Employee Advocacy, or in other words, brands empowering employees to support the goals of the brand through the use of their personal social media accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for example, is expected to become one of the major trends in social media in 2014.
The growth of Employee Advocacy
Employee Advocacy is growing quickly as organizations have realized the potential their employees have as brand ambassadors in social media. This is mainly due to the realization that almost all employees are now able to broadcast messages and engage large numbers of people with minimal effort though the social networks they have already built.
The case for Employee Advocacy has become clear and most organizations are now looking into ways to motivate employees to participate in communications efforts.
“Your employees have a vested interest in your company’s success. They will be your most committed and enthusiastic ambassadors. Providing them the opportunity and support to be visible spokespeople on behalf of your brand drives employee engagement, inspires collaboration and improves customer experiences.
In general, empowerment fosters a positive environment. Employees who see colleagues demonstrate success will follow and emulate those behaviors. This drives momentum for program adoption, resulting in value for the company’s brand and for the employees own personal brand.
Finally, collaboration and transparency helps flatten the organization and eliminate the outdated hierarchy which no longer functions effectively in most modern organizations.”
– Susan Emerick, IBM (source)
When considering Employee Advocacy programs, it is important to set goals and measure results. In order to have a successful Employee Advocacy program you must first define what success is. To do this you need to answer the following:
- What are we trying to achieve? (E.g. more inbound sales leads, more applicants to open positions, thought leadership…)
- What can we measure? (E.g. employee participation, clicks generated, engagement, website traffic, number of applications and hires for open jobs…)
- How does this tie in to and help achieve our strategic goals?
In addition to defining these key metrics or KPIs, employers need to consider the employee side as well.
- Why would an employee want to participate? (E.g. improved professional brand, top-of-mind, thought leadership, incentives/rewards…)
- Are the messages aligned with the interests of the employees? (E.g. how will employees feel about spreading these messages, how will their networks react, how will this improve their own brand…)
- How will they get employees on board? (E.g. who will be in charge of the program/content/internal promotion, what products/services will be used)
Return on Investment
While defining ROI for any social media activity is difficult at best, there is a simple way of putting a monetary value on it. This can be done by looking at how much the social media platforms are charging for clicks for promoted content that appears in the same area as messages coming from people, and using that as the defining value. I know this does not constitute actual business value because it is not tied to specific objectives, but it does create a valid base point for measurement, comparison, and estimating the potential within employee networks.
LinkedIn, for example, charges $3 per click on a sponsored post (you can find the actual cost-per-click by starting to create a sponsored post here). Using that, we can calculate the earned media value (EMV) of your employee advocacy program:
EMV of your Employee Advocacy program = (Number of employees participating) x (number of shares per employee) x (number of clicks generated per employee share) x (cost per click)
Example: 1000 (employees participating) x 5 (shares per employee) x 6 (clicks per employee share) x3 ($ value per click) = $90 000 EMV
We have been measuring this value for about a year now and found that, on average, one employee share generates about 6 clicks. This number varies widely depending on the content, organizational culture, and employee advocacy tools used so don’t expect it to be the same for everyone. Nevertheless, with this we can predict how much potential value an organization can get from implementing an employee advocacy program.
Employee Advocacy programs should be about working together with your employees to achieve positive results as with any other business practice. For an Employee Advocacy program to be successful, there needs to be mutual trust between the organization and individual employee. The time of controlling employee actions in social media is over – but this is not a bad thing and does not mean the organization cannot influence them and shouldn’t motivate their employees to participate.
When measuring your social media ROI, remember to keep in mind that social media is about interaction, not just one way communication. This means that the goal of employee advocacy should not be just to get employees sharing content but allow them to have meaningful conversations around the topics (which usually creates more visibility for the post and additional clicks). Our suggested equation for employee advocacy ROI gives a general understanding of the benefits but does not take into account the additional value of these interactions and other variables that add even more value to the program.