You hear a lot about employee advocacy these days, and like any good trend – this one has staying power, so it’s likely been on your radar for a while. But how does one go about implementing an employee advocacy program, and what is employee advocacy, specifically? That last part may feel obvious, but assumptions are not your friend. Let’s explore what is employee advocacy and what is not – and why lots of companies launch programs based on the latter and suffer for it.
Employee advocacy is all about building relationships – and when done correctly, it’s a powerful promotional tool.
People, living breathing advocates of your offerings, are much more valuable than any advertising you can buy. With the B2B purchase cycle typically taking months, as your target audience spends time researching, reviewing and discussing options with industry peers, you need to know that your voice in the market is strong. That voice can’t just be your brand talking. It needs a human face – and the more human faces you can offer, the better. But that doesn’t mean you should recruit everyone in your company to be an advocate – and this brings us to an important “what it’s not” item: employee advocacy is not for everyone.
Identifying Exceptional Advocates
They know your service offering inside and out, they’re socially savvy, and their communication skills are beyond reproach – this last part is important. They’ve mastered micro-communications, able to make salient points in few words and are even-keeled, avoiding (or at least non-committal when it comes to) charged topics. How do you know? You’ve followed them online, of course, and can see how they are. You’ve done your due diligence. And in the process, you’ve also identified your company’s social saboteurs – those argumentative souls courting controversy, and have taken steps to encourage those folks to clean up their act and/or remove any mention of your business from their personas.
When you have these rock star employees identified, you need to prepare them to succeed. You’ll make sure they’re on point with messaging, providing training around what they should and shouldn’t say. And you’ll need to create opportunities for them to say it…
Creating Advocacy Opportunities
Your advocates cannot be expected to perform in a vacuum and have any success. Randomly posting a variety of marketing collateral with, “This is great! Message me for more info!” will very rarely get the job done. So you’ll need to create opportunities for them to interact, particularly when they start out. Events, holidays – set out a calendar with clear messaging suggestions, only make sure it’s clear they’re suggestions meant to spark their own creative ideas. It’s your message – but their voice.
Ever see 50 employees send the same tweet? The same exact verbiage accompanying a LinkedIn post, for example? That’s not engaging, it’s mass spamming. Your employee advocates should understand and have thoughts about why they’re sharing your message, and they need to use their own words to express that thinking – and they need to understand the fine art of promoting others just as often, if not more often, than they promote your services. This is easier said than done, so you’ll need to model how this looks by example. You aren’t out there spamming people with posts about your business, are you? If you are, stop that and start promoting others.
And guess who should be at the top of your ‘promoting others’ list? Your rock star employees!
Beyond organizing your advocates’ efforts, you’ll need to incentivize these folks too. Promoting them is a great way to do it, and we’ll share a not so great way that many businesses rely on too.
Make Advocacy Worthwhile, Not Worth a Gift Card
If you want advocates to communicate meaningfully with decision makers at other businesses, you need to make their participation meaningful. Take care to not fall prey to another common advocacy faux pas – the gamification trap. Advocacy isn’t a game and incentivizing it as such will not create the vibe you’re going for.
It’s easy to implement a gaming element to reward tweets and posts, but it shows genuine care for your advocates’ professional well-being when you help them grow their personal brands.
This is often overlooked and it’s key to success. It creates a win-win for your advocacy program and for your employees. As their influence grows and they become respected thought leaders in the space, yours does as well. They learn what works as they interact and promote their own brand and develop relationships with business leaders, and they apply that learning to the promotional work they do for your business. It’s how forward-thinking businesses turn savvy social advocates into extremely valuable social influencers. The long-term ROI is stunning. Look around and you’ll see them in action – hopefully not employed by your competitor!
Be sure to set aside time for these meaningful interactions to take place, as social savvy shouldn’t be rushed or an afterthought. 30 minutes at the start and end of each day should do the trick, but respect that time. Schedule check-ins and talk about engagement best practices at meetings designed to gather intel and learn from each other. And celebrate wins, that’s important. Because you can win or fail fantastically with employee advocacy, so bask in that glow when you’re hitting it right to help your team crave more.
Want to talk about how to get your Employee Advocacy Program off the ground? Drop us a line at hello [at] leadtail.com, or give us a call at (888) 705 4777