It is no surprise that people’s opinions carry more weight than the brand’s these days. Looking back at some of the scandals big companies have suffered lately, the importance of social media as a fast way to start a discussion, exchange opinions, and spread information has become all too clear. Simultaneously, the positive effects of social media have shown tremendous potential for companies looking to make their brands more human.
Companies have started to act on this new trend of humanizing their brands very quickly. A study on Employee Advocacy on social media made by Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today shows that 83% of companies have not yet launched an Employee Advocacy program, but 31.3% are actively considering it, and 22% are currently piloting different approaches and 17% have already implemented a strategy.
Jörgen Sundberg, a recognized Social and Digital Strategy expert and CEO & Founder of Link Humans, realized that "by connecting with people and creating content, you can build up a brand and do social selling". The same works for companies too, but company/Employee Advocacy is a process that does not happen successfully overnight.
So how can we manage to amplify the voices of the employees in a way that is beneficial for them and also for the brand they advocate for?
Top to Bottom
As Sundberg points out, even if employees are willing to become champions and take the initiative, it needs to be ssupported by top management or the board level, because otherwise there could be room for uncertainty. If no one in management understands what their people are trying to do, then someone in the board familiar with the concept and willing to connect the top with the bottom of the company structure can save the situation, and good things will surely happen.
Usually, when the decision of implementing an Employee Advocacy program has been made, the first step is to find the person who will run the program, if it’s not the same person who proposed it. This leader is usually the one that has access to all the information and knows who is talking about the company, both internally and externally, and allows you to design what kind of messages you will be sending out as a brand. The right leaders can also be people who are already active on social media and are willing to share the knowledge on how to do it properly.
Educate, Educate, Educate
Once you have the right ambassador(s), it is time to set up training sessions and explain the whole concept of Employee Advocacy internally- The aim is to encourage people and spread the knowledge on the best ways to use social media and which accounts are the most suitable for the employees, all while taking into account different tastes, personalities, and ways of spreading information to engage networks.
After launching a program, it is vital to check who’s doing well. The key to a successful Employee Advocacy program is to create a bond of inclusion between the employer and the employees, leading to a good working culture, full of motivated workers willing to give their best. You can’t expect your employees to be the voice of your brand, if you are not there to listen how you can make them feel better in the first place.
Reward People and Be Open
Reward people who share the most, make the most connections or have the biggest influence. Make it fun! If you’re thinking about rewarding employees, there are tons of ways to do this. Employees sometimes react better to something that triggers their emotions, so make sure you know what your employees are passionate about and reward them accordingly. From a simple tweet or email from their CEO thanking them for their efforts, to a donation to their charity of choice, there are ways to let your staff know that their efforts count.
Sundberg also points to the importance of transparency: companies know they are being talked about, so it's better to listen and act based on this. For example Glassdoor offers real reviews on what it is like to work for a company, and it has become widely popular because of this.
"Not all employees will consider themselves advocates, but like the idea of sharing something relevant."
Is Employee Advocacy Suitable for Your Company?
Short answer? Yes. Long answer? As Sundberg points out, the word advocacy can sometimes be a little strong, as not every employee will consider themselves advocates, but like the idea of sharing something relevant. “The first thing I think about is a group of people and lots of voices instead of one”, says Sundberg.
As Sundberg points out, it is equally important to create and find content, as the employee will not always have something great to share. This provides the ability to organize information through videos, pictures and any kind of material, while providing employees with the confidence to know what they, as professionals, are talking about.
When we speak about heavily regulated industries like Finance, Healthcare, IT and others, Sundberg mentioned that the best part about tools like Smarp is that the company has control over the content that is being distributed by its employees, so it can make sure it fits their corporate standards. On the other hand, employees will feel more confident because they know the information is good to be shared and there is no risk factor involved.
All we can tell you is to remember one important thing: Employee Advocacy is not something you can purchase. This is a bond of trust, motivation and loyalty that should be built between the employer and the employee before launching any program that will allow them to be the voice of your brand.