Building an Employee Advocacy Program? Here are 5 Things to Consider
Employee advocacy is all set to become the newest form of social media marketing. As far as the external audiences goes, employees are, on average, trusted significantly more than the senior leadership, and it’s only a matter of time before people start taking notice of the fact that your company’s people genuinely respect their place of work. Whether it is potential recruits or your brand’s consumer base, employee advocacy can widen an organisation’s network immeasurably.
In fact, according to a Nielsen Global survey, 90% of customers trust the recommendations of people they actually know. In a digital world where ads and gimmicky social media marketing is already crowding people’s screens, lives and inboxes, employee advocates provide refreshing and authentic voices that break the clutter and stand out. It’s also noteworthy that an organisation’s talent acquisition endeavours can be augmented by a robust employee advocacy program. Potential recruits are three times more likely to have faith in the information of an employee than they would in the word of a company’s official handle.
The benefits are clear, and all in all, advocacy seems like a win-win. Engaged employees, interested talent pool, glowing brand health, and of course happy customers – So what’s left to talk about?
Well, the question to start with is: What can your organisation consider while developing an advocacy program?
With a deep understanding of what employees enjoy talking about, what works with a broad range of audiences, and what the safe and prudent narratives for a brand are – Here are five major areas to take into consideration:
1. Talking about internal processes and reward mechanisms
Most medium and large-sized organisations have processes in place for seamless workflow and engagement. Whether it is HR tech innovations, inclusive policy measures, or a robust talent management system that prioritises appreciation and recognition, your organisational processes make you who you are. While operational nitty-gritty might be confidential, there is much value in employees talking broadly about how the workplace is conducive to their growth and wellbeing. Here, an experienced project management consultant can also be onboarded for advice. It could be something as simple as a post by a star employee who received an award, and as nuanced as an insightful discussion on promoting diversity at work. The truth is, there is a need to fill the scarcity of authentic conversations around workplace policies and initiatives that make people feel a sense of ownership and belonging.
2. Celebrating interest groups and engagement activities
It’s important to people that their workplace supports what they love. This could be via activity and hobby squads within the company or through flexi-work policies that enable employees to pursue their goals outside of work. From marathoners to amateur bakers, from trekkers and travellers to painters – People have a way of coming together with like-minded souls to share their interests. So, whether your company is encouraging individual and team interests or is going the distance to actually organise team bonding activities where people can explore their favourite pastimes as one, having these conversations on social media can be a viable and integral part of the employer branding strategy, something that is a by-product of effective advocacy. Encouraging your employees to go out and tell their stories in a genuine and honest manner will boost your organisation’s position as a compassionate and empowering employer.
3. Aligning with and talking about your people’s priorities
A large part of internal communications talks about how employees absolutely must align with the organisational vision, purpose and values. How often though, do employers consider the importance of reciprocating this alignment? Most of your employees are likely to have a cause close to their heart. And every individual has their own way of doing their bit. From promoting sustainability through basic rainwater harvesting techniques, to leveraging social media for awareness, people are constantly finding ways to give back in an individual capacity. While it’s not possible for companies to join in every individual’s social responsibility, it is possible to crowdsource ideas for CSR initiatives and implement the one that is most popular. This can also be done on a rotational basis, so that every quarter or every year, employees get to give back in a different way. Ensuring employees are actively involved in such processes also provides material for advocacy on social media, where people get a chance to talk about the cause they believe in while also engaging in positive conversation around the brand. As the world moves towards an era of corporate social justice and cause marketing, these narratives will become increasingly important for organisations wishing to stay relevant.
4. Providing insights into your company’s offerings
There’s a reason why influencer marketing is so popular. Consumers trust people they can relate with and the authentic voices of your employees can provide the X factor here. Going a step further than influencer marketing, here it is the people behind the company’s products and services who will talk about what gives their offerings an edge. It can be a UX designer talking about your company’s app, a data scientist speaking about a B2B analytics tool you have on offer or even employees talking about every-day use products like packaged foods, hygiene essentials and the sustainability behind them. Can such organic marketing really help? Well, according to research by LinkedIn, on an average, employees collectively possess a social network that is approximately ten times larger than the corporate brand’s channel. Imagine the sheer volume of marketing potential!
5. Engage your in-house influencers
While in strict terms, there is a cut-off number of followers required for someone to be considered an influencer, this doesn’t bear as much importance with regards to employee advocacy – Because through an advocacy program, you are set to have a team of individuals representing your brand to the world. Due to its increasingly pervasive nature, social media has created a staggering number of micro-influencers. For many who use these platforms on a regular basis with the appropriate engagement measures, the follower counts run into at least a few thousands. These are the people to reach out to. Identify the influencers within your employee-base and empower them with information and awareness about your organisation. Enlist them in formalised advocacy programs and give them the responsibility of helping their peers leverage social media. Not only are you garnering their support for your brand, you are also encouraging their strengths and perhaps even creating a community of social media marketing enthusiasts within the organisation.
Employee advocacy ultimately needs to be carried out in a structured and streamlined manner. From subject areas to focus on and social media guidelines to follow, to confidentiality clauses and sensitivity training – A lot goes into setting up a formal program. At the same time, it’s important to empower advocates with some amount of freedom so they enjoy the process. While this might sound like a delicate balance to achieve and a significant time & effort investment, the returns it can bear for your brand justify all the energies you pour in.