By Jenny Harbour, Head of Social Media.
Employee advocacy is a vastly underrated tool for B2B businesses in the battle to get their messages to the right audiences. Here’s why I’m all for it.
The power of employee advocacy.
Employee advocacy is getting employees to use their personal social networks to spread their organisation’s messaging, and it’s the fastest-growing means of building brand engagement. By encouraging employees to be ambassadors for your brand, you generate discussion around topics to do with your company that reach far beyond the people your company could normally make contact with.
This ripple effect is extremely valuable; instead of your organisation pushing out the same messages (again and again), the information spreads outwards more organically, from person to person and from group to group. I’ve helped clients to make this happen in their organisations and I know it works. One client, for example, found their bylined thought-leadership blogs shared by employees across their networks got nearly 70 per cent more views than standard ‘company’ blogs.
Advocacy really works…
And there are wider stats to back this up: research shows that a formal employee advocacy programme helps to shorten the sales cycle. Plus, over 60 per cent of people involved in an advocacy programme believed that it helped to attract and develop new business, and nearly half agreed employee advocacy had created new revenue streams.
…so why isn’t it happening?
In an ideal world, employee advocacy would be in the DNA of your company. All your people would integrate thought-provoking, work-related comments across their social media channels —without being asked. And any new joiners would understand that following suit was part of their contract.
But that’s not the norm. It might be that today’s large organisation has put so many rules in place to protect its brand and tone that it’s scaring people off from mentioning their work on their personal social media networks.
Or, perhaps it’s because digital natives are not yet senior enough in the organisation to be able to lead by example. Plus people may be reluctant to mix their personal and work lives too much. However, creating and maintaining a profile purely for work purposes easily gets around that.
Making employee advocacy a reality.
Today, employee advocacy has to be consciously introduced to a company through a carefully-thought-out programme of training, encouragement and ongoing support.
With backing from senior management, you first need to persuade your people that it’s a good idea. Focusing on the value advocacy brings to the sales process is a starting point. And you can back that up with the research that shows an impressive 86 per cent of people who took part in an employee advocacy programme felt being a brand ambassador on social media had had a positive effect on their career.
The next step is to make sure your people are proficient on social media and have appropriate profiles. It’s important at this point to be clear about how to grow connections, how and what to share, and how to stand out from the crowd. It takes so much more than just hitting the ‘share’ button. You need your people to understand how best to spark discussion, and how to handle themselves if their opinions prove a little controversial.
Plus, you need to get people to understand that they’re in this for the long haul; there are no quick fixes. In fact, whenever I run training to get an advocacy programme started, I seem to spend a lot of time stressing the importance of regularity, regularity, regularity!
Find your experts.
Every organisation has an untapped, rich resource of subject matter experts who are perfectly placed to spread your word across their networks. Often, though, these individuals don’t realise their own expertise; you may need to seek them out and make sure they are equipped to start sharing. In fact, these subject matter experts may need support in getting their point across with ghost-written profiles, blogs and social media comments. Then, over time, they will become more confident and undertake more of the advocacy themselves. When working with companies, I’ve seen (and supported) a whole range of competencies and levels of confidence.
The time conundrum.
Once your employee advocacy programme is ready to go, the final hurdle you have to get over is making sure your people have time to do it. Initially, this can feel a bit strange — giving people the freedom to go on social media during working hours. But if you think about it, what you’re aiming to achieve is a fluid mix of personal views about work subjects. So encouraging your people to check in on their social media throughout the day, and to take the time to comment or share is a natural consequence. It shouldn’t be a crime! In fact, for an employee to create and maintain a valuable presence on social media, I recommend allowing a minimum of five hours in the working week.
Are you ready?
So, is your organisation ready to fully embrace employee advocacy yet? If you’d like to bounce some ideas around about this, or find out what services we offer to support advocacy, then do get in touch.