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What is Employee Advocacy and How Do Marketers Win With It?

March 13,2018

by Katie Levinson - LinkedIn B2B university 

It goes without saying that a company’s employees are its most valuable assets. A happy and productive workforce leads to growth, retention, and strong culture. But many organizations are not fully tapping into the true potential of their teams.
In a world driven by digital and social, employee advocacy is essential.

What Is Employee Advocacy

The employee advocacy definition is quite simple: it is the promotion of your company by the people who work for it. People advocate for their employers on social media all the time. A Facebook post like, “Just had a great catered lunch at work. Thanks, [Employer!]” counts as employee advocacy. So does sharing the latest post from the company blog on your Instagram feed.
This informal, everyday sharing isn’t what has the marketing world excited, however. Employee advocacy as a marketing tactic is a strategic, sustainable program to encourage employees to share brand values and messages in an organic way.
To unpack that run-on sentence, an employee advocacy program should be:

  • Strategic: Implemented with goals in mind and metrics in place to measure progress toward those goals.
  • Sustainable: Designed to last, with support from management and a plan for keeping enthusiasm up.
  • Organic: Participation should be voluntary and out of genuine interest. You’re inspiring advocacy, not mandating it.

Types of Employee Advocacy

Spreading the word at events, or through general word-of-mouth, are examples of employee advocacy, but in today’s environment, it’s all about social media. When you activate your employees across various networks with a structured and goal-oriented plan for sharing content through a tool like Go4social's GO4.employee, digital reach grows dramatically. And best of all, it’s measurable.
Beyond raising brand awareness, there are two desired core outcomes of an employee advocacy program, so the makeup of any initiative will usually be framed around achieving one, or (quite often) both.

Attracting New Business. Amplifying your brand through the networks of your employees can dramatically boost visibility, potentially capturing the attention of many new prospective customers. When this is the objective, employees are often encouraged to share content that will appeal to the types of people or organizations you seek to do business with.
Think about it this way: If you’re researching solutions for a business challenge, will you be swayed more by a company’s ad appearing on a site you’re browsing, or by an employee excitedly discussing some cool project she just wrapped up for a similar client? Better yet: What if you see the ad and then come across that post reinforcing its message?
Some of the content areas for an employee advocacy program focusing on business development might include:

  • Articles about your niche with useful insights for companies that operate within it
  • Case studies and customer testimonials to demonstrate your strengths
  • Thought leadership posts from executives and leaders
  • Instructional webinars or SlideShares that help solve problems

Attracting New Talent. Most organizations are making emphatic efforts to foster high workplace morale through employee perks, company outings, personal development initiatives, and more. But it’s difficult to promote these efforts from up-top without sounding self-congratulatory. Empowering your employees to share experiences and impressions from their own perspectives can communicate these benefits in a more authentic and relatable way.
Of course, a positive workplace culture and emphasis on bringing in top talent are appealing to prospective clients, so this objective usually feeds into the first. An employee advocacy program oriented toward talent acquisition might include:

  • Company news and product/service information
  • Job postings and open positions
  • Recaps from company events or outings
  • “Day in the Life” content portraying office culture

What are the Benefits of Employee Advocacy?

As we said earlier, your program needs to be implemented with goals in mind. What kinds of goals can employee advocacy help you achieve? What should your employee advocacy platform be designed to do?
There are three major areas of your business that employee advocacy can impact:

1. Marketing. Our research shows that, on average, employees collectively have social networks ten times larger than a corporate brand does. That means your advocacy program can drastically extend your reach.
But it’s about more than increasing the number of eyeballs. Employee shares are seen as more authentic than corporate shares, and people are more likely to engage with the content. Employee shares have double the click-through-rate of corporate shares.
Given these facts, employee advocacy can reliably boost brand awareness, increase followers to your Company Page, and even generate leads for the sales department. Speaking of which…

2. Sales. Social media presence is a necessary component of modern sales. Even in the B2B space, buyers are using social media to help guide their purchasing decisions. They’re looking for trusted advisors who can help them solve problems.
Salespeople in an employee advocacy program are better equipped to become that trusted advisor. They’re more active on social media, therefore easier for buyers to engage with. They share valuable content, engage in conversation, and help solve problems. Their sharing leads to increased Social Networks Company's Profile views and an expanded professional network.
Employee advocacy for salespeople can help increase the number of sales-qualified leads, attract and develop new business, shorten sales cycles, and bring in new revenue streams. Salespeople who regularly share quality content are 45% more likely to exceed quota.

3. Recruiting. Granted, the marketing department is not Human Resources. But recruiting is partly a marketing function, because attracting top talent requires a sterling brand reputation. It’s marketing’s job to develop that reputation.
Socially engaged employees help boost the brand within their networks and beyond. They share what makes your company great with their peers, while demonstrating the high level of talent your company already possesses.
Companies with a successful employee advocacy program are 58% more likely to attract and 20% more likely to retain top talent. They can actually attribute specific hires to their advocacy program—in some cases, hundreds of them.

Creating a Plan

Any structure needs a solid foundation before the building can really begin. We’ll talk shortly about ways you can ensure long-term viability, but it all begins with a well-conceived blueprint that gets everybody on the same page.
Each of these five steps will help lay the groundwork for effective and sustainable employee brand advocacy:

Step 1: Define Goals and Objectives

These shape your program and help bring it into focus. While the primary goals will likely fall under one of the two broad categories mentioned earlier (Attracting New Business or Attracting New Talent), there are a number of more specific objectives your program can aim to achieve. For instance:

  • Add X new Company Page followers on Social Network X, Y and Z
  • Increase traffic to website by X%
  • Boost social content engagement by X%
  • Gain X attributable new hires per quarter
  • Generate X new sales leads
These types of concrete targets will make it easier for everyone involved to see the program’s purpose and upside from the very start. And because you can continually track them, you’ll be able to gauge how well the program is working.

Step 2: Create Channels for Communication and Transparency

Successfully rolling out an employee advocacy program requires consistent open communication. You won’t get widespread participation unless everyone clearly understands why you’re doing it, how it’s going to affect their daily workflow, and what’s expected of them. Holding meetings or sending email updates on a regular cadence can be helpful toward this end. Make sure program leaders are receptive to questions or concerns.

Step 3: Gain Buy-In from Executives and Leaders

Your employee advocacy program is far more likely to be successful if your company’s leaders are visibly on board. Incorporate voices from the C-suite in your communications while building up to launch. Highlight executives who are already engaging in advocacy practices and cite them as examples worth following. A top-down approach will almost always yield best results.

Step 4: Assemble a Team of Content Curators

A tool like GO4SOCIAL's Go4.employee can automatically create a pipeline of relevant shareable content, but it’s best to supplement the algorithmic recommendations with human input. Your company’s employees have diverse interests and personalities, which are often reflective of your customer base. They are best positioned to determine what sort of content their colleagues will want to share, and what will resonate best in their networks.
Pinpoint some of the most socially savvy individuals in your workforce, and invite them to help take the lead by directing content curation. Train them on how to identify the right balance of promotional and informational pieces. Incentivize them for finding content that performs well. it's dead easy with advocacy suite.

Step 5: Launch Your Employee Advocacy Program

Once you’ve outlined your objectives, created channels of communication, gained buy-in from up top, and assembled your content curators, it’s time to kick off your employee brand advocacy program. In terms of timing, it makes sense to launch around the time of a major industry event, or an annual company outing. This will ensure there is no shortage of pertinent content to share, and will help the initiative hit the ground running with momentum. From that point forward, it’s all about facilitating sustainability.

How Can I Make Employee Advocacy Sustainable?

The long-term success of your employee advocacy program is up to —you guessed it— your employees. You could mandate sharing as part of their job description, but that leads to uninspiring, corporate-sounding shares. To keep enthusiasm up, give employees content they want to share, and let them see how their sharing is affecting the business.
People want to share content that they find genuinely interesting. Let your employees have a voice in choosing content that resonates with them, as well as holding value for the audience. Make employees part of the curation process, and you will get more engagement down the line.
Make sure to recognize the impact each employee is having. You don’t have to focus on top performers—you can show each employee how their shares are doing, congratulate them on their successes, and encourage them to continue. Help employees see it not as a competition with their peers, but as part of their ongoing professional development.

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