Employee advocacy is the heartbeat of your company. Wait. Why are we talking about heartbeats and business? Does a company even have a heartbeat? For too many companies, their goal is to keep employees happy enough to keep that money flowing in. But that’s not your company.
Here’s the official definition of a business, according to The Personal MBA.
Every successful business creates or provides something of value that other people want or need at a price they’re willing to pay, in a way that satisfies the purchaser’s needs and expectations and provides the business sufficient revenue to make it worthwhile for the owners to continue operation.
What I think the above quote is missing is the human element to business.
As my version of the saying goes, “If your employees ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
How can you tell if employees are happy? On social media.
Start your social strategy with your employees
I look at social media for business from a holistic viewpoint. Crafting an effective social media strategy starts with your employees. Too many companies work backward, trying to fit employee advocacy into a pre-existing social media program. That’s why they fail.
Start your social strategy and planning with your employees in mind. You’ll notice a significant difference in your content, tone, and approach.
When your company’s social channels and employees’ social channels are positive, upbeat, and aligned, you know you’re doing something right.
When your company culture is healthy, your team members speak well of you online. That’s one reason why the best companies invest in social media advocacy programs. Understand that your culture is reflected in your employees. Employees’ passion translates into their speaking positively about your company online, piquing the curiosity of top talent and retaining that top talent.
Takeaway: if you don’t have a formal social media program, reach out to your team to find someone who will “own it.” That person will be responsible for crafting the social media strategy, being sure to incorporate an employee advocacy element.
If you already have a social media program, it’s time to rework your social strategy. Go back to your strategy (ideally with one or two other employees) to help you come up with an employee advocacy component.
What a good employee advocacy program looks like
Just about every remote worker I know wants to get a job at Buffer. Why? Because their employees make them look damn good. They engage on social media, write articles, and are thought leaders in their space. Many of them have built strong personal brands (and side hustles) apart from their work at Buffer. And, that’s why Buffer attracts the top talent and receives thousands of applications for every job posting.
Here’s a public Twitter list that highlights everyone on the Buffer team:
CoSchedule recently popped on my social media radar when I was searching for an editorial calendar to keep me consistent with my blogging schedule. Their employees are very enthusiastic about the product and have a social media policy that ensures their company Twitter accounts respond to every single tweet. And, I’ve noticed that employees always respond to mentions of their names and look for a way to make each engagement personal.
When you look up “CoSchedule” on Twitter, you’ll notice their employees are proud to mention CoSchedule in their bios:
Takeaway: could you think of one other company that also has an outstanding presence on social media? What do they do well? Take the time to process how you feel while thinking about what they do well. It probably put a smile on your face and conjured up a happy emoji.
What happens without an internal champion
One VP at a renowned marketing technology company I was interviewing [who shall remain nameless] explained they outsourced their social media program to a PR firm because it needed to be done, but there was nobody in the company who wanted to “own it.”
Their social posts sounded the same across all channels. There was no personality to the posts. The social posts were robotic, comprised of boring blog titles, a random hashtag, and non-uniform shortened links.
In a company that is 150+ employees and sells marketing technology, I figured there had to be somebody with the interest and inclination to take charge of the social program. But to my surprise, nobody in marketing understood social, let alone wanted to add it to their to do list.
Employees were afraid to take on any side projects that did not directly result in a promotion, and social media was no shortcut to becoming a VP.
This was a sure sign that their social media problem was deeper than just getting another consultant, like me, to take on social media management. What they really needed was to own the program themselves. They needed at least one champion within the company to move outside that comfort zone and get her hands dirty learning social media.
It’s contagious. Once one team member steps up, others want to join. But it does require at least one instigator to launch an employee advocacy program. Without an instigator, there’s only so much I can do as a social media management consultant.
My goal as a social media management consultant is NOT to do it all for you, so you never have to think about social. It’s to help you identify one or two leaders within your company and show them how to take the reins, whether they’re inside or outside the marketing department.
Nobody cares more about your company than your own employees.
Takeaway: all you need is one internal champion to help you with an employee advocacy program, someone that wants to learn social and own it.
Signs of a healthy employee advocacy program
Whether or not you have an employee advocacy program or are considering one, here’s a good checklist to help you design or analyze your program.
- You have a social media playbook for your company.
- Your employees know how to engage on social media.
- Your employees, prospects, and buyers @mention your company often.
- You provide employees with social media training to help them engage with the company’s social accounts.
- You teach your employees the value in establishing and building their own personal brands.
- You follow the 10:4:1 Rule on your social channels (For every 15 social shares: 10 links to third party content, four links to your own blog articles, and one link to an offer/landing page.)
- You regularly check your brand sentiment.
- You respond to all negative and positive mentions.
- Your brand voice is accurately reflected in your social posts and bios.
- You show up consistently on social across every channel that matters.
- You are seen as a curator of good content in your industry.
- Your social media manager is passionate about your company and brand—it’s not just another job to them.
Employee advocacy relies on authenticity
Employees will never join your employee advocacy program—no matter how snazzy it is—if it comes across as inauthentic.
When your messaging comes across as authentic on social media, your prospects and customers will gravitate towards doing business with your company. It is tough to accurately measure brand sentiment, but a few tools out there do a decent job. I also think it’s important to go by your gut when reviewing your social channels. If your social media channels feel too selly-sell, you need to make some changes.
Get back to the core of what you stand for.
Forget about all the advice from the lead generation and website traffic gurus about how to push people to your website and get them to sign up for your newsletter.
Where did your social channels go off-course?
What were you reading at the time?
How could you get back to being helpful to your followers instead of trying the latest growth hack to grow your accounts 10X?
By now, some of you may be thinking, “Cut the feel-good nonsense. I don’t even care if my company has a soul on social. All that matters to me is getting clicks, likes, and higher engagement ratios. That’s what keeps the shareholders, leadership team, and my boss happy. If I stopped to think about brand sentiment, they might laugh me out of the room.”
If that’s you, why are you still reading this article? Because something is nagging you, that something you can’t quite a put a finger on.
According to LinkedIn, when employees share content, it’s perceived as three times more authentic than company messages and typically see a click-through rate (CTR) that is two times higher than company shares of the same content. Their messages are better able to cut through the noise.
Action step: Get LinkedIn’s Official Guide to Employee Advocacy and run the numbers for your company. Weave those numbers into your pitch to justify the resources you will need for launching your employee advocacy program.
Employee advocacy programs are not just about getting more followers, generating more leads, improving customer retention, or looking good online. Yes, they’re important, but not the most important. Above all, your employee advocacy program should be a reflection of your company culture, your mission, and your collective passions. Employee advocacy is an opportunity for you to be genuinely helpful to your customers and enlist your team members to help you do it better. Give it the attention it deserves and reap the results.