6 Things That No One Tells you About Employee Advocacy
Dear marketing leader,
You read on some flashy statistic sheet that 64% of companies credit employee advocacy with attracting and developing new business, while 45% attribute new revenue streams to advocacy.
Perhaps you also watched one of our awesome webinars, showcasing Fujitsu’s astounding 360% ROI from its employee advocacy program.
But then you went back to your employee advocacy performance report, realizing that none of the metrics match up to your expectations – employees aren’t sharing enough content, nor are they generating any mind-blowing results.
Feeling disappointed and confused, you wonder, “Is our employee advocacy program doomed?”
The answer is, no.
As good as the statistics may sound, employee advocacy is not a project you launch, sit back, and watch the leads roll in. Before jumping into employee advocacy, there are a few things you should know – some remarkable truths that no one ever tells you, which could make you rethink and revamp your entire strategy:
1. Every Employee Advocate is Different
Motivation and desire to share content on behalf of the company differ across every individual. While some employees genuinely enjoy staying up to date with company content, others simply want to boast about their fun workplace.
Just like you have ‘buyer personas’ to inform your content marketing strategy, you should also have ‘employee personas’ to inform your employee advocacy strategy.
Looking at your advocates through the lens of formal personas can help you understand these individual differences and address them through the way you onboard employees, provide relevant content and reward excellence.
Generally speaking, the average pool of employee advocates can be divided into 3 key personas: Social Enthusiasts, Social Majority, and of course the Social Curmudgeons.
- The Social Enthusiasts represent your most outgoing, social-savvy employees who are committed to sharing content on a regular basis. These are highly influential employees with the most relevant social connections. As the leaders of your program, they’re going to set the tone for the other groups.
- The Social Majority represents the healthy middle; individuals who enjoy sharing content and being recognized for it, but won’t go the extra mile of being constantly active. The best way to motivate them is by getting buy-in from leadership or exposing them to their personal results.
- The Social Curmudgeons represent (you guessed it) the most withdrawn advocates; those who may not even have a social media profile. Since they’re not customer-facing by trade (they do the behind-the-scenes work), they remain indifferent about your employee advocacy program. Once they see the Social Enthusiasts and the Social Majority benefitting from advocacy, they are more likely to get onboard.
If you want to dive deeper into these personas, check out this article.
Whichever persona you’re aiming to target with advocacy, you need to tap into the factors that instigate their participation and commitment. Combine content, networks, and gamification campaigns that provide a tailored advocacy experience.
2. Millennials Aren’t the Only “Social” Ones
Millennials, also known as Gen Y, are those born between 1980 and 1997. The vastly accepted view is that “millennials own social media” – they scroll mindlessly through Instagram, post frequently about their life, and thrive off the like system.
Contrary to these beliefs, a recent Nielsen report found that millennials are less social-savvy than their older counterparts. In fact, Gen X (born between the 1960s and early 1980s) were found to spend the most time on social networks each week!
This might resonate with those who have seen the movie, ‘The Intern’.
On the left, senior intern, Ben Whittaker, played by Robert De Niro has joined an e-Commerce fashion startup and is more eager than any of his younger peers to impress the CEO, offer advice, and among other things, get into the social media world.
Although Ben is technically a Baby Boomer, the movie, along with the findings above, underline how ubiquitous social media has become among every age group and generation. They also show that winning over the older individuals with advocacy can be as simple as providing them a phone app that makes it easier to share content.
While millennials often have an intuitive understanding of what’s “engaging” on social media (like using funny cat GIF’s and videos), they are less versed in quantifying what works and what doesn’t. Gen X, on the other hand, are more sophisticated in this area. They value the ability to crunch the numbers and back up their work with real data.
Knowing this plays an important role in helping you connect with Gen X more successfully. Beyond getting them to share content, it’s important to show them how their social media efforts are contributing to broader business goals – how many leads did their post generate? Which specific post brought the most conversions? Are any of these leads sales-qualified?
Make these results as transparent as possible by sending weekly emails or setting personal meetings.
3. Employee Advocacy Is Not a Marathon
Many times, when companies want to launch an employee advocacy program they think 10 steps too far: “we need to onboard as many advocates as possible”, “our goal is a company-wide advocacy program”.
While it’s great to aim high, the cornerstone of a successful employee advocacy strategy is to build from the ground up.
Start small by focusing on a specific group of employees; those who are independently advocating for your company on social media, sharing company content, and even posting office photos (referring to the Social Enthusiasts). These individuals are your best bet when it comes to seeing results and influencing more employees to join, beyond the pilot phase.
Rather than restricting the scope of the pilot run to social-savvy employees, broader the circle by including all customer-facing employees. Hone in on sales, marketing, and support teams who are the main bridge to your prospects and customers.
The advantage of focusing on customer-facing employees is that they are already familiar with utilizing social media as a channel for building connections and networking with clients. By providing them with professional content to share, you empower them as thought leaders in the industry and improve their engagement with customers.
Kicking off with a pilot run paves the way for long-term success. You need patience, time, leadership buy-in, and a clear advocacy strategy before you utilize the entire workforce as a marketing asset.
4. Official Social Media Guidelines Will Save You
How do you have control over what employee advocates post to social media?
Even though you provide them with content that has been pre-approved, employees may still be able to distort your messaging or take it out of context. This is especially true for a large company with employees scattered across different building, cities, countries or even continents.
So how are you supposed to uphold your company’s reputation without hampering employees’ right to post freely on social?
By having a documented social media guideline or policy, which clearly define the do’s and don’ts of publishing information that pertains to the company, its clients, and prospects. If you already have such document, great, make it accessible to your employee advocates!
If you don’t have one, download this free template.
Implementing an official guideline will ensure that employee advocates think twice before posting something inappropriate or confidential to social that could harm the brand that you’ve so carefully built.
5. Employees Get Bored Easily
That’s right, don’t expect employee advocates to constantly be engaged in your program. In particular, don’t expect Millennials to stay motivated. According to the Gallup report, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” Millennials are the generation least engaged at work, which means they get bored easily.
From the perspective of millennials, work is a way of life, and therefore it needs to be fulfilling, satisfying, and fast-moving all at once. This is part of the challenge for companies trying to engage millennials in advocacy – how do you turn advocacy into a fulfilling, satisfying, and fast-moving experience?
By giving them a ‘purpose’ to share content. At the end of the day, it’s all about clarifying the purpose of their efforts, which can be achieved by gamifying the program as well as using positive feedback and reinforcement.
Stress the benefits and values associated with being an advocate, such as thought leadership, personal brand development, and driving lead generation. And don’t just show them the results they’re generating, rather give it a competitive edge. Compare their performance to that of other team members and through this, bring in the rewards, public recognition, and positive feedback.
6. Habits Are Habits – Flow with Them
Habits are behaviors we do frequently. Many employees already have a habit of using a range of social channels, like checking LinkedIn for industry news and posting content to Facebook.
Even if your company does not have a dedicated presence on their channel of choice, you should align your employee advocacy strategy with their existing habits.
Monitor their social media activity; if you’re seeing that most employees are sharing content to LinkedIn and Twitter, then provide them with more LinkedIn posts and Tweets. If you’re noticing that images and videos get shared more often than text-only messages, be sure to provide more visual content.
Think of it this way – sharing company content can be seen by employees as a whole other task they must add to their to-do-list. In order for their motivation to keep up, they should be able to share content they like, on networks they are most comfortable with.
Knowing is always better than not knowing. Before you launch an employee advocacy program – or even if you launched and aren’t seeing great enough results – take a step back to consider who you’re trying to onboard, what content you’re providing (and how they’re using it), and what you’re doing to increase engagement.