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Simply put, employee advocacy is the promotion of an organisation by its own employees: the people who work for you sharing your content across their own networks because they want to.

From an employer brand perspective, this is perhaps the ultimate goal. Research shows that people trust real life reviews and the opinions of “average employees” over corporate and senior executive messages every time. If you’re lucky, your employees may already be sharing your content – but why leave it to luck? Having a strategy and formalised approach could help to maximise your efforts.

Consider this ideal scenario: your employees, sharing your messaging with their friends and family, on the social media network of their choice – without prompting (or bribing!), talking positively about what it is like to work for you. Employee advocacy is essentially harnessing the power of word of mouth – social media style.

Of course the whole point of employee advocacy is that it needs to be organic. You can’t really force it, and if you try it may well backfire on you. But it is definitely something that you can encourage and make easier for people. So if you want to engage your employees and their social networks, here are five considerations:

1. Make it easy for employees to share your stuff. Send them updates; make it clear not only that they can share this information but that you would positively welcome it. Include sharing buttons for relevant sites – this is practical but important.

2. Don’t just tell your people that you are happy for them to share – provide guidance too! Some employees will need to expressly be told that you want them to share company messages. Of course, you want content to be shared in an effective way that appropriately represents your brand. It doesn’t need to be excessive but if you haven’t already got a policy on social media then launching one before engaging employee advocates is a good move.

3. Reward advocacy. This doesn’t necessarily mean providing excessive or monetary rewards – this might of course generate the wrong behaviours. But a thank you, especially a social media one, goes a long way and reinforces the desired behaviours.

4. Get some role models. You will need leaders to send a message that sharing on social networks is not only acceptable but actively encouraged. But as well as leaders, consider engaging some champions across the organisation. Find out who is already very social, connected or influential and get them involved and part of the team

5. Train your people on social media. Although social media has been around for some time now, for some people it is still new or confusing. So if you really want to get people social you will need to spend some time explaining what is in it for them to get social and provide practical help on how to actually do so. You’ll also be helping them to find a potential source of professional knowledge – but that’s a whole other blog.

Employee advocacy has the potential be a huge boost to your branding efforts. But ultimately it will only happen if your organisation is a good place to work. If your employees aren’t willing to share your content or express their pride in working for you, then you might have a bigger cultural problem to consider…