From clicks to converts, the role of social media in branding has become vital. Organizations have acknowledged it. Slowly but steadily, this had led to the strategic adaptation of employee advocacy.
Well, the word “advocacy” might seem new to you. But it has played a crucial role in improving the market presence of organizations.
But why advocacy programs? What role does it play?
In this article, we will attempt to shed light on how the advocacy program works
Read more: Recognition in Employee Advocacy
The nice part about employee advocacy is that it actually shrinks the distance between the brand and the customer, but at the same time it allows the brand to reach more people and have a much more humanized voice. - Brian Fanzo
Employee advocacy is the promotion of an organization by the employees. The majority of the advocacy program at present includes social media promotion. It helps in audience growth, and the organic outreach is quite massive.
But there are a lot of aspects that you need to be aware of. First, a leader must learn the most effective and efficient methods of putting it into action.
With the advent of the internet boom, social media is the best tool for advocacy in 2021. The main purpose of it is to increase the use of social media platforms to improve branding and market reach.
Advocacy programs consist of-
Sharing relevant information about the company’s service or product
Promoting content that helps the associated partners or the audience
Showcasing the company culture with the help of appropriate social media posts
But what does it take to implement the program in an organization successfully?
We will discuss it further in the article. But first, let us get to know the leading players involved in this new marketing strategy—the employees or the employee advocates known in the program.
Brands have a huge opportunity to amplify their brand message and visibility by allowing employees to take part in the amplification. Employee advocacy is about allowing employees to be brand ambassadors. - Melonie Dodaro
A great culture can be the selling point of your brand strategy. But someone has to do it for you right? And the best candidates that fit the role are your employees.
They are the backbone of your organization. They keep the workflow going and make it possible to keep the day-to-day activities running smoothly.
On top of that, they can help you win the talent war with the employee advocacy program. They become active brand ambassadors who help spread the word about your company in a good light.
One good thing is that anyone can become employee advocates regardless of their job roles. Do you know what their core duties are?
Those advocates focus on-
Brand awareness in social media platforms
Recommending company products and services
Being an integral part of a robust marketing campaign
Provide credibility about the organizational culture
81% of millennials share information about their company. That makes them active advocates in social media for the organization.
Advocates come in different forms and types. Here are the 5 of them that you should be aware of:
1. The Believer- These are the ones that take pride in sharing updates about their work life. Be it regarding a major upgrade or their personal growth, they just love to share. These employees will be your first recruiters for the advocacy program.
They will help in sustaining the program and will have a greater influence on the target audience.
2. The Socially Addict- Well, you will find employees who are social media savvy. These employees spend most of their time interacting with people on social media. And they make the perfect candidate for the advocacy program as they have a large audience.
They will be influential in promoting your brand presence and make people aware of the organization.
3. Reluctant Advocates- This section constitutes a majority of the workforce. They are shy and not comfortable with people. However, a plus point is that they are easily motivated with good recognition.
With the advocacy program already incentivized and award-based, you can easily approach and onboard them.
4. The optimist- These employees are the ones that will find solutions even during difficult times. This makes them good candidates for the program. They will be more inclined towards finding and experimenting with innovative ideas to promote the program.
Mostly the sales, marketing, and management levels guys will fall under this category.
5. The opportunist- You might have come across employees who are clever enough to jump into opportunities that benefit them. This trait makes them a perfect fit for the program. They will look for a good chance to make the program successful in the long run.
They believe in grab and take while making the most out of a situation.
Before you start building your program, you need to know the important role it plays.
You are going to invest a good amount of your resources in this program. And there will be an ROI from the advocacy program itself.
Let us take a look at some of the key advantages and challenges that you need to know-
|There will be a significant rise in the number of social media reach. Hence, it will improve the overall networking of the organization with the excellent participation of employees. It will also increase the brand awareness and presence in the corporate market.||The most prominent challenge to run this program is to get employees and executives on the same boat. The smooth running of the program will require the higher authorities to back the program. They have to give their approval so that necessary investments can be made.|
|Your employees become the most valuable asset as the target audience trusts them more than the brand. The promotion is organic, and you get to put out a genuine message in front of your target audience. This way organizations can reduce their marketing budget with the program.||Another significant problem to run the program is that the managers may not know how to deal with it. Proper training requires a tremendous amount of time that can delay the execution of plans.|
|Employee engagement levels will see a significant increase. This is because the program allows employees to understand the vision of the organization. Moreover, with transparency employees feel connected to the organization and influence others to join the company.||The active participation of employees is another significant roadblock of this program. Managers must first make their employees aware of the situation. If the employees join in then the growth curve of the program increases with time.|
|With relevant content sharing, there are higher chances of acquiring a top candidate for the company. Remember, your audience trusts the employees more than the brand. It makes recruitment easy and hassle-free.|
These are just a few ways through which advocacy can lead to business success. But there are more benefits and challenges that you will come across when you start experimenting with it.
8 Strategies You Can Use To Build The Advocacy Program
Like the pillars of great architecture, a good advocacy program will need a strong foundation. And below are some of the concrete ways that will help you build the program.
1. Creating an Action Plan
The first and crucial step you must take is to understand the whole program. From the beginning to the end, you need to become familiar with each step.
This will enable you to take the right approach in launching the program.
What does the right approach signify here?
Understanding the program and appropriate strategy will give you-
A proper structure that you can follow
Ideas that will make the program better
A contingency plan as your backup
Take help from other leaders and team leaders. Also, have one-on-one’s with some employees and get their opinions about the plan. It will help you in identifying the holes in the armor. With rigid planning, you can be confident about the success of the program in the long run.
2. Onboarding the right platform/tool
Sharing the content or promoting the organization is solely done by the employees. Those are genuine opinions that they share.
But, if that can be automated wouldn’t that be great?
Yes, with employee advocacy tools you can make content sharing a seamless process.
However, you need to be sure about which tool will suit best for your organization.
These tools help the managers in-
Curating a structured advocacy program where the employees are connected with their social media accounts.
Providing a single dashboard that an administrator controls.
Automatic sharing of company events by the advocates when new content is uploaded to the platform apart from the organic sharing
Make sure that the employees are comfortable with it. Try to maintain the privacy of your employees apart from the sharing.
Document the effectiveness of the tool so that you can make changes whenever necessary.
3. Be clear about your goals
Setting goals is a crucial part of the program. But, first, you need to know the desired end result before starting.
Without proper goal setting, you might wander away from the target, and the program will dissolve in the long run.
To set reasonable goals, you need to-
Lead with a positive attitude
Set realistic and achievable goals
Make the workforce understand their role and the tools being used
Make sure that everybody is on the same page to accomplish the targets.
But what are the goals that we are talking about?
Your goals can include many variables. The main aim should be to-
Increase the market reach
Reduce marketing cost
Improve employee engagement
Enhance brand value and awareness
Hire top and talented individuals
Also, make sure to plan the launch at the right time. Finally, be mindful of the market and the progress of your employees regarding the program.
4. Encouraging the employees to join the program
To run the program without any hiccups, you will need the help of the employees. Their active participation is crucial to leverage all the aspects of the advocacy program.
The big question is, how will you encourage the employees to join it?
It is something that will require a great deal of brainstorming. You need to be strategic and transparent with your employees regarding the topic.
The program onboarding will require a strategic approach from your end. Make the program-
Full of gamification
Moreover, 87% of employees participating in the advocacy program believe it expands their professional network.
The employees need to see their growth while joining the program. Without it, they will be the least interested in it. This increases the chances of the program being a total waste of time and resources.
And you would not want that at any cost. So, be very careful and prompt on how you want to run it.
5. Build polished profiles of Employees
Remember, this is an important step.
Your target audience would like to know more insight about the organization through social sharing. But if the employees do not have a transparent social media profile, then it becomes a problem.
If you don’t believe us then here is a stat that will help understand its importance. More than 93% of job seekers say it is essential for them to know about all the aspects of the company.
A lot of our decisions are based on online verification. Thus, unless it looks legitimate, any social media post can be passed off for a troll or bot.
This makes it even more crucial to focus on this step towards basing the program on trust.
Help the employees in building a clean and informative profile. It can include-
The basic information of the company
The activities that helped the employee in their growth
The engaging programs elevating employee morale
The benefits that the employees found beneficial
Showcasing the organizational culture
Their job role and responsibilities
Remember that the target audience should be able to relate to what the employee is sharing. It should be relevant, trending, and inclined with the organization’s goals.
A polished social media profile of an employee can attract top talents while maintaining an excellent global presence.
6. Benefits for Employees
There should be some incentives for your employees to participate actively.
Without it, the chances are that the employees might not have the right attitude to join the program.
From the beginning itself, make the employees aware of what they can achieve with the program. Some of the benefits could be-
Steady personal and professional growth
Indigenous global outreach
Becoming more influential with their expertise
Rewards like gift cards, flexible work options, paid day off, etc.
Be open to suggestions and listen to what the employees have to say. They are going to come up with their ideas of benefits. As a manager, heed onto them and try to facilitate all the benefits if possible.
7. Fostering a Good Culture
The most important factors for the success of the program are trust and autonomy. Without these, it is difficult to generate the results you want.
You must provide liberty to your employees when it comes to social sharing. You need to trust them and let them share their ideas.
Just remember few things-
Provide them a particular subject
Make them aware of the goals and objectives.
Do not put limitations as long as they are posting about the subject
The chances are that the employees will become more accountable. Moreover, it will create a culture where the managers trust their employees. In return, the employees will be loyal and have higher job satisfaction levels.
8. Invest adequately
Before the program’s initial start, you are mostly going to spend time and money strategizing it.
But have you thought about adequate investment?
If not, then you should think about it.
You would not want to invest in the program without a full-proof plan. And if you did, then there are chances that you are wasting your resources.
While investing, keep these things in mind-
Think about the company budget (always!)
Plan out the structure and track its progress
Prioritize the things based on the critical needs
It is crucial that you understand the value of your investment. At times it might overwhelm you but you need to learn and adapt depending on the situation.
An advocacy program should not be a one-hit-wonder. It should become an active part of the company culture.
Understanding the advantages and challenges is crucial. It will give you the confidence to deal with unseen difficulties.
But out of those difficulties, sustaining the program is a major concern. It needs a unique and strategic approach.
If not dealt with properly then there will be a significant loss in investment. And we do not want that.
Do not worry. The sustainability of the program is easier than you think. However, you have to leverage it in every possible way you can.
Here are a few ways through which you can sustain the program:
1. Reward and Recognize
Sustaining the program will require the active participation of your employees. To keep them motivated and enthusiastic, you need to recognize their achievements.
Employees crave good recognition from their peers and managers. And with employee advocacy, you can elevate your efforts.
Make sure to reward and appreciate every achievement done by your employees through the program. This will give them the necessary boost and help the program to run in the long term.
Recognizing employees will make them want to advocate it on social media. Thus, R&R is a multi-aspect initiative.
Why wait when you can recognize your employees now? CLick to know more
2. Conduct regular Surveys
Once you start the program, it becomes crucial to track it.
But what could be the best way to do that?
The answer is surveys. Yes, conduct surveys periodically to get a good grip on what the employees think about the program.
Be specific with the questions you will ask in a survey and keep the approach employee-centric. Employee pulse surveys generate vital feedback, raising all the issues of the program. This feedback is genuine and honest.
Acknowledge the flaws of the program and work on resolving them for greater efficiency and sustainability.
Want to onboard a survey tool? Then click here.
3. Opt for Corporate Benefits
Providing specific corporate benefits is another effective way to sustain the program.
Why is it practical, though?
Well, you can provide certain benefits to your employee advocates every quarter. Or you can just be more flexible with the idea and let the employees choose their desired benefits.
To do so, you can onboard different platforms available in the market. One such platform is Vantage Circle that focuses on providing the best hand-picked deals for the employees.
With its help, you can attract more employees and make the program successful in the long term.
To know more, click here
4. Company Swag
What is it?
It is the gifts a new employee receives when they first join the organization. The gifts may vary from anything like bags to tablets. It all depends on the company culture and the budget an organization has.
Providing good company swag will make employees feel enthusiastic about their work. And creating an excellent element for the advocacy program. As the employee will let the news spread about the gifts they received on their first day.
The program did not popularize itself, or did it? Well, not really. There are companies worldwide that have successfully used the program to its full potential. And we commend them for that.
Here is a list of a few of the companies that made it famous.
Hello there Coffee addicts. You probably know Starbucks is a coffee giant that serves millions of people some fantastic coffee. Who am I kidding? Everybody knows that.
Apart from serving the best coffee, they also excel at one thing: employee advocacy.
They have a dedicated program for it and have named it as “Starbucks Partners.” Any employee that promotes their company socially earns the name “Partner”. It is their official way to welcome employees to the program.
Starbucks does not keep its employees hanging around when they join the program. Instead, they have specific guidelines and clear instructions regarding what they should do.
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, believes that the employees are the true ambassadors of their brand and primary catalysts for delighting customers. This thought process made the program a great success and provided learning opportunities for their employees in the long term.
Remember earlier in this article; we discussed the need for proper planning to execute the advocacy program?
Zappos did something similar when it was founded in 1999. They included employee advocacy in their business plan right off the bat. Their main aim was to provide exceptional customer service while creating an employee-centric work culture was the key to that.
They were successful in nurturing a culture where employees felt at home and happy. This led to the social sharing of the culture that put employees first before anything. In return, it successfully led the employee advocacy program towards success.
3. Electronic Arts: It’s in the Game
Almost everyone is a FIFA buff and it’s popular worldwide. The main developer behind this game is EA, as it is known. The company has been successfully keeping the fans excited and hyped about the game every year.
Developing a successful game is their forte. But they were building and performing well on another front: employee advocacy.
Despite a vast and dispersed workforce globally, they achieved in creating a good advocacy program.
How did they do it?
In 2014, they launched the EA insiders program with the help of an advocacy tool. The main objective of the program was to-
Connect the employees with each other
Connecting the whole community of players with the employees
With these two goals in mind, they were able to create an internal culture of social sharing. As a result, the employees felt more connected with the organization. This led to relevant content sharing, highlighting upcoming events/projects and initiatives that made everyone excited.
Over 1000+ employees joined and made the program achieve a collective audience of 1.1 million people. It increased further engagement and employees were more invested in the program.
The best part? They also reward their employees based on the highest engagement and likes. Thus, it inspired everyone to try out the program and invest their time in it.
The sports apparel company Reebok has been successful in facilitating employee advocacy in their organization.
Reebok encourages its employees to share photos of themselves wearing the company products and share them on social media. They even have their custom hashtag, #FitAssCompany.
The employees took up the challenge which has led them to emphasize more on their fitness and health.
Reebok onboarded the employees who had good social media awareness. After which, they are asked to target specific posts like cycling, running, and weightlifting.
Moreover, they use two systems to create their content. Number one, they create blogs and articles which are then shared with the employees through an advocacy tool. And the second one requires the employees to submit their content. Upon approval, the content is shared with the employees of the company in their own channels.
You might now have a clear understanding of what revolves around employee advocacy and how you can kick start the program from scratch. However, even after proper planning and execution, you will need a platform that already makes your job easier.
If you are still wondering about which platforms you need to look out for then worry not. Here are some of the employee advocacy tools already available in the market that you need to consider.
One of the top-notch platforms that allow you to schedule and post content to the right channels which can be tracked effectively is Hootsuite. With Hootsuite, you can also strengthen relationships with your customers by connecting with them in real-time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the platform allows you and your employees to strengthen the skills with the Hootsuite Academy feature.
2. Bambu by Sprout Social
Bambu is another platform developed by Sprout social. It is a platform that allows organizations and their employees to share relevant content across all the social media platforms so that you can amplify your brand’s reach throughout this corporate world.
The platform also has the feature on which employees have shared the most number of contents across all the social media platforms. And based on this, you can start recognizing and rewarding your best employees.
3. LinkedIn Elevate
LinkedIn Elevate has been helping businesses successfully run their employee advocacy program. They make content sharing effortless and increases the visibility of the company. Elevate enables you to see how your shares have been making an impact and how your professional brand is building up with in-depth analysis.
The Elevate tool is more effective when employees spend more time in LinkedIn itself and share content according to the ongoing trends. The mentioned tool also helps HR’s in social recruitment via the platform. All in all, it is a tool you can seriously consider for your employee advocacy program.
Smarp is an employee engagement and advocacy tool that helps companies have a far greater social and organic reach along with excellent engagement levels. The tool is mostly an internal hub where all the company updates are shared to keep the employees updated.
Once an employee feels that particular content is valuable they can bookmark it and share it in different social media platforms. Smarp also keeps track of all the activities with its metric tracking so that no organization lacks behind in engaging their employees.
Sociabble is another excellent tool that provides employee advocacy where employees can drive social media influence to increase reach, traffic, and conversion rates. And it does not limit itself there only.
It has some extra added features like the internal communication tool to drive effective communication through a centralized hub that is easy to use.
Another feature to keep in mind is the social selling feature that allows employees to boost lead generation through social media influence. Sales teams can demonstrate their expertise, engage, generate, and track leads with the help of social selling.
Further, boosting employee engagement and empowering employees.
The program will need a tremendous amount of patience and effort to grow. The growth of the initiative will flourish with everyone's participation that can exponentially improve the bottom line of the organization along with a far greater social media presence.
One should not expect results right after implementing it. We all know that "Rome was not built in a day", so give the program some time to run and stick with it. You will see the positive results and feedback it generates for the company in the long run.