The Role of Big Data in Successful Employee Advocacy Programs

The Role of Big Data in Successful Employee Advocacy Programs

Employee advocacy is nothing new. 90% of B2B companies are already pursuing or have plans to pursue an employee advocacy program. This figure alone represents a clear shift in the way companies utilize and think about social media as a company-wide strategy, rather than a marketing-only tool. At a time when customers rely on social media to stay connected with friends, gather information, and follow brands they love, the growing adoption of employee advocacy comes as no surprise.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept or having second thoughts about its importance, here’s what I think. Employees are your brand. They are the most credible, authentic, and engaging mouthpiece that your company has. Therefore, building a formal program to support their content sharing efforts will show great promise in terms of amplified reach, increased social engagement, and improved ROI.

Even when compared to paid social advertising (which represents 84% of content promotion efforts among B2B marketers) employee advocacy is a far more effective strategy. For example, 6 months after launching its advocacy program, leading ICT company, Fujitsu, discovered that employee advocacy had a much greater ROI (360%) than paid social ads.

Failure to Use Employee Advocacy Data

One of the underlying factors that fueled Fujitsu’s success story was its data-driven focus. As with any great marketing strategy out there, building a smart employee advocacy program involves 1) gathering data and 2) adjusting your strategy based on insights from your data. In saying that, companies commonly struggle to make sense of the data they collect, let alone fail to measure the value of their employee advocacy program. There are three reasons why this happens:

  1. Too much data. The sheer volume of data available to crunch and analyze can sometimes be overwhelming, making the individual social media manager–or even the CMO–feel powerless. That’s why marketers have social media analytics and monitoring tools, which allow them to filter the data they need and turn it into valuable insights.
  2. Too many tools. The second point, which ties with the first, is the tools. With hundreds of social media measurement tools available, it can be challenging to find one that addresses the needs and goals of the individual B2B marketer. In fact, the right platform should gear marketers towards understanding the real impact of employee advocacy in driving ROI.
  3. Too many silly metrics. In addition to the mounting volumes of data and the lack of sophisticated tools, are the people who don’t know what to measure. Many B2B marketers simply rely on the metrics that social networks (e.g. Facebook Insights) publically offer, such as followers.

Using Employee Advocacy Data Effectively

Putting together some flashy reports with little insight on how employees are actually contributing to business outcomes, means you failed to leverage your data effectively. As a general rule, data plays four key roles in your employee advocacy program:

  1. Program Readiness: It’s important to assess and evaluate the degree to which you can internally launch a program and achieve the given goals. For example, having a sufficient number of employees to support a program, and understanding how many employees are actively sharing company content without a program in place. You could also conduct a company-wide survey to decipher how mentally-ready employees are to become brand advocates, and to what extent they will participate in the program so you can allocate resources efficiently (e.g. onboarding, training).
  2. Employee Engagement: This group of data attempts to capture how socially engaged employees are, and in turn, how far your content is going to reach. For example, measuring the number of employees who actively post, the total number of posts being shared, and the frequency of posts.
  3. Audience Engagement: The next stage is to examine the results that employees achieve, and how well your message is resonating with their audience. This includes engagement (likes, shares, comments, clicks), reach of posts, and website traffic.
  4. Business Outcomes ($): The majority of companies don’t measure beyond the third data group. However, for a mature employee advocacy program, you must connect the investment in employees advocacy to real business outcomes, which involves measuring the number of leads generated, revenue impact, ROI of program, and reduction in social advertising spend.

All of this effort to trace your employee advocacy journey from top to bottom; from your internal engagement to its external impact, is invaluable for gaining a holistic view of your program’s success. The best marketing approach, therefore, is to befriend Big Data (not run away from it) and make productive use of it.


Ben Green Ben is the Director of Operations at Oktopost, prior to which he built the lead demand activities for Nolio, where social media played a key role in the lead generation program. He rides his bike to work and takes way too much vacation!