Employee advocacy is among the most effective strategies for amplifying your brand’s reach and reputation.
Why? Because it taps into the power of your most valuable asset – your employees – to help spread your message.
Your employees are already your biggest advocates. They’re the ones out there always talking about your brand to their friends, family, and professional networks.
With employee advocacy, you’re simply formalizing and systematizing that process to get more mileage out of your workers' social reach. But for this to be effective, you need to have an employee advocacy program.
An employee advocacy program is a system that enables and empowers your workforce to share your content with their networks. It is a fundamental tool in enhancing your brand perception, keeping employees engaged, and increasing social engagement.
In fact, according to Oktopost, having an employee advocacy program enhances your brand's social engagement by 25% to 40% at minimum.
As sweet as this sounds, without a strategy in place, your employee advocacy program can quickly become a flop.
In this article, we’ll explore the definition of employee advocacy, the benefits it can offer your business, and some best practices for getting started.
What is Employee Advocacy?
Employee advocacy is the promotion of a company by its own employees. This occurs through employees sharing positive experiences and messages about the company within their personal networks.
Employee advocacy differs from traditional marketing and advertising because it offers free consumer reach as staff voluntarily promote the brand. In traditional marketing and advertising, however, companies use paid media to reach, engage, and build relationships with consumers.
In a nutshell, employee advocacy comes from a place of personal interest and not because one is paid to do so. And this works for the good of your company. Why?
Because people are more likely to listen to and trust recommendations from people they know.
Today, up to 88% of people believe trust in a brand is more important than their love for the brand’s products or services, when making purchase decisions. This means that employee advocacy can serve as a powerful marketing tool if used correctly.
It can help you build brand awareness and establish an emotional connection with prospects that may lead to conversions.
Examples of Employee Advocacy
Employee advocacy takes many forms. But the most common ones include social media advocacy, word-of-mouth marketing, and online reviews.
Here's what each entails:
- Social Media Advocacy – This is when employees use social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to share content about their employer. This could be anything from sharing a company blog post to tweeting about a recent project they’re working on.
Here is a perfect example from a Google employee sharing a company blog piece:
Image via LinkedIn
- Word-of-Mouth Marketing – This happens when employees talk about their employer to people they know in real life. It could be anything from telling a friend about a great company event to recommending your products or services to someone they know.
- Online Reviews – This is when employees leave positive reviews about their employer on sites like Glassdoor. These reviews can help attract new talent and boost your employer brand.
Here’s an example of a Glassdoor review left by an Amazon worker:
Image via Glassdoor
Benefits of Employee Advocacy
Businesses tap into the power of employee advocacy mainly to widen their reach. This brings more engagement, which may ultimately generate leads through organic, employee-generated content.
When done right, employee advocacy:
1. Enhances Employee Engagement
Employee advocacy programs can help increase employee engagement by making them feel more connected to the company’s success.
This is evedinced by Hootsuite & Altimeter’s 2020 Social Transformation Report 2020. It showed that 22% of companies agree that employee advocacy improves employee engagement.
And, crucially, when employees share content they’re passionate about, they feel a sense of connection and pride. This can lead to increased productivity and better work quality.
According to Gallup, engaged employees can increase a company’s profitability by 23%, customer loyalty by 10%, and productivity by 18%.
Have a look at these statistics:
Image via Gallup
The biggest advantage to employee engagement is that a happy worker will likely always stay with your company. This helps in reducing turnover rates and the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees, which is very costly.
According to a Paycor survey, many businesses aren't prepared for turnover. The survey showed that the costs of replacing employees, including those in managerial positions, can equal 200-300% of their salaries.
2. Generate More Leads and Drive Sales
Wider reach often leads to increased brand awareness, which can eventually lead to more sales.
Through employee advocacy, you can easily generate leads that are further down the sales funnel. This is because the strategy is more effective than other types of social media marketing.
Up to 46% of marketers agree that employee advocacy is the best performing social media initiative, as shown below:
Image via Oktopost
The reason this works is because, through employee advocacy programs, you can target a specific audience with relevant content.
If your employees have no problem sharing branded content, you can encourage them to personalize your posts, include the right call to action (CTA), and share.
This will encourage prospects to take the next step, whether it’s signing up for a webinar or subscribing to your newsletter.
3. Improve SEO
When your employees share your content on social media, it creates backlinks to your website. These backlinks help improve your website's SEO and can lead to increased traffic from search engines.
And you know what? Up to 67% of companies in 2021 confirmed that increased exposure and web traffic are the major derived values of employee advocacy. Here’s an image to support this fact:
Image via Sociuu
What's more, Google gives more weight to content that's shared by people. This means that you can easily get on Google’s first page with a successful employee advocacy program.
4. Enhance Employer Brand
Your employer brand is the image of your company as an employer. It’s what potential employees think of when they consider working for you.
A strong employer brand can help you attract top talent, while a weak one can make it hard to hire the best.
Employee advocacy can help you enhance your employer's brand in several ways.
For example, by sharing content that promotes your company culture, values, and mission, employees can help paint a positive picture of what it’s like to work for you.
Starbucks, for instance, has a brilliant approach to showcasing their company culture through its employees. Apart from creating dedicated social media pages for staff advocacy, they created a branded hashtag for the same – #ToBeAPartner.
Here’s their @starbuckspartners Instagram page. It showcases what it means to be a Starbucks partner – employees are called partners.
Image via Instagram
Having an advocacy program like Starbucks’ can help improve your brand sentiment significantly. This, in turn, can help you attract job seekers who are a good fit for your company.
5. Reduce Marketing and Advertising Costs
Employee advocacy can supplement your marketing and advertising efforts and help you save money in the process.
By leveraging the reach of your employees’ personal networks, you can widen your brand’s reach while reducing marketing spend.
Through earned media value (EMV), you can also track the ROI of your employee advocacy programs. This way, you can adjust your ad spending based on where you fall short.
Plus, since employees are sharing content they’re genuinely interested in, it comes across as more authentic than traditional marketing and advertising. And authenticity is key to winning over today’s consumers.
6. Improve Customer Relationships
When customers see that your employees are passionate advocates for your corporate brand, it can help build trust and improve relationships.
This is because customers are more likely to believe and listen to employees over strangers.
In fact, a study by Hootsuite in 2020 showed that employee advocacy is key to improving brand health metrics. This includes relevancy and positive sentiment. Have a look below:
Image via Hootsuite
What’s more, happy customers who have a great experience with your brand are more likely to sing your praises to their personal networks. This, in turn, can help attract even more customers and grow your business.
7. Reinforces Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is the ability to influence others by sharing your ideas and expertise.
It’s about more than just promoting your products or services. It’s about becoming a trusted resource that others can look to for insights and advice.
Through employee advocacy programs, you can inspire your workers to become thought leaders in your industry. It helps them position themselves—and your company—as experts in your field.
This can help you attract new customers and business partners, as well as build trust with your existing ones.
There you have it: several advantages of having an advocacy program. But what’s the best way to set one up?
Here’s how to get started.
6 Strategies for Building a Successful Employee Advocacy Program
Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits of employee advocacy, let’s take a look at how you can set up an effective employee advocacy program.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Engage Your Employees
It is important to remember that employee advocacy is something that occurs because of positive work culture. Your employees can freely advocate for your brand because they're happy with their working experience.
As evidenced by a 2020 employee advocacy study, your workers can become your brand promoters:
- If they are positively engaged with your company
- When your company internally markets itself to the employees
While it may seem like you're taking a step back, this employee advocacy strategy is a necessary tactic. One of the best ways to engage employees is by ensuring that they're happy, get the support they need, and are satisfied with the company's leadership.
Also, give them room to get creative and advance their careers, and you will have established a strong basis for your program.
But while at it, it is important to remember that not all employees will be interested in the advocacy program. Some employees will post from their first day at work, but others will need guidance and reassurance before they do.
So, what do you do? Simple. Identify employees who are comfortable with social media, have a unique view of the business and are excited to promote the brand.
The key to remember is that not all employees are the same. So, you must work with them in their own style as they emerge.
2. Define Your Goals
As with any marketing strategy, it’s essential to start by defining your goals. The same goes for developing an employee advocacy program.
Defining your goals will help you measure the success of your program and make necessary adjustments along the way.
Some goals you might want to consider include:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Generating leads
- Boosting website traffic
- Improving customer relationships
- Enhancing employer brand to acquire new talent
Of course, you can break this down into more specific and measurable goals such as boosting website traffic by X%.
Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, and you’ll create a program that aligns with your business goals.
3. Create a Policy for Social Media Advocacy
The whole idea of developing an employee advocacy program is to ensure employees promote your brand in their own way. But with this freedom, it's only natural to ensure that their messaging isn't offensive, negative, or vague.
So what do you do? You create a social media policy.
A social media policy will ensure that the brand promotion is done in a way that’s consistent with the company’s message.
This employee advocacy strategy serves to protect the company from any legal issues that could arise from employee comments.
The social media policy should include guidelines on:
- What content can and cannot be shared
- When employees can share company content
- How employees should identify themselves when sharing company content
- Rules on how to interact with customers and handle negative comments
It’s important to note that the social media policy should be created in collaboration with employees. This way, they will be more likely to follow it and feel ownership over the program.
Starbucks, which invests in its staff to build brand engagement, has a publicly available social media policy. You can borrow a few ideas from it. Here is a preview of the policy:
Image via Starbucks
4. Make It Easy for Employees to Share
Sending out company messages on social media is one thing, but you also need to offer support to your advocates. This will make it easy for them to share your brand content.
This involves developing a content marketing strategy with engaging, relevant, and timely information that employees can use for advocacy.
With such a strategy in place, it becomes easy for your workers to engage. This is because they can easily access brand reference assets such as blog posts, videos, infographics, eBooks, newsletters, etc.
You can also make it easy for employees to engage by providing them with:
- Training on the goals of the advocacy program, how they can participate, and employee advocacy best practices
- Other resources such as an employee advocacy platform for easy creation of posts, social media integration, tracking of post-performance, and more. A good example is Haiilo Share shown below:
Image via Haiilo Share
- A platform where they can easily share the content with other employees or their networks. The Starbucks partners social media media advocacy page is an excellent example. Google’s social media page is another example:
Image via Twitter
- Recognition for their efforts in the form of social media shoutouts, awards, and other incentives. Here is an example of a work anniversary celebration post.
Image via Snacknation
By offering support to your advocates, you’ll ensure that they have the resources they need to be successful.
5. Share and Boost Employee Content on Brand Pages
After implementing all the above steps, it won't be long before you start experiencing increased brand awareness.
But instead of leaving all the hard work to the employees, you can amplify and boost their content.
The best way to do this is by sharing their content on the company’s own social networks.
You can also boost the employee content by encouraging them to share and interact with each other's posts regularly.
This will also motivate employees to fully embrace the advocacy program. It shows the employees that their efforts are appreciated and that their voices are being heard.
6. Reward Employees for their Participation
Last but not least, don't forget to reward your employees for their participation.
This will further incentivize them to keep sharing great content and help you achieve your set objectives.
Some ideas for rewards include:
- Awards and recognition at company events
- Allowing them to take the lead on brand takeovers with a different person each week
- Giving them a chance to host webinars and Q&As – if your company has any
- Gift cards and other prizes
- Extra vacation days
While there's no one-size-fits-all solution, the most important thing is to show your appreciation for their efforts.
How to Measure the Success of Your Employee Advocacy Program
There are a number of different metrics you can use to measure the success of your advocacy program.
But before we get into that, remember not to try to measure everything at once.
Start with the metrics that are most important to your business goals and then expand from there.
Some of the most common metrics used to measure employee advocacy program success include:
- Reach: How many people are seeing the content that your employees are sharing?
- Engagement: How often are people interacting with the content that your employees share?
- Leads: Are there any generated leads, and by what margin?
- Sales: Is there any significant change in your company's revenue since you launched the program?
- Brand Awareness: How much more aware are people of your brand as a result of your program?
- Brand Sentiment: Has your share of sentiment improved or dropped? How does it compare to when there was no employee advocacy program?
- Employee Satisfaction: How satisfied are your employees with the program?
- Employee Engagement: How engaged are your employees with the advocacy program?
- Social Media ROI: What is your return on investment for the time and resources you've invested in your program?
To get started, choose the metrics that are most important to you and start tracking them.
Over time, you can expand your tracking to include more metrics.
Once you've chosen the metrics you want to track, there are a few different ways you can go about doing it:
Employee Advocacy Tools
One option is to use an employee advocacy platform such as Hootsuite Amplify. This tool offers comprehensive analytics showing you which posts performed well and which failed. It will also show you which employees are driving the most engagement.
Better yet, Hootsuite Amplify can help you calculate your return on investment. Have a look at the image below:
Image via Hootsuite
Better still, if you are already using Hootsuite for social media management, the tool will make an excellent add-on.
Another great employee advocacy tool you can use to measure the success of your program is Firstup.
It also offers you detailed analytics that you can utilize to build an impactful strategy to boost your ROI.
Both of these tools offer reporting features that can help you track your employee advocacy program's progress.
Apart from using an employee advocacy platform to measure your program's success, you can also use other web analytics tools.
Google Analytics is an excellent example.
This tool can track the traffic that comes to your website from social media good place to start is by looking at the acquisition reports.
To access Google Acquisition reports:
- Sign in to your Google Analytics
- From the dashboard, navigate to Reports>Acquisition, as shown below:
Image via Google
From here, you can determine:
- How much traffic is coming from social media,
- Which social networks are sending the most traffic, and
- What kind of traffic you're getting from each social network.
This is valuable data that can help you understand which networks are the most effective for reaching your target audience and driving traffic that converts.
You can also use Google Analytics to track leads and sales that come from your advocacy program.
To do this, you'll need to set up conversion tracking.
Conversion tracking lets you see which actions people take on your website after clicking a link from social media.
By following these best practices, you'll be well on your way to developing a successful employee advocacy program. Not only will this help you achieve your business goals, but it will also foster a more positive company culture.
Q1. Which is an example of employee advocacy?
A. Employee advocacy takes many forms including sharing content by word of mouth, social media, and online reviews, among others.
Q2. What is employee advocacy and why is it important?
A. Employee advocacy is the act of promoting your company and its products or services through the voice of your employees. It is a great way of building trust and credibility with potential and current customers.
Q3. How do I set up employee advocacy?
A. Follow these tips:
- Engage your employees
- Define your goals
- Create a policy guideline
- Make it easy for employees to share content
- Share and Boost Employee Content on Brand Pages
- Reward Employees for their participation
Q4. Is employee advocacy effective?
A. Yes. It helps promote your company in a positive light, builds trust and credibility, and drive sales and leads.
Q5. How is employee advocacy measured?
A. You can use employee advocacy tools like Hootsuite Amplify and FirstUp to get detailed analytics on your program. You can also use Google Analytics to track traffic and conversions.
Ready to Launch an Employee Advocacy Program?
The above tips should help get started. It has everything you ever wanted to know about employee advocacy. And what's our verdict? Is employee advocacy worth all of the hype?
In short, yes!
Through your employees, you can effectively reach new customers and spread your brand message. But it’s not just about getting more eyeballs on your content. Done correctly, an employee advocacy program can also help you build a stronger relationship with your current customers, increase trust in your brand, and boost sales.
Do you have any ideas or better strategies for implementing an employee advocacy program? We'd love to hear from you! Share them in the comments below.
And don’t forget, if you need any on how to make your program even better, or generate more leads, we’re always here for you!
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