So Influential: Launching Your First Employee Advocacy Program

You’ve heard of “influencers” in digital marketing. They advocate for yoga pants, shampoo, kitty litter- you name it- for companies who count on their charm (and followers) to drum up brand recognition and sales. What if your very own employees could be social media advocates for your business? It turns out it’s a “thing”! It’s called “Employee Social Advocacy”, and it’s a fun and effective way to drive engagement and build authentic trust in your business.

What Is Employee Social Advocacy?

Employee social advocacy is the voluntary promotion of a company by its own employees. These days, when you look at the life-balance pie chart of most individuals, work takes up a big slice. Employees are often proud of where they work, and count it as a big part of their identity. Not just for yoga pants and kitty litter anymore, employee advocacy is a growing marketing strategy. It now spans across all types of organizations, from professional services, marketing and technology to educational institutions and non-profits. Your business is next.

Why Employee Social Advocacy?

As it is now, 77% of employees use social media during work hours, and 50% post content about their work without being asked to do so. Much like when the chocolate fell into the peanut butter, there seems to be a delectable recipe just waiting to be discovered. Why not cultivate a brigade of social media influencers right in your own workplace? It’s like increasing your business’s followers and online visibility many times over! 

Hearing from actual employees is effective in building customer trust. It makes sense. How many times have you rolled your eyes at a particularly sentimental or earnest commercial because you could just see Madison Avenue’s slick input all over it? People trust an employee more than they do a corporation, a business social media profile, or even that of the CEO. News from an employee just feels more sincere and credible. No employee is going to be an advocate unless they truly believe in the product. The employee puts a human face on a business entity. That’s powerful.

So, that’s great for marketing. But you’ll also feel benefits throughout your business, internally. An employee social advocacy program helps build a more engaged workforce, which is consistently reported as the top challenge organizations face. Very small percentages of employees report feeling engaged in their jobs, and many report feeling unappreciated or non-essential. Employee advocacy helps redirect that perception by bringing employees into a proactive role. Employees who actively engage in employee advocacy programs are naturally driven to help create a more positive work environment because they feel more connected.  

Additionally, employee social advocacy can assist your employees in building their own personal brand. When an employee posts company news or white-papers, they establish themselves as an authority in their field and grow as thought leaders in their own right. This bump of inspiration fuels a positivity you’ll be able to feel in the work environment, and will reflect well on you.    

How To Implement An Employee Social Advocacy Program

Prep

Before you approach your employees to get the ball rolling, you’ll need to do a bit of planning. Clarify your objectives for the program, and envision what a successful employee advocacy program looks like for you. Create a list of content and messaging you’d like to communicate and what tactics you may use to reach your target audiences. Draw up a basic roadmap. Get focused. 

Introduce The Concept

Call a meeting and let your employees know how much you value them, and beyond that, how important it is to you that they know they’re valued. Let them know that you’re starting a voluntary employee social advocacy program that will benefit the company, and them, in the ways illustrated above. It’s important that the program is voluntary in order to attract employees who will advocate enthusiastically and sincerely. Make sure your employees know that you won’t take it personally if they opt out. Some people aren’t “social media people” and that’s okay. They’ll appreciate being given the option.

Discuss The Plan

Let the employees who are interested know that they’ll be encouraged to write in their own voices and to be themselves when they share company content. You’ll help elevate them as experts in their industry by curating a variety of content for them to share with their followers. Consider a company-wide theme each month for employees to focus on in their posts. Educate employees about the brand and its mission, and make sure employees completely understand what is and isn’t allowed. 

Appoint A Leader/Start The Trial Period

Consider appointing an employee program coordinator from the group to function as a peer leader, and implement a program trial period during which all content is approved by you or the program coordinator before being published. Think about keeping the trial period small and expanding it after a designated length of time to include more employees. Provide coaching/brainstorming sessions to create fresh content and to continue to solidify best practices. 

Create Some Fun Incentives

Incentivize your employees by rewarding them with points earned for each post, or number of new followers/likes, which they can redeem for prizes like gift certificates, tickets to something fun, or even a day off.

Remember The “Why”

Remind your employees often of the great gift they’re giving the company through their advocacy and remind them of how much you appreciate their expanding the company’s mission. 

You’ll soon come to feel the power of advocacy in your bottom line, in your customer engagement, and in the happiness and satisfaction of your workforce. As long as work is a piece of the pie, it may as well be delicious.