Sarah Goodall is a former SAP marketing executive and the founder of Tribal impact – the Employee Advocacy consultancy operating in UK & Europe. She is an international marketing professional with over 20+ years’ experience in the technology B2B sector including both software and hardware. During the last seven years, she has been focusing on social media marketing and inbound.
Sarah has built her career in several technology companies such as IBM, Hitachi, and SAP, being responsible for various initiatives, managing budgets of all sizes.
Few weeks ago I had a pleasure to have a chat with Sarah. We discussed Employee Advocacy, best practices related to the successful advocacy program and Sarah’s new baby – Tribal Impact, a company that helps businesses create a social business culture through brand advocacy, content marketing, and social training.
Marketing takes a turn
Four to five years ago, while working at SAP marketing, Sarah realized the big change was happening sooner than anyone expected.
“I started to wonder why anyone would be interested in corporate marketing messages. I realized that sending messages through branded channels was not going to have any longevity. I knew it had to change. But where could we find the answer?”
Cutting through the noise
Sarah realized that she could turn to employees for the answer. Employees represent the brand – the brand experience is capital around how employees behave. She understood the company would get more traction, engagement and reach if employees were advocating on behalf of the brand − instead of the company just sharing content through their corporate social channels.
This is a defining moment for corporations. Sarah foresaw that if organizations would embrace Employee Advocacy and if they would help employees to build their personal brand, they would be able to capitalize the social asset much better.
“We have all seen the Edelman Trust barometer, the trust in the brand messages is weakening compared to trust on the messages from peers. Brands sending out messages is not going to attract an audience as well as when their employees send it out to their peers.
What organizations are also finding now is with all the noise in digital it is very difficult to get your message across. At the same time, organic reach of their posts is decreasing as Facebook etc. are twisting the algorithms trying to push corporations to pay for media.
With all these pressures, companies now have to consider how to cut through all this. Employee Advocacy is one way to push through all this clutter to their target audiences.”
SAP gave Sarah an opportunity to prove herself – she started deploying the Employee Advocacy program within SAP instead trying to find better ways to push content out through SAP’s branded channels. In 18 months Sarah started training employees to master social media and build a comprehensive training program together with the SAP communications team. The aim was to take WOM marketing to the digital age – getting people to talk about the brand. This exercise thought her a lot.
The first lesson – It is not about setting up a marketing machine
The common danger on Employee Advocacy is corporations using the program in exploiting employees on behalf of the brand. To do this properly, you need to empower and help your employees to build their personal brand online. Instead of saying; we want you to become our new marketing machine, the company should focus on building a collaborative culture.
“You have to start with workforce engagement – if you do not have an engaged workforce it is difficult to get advocacy for your brand. At SAP, we explained to employees why it is important to build your personal brand, and this is how you do it. Here’s some content to help you to do that, to help you to engage with your audience. That’s how we positioned that and how we got it going.”
The second lesson – It comes down to proper training
When Sarah was doing the deployment, she could not help noticing that there was a huge difference when they trained people socially versus when they just gave the access to the tool and did not do proper training.
“I noticed that employees who were socially trained were three times more likely to engage and start sharing. And when I speak about training I do not mean training how to use the tool.
If you launch an Employee Advocacy tool and just explain how to use it, you’ll miss a big portion of your potential. You need to take the time to train people on social media policies, the best practices, and the social etiquette. You have to explain how to be present on social media and how to build your brand. How to customize your messages, when to customize, how to engage in conversations. If you teach your employees all that, you’ll get more traction on your program and your advocates become more skillful.”
The third lesson - Foster a collaborative culture
Even if Employee Advocacy is all about outbound, it is quite important to foster the culture of sharing within the company. You should consider implementing some kind of internal collaborative platform before you start deploying an Employee Advocacy tool.
Not everyone is accustomed to sharing. Having an internal tool allows employees to share content, to interact and to engage – do all those social behaviors internally first, in an environment that would typically be safer. Rather than asking your employees to go straight out sharing on external platforms where it is out there for all to see.
“I would recommend using an internal collaborative platform first. Tools such as Chatter, SharePoint, Jive, SAP Jam, or Yammer. Tools where employees can feel free to say what they want, to communicate directly with leaders. Foster a collaborative culture internally.”
These three elements form the cornerstones of a successful Employee Advocacy program. Keeping those in mind, you can start planning your Employee Advocacy.
To learn more about Sarah’s thoughts on Employee Advocacy, take a look at Sarah’s blog.
Sarah is a former SAP marketing executive. She is an international marketing professional with over 20+ years’ experience in the technology B2B sector including both software and hardware.
Tribal Impact is a different kind of social media consultancy focusing on building a social business culture from the inside out through strategic advice, employee workshops and executive social coaching.