perceived as threatening (once again, employees are being asked to participate – not being told to participate).

However, just as a matter-of-fact, employees should be reminded that there has always been a policy in place to govern acceptable behavior inside and outside of the workplace. The emergence of social networking only changes the communication method – and not the policy itself.

Step 6: Optimize, Tweak, Refine…

Employee advocacy is relatively new, and still evolving. As a result, you should expect to refine – and refine again – your program as you learn more about your employees, your marketplace, and the technology you can use to amplify and measure results.

Be willing to listen, learn and adjust so that your employee advocacy program is continuously working for your organization – rather than for your competition.

The Bottom Line

Developing, launching and optimizing an employee advocacy program won’t happen overnight. There is a fair amount of work involved, plus the need to allocate appropriate resources, time and people.

With that being said, you don’t have to become a social advocacy guru like Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh, who runs classes for employees on how to use Twitter, or Serena Software’s CEO Jeremy Burton, who insists that employees spend at least one hour a week on Facebook.

Rather, you simply need to be focused and committed to taking a running start on the path ahead. With the right team, technology, training and policies, your organization will be on the leading edge of building social proof via employee advocates, which is proving to be a radically effective and profitable way to engage both employees and customers.

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