5 steps to kickstart employee advocacy
17th December 2020
The foundation of B2B marketing and sales is trust and credibility, so it’s not surprising that employee advocacy has been steadily rising in popularity. People trust people over brands; your subject matter experts are now seen as the most credible source of information and regular employees are not far behind.
Employee advocacy is often seen as a vehicle to boost an organization’s message through the power of its staff’s greater social reach, yet it’s about much more than increased promotion and sales. When you embed it into your culture correctly, it can create credible, authentic stories and conversations that increase trust and engagement with your audience and employees. And when you do so, it helps your internal subject matter experts reach a position of thought leadership and influence.
If you want to gain all the benefits that employee advocacy has to offer, then in our experience these five steps will help you ensure that your program is the success you know it can be.
Establishing goals and objectives is the first step. If you’re launching an advocacy program, you need to think broadly about your business goals and objectives beyond how it will help your own department.
For example, do you want to build brand awareness, drive website traffic, increase leads, or attract and retain top talent?
A program without goals and objectives is a program that will fail and be defunded – you’ll have no way of knowing if it’s successful or not. Once you know your goals, remember to set realistic and measurable objectives to help you get there!
Most advocacy tools enable you to curate and publish content faster. Here are a few other features to consider:
- Employee post-editing options
- Content suggestions
- Approval workflows
- Personalized feeds
- Advanced overview analytics e.g. Earned Media Value and post-performance ranking
- Easy integrations with your marketing and sales software
- Social listening
- Training & support
Just like at a dinner party, no one wants to sit next to someone who only talks about themselves. This is true on social media too. When launching an advocacy program your content curation strategy must enable your employees to show multiple dimensions of their expertise and interests.
That’s where the 50:50 rule comes into play. This means that you should aim for a roughly even split between curated third-party/industry-related content and your branded thought leadership or promotional content.
Your advocacy tool content curation should give your employees content that’s relevant and exciting to their audience and to them, such as:
- Industry news
- Company news
- Product innovation
- Thought leadership blogs
- Content related to their field
- Lifestyle & personal interest
Your employees’ and audiences’ interests may differ but the last thing you want is for your employees to lose interest (training on the 50-50 rule can come later!). You’ll also want to establish quality control procedures so that you can give your employees the freedom to be authentic without it causing compliance issues or damaging your brand reputation.
In our experience, running a pilot program is a must for social business transformation.
A pilot program involves gathering a small number of enthusiastic employees to help you prove your concept. These are the ones who are already active on social, creating a buzz, and engaging in meaningful discussions. They’ll be excited to help you build an advocacy program and experiment with the best approach for your organization.
At the pilot stage, enlist a member of leadership or senior executive to act as a sponsor for your program. They’ll be responsible for overseeing budget investments, helping you create your vision, and, ultimately, leading by example when you’re ready to launch your program.
A pilot gives you the case studies and data and saves your budget (and face) for once you’ve optimized your strategy. And when you combine this with the power of your executive sponsor, you’ve got a much better chance of buy-in from employees and leadership to scale your program.
Just like with content marketing, your training should focus on delivering the right training at the right level for each employee. Before you launch, it’s best to establish a framework for the next stages of training, otherwise, you risk losing the momentum and excitement.
As people move through the 9 stages of employee social maturity you’ll need to provide more training that becomes increasingly personalized:
Inform the masses at the outset on the basics on your social media policy, how to use your advocacy tool, and the basics of social media best practice and etiquette. At this stage, eLearning can help you scale your training quickly and act as a go-to resource when they need to use it.
Train the many with more targeted, advanced training at selected groups of people, such as webinars and workshops.
Coach the few with one-to-one training for employees that are excelling and your internal trainers and coaches.
You’ve proven it can work and you’ve got the right tools and training framework in place. Now you need to create excitement so that employees want to join and keep them engaged in the social journey!
Let them know what value advocacy will bring for the company and them. And remember to include leadership in the launch and ensure they’re active as it will send a top-down message that’s more compelling.
After launching, you can keep your employees engaged by sharing the impact they’re having by showcasing their best practices and offering the targeted training you’ve set up. This will help you keep their interest after the initial excitement wanes.
After the launch comes the exciting part – seeing the results of your hard work and optimizing further by digging deep into your employee advocacy metrics.
Sarah Goodall is the founder and CEO of Tribal Impact. Tribal Impact helps B2B leaders who want to digitally connect their employees to customers, yet are worried about the risk of letting employees ‘go solo’ on social media.
Tribal Impact help their customers accelerate social media activation across their entire organisation via employee advocacy, social selling, digital leadership and expert influencer activation programs.
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