Employee advocacy is often spoken of in terms of empowerment, and rightly so. However, simply launching a platform and making content readily available for employees to share will not lead to them actually feeling empowered. In reality, this is reliant on something that goes beyond the technology put in place: letting employees know that they have a stake in brand communication. Here are four key ways of instilling this sense of ownership…
1 – Provide Training and Guidelines
Employee advocacy is all about trusting employees to communicate individually as ambassadors for your company on social media. However, one of the most common “blocking points” is the fact that this trust is not fully conveyed. In other words, employees worry about saying the wrong thing. This is where dedicated training, as well as informal guidance, becomes extremely important.
Training and guidelines give employees the confidence to communicate as company ambassadors, safe in the knowledge that what they say reflects the overarching messages of your organization. The training you provide might not be the same for everyone (not least because employees’ familiarity with social media will vary), but it should be designed to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of best practices and key brand messages.
2 – Encourage “First Person” Communication
It’s important to remember that when employees share content as part of an advocacy program, they do so with their own social media networks. There is therefore little incentive for them to share posts if the messages being conveyed do not relate in some way to what they do and / or what they are interested in. For this reason, employees should be given flexibility when it comes to social media communication, and encouraged to add a personalized message as often as possible when they share content.
For example, if they are sharing the announcement of a new product they have tested, employees can draw attention to what they think is the standout feature. If they are posting a recruitment opportunity, they can include an introduction about why they personally enjoy working for the company. Ideally, employees choose to share content because it is relevant to them. It is by adding their own insights and expertise that they demonstrate why.
3 – Allow Employees to Engage with Audiences
Sharing content is just one aspect of employee advocacy. The ultimate aim is that by doing so, employees will attract the attention of end user audiences, and engage in conversation. If, after sharing a job opportunity, a member of the sales team is contacted directly by someone who wants to know a little bit more about the company, they should feel confident interacting with that person before putting them in touch with the HR team. Similarly, if an employee shares a success story they weren’t involved in, but is asked a question about it by someone within their network, they should feel comfortable answering, even if this means involving others who can add more detailed insights.
The key point here is that regardless of their role, employees who communicate about their company on social media represent a valuable gateway into the organization. They should therefore be encouraged to embrace their position as company representatives, and to engage audiences in one-to-one conversations – conversations that can potentially lead to something more.
4 – Embrace Employees’ Differences
Once an advocacy program is up and running, employees won’t all want to share the same types of content. Nor will they want to share it on the same social networks. Some, for example, might be more interested in marketing content such as blogs and infographics, and share mostly on Twitter. Others might prefer product development announcements or case studies, and be more active on LinkedIn.
The point is that such variations should be taken into account when optimizing both the platform itself and engagement initiatives. For example, content channels can be created for specific user groups, based on identified interests. Meanwhile, gamification campaigns can be designed to focus on the most popular types of content and / or social networks. This will enable you to optimize the user experience over time, putting the focus on what works best for your employees.
A key objective of employee advocacy is to amplify brand messages on social media. However, the aim is to do so through the voice of individuals – namely, your employees. By prioritizing their preferences and giving them the freedom to communicate in their own words, you instill a sense of ownership; you create a culture in which what your employees have to say is just as important as the content they are sharing.