Developing a Strategy for Your Employee Advocacy Program
I’m the sort of person who takes the time to project-manage my week. I’ll highlight blocks of time on my calendar for various tasks. And I’m not just talking about the work week. I’ll even do this on the weekend! Why? Because like most of us, I have a lot to get done. And this is my way of making sure I accomplish as much as I can.
In other words, I like to have a plan.
Well, developing a similar kind of process is just as important to making your Employee Advocacy Program a rousing success.
In the first two installments of our Sharing Best Practices series, we discussed using compelling content and employee recognition as methods to help encourage the workforce to disseminate content about the organization on their personal social media networks. We explored how creative ideas are incredibly important to helping design a productive Employee Advocacy program that helps spread the word about your brand and also gives your employees the chance to demonstrate their subject-matter expertise.
Now, let’s talk about organizational structure and employee participation. Admittedly, this may not sound as exciting as creating fresh content that everybody wants to read, rewarding employees for sharing with neat giveaways or designing fun contests. Yes, you can create all the cool stories you want. However, you better have a structured plan to make sure that content is getting shared, too.
Here are some suggestions about how to develop that kind of strategy that will yield results.
Communication is Key
Excellent employee communication is the foundation of Employee Advocacy.
Look at this way: Nobody enjoys getting left in the dark. Everyone wants to feel like they’re in the know. Keeping your employees informed of the latest company news makes them feel engaged and valued within the organization.
Focusing on delivering relevant information is the best way to drive advocacy. If employees understand the organizational mission and appreciate how their efforts are contributing to that goal, they are far more likely to share the content you create and provide their own content. That’s because they feel like they’re part of the team.
That’s why as the expert in Employee Communication and Engagement (ECE), we recommend customers use our platform as a way to deliver relevant information to their workers AND encourage employees to share company-approved content through social media channels. They go hand-in-hand.
At Dynamic Signal, we drink our own champagne. Our ECE Platform, which we call Dispatch, is the main channel of company news. It’s also a treasure trove of curated content that employees can share with their friends, family, and network to highlight the great things happening at Dynamic Signal. As an example, we love talking about some cool initiatives we have in our #DySiCares program where our employees have a chance to take part in great volunteer events. Not surprisingly, it’s also content that gets shared – a lot.
Role of Metrics In Adoption And Participation
Employee Advocacy is a numbers and data game.
By all means, get your creative juices cranked up and produce riveting blog posts and funny videos that your members will enjoy. Yet, it’s also crucial to set targets and metrics so you can track the progress of your program. Doing that first requires research on your part. You need to understand what content is resonating and with whom. What channels are effective. What time are people looking at content.
These are the kind of benchmarks that will help you chart a path to program success. Data should serve as your roadmap. Use it to establish realistic and achievable goals, such as the number of members enrolled, active users, the amount of content they share, and so on. By tracking that data, you can be flexible in fine-tuning your program to make sure you’re making progress toward your goals.
One piece of advice, though: It’s important to understand what the data is telling you.
For instance, we’ve seen an immediate 25-percent increase in sharing when an Employee Advocacy-based community was rolled out to the entire company instead of being limited to a smaller handful of members in a test program. On one hand, that’s great! But also understand, that launching a program to the whole organization inherently means you have more people enrolled. That can be a huge undertaking that results in more questions, demands, and community management. Meanwhile, companies that utilize a pilot program will have lower participants. But they also will be able to establish company trends that will likely scale upon a later corporate roll out. So, the immediate impact might be less. But it also might lead to greater, long-term adoption.
My point simply is this: Whatever your strategy, establish understandable metrics tied to goals that are important to your business. Use these benchmarks to help you track adoption and formulate best practices for establishing external engagement through sharing. Are you creating content employees want to share? Are you delivering it to them when they’re more likely to share? What platforms do they like to use to share content? All of this is great information for you to improve your Employee Advocacy efforts.
The entire idea of Employee Advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon. That’s because social media is something that has exploded on the scene only over the past decade or so. That’s why it’s a mistake to assume your employees are experts. In fact, many workers might be wary of social media.
A platform like Dynamic Signal that can easily link to their personal social media channels might be quite intimidating for some people. (We even see that at Dynamic Signal, located in the heart of Silicon Valley.) The DySi Platform has an answer for helping to overcome this fear.
We provide “guardrails” for workers so they can safely share company-approved content. For instance, information that a company wants to share is clearly marked. Communicators can even provide some suggested text that employees could add to their share. Meanwhile, our platform also prevents employees from sharing content that is designed to be only for internal eyes. Communicators have the ability to lock content that they deem to be sensitive information that shouldn’t be shared externally. Companies always remain in control of the message.
So, we recommend creating training sessions that focus on making employees feel more confident and comfortable about being active on social media. It’s also a perfect opportunity to explain that this is an opportunity for people to build their personal brands. After all, Employee Advocacy should be about the people first, not the company.
It’s a good idea to pre-register your employees to the platform and walk them through the onboarding process. But the greatest success comes with a structured program. It’s more than teaching people about how to use the platform. It should be about online best practices along with tips and tricks. It will also demystify social media for those people who don’t have a lot of experience with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.
One of the best examples we’ve seen comes from business analytics software company SAS, which for 21 consecutive years has been listed in Fortune magazine’s Best Companies to Work For list. The company created an award-winning program called “The 140” – named after the old Twitter character count limit. In just a few years, more than 600 people have gone through the program where they learn about things like taking great photos with mobile devices, how to use hashtags and creating their LinkedIn profiles. As they feel more comfortable with social media, they become more likely to share SAS content.
Segment Your Members
Understanding your members is not a new tactic. People have been trying to gather data points on user behavior for years. But it’s especially useful in Employee Advocacy. By segmenting your employees based on department, role, location, or even online activity, you can help develop content that will resonate more effectively with each segment.
For instance, one successful tactic we’ve seen is when companies cultivate their online “power” users. These are the people who love social media and who are already active in sharing content and taking part in online discussions. These are your digital “Johnny Appleseed” employees who can plant the seeds of broader success for your Employee Advocacy program. Getting them involved can be your catalyst.
Michael Brito, an Executive Vice president with the Zeno Group, is an advocate of what he calls the “1-9-90 model” of employee segmentation. One percent of your employees will be the storytellers – the ones who will lead conversations. Nine percent will actively share that content within their networks. The other 90 percent of employees are likely only to share content occasionally, or maybe not all. They’ll just watch the conversation. And Brito says that’s perfectly OK.
Not everyone wants to be involved in an Employee Advocacy program. The goal, of course, is to mobilize and empower those “hand-raisers” who do want to share your brand story.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Sharing Best Practices Series and have come away with some ideas to implement in your own community. If you have any great ideas of your own, please pass them along. Or let us know if there are other topics you would like us to explore in the future.