In today’s interconnected world, consumers are constantly weighing their options - whether they are surfing the net, watching videos, doing research, or interacting on social media, they are constantly bombarded with brand messaging. If anyone can get through that clutter effectively, it’s your employees. Enter employee advocacy - your best tool to boosting visibility, reach, engagement, and sales by tapping into human capital that’s already at your disposal!
Studies have shown, time and again, that consumers take their business talks online. They trust people more than they trust brands - actually, 88% of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!
To get what they need from you, people need to see you on social media sites. But, there’s a caveat - they don’t want to hear from your corporate accounts. They want to hear from your people - customers, partners, and others.
When you frame things like this, it becomes clear that your employees are a powerful asset. It’s to the detriment of the company that they are overlooked in your content strategy. With their help, you can easily spread your brand’s story and vision on social media sites.
Build your brand with advocacy and make sure that your employees are your biggest cheerleaders.
5 All Too Real Dangers of Not Setting Up An Employee Advocacy Program
If the benefits of encouraging and managing an internal advocacy program don’t light a fire under you, maybe the dangers of failing to do so will. Here’s what you’re risking if you delegate employee advocacy to the sideline:
- You risk getting left behind - essentially, the digital transformation bandwagon will be passing you by. Most of your competitors will jump at an opportunity to streamline their business by using profit-boosting online platforms and tactics.
- You will pay more for social media and content - creating content is a real budget drain. So is paid promotion on social media sites. Employee advocates can be mobilized to create and share content for a fraction of the cost it would cost you to outsource those activities. Additionally, employees get a lot more traction with potential customers.
- Your cost per lead will remain the same - while everyone else will be decreasing theirs. More awareness, bigger networks, and glowing online reviews can trigger potential prospects to pull the purchasing trigger before you have to invest too much.
- You will struggle to earn trust - as mentioned, people trust people, not brands. The fewer voices you have out there vouching for you, the harder it will be for people to trust you. You will be viewed as yet another corporate shill and that’s always bad for business.
- You will be letting a valuable customer acquisition channel slip through your fingers - more and more consumers are basing their purchasing decisions on online reviews, social media discussion, and on what’s trickling down the online grapevine. If you’re not there to participate, you’re losing out.
Customer Advocacy or Employee Advocacy?
Why not both?
Customer advocacy is hard work. It requires you to get your customers on board, to keep them happy, encourage them to participate, create, and share. One wrong move and they’re out the door. Despite being so delicate to recruit and manage, customer advocates bring enormous business benefits to your brand.
But, why not go after the low hanging fruit as well?
Your employees have a big incentive to be your advocates - your company is their place of work and what benefits you, benefits them as well. Most of the time, employee advocacy is already happening in companies, regardless of whether it’s being managed or not:
- 47% of employees are already communicating with customers in an online environment by answering questions, sticking up for the company, or through other activities.
- 50% of them are already talking about the company they work for even when not encouraged by the company they work for (which can be dangerous if there are no posting guidelines).
If you want to do customer and employee advocacy programs at the same time, you’re going to need the tools that are going to help you accomplish the task. Most advocacy platforms are geared toward one type of advocacy, completely sidestepping the other and forcing companies to spend additional human resources and money managing two sides of the same coin separately.
Innovative advocacy platforms (such as Ambassify) allow you to harness the potential of both groups and use their powerful synergy to reach even more potential customers with unique and trustworthy messages that will convince them to choose you.
6 Reasons Why You Need to Invest In Employee Advocacy
Your employees are an existing resource that can be further utilized to benefit your company. The cost of starting and managing an employee advocacy program is significantly lower than the cost of launching an advocacy program with customers.
However, it still delivers impressive results:
- Online reputation management - 6 out of 10 employees will go out of their way to defend their employer to friends, family, and online connections. With careful management, you could easily bump that number even higher.
- Online content creation and distribution - your employees can create meaningful content and distribute it over social media cheaper than you ever could.
- Sales boost - with just a 12% increase in employee advocacy, you could easily double your sales. Attempting to do so through any other channel would cost a lot more.
- Expanded reach - your potential reach grows with every employee advocate to include their social connections. This quickly surpasses what a company could hope to reach organically. In fact, around 90% of people you reach through your employees will be hearing about your brand for the first time.
- Authenticity boost - there’s nothing authentic in a corporate social media account. People trust people and authenticity is built one advocate at a time. When that happens, every message you put out there will be amplified by real, human voices.
- Minimal investment - employee advocates are not looking for an extensive rewards program. Being already invested in the success of your company, they are looking for recognition, not rewards and a simple thank you will go a long way.
Laying the Groundwork for Employee Advocacy
The fact of the matter is - getting employees to participate in an advocacy program shouldn’t be too difficult. They are already incentivized because if the company does well, they do well:
- Potential pay increase
- Job security & stability
- Advancement opportunities
Top management, on the other hand, might prove to be a tougher nut to crack. It will all come to the bottom line here so you have to have the numbers to prove future growth as a direct consequence of employee advocacy. That shouldn’t be too difficult to calculate but you’ve got to come prepared. Ideally, the top brass will be involved in this project from the start - this will make your life easier when it comes to the budgets and getting employees on board.
You want as many employees participating in your advocacy program as possible. Of course, you will never be able to motivate everyone but as the involvement grows so will your reach and your revenue.
Most companies choose to start small, ironing out the kinks before rolling the employee advocacy program company-wide.
Once you get the leadership to sign off on everything, it’s time to start preparing. Get people who use social media in their day-to-day job to join the program first - marketing, communications, sales, social media managers, talent acquisition (HR), and others and form a team that will create an advocacy plan. That plan should include identifying the types of content to share, when to share it and why, social media to prioritize, risks that need to be managed, selection of the employee advocacy platform, and other goals and KPIs.
Potential risks that will need to be managed include:
- Lack of training and skills
- Information security
- Compliance issues
It will be necessary to include someone from the legal department into this group - they, along with HR, PR, and marketing people, will be responsible for creating guidelines for the program.
When you’re ready to roll out, assign someone (one person or a group of people) who will be responsible for managing the program. They will coordinate with others and set up campaign goals, measure success, reward employee advocates for participation, onboard others to the program and answer employee advocacy-related questions.
Setting Up Employee Advocacy Goals and KPIs
When setting up goals and KPIs for your employee advocacy program, ask yourself one question: What do I want to accomplish? It’s important that advocacy goals are aligned with the goals of specific departments it aims to help.
Get specific and quantify every goal. Once you assign a number to something, that makes it that much easier to achieve. Some examples of goals would be:
- Increase registration for an event by 30%
- Double website traffic by a set date
- Amplify a post on Facebook by 50%
- Answer 100 Quora questions relating to your industry
- Address 10 negative Facebook comments about your brand
- Increasing overall employee engagement and job satisfaction by 5%
A good employee advocacy platform allows you to create targeted campaigns that will help you reach these goals - social media sharing, content creation, review actions, online reputation and so on.
In order to achieve most of these goals, you will have to provide your advocates with powerful, informational, and creative content. Some of that content can be done by the company but don’t miss out on the opportunity to capitalize on user-generated content. With just a few simple instructions, you can turn your employees into a veritable content mill.
Don’t forget - employee advocacy is not only about boosting your social media visibility and (potentially) sales. Employees participating in these programs often feel a tighter connection with the company, and that can result in increased productivity and morale. In the end, your bottom line benefits however you choose to look at it. If you want to learn more about what to do to make (and keep) your employee happy, check out our ultimate guide to employee engagement right here!
Keeping the Momentum & Managing Your Employee Advocacy Program
Managing small details of an employee advocacy program is done with the help of an advocacy platform. Your best bet are platforms that can be used for both employee and customer advocacy because they are easier to manage and reduce your overhead cost.
Advocacy platforms such as Ambassify allow you to set goals, manage advocates, direct and execute the same (or different) campaigns with different segments of your advocacy population.
Keeping the momentum going can prove a bit harder for some. At the beginning, your advocacy efforts will be seen as something new and shiny so employees will want to participate. After a while, there’s a possibility that the novelty will wear off.
Here’s how you combat that and keep your employees engaged:
- Customize challenges and campaigns - know your employees and segment campaigns according to departments. If you present people with something they are interested in or something that boosts their department’s goals, they are more likely to participate.
- Make it easy to participate - don’t make people jump through hoops to contribute. Choose an easy to use advocacy platform and keep your goals simple and easily obtainable.
- Hand power to employees - don’t micromanage every aspect of the program. Setting ground rules and letting advocates call some of the shots will empower them and give them some control. With control, they will take on a mantle of responsibility as well.
- Reward their participation - employee advocacy asks your employees to go above and beyond. Reward their actions with appropriate rewards. Sometimes, all that’s necessary is a bit of recognition.
Measuring Actions & Rewarding Your Employee Advocates
The last step of your employee advocacy program is ensuring quality measurements. Keeping track of important metrics will let you know which campaigns are working and which are not and you can use that to make decisions about where you’re going to focus your efforts the most. To make things easier, choose an advocacy platform that gives you a clear overview of what’s been done and what are the projected benefits.
In addition to the measurement part being crucial to keeping you on the right track, it’s also important when it comes to rewarding your employee advocates. When you know exactly what they’ve done and when they’ve done it, you can start rewarding them appropriately.
When it comes to rewards, it’s important not to over-do it - you don’t want to ‘pay’ your employees for their advocacy actions. Recognition often works better, and it’s completely free!
To recognize the continuing efforts of your employee advocates:
- Congratulate them with a company-wide memo
- Recognize their achievements during meetings and company events
- Provide security and flexibility when they need it
However, even though your employees will be getting some benefits (professional branding, recognition, acceptance, gamification) just by participating, setting up a small rewards pool is still a good idea. Things that don’t cost much but come with bragging rights include branded merchandise, a longer break, extra lunch choices, and so on. You can throw in some big ticket items in there, such as letting the best performing department choose a conference they want to attend, but remember to use those sporadically and for big achievements.
Tap Into Your Employees and Leverage Them To Increase Awareness, Leads & Sales
A handful of good employee advocates can do wonders for your company. Once you start growing their numbers and managing their efforts, they can supercharge your marketing efforts and contribute tremendously to your bottom line.
All it takes is a little effort and coordination coupled with a lot of vision and drive to tap into your biggest resource - the human resource. Ambassify advocacy platform can help you along the way, allowing you to easily implement and execute employee advocacy goals. Start boosting social media awareness and engagement today and you will be seeing astonishing results tomorrow!