Employee Advocacy Programs: Empower Positive Stories to Create Connection

Employee Advocacy Programs: Empower Positive Stories to Create Connection
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Empowering employees to voluntarily help your company succeed should be, to borrow a phrase from Tom Peters, a “blinding flash of the obvious.”

The metrics about engaging and utilizing your staff to share positive messages about your organization’s culture, products, and services are compelling:

  • Word of mouth, including referrals from friends on social media, is the single most effective way people are influenced to make buying decisions.
  • People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend than from the brand itself.
  • 48.5 percent of employees spend at least 15 minutes per work day on social media. 19 percent of employees spend an hour or more per day on social media.
  • Brand messages reach 561 percent further when shared by an employee advocate compared to the same message shared directly by the brand.
  • Over 60 percent of companies with active employee advocacy programs credit those programs with attracting new business.

Andrew Caravella, Vice President of Strategy and Brand Engagement for Sprout Social, knows that engaging and utilizing staff to share positive messages about their organization is a decades’ old idea. People were encouraged to wear company logoed clothing during their time off. Employers asked their staff to refer prospective new hires and rewarded them with a bonus for success.

What’s Different Now?

Today’s Employee Advocacy initiatives are natural extensions off those early efforts. You still want employees to publicly identify with your company by wearing your branded material. Likewise, providing incentives and recognition for helping the company share its message must still be a part of the mix.

As Caravella views it, “Seeing your company’s logo when you walk through the community is nice, but it isn’t enough. People want to know what your company stands for and what it is accomplishing. Curated content about the positive things the company is doing is the next step in creating connection with potential employees and customers.”

If you are wondering, “What is Curated Content, and how do I share it?” Don’t worry. The chances are good that you have everything you need to get started.

Curated Content is simply the stories about the good things happening in your organization about which you want people externally and internally to know.

Has your company released a press release about a success? Turn that information into something that an employee might want to share externally with their friends. Did one department or area do something amazing that demonstrates your culture? Look for your team to share it both internally and externally.

As an example, the City of Lewisville, Texas Fire Department recently responded to a citizen request for assistance. The citizen’s long-time pet parrot escaped and was trapped in a tree. The Department responded, and shared this video of the rescue’s final moments. Pair the video with messages that are easily posted on social media, and you have Curated Content that demonstrates commitment to “The Lewisville Way” operating culture. Tweak the focus a little, and you have a compelling customer service message to the city’s more than 100,000 residents. Make another adjustment, and there is a compelling message to those looking for a place to live or locate a business.

It Sounds Difficult

Andrew Caravella has heard that response before. He recognizes the challenges and counters with that you can make the process manageable and effective.

Sprout Social has adapted the best elements of its B2B software marketing communication platform to create Bambu – a tool to simplify and leverage the power of employee advocacy.

Even then, the time and commitment to successfully utilize the tool can be a challenge that must be overcome if your Employee Advocacy program is going to contribute positive results.

Here are three actions Andrew Caravella and the team at Bambu recommend to empower and engage your employees to be your advocates.

1. Make it easy. Caravella says that “Just over 77 percent of people don't feel encouraged to share company news on social media.” Studies done at Bambu by Sprout Social explain why.

  • Nearly 40% said they'd be likely to share company news on social media if they were informed of it.
  • 20 percent (1 in 5) don't know if their company wants them to share information about the company.
  • Almost 16 percent don't know what they should share.
  • 16.4 percent feel as if they don't have time to share.

Letting your team know that you need their help combined with a willingness to make it easy will empower an entirely new group of supporters who have a vested interest in helping your company succeed.

Caravella’s experience is that the most successful efforts teach people to use the software and provide examples that individuals can adapt rather than making them create messages on their own.

2. Avoid quota systems. If one message is good then 10 messages are better, correct? “Not necessarily,” says Caravella. “The purpose of your Employee Advocacy initiative is to create authentic conversations and connections. Forced participation becomes evident over time, and it hurts more than helps.” You must carefully guard otherwise well-intentioned leaders from turning Employee Advocacy into another example of flair from the movie “Office Space” that must be worn to remain in compliance.

3. Don’t rely on the software to give you a positive story to tell. Your team is busy. They may not have time to generate messages on their own. They absolutely won’t make that effort if you prohibit use of social media tools in the workplace. The video from the City of Lewisville Fire Department happened because the on-site commander made it okay for someone to capture the event on their mobile device. That same leader made it okay to post the video on You Tube. Caravella told me, “We provide the tool that facilitates conversations and connections. We can’t force leaders to make it possible to people to use it.”

Likewise, using a world-class tool won’t help you if the culture is toxic. Sharing positive messages can help you shape your culture, but that only happens when you aren’t creating fake news and selling it as a regular occurrence.

The average Facebook user has 338 friends. 72 percent of LinkedIn members have at least 300 first level connections. The average Twitter user has 208 followers. How many opportunities does your team have to spread good words about your products, services, and culture. In a world where most products and services are viewed as interchangeable, utilizing them should be a blinding flash of the obvious.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit www.penningtongroup.com , email info@penningtongroup.com, or call 972.980.9857.

Randy Pennington has no financial interest in Sprout Social or its subsidiaries at the time of this publication.

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