Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | 7 min read
Want to get people talking about your company? Start with your colleagues and employees.
Chances are, you have at least 100 brand advocates sitting in your office right now—maybe more. These employees likely have online and in-person networks of hundreds or even thousands with whom they can share your brand’s message. As Alex Schott, Manager of Social and Digital Media at Entergy, said, “In the new media landscape, everyone in your company is essentially an unofficial spokesperson.”
Well, great! Then let’s start counting the new customers and social engagements! Hold on, not so fast. The problem is, no matter how much your employees love their job, it’s easy for them to get burned out talking about the business. And even if they’re willing to be brand advocates, they might not remember to keep sharing content on an ongoing basis.
That’s why your employee advocacy program needs to make it easy, fun, and rewarding to be a brand advocate. With the right strategy in place, employees will be motivated and inspired to share how much they love the brand with their own online communities.
Here are six ways to encourage employees to become your brand’s strongest advocates.
Happy employees are productive employees. According to a recent study from the University of Warwick, happiness among employees led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10% less productive.
Boost your employees’ happiness by developing a strong company culture. For instance, you might consider creating a pet-friendly workplace. As Inc. noted, research from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business found that having animals in the office can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction. Additionally, a study from Walker & Dunlop concluded that it’s important to encourage teamwork and support collaboration by launching events that celebrate employees and give them opportunities to be social together.
Presumably, the happier and more productive your employees are, the more likely they’ll be to engage in your employee advocacy program and share their great experiences on social media.
Making high-quality content is the tough part; sharing it should be easy. Want your employees to help spread the word about a new company ebook? Have your social team provide them with a shortened link, suggested caption, and image that they can easily publish on their social channels. The best way to do this is through an employee advocacy site where they can easily share approved content with a single click. Make sure your advocacy site is integrated with the rest of your content creation and publishing tools to make it as efficient as possible.
Some employees might even be hesitant to post about work for fear of saying the wrong thing. That’s why laying the foundation with compliance guidelines is crucial, especially for large companies with many employees who might have trouble navigating what to say on their social channels. Training programs—another essential component of a strong advocacy program—can also be set up to arm employees with the resources they need to create the most effective messaging.
Everyone loves a good competition. Consider integrating gamification into your employee advocacy program to sweeten the pot a bit. For example, Zappos runs a company leaderboard that ranks employees with the most Twitter followers. You can even take a page from Klout and Foursquare’s playbook by distributing badges for hitting certain benchmarks. Or, on an even bigger scale, you might host an awards ceremony at the end of each quarter to showcase employees with the best numbers.
The employee with the most monthly shares gets a brand new car! …Just kidding.
Rewarding employees with prizes and money can promote unhealthy advocacy, because they may start to share for the wrong reasons, and they can get careless with their messaging. That’s why it’s important to honor employees with recognition rather than monetary rewards.
Think hard about which engagement metrics are most important to your company and how you can most effectively motivate employees to reach them. Perhaps you can shout out the employee with the most shares at each monthly meeting, or reward the employee who brought in the most traffic with a little office celebration. It’s especially powerful for leadership to reward employees, because recognition from C-suite executives can serve to boost employees’ careers and, in turn, encourage others to join the advocacy program.
If your employee advocates are driving sales, let them know that their hard work is paying off.
Your sales team, in particular, might be happy to see how employee advocacy can directly impact their bottom line. As IBM reported, leads developed through employee social marketing initiatives convert 7x more frequently than other leads. Additionally, the Aberdeen Group found that 72.6% of salespeople who used social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their peers.
It’s natural for employees to take this attitude towards advocacy programs: “Sure, I’ll do it. But what’s in it for me?” Instead of fighting back against this question, just tell them what they want to know. Because the truth is, employees can get a lot out of being advocates. By actively sharing company messages on their platforms, they can grow their personal brands on social media, and, of course, receive recognition from higher-ups within the company.
That’s why encouragement for these programs needs to come from the top down. In order to ensure that that happens, leadership must be on board with the social advocacy program from the start. As the program grows, C-suite executives will harness the power to help employees share the company’s goals and vision and understand how their careers can grow as a result.
Your employees aren’t just people with social followings who can bring in big share numbers. (Though they are that: 40% of LinkedIn users have more than 300 connections and
50% of all Facebook users have more than 200 friends.) They also represent the human side of your brand. They’re the faces behind the Twitter account and the voices at the other end of the line. As such, consumers are inclined to trust them when seeking information about products and services.
That’s why it’s in your best interest to build the strongest employee advocacy program possible. By creating a positive company culture, implementing competitive elements, and providing helpful guidelines, you can inspire employees to share great content on an ongoing basis. And you’ll finally activate your brand’s best advocates yet: the people sitting right in your office.