A formalized employee advocacy program can expand your organic reach by 200% and increase profitability by 23%.
But what is employee advocacy, why is it so important and – crucially – how do you make it a success at your organization?
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What is employee advocacy?
A recent Forbes article sums up employee advocacy:
“Employee advocacy simply means the promotion and awareness of a company and/or its products and services by the employees who work there.”
In many respects, this isn’t a new thing. Businesses have always expected their employees to be ambassadors for their brand. What’s (relatively) new is the potential audience employee advocacy has on social media and how this taps into changing consumer priorities.
The benefits of employee advocacy for employers and employees
Like any effective business initiative, the ultimate benefit of employee advocacy programs is more revenue and increased profitability.
People trust individual accounts more than official brand channels. Social media content shared by employees gets eight times more engagement than content shared through the brand’s own social channels and is shared 25 times more frequently.
Other business benefits of employee advocacy include:
- Brand awareness – tap into your employees’ networks to get your brand in front of more people
- A wider network for your products – build an audience outside your official brand channels
- A wider hiring pool – with record job vacancies unfulfilled in the wake of the Great Resignation, using your employees’ networks to find great new hires is a sensible move
- Improved employee engagement – employees feel they are contributing to a wider goal by helping promote the company
Employee benefits of employee advocacy include:
- Thought leadership – sharing and discussing industry content builds their professional image
- Networking – employee advocacy allows employees to expand their professional network, offering a range of career benefits and a host of knowledge they can tap into
- Incentives – enthusiastic brand advocates may be more likely to be promoted to leadership positions
Different types of employee advocacy
A basic but effective way to build brand recognition.
If your team is heading to a trade fair or conference, why not equip them with some eye-catching merch to drive awareness of your brand and start conversations with useful contacts?
Top tip: think beyond stationery and single-use plastics. Invest in merch that people genuinely find useful, and can take home after the event. Reusable water bottles, bamboo travel mugs, or fair-trade clothing is a good place to start.
Half of all employees share content from or about their employer on social media – and 33% do this unprompted.
This is a huge well of potential to tap into. With the right intervention, it can do wonders for your organic reach. Equally, if you don’t direct it, this well of potential becomes a potential liability.
There is one, huge “don’t” of social media employee advocacy – and that is don’t let your employees do it with no materials or instructions to guide them.
To retain control of your brand’s image on social media, it’s vital that you:
- Create a social media policy for all employees
- Share best practices through training
- Incentivize positive social coverage
Think about appropriate content for each channel, and how your employees can maximize their reach. Encourage thought leadership on LinkedIn and highly visual ad campaigns or product launches on Instagram, for example.
If your team has ever visited a recruitment fair, conference or other work event, you’re likely already encouraging some level of employee advocacy.
Having representatives from across your business talk about how their experiences working with you, or their role in developing new products, is a powerful tool. Encourage your audience to ask questions, and always hang around afterwards – you never know what doors this could open.
Common employee advocacy pitfalls
Launching a program for a disengaged workforce
A disengaged workforce – or a workforce that doesn’t buy into the wider goals of your business – won’t be effective advocates for your products or services. Your employees need to buy into your products, services and overall brand themselves if your employee advocacy program is to succeed.
Using a brand-first approach
Consumers respond well to genuine voices in employee advocacy programs. Branded content, like copy-pasted social media posts, is easily identifiable. These have their place on your official channels, but will sound forced (and perhaps a little corny) when shared by your employees.
To avoid this, avoid centrally-written brand copy and encourage your employees to tell their own stories. With 88% of consumers saying that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support, letting your employees be themselves is vital for success.
How to create a successful employee advocacy program
Establish objectives and KPIs
What are you hoping to achieve with your employee advocacy program? Set some goals (for example, “decrease in open vacancies by X%”, “increase organic reach by Y%”) and ensure you have the means to track them.
Your employees are more driven to speak positively of you on social media if you recognize and reward their efforts. Affiliate links, commission from direct sales and referral bonuses are all fantastic ways of saying ‘thank you’ to your employees for being great brand advocates.
Avoid canned text. Let your employees speak for themselves and share their own experiences – whether that’s for a recruitment campaign, or how they worked on a particular product.
Provide training and resources
Let your employees’ voices shine through, but provide a breadth of resources to express themselves in the most effective way possible.
This could include:
- Shareable branded images and posters for social media
- Training on how to build a personal brand online to increase follower count
- Introductory training for employees unsure of social media
- A wide range of merchandise for events
How to measure the success of your employee advocacy program
Keeping your employee advocacy program on track for success is all about measuring the right things.
- Adoption rate: start simple. How many employees are buying into your program? If you’re not seeing the enthusiasm you want, consider whether enough people know about it, whether the incentives are strong enough, or whether your workforce is engaged enough to make it a success.
- Organic reach: how far are key messages traveling? Could expanding your online channels increase reach, or could you incentivize more employees to start sharing?
- Organic engagement: on a related note, how much are audiences interacting with your employees’ efforts? You might have to rely on reported data here for in-person advocacy.
- Referrals: one to track if your program is linked to recruitment or sales. Monitor the proportion of applications, inquiries or direct sales linked to referrals for employees for the ultimate insight into how your program is performing.
Useful employee advocacy tools
Social content curation, e.g. Hootsuite Amplify
Amplify offers your employees a one-stop shop for shareable online content. Collating everything into one place removes hurdles to social sharing and encourages employees to make it a regular habit.
An employee app to streamline content e.g. Blink
If you want people to share exciting company updates on social, you need to:
- Make sure they’re aware of those updates in the first place
- Make it mobile-first – that’s where most employees access social media
With an employee app you can notify your employees about shareable news and content with push notifications, or by pinning a post to the top of every user’s feed (no more wondering whether that email newsletter got through). You can ensure the content is only seen by its intended audience, and encourage them to share it in just a couple of taps.
This will be especially important if you are managing deskless employees who work remotely or run the frontlines and don’t sit in a corporate office. They often feel disconnected from their organizations due to having fewer social interactions and lack of resources or technologies to help them feel part of the company.
Introductory graphic design app, e.g. Canva
If you’re building a library of shareable logos, posters, banners and more – and have limited graphic design resources – apps like Canva are invaluable for creating great-looking, branded content quickly.
Learning management system (LMS) or course provider, e.g. Udemy
In-person advocacy training might not be possible for shift-based, mobile or remote workforces. Investing in an LMS so that you can write and share employee advocacy training resources – or subscribing to a training provider for pre-written courses – helps employees build these skills around their work.
Employee recognition software, e.g. Workhuman
Employee recognition software helps you incentivize your employee recognition program. Allow your employees to convert referrals into gift cards, charity donations or even cold hard cash.
Employee advocacy examples
Starbucks and TikTok for drink customizations
By using their in-store workforces to demonstrate secret menu items and new flavor combos, Starbucks has tapped into a huge new market for customized drinks
Combining this with a mobile app that emphasizes the chain’s customization options, and you have a recipe for success. Over 25% of Starbucks sales are now mobile-based, and their employee-centered TikTok program has been invaluable in driving this.
Blink’s company swag and events
Functional? Yes. Stylish? So they tell us. Successful driver of positive, unified brand image? Absolutely.
We couldn’t help putting in a last-minute mention for our company swag here. It’s been a hit with employees and started more than a few conversations. Designing it for specific events and locations helps too – for our workation to Miami we designed a new logo and surprised everyone with branded bucket hats and t-shirts.
Encouraging employees to post about company events, social initiatives and accomplishments on social media is a great way of showing people what makes your company culture special. This can be a great asset for attracting new talent, seeing as 79% of applicants are using social media for their job search.
Dell’s social media advocacy progam
Dell was one of the first companies to encourage employees to share personal content other than what was provided to them by the organization. It states that only 20% of the content employees share should be about Dell, and the rest should promote topics they are interested in and are relevant, helpful and informative to their customers.
With this strategy, Dell has reached a more diverse audience and become a part of countless inspiring conversations on social media while generating a huge volume of traffic to its website.
Sky’s viral hashtag
Sky creates powerful advocates that support the brand’s recruitment and advertising strategy by encouraging employees to use the hashtag #LifeAtSky when sharing authentic content on social media. There is a policy in place to guide them on how to post responsibly, but they avoid implementing too many rules which may put people off from joining.
Thousands have posted photos and videos using this hashtag across Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, displaying the company’s culture in exciting and creative ways.
Shopify promoting employee expertise
Shopify’s advocacy program involves employees creating blog content in the form of interviews, how-to guides, case studies and thought leadership pieces, rather than purely promotional content and branded updates. The content gets shared on the company’s socials, crediting and celebrating individuals for their skills.
This is a great way of showing employees that they are valued and appreciated, and more importantly that they are trusted to represent the brand through content they create themselves.
Final thoughts on employee advocacy
Employee advocacy isn’t new, but in a world where individuals’ online circles stretch far beyond their immediate social ties, its power is amplified significantly.
With consumers increasingly citing ‘authenticity’ as a factor in where they spend their money, and trusting individual accounts over branded ones, employee advocacy might just be one of the most useful tools in your toolkit – especially online.
Despite its well-known benefits, 80% of employers still haven’t implemented an official employee advocacy program. Could this be your opportunity to get ahead of the curve? Kick-start your new employee advocacy program with an employee app like Blink. Get your free demo today.
Employee Advocacy FAQs
What are the benefits of advocacy to organization?
For organizations promoting employee advocacy some of the benefits they may see include, increased brand awareness, increased employee engagement and it can also help to humanize your brand.
Is employee advocacy effective?
If done correctly employee advocacy can be very effective. There are plenty of studies to back this up, from improving reach and lead generation to ultimately increasing profits.