Published 23 November 2017 Category: Workplace, Business, SMEs, Entrepreneurs, Social Media, Marketing, Sales

Rethinking Employee Advocacy

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.

Generally speaking, the average pool of employee advocates can be divided into 3 key personas: Social Enthusiasts, Social Majority, and of course the Social Reclusive.

 The Social Enthusiasts represent your most outgoing, social-savvy employees who are committed to sharing content on a regular basis.

The Social Majority represents the healthy middle; individuals who enjoy sharing content and being recognised for it, but won’t go the extra mile of being constantly active.

The Social Reclusive collectively represent the most withdrawn advocates; those who may not even have a social media profile.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.

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 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’ where 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.

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 utilising 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 utilise 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!

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.

6. Habits Are Habits – Flow with Them
Habits are behaviours 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.