As originally published on Forbes.com.
Employee advocacy and employee advocacy programs are being implemented in companies as a way to not only foster a boost in team morale, but also to assist businesses and brands in awareness and even sales.
But what is employee advocacy, and why is it important? Employee advocacy simply means the promotion and awareness of a company and/or its products and services by the employees who work there. From John the janitor to Audrey in accounting, every employee on staff should be motivated to become a part of your employee advocacy program, sharing social posts from the company, discussing their jobs and the company at networking events, and even leaving reviews on sites like Glassdoor. It is important because 52% of consumers trust employees at a company more than the company or brand itself.
If your digital marketing team is spending copious amounts of time crafting the perfect posts and engaging tweets, utilizing employees to share those posts may go further than any ad spend you put behind promoting them.
As business owners and those of us in management or the C-suite, we probably can’t imagine why anyone would not be motivated to use their personal social media to advocate for the business. We love our company and want to see it succeed, so everyone else does too, right? Realistically, not every employee is going to be thrilled to participate, which is why it is important to get started with your employee advocacy program by offering the opportunity to join and not mandating it as part of anyone’s job.
While it isn’t necessarily required to get started with employee advocacy, you can incentivize participation by determining goals and awarding employees who attain those goals with items like gift cards or company-branded swag. More than just gift incentives, it is important to let employees know that by participating, it can help them establish and grow their networks and, overall, help cultivate their personal brands.
In some cases, employees want to participate but aren’t sure how. A strong employee advocacy program will have a team lead who helps to determine what content should be earmarked as part of the program for sharing and even who should share it (extremely beneficial for larger companies with various facets of business and multiple departments). Taking the time to train participating employees on best practices — such as tagging, sharing or retweeting with comments, and the best time of day to do so — is not only beneficial to the employee and can make them feel that the company is investing in them, but is also advantageous for the company as the content may go further when sharing is optimized.
Letting those same employees know when the content is being released or has been released is helpful as well. We are already asking them to assist in advocacy, but we need to guide them to the content so they aren’t spending time searching for it, becoming frustrated and possibly losing interest in the program.
When our agency helps a client to build an employee advocacy program, we start by assisting them in determining what goals should be set for the program. In other words, why even have a program at all? Those goals depend on your business and what you are hoping to accomplish. Maybe it is three new sales leads that convert to new customers every month. It could be selling 10% more of a specific product within a given quarter or X number of downloads of a white paper. Or maybe it is as simple as building brand awareness and setting a goal for reach and impressions of posts and tweets.
The success of the employee advocacy program will be determined by — no surprise — your employees. If they aren’t engaged with the company or lack dedication or loyalty, then start by addressing the company culture. Ask yourself: What can we do as a company to not only make our employees more immersed, but also create a sense of pride in their careers? Employees will share in a company where the culture and values match their own and where they feel that what they send out is given back to them.