Employee advocacy may not be on every marketer’s agenda yet – but this doesn’t mean employees haven’t taken matters into their own hands. A study from Weber Shandwick actually found that 50% of the US workforce (about 60 million people) is already voluntarily posting, tweeting and commenting about their employer.
As employee advocacy reaches the forefront of social media management trends, the line between personal and professional has become more blurred than ever. The active use of social media in the workplace makes it increasingly difficult to draw clear boundaries between employers and employees. Employees are using social media not only to build their personal brands, but to promote their companies at large.
Apart from being an innovative way to reach new audiences and raise brand awareness, employee advocacy can also serve as a great feedback mechanism. Employees that post about their organization on social media often provide critical and helpful insights that can help a company improve its working environment, culture, and even products.
As BusinessNewsDaily.com remarked, “When it comes to social media, your employees are just like any other consumer: They talk to friends, share opinions and discuss their interests and hobbies. Perhaps most important, they also post about their experiences with the brands they buy from.”
It goes without saying that if employees love their company’s culture, this feeling will naturally be expressed in any work-related posts they publish on social media. Employees who share positive posts about their organization ultimately paint a very favorable image of their brand, in the most honest and organic way possible.
As hard as it is to accept, any post shared by a marketer on a corporate social media pages can never achieve the same degree of authenticity as one written by an employee. Companies that have created a positive workplace should reap the benefits of employees who are willing to share and help maximize a company’s online exposure.
The Core Factors of an Employee Advocacy Playbook
Given the substantial impact that social media can have on a brand’s reputation, any employee advocacy policy must be created with both care and vision. Employers should be open to giving their employees a social voice, but with this, develop a set of mutually agreed-upon guidelines to follow. This set of guidelines is meant to support both parties involved: employees and employers alike.
The more knowledgeable employees are about the “parameters” of posting about their company on social media, the more comfortable they’ll be to share posts that promote it. On the flip side, this knowledge is also designed to protect a brand’s reputation. It ensures employees are aware of what qualifies as inappropriate, confidential, or sensitive content. Regardless of the specific guidelines, for such a policy to work, there must be a sense of mutual trust that exists between the two sides.
Image Credit: Altimeter Group
If developed correctly, a successful employee advocacy program can serve to boost a company’s visibility and credibility. Not only is it a powerful tool for improving public opinion, but it also reinforces the sense of belonging between employees and their brand.
Before implementing a policy, company’s can greatly benefit from electing an “Employee Advocacy Task Force” to take the lead. This core team of ambassadors can play an instrumental role in gradually training, coaching, and nurturing employees at large. Once a policy is developed, it’s the task force’s responsibility to ensure that all new and existing employees are aware of its existence.
Once your policy is in place, you’ll be able to reap the immense potential rewards of an employee advocacy program – like those enjoyed by Starbucks, Bluewolf, and Koka Seton.
How is Employee Advocacy Unique Compared to Other Types of Customer Outreach?
- Employees use their personal social media profiles.
- Employees are typically active on social media outside of working hours.
- Employee posts, tweets, uploads and comments cannot be “recalled.” Read these next few words carefully: once it’s out there, it’s never coming back.
To ensure that these core factors don’t hurt a brand’s reputation, follow this list of “do’s and don’ts” for developing a solid employee advocacy policy.
The DOs of an Employee Advocacy Policy
- DO provide employees with resources and other support, such as a list of topics they can discuss and an FAQ for engaging customers. Include this collateral in all on-boarding process for new employees, and in training processes for existing ones.
- DO offer guidelines on acceptable use, in terms of organizational norms and prevailing laws.
- DO provide training, and periodic re-training (lectures, courses, slides) so employees have a solid understanding – and reminders, of how they can and should participate on social media.
- DO have a designated social advocacy “leader” that employees can turn to with questions they have prior to posting, clarify guidelines with, or provide feedback to.
- DO have a mechanism in place to escalate feedback to relevant decision makers who can then make informed resource and strategy decisions.
The DON’Ts of an Employee Advocacy Policy
- DON’T ask your employees for passwords to their accounts. It’s against the law in a growing number of jurisdictions. Alternatively, you can use a social media tool that lets employees add personal social profiles to the platform, so you can post on their behalf.
- DON’T tell employees what they “must” do. Encourage them to participate and give them incentives, but don’t forget that it’s their social media account – and their time.
- DON’T ban activities that might be protected either by free speech laws, or protected by labor legislation (a.k.a. “concerted activities” such as talking about salaries).
- DON’T ignore any allegations of abuse, bullying or any other unacceptable and potentially illegal activity – either if the employee is the alleged perpetrator or victim.
The idea of employee advocacy isn’t new. Word of mouth from employees has been around forever, but social media, not to mention the Internet at large, have created a whole different approach.
Developing a policy that carefully follows the above guidelines can make a profound difference between a program that sputters and stops, and one that succeeds and surpasses expectations.
Main photo credit: David Salafia