Employee Advocacy Mistakes: The Seven Sins of Social Programs

Jason Brain

Creative Strategist

14 minute read

Employee Advocacy Mistakes.

How many of your employees are already on social?

The seven sins of social programs, also known as the admin vices, the seven traits of managers, or cardinal kerfuffles, is a grouping and classification of employee advocacy mistakes gleaned from our clients’ collated teachings.

But don’t take it personally if your employee advocacy program is missing the mark — sometimes that’s a good place to start anew. As the saying goes: whoever has been forgiven little, engages little.

Below are the major employee advocacy mistakes that admins and managers should be mindful of when beginning or growing your social program.

Because let’s be honest: the sins of users don’t make it into the top-seven! Why is that? Peruse to deconfuse!


1. Putting The Official Brand First

While it may sound counterintuitive, elevating the seemingly paramount official brand voice over the personal branding of employees is arguably the biggest-baddest employee advocacy mistake of all.

How does this mistake actually occur?

When admins repeatedly push faceless company content for their employees to share, as sure as the tides, employees will disengage, knowing full well that sharing such unabashedly self-promoting pieces exploit and devalue their own networks.

As with most neologisms, when EveryoneSocial first coined the term employee advocacy, it was at best alluring and at worst unintelligible.

But the research is now clear that employees are going to be advocating for their personal brands no matter what. Accordingly, the role of every company is to act as an amplifier, not a muffler. There is no such thing as admin advocacy; downright anathema.

Underlying the importance of enabling the employee’s personal brand is the fundamental reality of trust. Unlike a faceless brand moniker, the employee has their skin in the game so to speak, putting their personal reputation at stake when sharing their mind.

It’s no wonder that 84% of people trust recommendations from “IRL” sources than from other forms of marketing. (Nielsen).

And let’s be fair, CEO’s are real people too! But even then, the employee is perceived to as 3-times more credible than an executive. (Edelman Trust Barometer)

Establishing brand credibility, and a unique internal brand are coeval with enabling your employees to share their diverse experiences, affinities, and insights about their customers, product, or service. The nominally greater brand, the company itself, is only as substantive as the narratives that its employees proffer.

Small employee advocacy pilot programs
Small pilot programs

2. Starting Too Small

Developing an authentic brand takes a proverbial village of all types, which is why starting an employee advocacy program pilot with only a handful of people working in a particular department is forgivable, but ill-advised.

Because network effects are most noticeable at scale, if your company is considering implementing an employee advocacy program, we will happily arrange the largest and most affordable pilot to ensure your success.

Perhaps surprising, the frontline of a socially-engaged company can be the most exuberant brand ambassadors. Customer-facing workers are almost certainly already sharing original content about their work that personnel in HQ might overlook the value of.

When beginning a social program, inviting people from all departments will ensure a diversity of company content, resulting in long term brand resiliency.


3. Expecting The Wrong Results

Expecting returns from outside, before fostering engagement inside, is to put the brand before the employee, which as we now know is backwards.

In the words of Sir Richard Branson, when companies focus on employees first, “effectively, in the end shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff remains happy.” (Inc)

While a well-curated internal social program can far surpass a traditional marketing campaign in terms of its myriad of benefits, employee advocacy is a cultivated community, unlike the typical marketing expectation that money-out equals ROI-back.

There is immediate value in employees logging into an advocacy program, staying informed with company and industry content.

The connection between engagement and retention is clear: employees of socially engaged companies are more likely to stay at their company, feel optimistic about their company’s future and believe their company is more competitive. (Prophet)

The undeniable value that employees unlock through advocacy by extending the company’s reach, increasing brand impressions, greater exposure, new leads, closed sales, etc, can only follow from meaningful engagement first and foremost within the company.

As paradoxical as it may sound, employee advocacy meets the expectation of success only when the priority is the employee, and not the expected success.


4. Broadcasting Early-Aughts Style

Seems like just yesterday when engorging one’s funnel or feed with as much content and interaction as possible was a good way to go — not anymore!

And for good reason; everyone knows the algorithms have changed, not to mention the expectations of social media users who want to see content by real people, and not faceless entities (nay, bots!)

Thinking of an employee advocacy platform as a social super-soaker is antiquated and ultimately ineffective. While EveryoneSocial allows your company to create a reservoir of content, much of which could be scheduled to share later, no one wants to be on the receiving end of a fully-opened floodgate.

Depending on the nature of the content and the intent of the employee sharing it, EveryoneSocial provides various ways to put content directly in front of a recipient, or targeted audience.

Sometimes it’s good to broadcast, but for example, if your sales team is engaging in account-based marketing, you might want to be more pointed with your employee advocacy, reaching out to specific profiles, teams, or even individuals.


5. Incentivizing Perfunctory Engagement

Easily overlooked in plain sight: employee advocacy begins with the employee — specifically, enabling the employee’s personal brand. Incentivizing advocacy with rewards unrelated to their brand will never yield the returns the admin wants, or spur any accelerated engagement.

As we’ve seen before, an employee’s personal enthusiasm (for Beyoncé) can then coalesce into a group. All of a sudden what began as a tacit music taste is now a genuine incentive for everyone in that group to share beyond the company, in turn advocating for their employer’s brand.

Just because content is not immediately related to the company’s brand, doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful to the employee, who is after all: the primary advocate of any company.

So how about a little healthy competition? While gamification is a great supplement to any advocacy program, relying too heavily on it can leave the majority of unranked users discouraged, giving them reason to throw in the towel.

This is especially true if your pool of users is a tightly knit group of people. The leaderboard will probably settle with the same users consistently at the top, ossifying a dynamic that was originally intended to mix things up and motivate your people.

When in doubt, admins should always concede to the personal interests of the employees using the advocacy platform. Interests are almost certainly an inflection of one’s personal brand, which is more than ever the constituent spirit of the company’s brand.

Not to mention, the greater the variety of content that users encounter on an employee advocacy platform, the more likely they are to stay engaged and share out to their external networks with their company name in tow.


Related: Learn How Electronic Arts Used Employee Advocacy and Effective Gamification to Ignite Their Corporate Culture. Download the guide here.


6. Frankensteining Company Culture

Just like employee advocacy, if championing company culture ever becomes someone’s job, that’s a sure sign that priorities are misaligned.

Both advocacy and culture need to genuinely come from the bottom up: from each employee’s own sense of professional efficacy. If employees feel that their company is not investing in their own careers as much as they are investing their lives at work, then no software can compensate for that discrepancy.

This isn’t to say that admins cannot inspire employees to become more engaged and find meaningful content to share. In fact, cultivation of culture is as crucial as curation of content. If you ever forget that, just remember the five-C alliteration!

But when managers believe that implementing an employee advocacy program will solve an incumbent deficit of culture, such efforts of resurrection might resemble that of Dr. Frankenstein, lightning rods and all.

Just as company brands are driven by the personal brands of employees, much is similar with company culture. Inasmuch as employee advocacy can allow users to share their unique perspective of workplace culture, in turn fostering a diverse and resilient community, the greater company culture will only benefit in return.


Related: Learn how Dell empowers their internal brand and empowers employees as brand advocates through social media. Get your case study.


7. Parochially Instrumentalizing Your Program

There are many benefits that supervene on a successful social program, which again, is always predicated on putting the employee first: their brand, their culture, their career.

And the benefits are multitude:

  • Closing sales
  • Social recruiting
  • Lead generation
  • Brand exposure
  • Induced traffic
  • Job retention

But as alluded to above, there is a somewhat taoist truth to employee advocacy, and that is: these benefits cannot be hit by aiming directly for them.

When advocacy managers steer toward these benefits in hopes of maximizing ROI, chances are they will overlook the employees who are making the magic happen in the first place.

Narrowly defining the goals of your employee advocacy program may not inhibit you from achieving those goals per se, but it risks forestalling many other benefits that overly deterministic managers might have never considered in the first place.

When beginning or expanding your employee advocacy program, widening the scope of objectives to be as team-agnostic as possible can only be a good thing.

Employee advocacy enables previously siloed roles to participate outside their usual domain or scope of daily work, often with surprising results.

In an active, organically energized employee advocacy community, marketers can be recruiters, salespeople can be thought leaders, engineers can brand influencers, client success agents can be UX thinkers, so on and so forth.

When your employees share content out that extends beyond their job title, it gives competitors and partners something to think twice about.


Enough sin bashing! For further reading on managing a successful employee advocacy program, check out some tips from our clients.


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