Employee Advocacy programs have become a very powerful tool any organization, big or small, in any vertical, can leverage to great success. The benefits are vast: reaching an audience you otherwise wouldn’t have access to, increasing engagement between your brand with existing and potential customers and building a stronger relationship with your employees.

Employee advocate programs build morale – employees want to see the product they are working on succeed and an advocate program gives them additional tools to add to that success (and bragging rights!).

It might seem like a daunting task. Where does one begin? How can one ensure participation? As a professional who has run a very large and active employee advocate program, I am here to share five keys to running a successful advocate program.

Executive Buy In
Program support from executive leadership has a dramatic effect on it’s success. If your leadership team needs some persuasion, focus on the metrics and share successful case studies. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Engaged employees are responsible for 80% of customer satisfaction [1]
  • 90% of an employee’s social audience is new to the brand [2]
  • Employee-shared content gets 7x the engagement of brand-shared content [3]
  • 92% of consumers trust WOM marketing over brand messaging [4]

A Solid Tool
If employees are subjected to an unpleasant user experience while participating in the program, participation will decrease (or even stop all together). It’s important to pick a tool that’s easy to use, has fast on-boarding, allows for regular communication to the employees and provides solid use metrics. I used, and love, SocialChorus (and so did my employee advocates). Signing up took less than two minutes, sharing content to a social network took seconds, updating the platform with fresh content was fast and easy, I could send weekly emails to advocates and gather important metrics. Be sure to evaluate closely a tool’s functionality and also it’s mobile experience (app or otherwise). And always ask for recommendations so you can find out what current customers like and dislike about the product.

Rewards and Recognition
Encourage employees to participate by recognizing the positive impact they are generating with rewards. Trying to kickstart a program? Give away t-shirts to the first 100 numbered in sign-up order. The first employee to join receives the coveted “#1” to proudly wear on campus. It’s also a great conversation starter: “What’s (insert your program’s name) and why are you #37”? will help increase program growth. Continue to reward participation by acknowledging employees who generate the most engagement around product launches or campaigns. They can be tangible giveaways such as gift certificates, GoPros and Pebble Watches to getting coffee with an executive, free or discounted training programs or conference registration fees.

Don’t Stop Recruiting
Once you get the program rolling, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day management of the program. But never stop growing! Continue sharing awareness by hosting recruiting events in the cafeteria. Luring them with swag never hurts when you’re asking them to forget about food for a few minutes 😉 Or host a referral contest where the employee with the most new recruits wins a prize. The larger and more active your employee program is, the greater audience reach and engagement you’ll gain.

Possibly the most overlooked area in employee advocacy is educating your advocates on social media. Be sure they read and agree to your organization’s social media guidelines. Additionally, host workshops to help them build their own personal social brand. Educate them on the intricacies of Twitter, teach them how to leverage LinkedIn to the best of their abilities and best blogging practices. Give them the tools to provide the opportunity to become thought leaders in their own space (engineering, sales, operations, etc). Be sure to make the classes fun and engaging to encourage participation. Host a Twitter contest during the workshop or bring in a professional photographer for free headshots for LinkedIn profiles. Besides, who wouldn’t want an army of killer socially savvy employees to make your company look even better? 😉

Launching an employee advocate program doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By focusing on these five keys you’ll find yourself up and running in no time. As your program progresses, don’t forget to create goals and acknowledge milestones. You’ll get real satisfaction seeing the numbers increase over time and a success story to share with your executives. Good luck on your program and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave them in the comments section.