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The Complete Guide To Building Employee Advocacy Programs

The rising costs of talent and media and the diminishing returns of digital ads have prompted companies to seek more cost-effective methods of fostering business growth. Consumers, professionals, and business buyers crave online authenticity in a world where everyone presents carefully curated, perfect moments.

So innovative organizations are harnessing the power of their employees' online professional networks to authentically present their corporate and employees personal brand in a cost-effective way.

Employee advocacy has emerged as a critical element of organizational business strategy. Organizations are leveraging their employee social media presence to create brand awareness, attract qualified talents, and build a differentiated organizational culture and competitive advantage.

What is Employee Advocacy?

Employee advocacy refers to the concept of employees talking about the company/brand and related subjects on social platforms, primarily through their personal social media accounts, and advocating the company they’re talking about. The employees amplify their company message by sharing its content or commenting on the post. 

Employee advocacy can take different forms, such as sharing company social media posts and company news, amplifying a job posting, or generating content about the company. Employee-generated content adds authenticity to the company's message and enhances its credibility among stakeholders.

However, employee advocacy should not become another content distribution medium for social media marketing. You should inform and engage employees throughout their lifecycle so that they make a positive difference to your company and continue to be brand advocates even after leaving the organization. 

Employee advocacy offers an opportunity to expand your reach to a broader audience by creating a positive workplace experience and collaborative culture within your organization. 

According to research, employees who report positive workplace experiences have a  sixteen times higher engagement level than employees with negative experiences. Higher-engaged employees willingly become brand ambassadors for your company. 

What are the Types of Employee Advocacy?

Employee advocacy can be classified based on the medium through which employees promote their company. Traditionally, word of mouth has been the most prevalent form of employee advocacy and continues even today. However, with technological innovations, modern communication channels have replaced the traditional method. Even as social media advocacy has become synonymous with employee advocacy, other types of advocacy programs are also explained below. 

Social media advocacy

The most preferred employee advocacy program is highly effective, enabling organizations to meet different end objectives. Employees sharing company posts helps increase brand awareness and reach, while employees sharing their work experiences on platforms such as Linkedin, Glassdoor helps enhance employer brand equity.

Employer brand advocacy

It involves employees referring qualified job candidates for job vacancies through employee referral programs. It helps you to acquire quality talent who are culturally fit and optimizes hiring time and cost.

Thought leadership 

In these advocacy programs, employees contribute thought leadership articles and real-world case studies to industry publications and deliver knowledge sessions at industry conferences and company events. Employees help to establish your company as an industry expert, enhancing its reputation and credibility. 

What are the benefits of employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy enables you to tap into the power of your employee network to significantly increase your social media reach and enhance brand value at a nominal cost. Some benefits of employee advocacy are as follows.

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Increased brand awareness and visibility

Your employee's professional and personal network with colleagues, friends and like-minded people from across industries enables you to expand the reach of your branded content. It helps you strike meaningful conversations with people you could not have reached otherwise and establish connections with them.

Improves leads and drive social sales

Besides the intangible benefits companies also reported tangible measurable benefits such as increased inbound web traffic, improved search engine visibility and higher content download translating into better qualified leads. 

With your employees becoming your brand ambassador, inbound leads will increase as people will be willing to trust insiders who talk favorably about the organization. It will help instil confidence in B2B buyers, with 71% willing to spend more than $50,000 in a single transaction using remote or self-service models.

Employee advocacy can significantly influence consumer companies' social sales, an emerging opportunity, considering social commerce is expected to grow to more than $2 trillion by 2025.

Build trust and credibility

Today’s customers want to make purchases on their own terms, including using online channels for research. B2C customers expect to find you on search engines and social media and interact with your brands and the community before making a purchase. Seventy per cent of online customers read between one and six customer reviews before making a purchase, while only ten per cent don’t read reviews.

Even B2B customers use more channels to interact with vendors and suppliers in their purchase decision journey. 

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Employee advocacy lends credibility to your online brand and increases the chances of getting discovered online by your prospects and customers. It helps you gain customer confidence as they perceive the company with employees as brand advocates to be trustworthy.  

Improves employer brand value

The candidate's decision to apply to a company is influenced by its employer brand. 82% of job seekers consider an employer's reputation before applying. Candidates check the background of employers from online review sites, company websites, news articles, and other means.

With access to multiple online communication platforms, prospective employees form opinions of the company even before considering job opportunities with them. In this context, the company's own employees publishing online posts highlighting positive attributes enhances its employer brand value, motivating quality talent to apply to the company.

In addition to benefits to the organization, employee advocacy also helps employees derive advantages such as increased networking opportunities, better people skills, and position themselves as subject matter experts. The digital footprints enable them to establish their credentials as employees who go beyond the call of duty to promote organizational interest. Almost 86% of employee advocates in a formal program said that their involvement in social media employee advocacy matters has positively influenced their careers.

5 Essential Steps to Building an Employee Advocacy Program

Implementing an employee advocacy program requires proper planning, employee training, time commitment and appropriate employee advocacy tools and technologies.  The five critical steps for introducing an employee advocacy program for your organization are as follows.

Build a collaborative and inclusive work culture

When we think of Netflix, Google, and Microsoft, the first thoughts that cross our minds are those of companies at the forefront of innovation. Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings promoted the culture of innovation by giving employees freedom and flexibility instead of rule adherence and error prevention. His book ‘No Rules Rule’ describes the philosophy behind the company culture that inspires trust and creativity from top to bottom. The employees feel proud to work for such an organization and are intrinsically motivated to promote their company culture and work practices. 

In any industry, what companies do may not differ significantly, but how they do it helps them distinguish themselves from others and shapes their culture. When you create a collaborative and inclusive work culture that supports employees at different stages of their life cycle, they form a strong emotional connection and bond. It enhances employee engagement, and they feel motivated and empowered to spread the good word about the organization. 

Besides, a healthy organizational culture acts as a differentiator in the market, where competitors can easily replicate products and services. The company culture becomes the subject of discussions and finds advocates not only within the organization but also outside.

Create a formal employee advocacy program and set goals

You need to create formal employee advocacy program to enable your employees to become partners in sharing positive messages about the company. You need to articulate to employees the objectives of the program and the reason for involving them in it. Open communication and transparency will be the biggest motivators, much more than monetary benefits or rewards. Even though the employee advocacy program has advantages, only 17% of the companies have implemented a formal comprehensive program. A multi-disciplinary team must own employee advocacy program and monitor its implementation.

You must define the goals you want organizations to achieve as part of your employee advocacy program collectively. These goals can include increasing website visitors, higher engagement on blog posts, new sales lead generation, improving employer brand value, and others. These goals will drive your employee advocacy efforts and help you create a tactical plan.

A formal employee advocacy program is mutually beneficial to both companies and employees. Employee advocates who are part of a formal program spend more time on social media than those who are not part of an organized and systematic employee advocacy effort.

Encourage employee participation through incentives

Even though employees benefit through enhanced network working opportunities by participating in the advocacy program, you still need to encourage participation through incentives. 

You can institute a formal reward and recognition program to value employee advocate through a certificate of appreciation and offer monetary rewards such as gift cards. Additionally, you can incorporate employee advocacy program participation as a formal appraisal criterion, encouraging greater participation.

Provide training to employees

As social media advocacy will be the primary form of employee advocacy, you must create a formal training program to prepare your employees as brand ambassadors. You can include modules on social media pros and cons, content types, platforms, and social media advocacy training. Though social media training increases chances of success but only 28% of employee advocates have received training from their companies.

You should also train employees on the Highperformr employee advocacy tool to equip your employees with skills to navigate and leverage it effectively to promote the organization.

Launch the program and periodically share updates with employees

You should launch the program to coincide with favourable events around the company. It can be around quarterly result announcements, company winning awards, industry event participation, etc. It will provide an excellent start to your program considering there will be plenty of opportunities for employee to promote the organization.

You should periodically review your program's performance and share it with the other employees involved to help them learn about the results of their efforts and encourage higher involvement and participation.

7 Best Practices to Improve your Employee Advocacy Strategy

Organize periodic orientation session for new employee participants

As employees may join advocacy programs sporadically throughout the year, you must schedule orientation sessions periodically to onboard them. The orientation sessions must impart employee's understanding of the program objectives, training on social media platforms and tools, content development and publication, and awareness of brand guidelines.

Create shareable content library

You must provide employees with quality content to share with their network. An integrated content strategy to synchronize quality content production would help. You must organize content into a centralized library, which employees can leverage to curate and publish on social media.  

For employee-generated content, you must frame a policy to guide employees engaged in creating content for sharing through their social accounts. The guide should provide details on the topics around companies, such as events, product features, individual experience and other areas and let employee creativity do the rest. 

Create unique branded hashtags to curate and organize employee posts

A unique branded hashtag enables you to curate posts your employees have published and reshare them through your company account. When people click on your branded hashtag, they see a collection of content about your company. #Adobelife, #lifeatspotify, and #StarbucksCoffee are some of the company-branded hashtags. You can create a customized hashtag to serve a specific purpose, such as a sales campaign or hiring activities.

Appoint employee advocacy mentors

You must identify social media experts within the organization, irrespective of their rank or title, and appoint them as mentors. Employees who have proven expertise in social media strategy to create a professional brand with a substantial following should be chosen as mentors. Senior management and human resources should guide these employees in driving the employee advocacy program within the organization.

Establish social media advocacy guidelines

Employees need to be guided not just on the content and messaging but also on the nitty-gritty of leveraging social media communication channels. It would help if you published dos and don’ts of social media use for company purposes, such as not becoming argumentative or taking a negative approach in responding to comments. As employee advocates include people across the organization, you must sensitize them to brand guidelines on using the company names, logos, colours and other aspects to ensure uniformity.

Recognize and reward employee advocates monthly

As employees devote time to promoting the organization, you should appropriately recognize and award them for their efforts. You can institutionalize a formal program to identify exceptional employee advocates monthly and quarterly and honor them with certificates of achievement and incentives. You can also gamify your employee advocacy program to infuse a spirit of competitiveness and achievement among the employees. 

Share employee advocacy program results across the organization

You must share the results of employee advocacy programs across the organization to highlight the impact of employee contributions in promoting the company. This will also create awareness and encourage employees to participate in the successful program.

How to measure the success of your employee advocacy program?

You can measure the success of your employee advocacy program in two dimensions. The first dimension focuses on evaluating program performance based on employees participation and involvement. The second dimension evaluates program success in terms of achieving business goals.

You can use the following metrics to assess employee participation and involvement in the employee advocacy program. 

Employee Adoption Rate

It can be measured as the number of employee enrollments or invites sent, the number of sign-ups, and the number of accounts actively promoting the company’s content.

Employee Active Participation

The number of employee accounts that are part of the advocacy program and the number of accounts participating consistently. 

Are new employees signing up for the advocacy programs and consistently posting for the company? You need to assess if there is a positive trend of employee active participation.

You can share with employees how the posts they shared through their accounts are getting traction enhancing social media engagement. In that case, they will be motivated to continue their active participation in the successful employee advocacy program. The AI-powered social media management platform Highperformr helps you identify top posts with relevant engagement metrics to share with your own marketing team.

You must track the organic engagement of the posts shared by your employees through their social media accounts.

Top contributors

Highperformr enables you to identify top contributing employees and their topics that have found traction with target audience.

Growth in social media followers and website visitors 

The top three business metrics for measuring the advocacy program's success are growth in social followers, increase in website visitors and number of leads generated from social channels.

Are the posts shared by employees resulting in more click-throughs to your website and blog posts? You can assess program success based on increased online audiences, leading to more people interacting with your brand online, such as sharing content, commenting, and asking questions. 

Organic engagement

Are your employee's connections interacting with the company's posts? Are the posts shared by employees generating conversation around the topic? You can use Highperformr analytics to identify popular topics that will give you an indication of the performance of posts shared by employees participating in the program.

In addition, you can also measure the success of your employee advocacy program through metrics such as an increase in brand mention of your brand, increased impression of company-sponsored posts and individual post metrics through Highperformr. 

Increase in talent acquisition from social media platforms

If your company sees more candidates applying through social channels, your successful employee advocacy program has contributed to this trend. You can also refer to other hiring metrics, such as time-to-hire and cost-to-hire, to assess the success of your advocacy program from a human resource perspective. 

Examples of Employee Advocacy

Adobe humanizes the brand 

Adobe was the first major brand to understand and implement employee advocacy when it was in its infancy, and other large organizations hesitated to implement social media in the workplace environment.

Adobe's basic premise in appointing employee brand ambassadors was that companies do business with people. Adobe considers employee advocates to be the faces and personalities behind its brand. Today, the company has approximately 900 brand ambassadors in different communities across the world.

Adobe briefs brand ambassadors on upcoming products and services. They start publishing online posts that generate conversation about the future launch. This helps them create a buzz before the launch, and by the time new products and services enter the market, enough people will have heard about them to experiment. 

Besides briefing ambassadors, the company posts information on its intranet to enable employees to learn about the latest offerings and spread the word through their personal networks. The company leaders also provide training to its ambassadors and conducts live virtual sessions. 

Adobe's employee advocacy objective is to get as many people in the program as possible and have a high user rate. The success metrics include the number of groups created, the average number of people being followed by employees and overall engagement rates. Another important feature of Adobe's employee advocacy program is Adobe Life Blog. The employees are encouraged to write for the blog offering behind-the-scenes professional life at Adobe. The advocacy program humanizes the brand and enables the company to achieve social media campaign goals around social volume, engagement and impact in the community.

NVIDIA highlights high performing work culture 

NVIDIA is in the news because of its advanced chips powering AI(Artificial Intelligence) models and its stock price performance. Although technical competence is at the core of company performance, a positive work culture has contributed equally to making it the tech giant it is today. The company brand advocacy program includes current employees highlighting the positive impact of the organization’s approach to work, for which it has a dedicated web page.

Committed and motivated employees publish job openings through their social media accounts, broadening employee sourcing to attract the best and brightest. 

97% of NVIDIA employees say it is a great place to work, and they promote the company's culture and work practices through social media and blog posts.

Its CEO, Jensen Huang, believes in transparent employee communication and a work culture that values reasoning and learning from each other, encouraging employees to be willing brand advocates.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Elevates Talent Acquisition

Thermo Fisher, the world leader in serving science with annual revenue exceeding $40 billion, struggled with brand awareness outside the scientific community. This hindered its ability to attract quality candidates for its many divisions around the globe. The company is present in 600 locations worldwide, and it would have cost them millions to build and scale the talent brand globally.

Thermo Fisher launched an employee advocacy program focused on talent acquisition. The LinkedIn advocacy platform provided a steady stream of curated content for its employees to post on their social media accounts. Industry talent connected with Thermo Fisher employees would interact with the content, enabling the company to attract quality talent naturally.

After the program's launch, 18% of hires worldwide mentioned engaging with their company content, and becoming aware of the company's potential job opportunities. The success of the Thermo Fisher employee advocacy program encouraged sales teams and other functions to collaborate with the marketing department to produce and publish relevant content, helping the company boost its reach by 62%.

Tools and Platforms for Managing Successful Employee Advocacy Programs

Organizations commonly use social media analytics, content scheduling, authoring and publishing tools, and social listening to manage employee advocacy programs.

Many large organizations use specialized employee advocacy platform that allow employees to access, share, and engage with social media content. You must select a right employee advocacy platform that meets your organizational requirements and is within your budget. Highperformr is an AI-powered platform with an integrated employee advocacy module. It provides social media management, analytics, and an employee advocacy tool offering the best value for your money.

Conclusion

It is time for you to collaborate with the brand advocates within the organization for a mutually beneficial engagement. A planned employee advocacy program enables you and your employees to effectively leverage the power of social media platforms to improve reach and visibility.

If you have an informal advocacy program, you must utilize the Highperformr employee advocacy solution to launch a formal program to reap the benefits of improved brand awareness, better employer branding, and enhanced employee engagement. You can launch an employee advocacy pilot with a few employees. If your employee advocacy pilot program is successful, you can roll it across the organization.

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