Employee Advocacy: What It Is and Best Practices for Success

Employee Advocacy: What It Is and Best Practices for Success

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What You’ll Read

  • How Employee Advocacy extends the brand reach and raises the profile of your employees
  • Proven best practices that can help make your program successful
  • Techniques to show company leadership the impact of your program on the business

There is one, important reason why Employee Advocacy is such a powerful driver for business.

The reality is nobody trusts your brand.

It’s nothing personal. That’s just the world we live in today. The public is cynical about traditional institutions such as government, media, and major companies. We no longer know if we can believe what we read and what we see. Mistrust is the currency of modern culture.

Yet there is a silver lining.

People do tend to trust other people more. In fact, the public still believes what your employees have to say about your brand. And when they’re saying good things to friends, family, and peers, that’s great for your company. This explains why Employee Advocacy has become a crucial strategy for brands. Employees are critical for building and maintaining trust in organizations.

So, what is Employee Advocacy?

It’s when companies enable employees, through software technology and approved content, to share information with their social media networks to help generate awareness and credibility about the brand with their authentic voices while also raising their own profiles to advance their careers.

When organizations harness the untapped potential of their workforces by mobilizing employees to become influential brand ambassadors, everyone benefits. A technology platform like Employee Advocacy industry-leader Dynamic Signal can put on-message content directly in the hands of employees for easy sharing to extend the reach of the company.

Daniel Guzman - Employee Advocacy ExpertEmployees then become your best foot soldiers in the never-ending struggle to share your company story with the world. That’s because people are far more likely to believe others just like themThe same message coming from an employee carries greater weight than it does when it’s delivered by a company. It’s more credible, more authentic, more real. 

We tend to hear from brands themselves or senior leaders, who can be very scripted,” said Danielle Guzman, Global Head of Social Media and Distributed Content at Mercer. “It lacks that raw edge and authenticity that makes it feel like a regular conversation. An advocacy program naturally builds human relationships internally and externally. Brands don’t build trust, people do. People really are the future of a brand and its voice. There’s aopportunity for brands to truly understand that you’re sitting on a gold mine with your employees.” 

So, Employee Advocacy really can have an impact?

Yes! Social media isn’t just about cat videos and funny memes, of course. When used effectively, Employee Advocacy has real-world business value in telling a brand’s story on a powerful channel. Recent research indicates the potential impact of Employee Advocacy.

FleishmanHillard The Authenticity Gap,

  • The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that “My Employer” is more trustworthy than any other institution at 75 percent globally. Employees who trust their companies are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf, including advocating for their organization. “We are seeing a further reordering of trust to more local sources, with My Employer emerging as the most trusted entity, because the relationships that are closest to us feel more controllable,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman.  
  • The Authenticity Gap2017 FleishmanHillard Global Study, revealed that consumers are three times more likely to trust a company employee rather than a CEO when it comes to sorting fact from fiction about a brand. “The most striking finding is in the sphere of corporate communications, where the humble employee appears to have become an unlikely hero in the quest for credible brand information, the report concluded. 

Employee Advocacy also has the benefit of strength in numbers. Collectively, employees have a much greater reach on social media than your brand. On average, according to LinkedIn, employees have 10x more connections than companies. Their combined voices can cut through a noisy, cluttered digital environment with a clear message. 

Karyn Scott - Employee Advocacy Expert“You make every person in your organization an extension of the marketing team,” said Karyn ScottVice President of Global Demand Center, at Flexport. “People often don’t know how to share their passion for the company with the world. But they will if you give them a super-easy way that also just happens to get into watering holes where prospects are hanging out. Take our company for example. We have a little over 1,000 people. Assume everybody has more than 500 connections on LinkedIn. Some percentage of those people potentially are interested in using us.” 

Those voices are increasingly meaningful aa time when the social media world is in upheaval. 

Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are coping with their own well-documented trust issues. All have made significant changes in the effort to root out bad actors who seek to manipulate public opinion for nefarious purposes. Facebook made landmark changes to its platform in 2018 by prioritizing content from people like friends and family over posts from brands, and the mediaThe emphasis now is on personal connections and creating one-to-one interactions. 

That’s why when employees post something about their company on social mediait just means more. It’s viewed as a friend, family member, or acquaintance sharing the cool things happening at their company – not brand marketing that’s viewed with suspicion. 

Social media also is where we spend our time – especially digitalnative Millennials. The average American is online 24 hours a weekYour employees are already talking about your organization in their networksAn Employee Advocacy program shepherds those conversations with approved content to help your people tell the company story even better. 

As FleishmanHillard has advised: “Companies should consider giving employees more support and scope to act as brand ambassadors since they tend to be more credible than social media channels or corporate PR machines.

 

10 Benefits of Employee Advocacy 

  • Increasing Brand Visibility  
  • Attracting New Business 
  • Humanizing the Brand 
  • Strengthening Employee Engagement 
  • Building Brand Loyalty 
  • Highlighting Positive Workplace Culture 
  • Amplifying Thought Leadership and Insights 
  • Raising Profile of Employees 
  • Sharing Customer Success Stories 
  • Recruiting and Retaining Talent 

 

Weber Shandwick & KRC ResearchAlison Scott - Employee Advocacy Expert discovered that 21 percent of employees within organizations are already employee advocates. But just think how much room exists for improvement. 

“We live in a very transparent world,” said Alison Davis, Founder and CEO of internal communication agency Davis & Company“There are a lot of ways to get information about a company and what it’s really like to work there. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. Maybe employees feel like they’re advocates, but they’re really not set up to be ones. They don’t have the information they need. A company may have a lot to offer, but it’s communicated really poorly to employees. If you have a nice story to tell, it’s a real missed opportunity.” 

OK, but how difficult is it to launch and maintain an Employee Advocacy program?

Relax.  The formula to a successful Employee Advocacy program is not rocket science. 

  1. Communication 
  2. Engagement 
  3. Advocacy 

When an organization effectively communicates the mission and goals to employees, they’re more likely to be engaged on the job. And when employees are invested in the company’s success, they’ll be more willing to become advocates. 

But it does require some finesse. Nobody wants to be seen as a marketing channel to promote company content. The advocacy of employees needs to be earned.  

But we’re here to help.

This comprehensive guide will provide insights that our customers are using today to build brand equity through the voices of their employees. Here’s an outline of best practices, so you can jump directly to any sections that particularly interest you. 

  • The Right Content 
  • Employee Advocacy Tactics 
  • Measurement Tips 
  • Employee Advocacy Trends 

The Right Content

When employees have access to great content, they will share it with their networks. The secret sauce of Employee Advocacy is a steady flow of captivating material that grabs eyeballs. Remember, your content is competing with everything else that’s coming at employees – who have a limited attention span. Give them a reason to spread the word. 

  • Create compelling content 
  • Curate third-party content 
  • Cultivate employees to submit content 

Kirsten Hamstra“Our employees have gravitated to sharing content that really explains the inner-workings of who we are as a brand – the lifeblood of the company,” said Kirsten HamstraGlobal Head of Social Media at SAS. Some of the best-performing content is about our corporate culture and third-party articles like stories that feature us in the New York Times, Forbes or Fortune. That content explodes.” 

Must-read content will become must-share content.  

Non-shareable content
When you only provide content for employees to share, you’re not treating them like valued insiders. Internal-only information, such as executive insights and strategic priorities, give employees deeper connections to the company and show how they’re contributing to achieving goals. 

This will cultivate “hand-raisers” who will want to post your sharable content. Think of it as a win-win for your organization – increased employee engagement and more advocacy. 

Employee-submitted content 
Employees are the most valued part of your organization. When they submit content, it creates a greater sense of community. It also ensures that broader range of perspectives and interests are represented. 

Encourage employees to contribute short success stories that they see in the daily workplace. Great things their co-workers are doing. Why they’re proud of the company. Once approved to be shared, these personal stories resonate on social media because they’re about real people – not impersonal, corporate initiatives 

Third-party content
Don’t just rely on content generated inside your organization. Curate content, such as media articles, from outside sources about your organization or industry. Include a variety of topics such as health and wellness, career development, social trends, or anything else that will catch the eye of employees and their networks. 

Curation doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Dynamic Signal has a SmartContent feature that collects content from the internet with IBM’s Watson Artificial Intelligence technology. Then you can review and post if it’s relevant to your audience 

Personalized content 
Tailor the content to employees as individuals. If it doesn’t speak to them, they will ignore it. Employees are more likely to share something happening at their work location rather than, for instance, an event at the corporate headquarters that has little impact on their lives. 

Emphasize content that shines a spotlight on employees. Create day-in-the-life features and content about “unsung heroes.” Highlight employees of the month/week/quarter. Find ways to put employees on a pedestal. 

What happens when you recognize employees? They share. Then their friends and family share it. A cascade effect is launched.  

Employee Advocacy Tactics

Power Advocates
Not everyone wants to be involved in an Employee Advocacy program, and that’s OK. Focus on the employees who can’t wait to get involved. These are the people who love social media and probably are already active in online discussions about your company. 

They are your catalysts. Explain how you’re going to help grow their personal brands and increase their number of followers. They can be part of a pilot as you test out ideas. Once your program is up and running, these will be your peer leaders. You can also mobilize them to start sharing particular pieces of content to jumpstart the rest of the organization. 

Michael Britothe author of “Participation Marketing: Unleashing Employees to Participate and Become Brand Storytellers, believes in the “1/9/90 rule. 

  • 1 percent of employees create and post content
  • 9 percent of employees share it
  • 90 percent of employees just follow the conversation 

Michael Brito - Employee Advocacy Expert“You don’t need everyone in the organization involved,” said Brito, Executive Vice President at the Zeno Group. “If you can get the one percent of storytellers and the nine percent engaged, then you’re going to win. That one percent is going to write the blog post, write the Glassdoor review, start a discussion. Then the nine percent is going to amplify it by sharing. That’s a huge opportunity for a company.” 

Recognition
Who doesn’t like being asked to stand up at a company meeting to receive an ovation for a job well-done? We all want validation for our work. That’s especially the case for the Millennial generation, which research has shown values recognition almost as much as monetary rewards. 

Highlight the people who are doing a great job of sharing the company story. Celebrate the top influencers in your program. People want to know that their contributions are noticed. It can be a quick “Twitter Done Right!” acknowledgment. Take a screenshot of a great Tweet and explain why it worked so well. (Was it clever? Did it have a strong use of hashtags? Was it a personal perspective?) Maybe create a weekly video that highlights the best posts of the week. 

There’s an added benefit – education. By showing who was terrific, other employees can follow their examples. It also helps everyone see the value of having a social media presence. 

Gamification
Contests to encourage and incentivize participation can inspire the gamer inside all of us. Dynamic Signal customers have seen success when they introduce friendly competition into their Employee Advocacy programs.  

Studies also indicate that compensating the same top performers again and again won’t change overall organizational behavior. So, spread the wealth. Focus on celebrating others with honors like “most improved” to highlight the contributions of others who are trying. 

Prizes are nice, of course. Small cash sums. Lunch with an executive. Maybe even PTO. But there doesn’t necessarily need to be a prize. Never underestimate the power of bragging rights. Just seeing your name at the top of a leaderboard sometimes can be satisfaction enough.  

Training
Social media can be intimidating for some people. Even with a platform like Dynamic Signal, which provides guardrails to ensure employees can only share company-approved content, employees sometimes are afraid of making a mistake or looking bad on social media. Training sessions can demystify social media for the wary. It helps make people feel more confident and comfortable about participating in an Employee Advocacy program. 

Many Dynamic Signal customers incorporate training as part of their onboarding process for new hires. It’s a perfect time to introduce them to your program. It’s also a way to explain that this is an opportunity for them to build their personal brands. 

Leadership involvement
One of the most critical elements is executive buy-in. When senior managers show that Employee Advocacy is essential, the workforce will be more likely to get involved. In a perfect world, the CEO will also be the Chief Advocacy Officer. She’ll be encouraging people to share content that the company is providing. And she’ll be leading by example with her own sharing. 

Don’t Set and Forget
Employee Advocacy is like a garden. It needs to be well-tended. If you launch a program – even with great fanfare – and then walk away, it will wither and die. Making sure your program doesn’t grow stale is the best way to keep employees engaged. 

Maintaining momentum is about understanding what employees want. Employee Advocacy shouldn’t be a lecture. It’s a conversation. Solicit feedback. Conduct surveys. When employees feel like they’re being heard, they will be more likely to be active company ambassadors. 

Measurement Tips

Companies may instinctively know that having employees share posts about the company haa positive impact. But data proves it. 

What are the best metrics to track? It depends. Success is different for every business. Identify what your organization is trying to achieve. 

  • Improve company morale? 
  • Keep brand reputation strong? 
  • Grow the audience? 
  • Expand the share of voice online? 
  • Increase sales pipeline? 
  • Impact recruiting?  

Its easier to measure activity such as likes, clicksreactions, impressions. But these can be “vanity metrics.” While there may be a lot of feel-good activity, what is the business getting out it? Social media experts who work with Dynamic Signal say there are two metrics they use to gauge the health of their program. 

  1. Percentage of employees engaged with the platform 
  2. Amount of content being shared 

Metrics also allow you to refine and improve your program continuously. For instance, if employees are more eager to share cool stories about company culture rather than industry news, that’s a good indication of what they want to receive 

Another pro tip: Once you’ve established realistic, achievable KPIs, make sure to champion your successes with leadership. Use those data points to explain why Employee Advocacy has a bottom-line impact.

 

Popular Content for Sharing

  • Company news 
  • Employee stories 
  • Customer stories 
  • Awards, accolades, honors 
  • Company culture
  • Executive spotlights 
  • Product announcements 
  • Community involvement 
  • Fundraisers, donations, disaster relief 
  • Friends and family promotions

But wait! There’s more!

Employee Advocacy Trends

Founded in 2010, Dynamic Signal launched the Employee Advocacy category. Today, we have more than 350 customers and empower 1.7 million employees globally to be advocates for their brands. The 2019 Dynamic Signal Customer Impact Study of more than 160 randomly selected customer contacts found that 92 percent of respondents agree that we continue to be a leader in Employee Advocacy solutions. Also, 91 percent said that Dynamic Signal is committed to customer success. 

The study showed the direct impact Employee Advocacy has on the business. On average, they saw:

  • 106 percent increase in social media reach 
  • 39 percent increase in brand awareness 
  • 12 percent improvement in online reviews 
  • 11 percent increase in appearances on “best places to work” lists 

Dynamic Signal also found that Employee Advocacy customers saw the click-per-share of content distributed by workers grew significantly throughout 2018 – just as social networks like Facebook were de-emphasizing the importance of brand content. 

You can do this, too.

But Employee Advocacy will only be a success if you remember the most important word – employee. You don’t want them to be an army of robots who are programmed to all say the same thing. You’re giving them the ability to start conversations in their own authentic voices in ways that will promote their careers. 

Heather Dopson“It’s never going to be special unless we show our employees about how this is going to benefit them,” said Heather Dopson, the Community Builder at GoDaddy. “It should increase their visibility and allow them to be seen as experts. That’s a piece that companies overlook. But when the focus is more on the employees, you’re going to see greater success for the company.” 

At the end of the day, they own their personal channels and networks. Employees have to want to be involved because they see themselves as part of something bigger than themselves 

That means earning their respect, willingness to participate, and every share. When that happens, employees will be your most passionate advocates. And they will improve the level of trust people feel about your company. 

There are plenty of brands today and not enough humans.

Employee Advocacy changes that.

  

Additional Resources 

Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.