Launch an Employee Advocacy Program That Works

July 27, 2016
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Follow these 5 steps to harness employee advocacy for engagement and social marketing.

Much of social marketing focuses on owned channels to drive awareness, customer acquisition and loyalty. Yet there are strong reasons to turn attention inward. How do marketers appropriately tap the immense passion, reach and influence of employees?

For example, a large technology firm launched an employee advocacy program to leverage the collaborative nature of its employees who were eager to share about the company but lacked the confidence to do so. The program launched with preapproved, highly relevant content pushed to 500 employees, who were provided with social media training that emphasized authenticity and timely sharing of content.

The company’s program resulted in over 8,381 posts and 200,000 employee shares. Top performers were 20 points above the average LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI).

Below is a five-part blueprint to build an effective employee advocacy program.

  1. Focus on employee engagement first
    As with any new social marketing program, define your goals upfront, said Gartner for Marketing Leaders analyst Jay Wilson. Keep in mind that your first priority should be employee engagement with the organization. Work with HR to understand where communications gaps exist and where an advocacy program can better connect employees to the brand and senior leadership. Most employee advocacy programs start with a pilot phase in which a subset of employees are invited to participate.
  2. Launch a pilot program
    A pilot program will help you test and learn what works using a small group of employees. Identify employees who are active in social media or who work in a division tied to the use case. Don’t make participation mandatory or tie the program to existing performance management programs. Once employees volunteer, incentives can play a role to drive program participation. Consider tactics such as gamification and award points based on sharing of content and consequent engagement.
  3. Establish a training and compliance plan
    It’s important to implement a training and compliance plan for three reasons. First, it tackles company concerns about putting content in the hands of employees for distribution. Second, it addresses the concerns of employees, many of whom may not know what’s appropriate to share. Third, it sets a baseline of best practices for participating employees. Keep the training short, focused and ongoing by weaving in relevant topics.
  4. Curate diverse content
    Successful advocacy programs use curation to make it easy for employees to share relevant content. Curation is important because it makes it easy for employees to find information relevant to their audiences. As you roll out the pilot, establish a curated content strategy that ensures relevance to specific groups of employees. Organize content by product, industry news, marketing campaign, recruiting efforts, corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, thought leadership pieces or company culture updates.
  5. Establish a monitoring plan
    Make sure you have a monitoring plan in place to ensure proper governance of the program. Engagement and escalation procedures should also be a part of the plan. Make sure employees know what types of engagements they should respond to, and which should be escalated to customer service or corporate communications. Using preapproved content goes a long way toward ensuring your legal and compliance teams are comfortable with employee advocacy. It also helps employees feel safe sharing content.

Engagement rates for employee-shared content in the example vendor’s program were 10 times higher than those pushed out by the brand. “A well-designed employee advocacy program is another way for social marketers to provide value to an organization,” Mr. Wilson said.

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