A friend joins a big company and posts on her Instagram account about some cool swag she received with a simple caption: “Love the awesome #swag from #CompanyA. Amazing first day!” What you’ve just come across is an example of employee advocacy – the promotion of a workplace by its employees.
While the concept of employee advocacy has been around for decades, it wasn’t until the rise of social media that its real potential and power in driving quantifiable results for corporations was recognised. Today, on average, employee networks have 10 times more connections than a company has followers, according to LinkedIn.
In 2020, The Social Transformation Reportfound that 31% of mature organisations saw an improvement in brand health as a result of their social media employee advocacy programmes. There are tremendous measurable benefits an employee advocacy programme can deliver for a company, whether that be a positive impact on business growth through increased brand awareness and sales lead generation or helping to attract and retain top talent while creating a happier, more engaged workplace.
One of the most attractive features of an employee advocacy programme is that it can be tailored to any sized company and its available resources. Big budgets aren’t necessary. Activities can be as simple as an internal email sharing a piece of thought leadership or curated email updates on the brands’ social postings or product updates. While the benefits vastly outweigh the risks, many brands shy away from deploying these programmes for reasons such as lack of resources and concerns that employees may post something that could do irreparable damage to their brand. While any external-facing communications have their risks, employee advocacy is widely acknowledged to be a cost-effective and low-risk complement to other brand-building measures.
Here are some tips for brands looking to add an employee advocacy programme to their marketing activities:
1. Curiosity is key: Spend time with a range of cross-functional employees to hear what they have to say and do so with genuine curiosity about their experiences and interests. Do this using internal data such as focus-groups, surveys and workshops and external data through social media listening. You never know which employee may spark a brilliant campaign idea or is an influencer. Find that diamond in the rough.
2. Create a credible and authentic narrative: Create a credible narrative that’s about more than just promotion and sales. Be open-minded about the type of content shared by employees. Allow them to be creative and genuine in their communications.
3. Invest in and engage the right people: Happy, loyal employees are naturally inclined to spread the good news and are ideal candidates for employee advocacy. Look for authentic brand supporters in those employees who always comment or share your corporate posts or are the first to put their hands up in support of a new initiative.
4. Don’t let caution slow you down: Adopt a careful but nimble approach. Train employees to create personalised content for your company, including company-related content or about an area of their expertise, within the confines of your corporate brand guidelines through a social media playbook. The key is to strike a balance by supporting employees in telling the brand story effectively and responsibly.
5. Measure success: For best results, adopt a structured advocacy programme with clear KPIs to measure the success of the programme. Do this by engaging a technology partner to support the programme’s development and execution in a timely manner.
Once a formal plan and programme are in place to empower employees to share content, ensure they are regularly reminded of the programme’s value to them personally, whether that is by growing their professional networks or having a positive impact on the business.
Empowering employees to be social influencers for a company enhances the professional reputation of an employee and that of the business. By keeping the mutual value to both companies and employees front of mind, elevating employee social engagement can help drive meaningful business results for brands and help employees realise growth.
This piece was written by Joe Peng, chief digital officer, BCW Asia-Pacific. PRHK Viewpoints is an article series contributed by members of PRHK, Hong Kong’s PR & communications association.