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Common Misconceptions of Employee Advocacy

man_with_sony_phone.png January 15, 2015 / Markus Linden

Last weekend I was having dinner with my friends. We had not seen for ages, so there was a lot to recap. At some point, the conversation turned to work related issues when one of my pals asked what am I doing these days. After explaining what Employee Advocacy is and what it is that I actually do at work, the friend of mine decided to share a real life experience about his social media usage at work.

He told me that a customer had posted a question to their company’s Facebook page, and without a second thought he had replied to the customer’s enquiry as himself. Then, a few moments later his new boss made him an angry phone call, shouting that he should not have done that and that it better be the last time he does something like that. My friend was really surprised about his boss’ reaction. He had meant nothing but good and the customer got what he was looking for.

My friend’s story made me think of attitudinal resistance to change from organizational perspective. After all, social media and Employee Advocacy are still new concepts for many businesses. This inspired me to write about the common objections to having an employee advocacy program and how to deal with these misconceptions.

 

Trust issues – Organization considers that employees cannot be trusted

Sadly, there are still organizations who think that employees are better kept on a tight leash. If you give your employees freedom on social media who knows what they might say about you?!

In my opinion, the perfect way to deal with this is to go through the famous dialogue between CFO and CEO that has been shared on LinkedIn and other social media over and over again:

CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

With employee advocacy, the question pattern could be set as follows:

What happens if we invest in Employee Advocacy and then our employees talk bad about us?

What happens if we don’t and they still do?

 

Why would our employees want to share employer related content to their external social media networks?

Aside from the fact that there are people who actually love their work and are happy to talk about their work, those who ask this question often don’t see the full potential of employee advocacy. They routinely see Employee Advocacy as a linear process: content is something that employer generates and then employees should somehow be lured to share it. This is a very depressing attitude. It almost suggests that employees are only a distributing medium for company messages. If this is the starting point for an employee advocacy program, it is no wonder if everybody are not overly excited to share their employer’s content.

The road to success with employee advocacy initiatives comes through motivating and involving your brand ambassadors in the process. Employees should be placed at the very center of the overall process. Your people are a great resource when it comes to planning, suggesting and creating content. The whole idea is to empower your employees and motivate them by giving them responsibility.

 

Negative social pressure – Am I losing career prospects or devaluing myself in my organization's eyes if I don’t share work related content?

This is a valid point, but Employee Advocacy is not to blame. This is a matter of organizational culture and internal communication. Again, it boils down to motivational factors. One great approach to push brand advocacy is to emphasize individual professional growth by encouraging employees toward thought leadership and personal branding. Whatever the case, Employee Advocacy programs should always be based on voluntary acts, otherwise the risk of failure is greater.

In summary, Employee Advocacy happens no matter what. The question is, is your organization willing to see it as an opportunity and take on the challenge. Employee Advocacy can be seen as a pressure test, measuring the state of organizational culture and internal affairs. Are your employees satisfied and happy to work in your company? Are you satisfied with the current state of your internal affairs? If not, what could be done to improve the status quo?

The Definitive Guide to Employee Advocacy

Markus Linden
January 15, 2015

by Markus Linden