Employee Advocacy Myths Revisited

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Approx. 5 min. read
Last updated: October 2, 2017

Employee Advocacy relies on organizations and their employees making the most out of their social media presence for branding and communication purposes. It is an initiative that requires some social maturity and a shared brand vision. However, there are some myths out there that brands have about Employee Advocacy; how it works and what the program means for the employer and employees.

Let’s have a look at some of the common misbeliefs around Employee Advocacy, and provide some insights into how it works in most organizations.

1) Employee Advocacy is Hard

It can be hard to make Employee Advocacy work without the right investments from the start. However, the actual process of sharing content in an Employee Advocacy program, when combined with the right technology, participants’ engagement, and communication is not hard.

With the right technology, content can be shared in a systematic way, and more importantly, its implications can be measured. The right Employee Advocacy technology makes content sharing as easy as possible for employees. Technology that supports sharing on mobile and includes easy analytics makes it particularly effective for employees to include content into their personal social media strategy. For this to happen though, they must be engaged to the program.

Identifying the right employees for the program is key for engagement. There are several stages of social maturity. Employees already highly adept at acting on social media are great participants for the program, for they can indicate how the program is likely to turn out from the pilot phase and serve as examples for those less active on social. Not everyone you include will have immense experience in social media, but they may have significant networks, nonetheless, and with the right guidance, they can acquire the etiquette of social media and grasp its full benefits.

Including C-level in the program and having active admins are essential pillars of encouraging employees to participate and keep contributing to the program. If the purposes of the program are not communicated to the employees, not much else matters. Only when people can identify the benefits of Employee Advocacy for their organization and themselves can they perceive value in the program.

Related: The Past, Present and Future of Employee Advocacy with Karyn Cooks, Roope Heinilä and Sarah Goodall

2) Employees Can Ruin the Employer Brand

When an Employee Advocacy program is launched at a company, it is often accompanied with a shared social media policy for engaging employees around common practices. If anything, this policy unifies the staff when individuals are empowered to communicate on social on behalf of the company.

Trust is at the core of any employer-employee relationship, and it applies to social media policies. “Without trust, you lose your community’s engagement, which directly translates to failure in meeting your organization's objectives,” says founder of Socialigned Stefanie Chernow on implementing an effective social media policy. “The goal is to find the spot that is neither at the extremes of being too authoritarian, nor too permissive.”

Those who participate in the program tend to be somewhat socially engaged to start with, and those who participate, will do so because they want to, increasing the likelihood of them sharing positive things about their employer online. Shedding negative light on the employer online is hardly beneficial for the employee, whose reputation is also at stake. When employees are not subjected to fear of error, it is also likely that they will, in fact, make fewer mistakes.

 

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3) Employees Are Forced to Share Content

Taking part in Employee Advocacy is completely voluntary. Companies identify willing advocates, or ambassadors identify themselves (or both). Programs where employees are forced to share content are highly unlikely to succeed and Smarp does not endorse that approach.

Gamification is an aspect embraced by some organizations. Research at Altimeter shows that although it works in encouraging employees to get into the program, gamification has little effect on motivation in the long run. The relationship between company culture and Employee Advocacy is, instead, essential for making employees want to share company-related content to their personal networks.

It’s up to ambassadors which posts they share and how often. They will likely choose to share content that is most relevant to them and their networks – content that adds value to the discussion and improves the company’s and their own brand in some way. With Smarp, employees can also suggest content for sharing, integrating them more closely to content marketing through Employee Advocacy and user-generated content.

4) The Benefits are not Measurable

It is up to the organization to select metrics to measure and which KPIs to set for the program. How well these KPIs align with the organization’s overall mission and goals and their measurability are essential factors in determining how well the results can be measured.

Marketing and sales metrics are typical KPIs for an Employee Advocacy program.

The top 3 reasons, Altimeter reveals, companies report for investing in Employee Advocacy programs are:

  • Engagement (likes, comments, shares)
  • Reach of posts
  • Website traffic *

Analytics built into Employee Advocacy apps allow measuring the traditional marketing measurements of reach and engagement on individual as well as company-wide level, and traffic generated to the website can be tracked via UTM tags. Lead generation, conversions, and cost-per-lead are important metrics for proving the ROI of an Employee Advocacy program, and they are also trackable in analytics. Integrations between systems, such as the CRM system and Employee Advocacy app allows admins to further analyze improvements in these areas. In terms of internal metrics, average time spent on the platform, internal comments and likes are some important indicators of engagement. Companies can also set some more untraditional and non-numeric goals for their Employee Advocacy program. Communication transparency and authenticity are highly valuable goals for companies looking to improve their employer branding and internal communication. Improvement in this area can be felt across the entire organization.

Taking the Step Towards Employee Advocacy

It is up to each organization to decide what they hope to get out of Employee Advocacy and whether they are ready to take that step. With small investments in their communication and employees, we have seen companies achieve great things on account of enabling their employees on social.

*Social Media Employee Advocacy: Tapping into the power of an engaged social workforce by Ed Terpening

The Definitive Guide to Employee Advocacy

Annika Rautakoura
December 13, 2016