Why Employee Advocacy Programs Fail [How to Avoid Common Pitfalls]

Todd Kunsman

Marketing Operations

18 minute read

Employee advocacy program. Employee influencer program. Employee activation program. Employee amplification program. Social selling program. 

You may have heard some of these terms (or others), all of which revolve around the idea of encouraging employees to create, share, and engage with social media at work. 

But advocacy goes beyond just sharing on social media. It’s also a way to build community and trust for your organization, and it helps employees build their personal brands and expand their networks. 

Word-of-mouth is powerful beyond social media, too, so employee advocacy truly helps build success in all these areas. 

However, as more organizations explore employee advocacy, many businesses struggle to make their program work. They implement a tool, don’t see results quickly enough, and deem the program a failure, concluding that this concept is all hype. 

If you take a look at our customers, you’ll see how powerful a social program can be though.

Even if results start to wane, there are simple ways to refresh and adjust to get right back in healthy shape. 

But why do some organizations struggle? In reality, there are many reasons why employee advocacy programs fail. Here’s what you should pay attention to, how you can avoid the pitfalls, and how to get advocacy right. 

 

What Companies Do Wrong

When you first come across a new product or strategy that addresses your pain points or creates ROI for your business, it’s pretty exciting. 

You see how other companies and employees benefit from its use and hear them say great things about it. So now you’re convinced this is something you need to do. 

You get everything set up, put the proper tools in place, and then you watch in dismay as you realize you’re not getting the results other people are. What gives? 

Well, the truth is that we’ve come to a technological age where we expect every software and new strategy will yield results overnight with little to no effort. 

And while employee advocacy doesn’t have to be extremely elaborate or complicated (you can get launched quickly with our Teams plan for example), you need to do some planning and strategize how you’ll engage employees and drive authentic social media at work.

 

Common Employee Advocacy Mistakes 

Since EveryoneSocial’s inception in 2012, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of employees. 

We’ve seen it all and can generally tell from the start if a company will struggle or not, which is why we provide the best support system to help you successfully build your internal social program from day one.

We’ve also identified some common mistakes and assumptions that people who are new to employee advocacy make that negatively impact their efforts, including the following:

  • Thinking an employee advocacy program will fix work culture (It definitely helps, but it won’t fix all your cultural issues.)
  • Social programs should only include company content and news
  • Content sharing is the only piece that matters for advocacy success 
  • Not providing any guidance around social media, networking, and community 
  • Thinking executive buy-in isn’t critical or that leaders don’t need to be active on social 
  • That purchasing a tool, doing basic setup, and doing little to nurture an advocacy program will lead to highly engaged employees long-term
  • Neglecting the creation of an authentic content strategy
  • Restricting the employee voice on all content and forgetting the power of user-generated content 

Many times it’s just one or two of the above — sometimes it’s all of them. 

Too often the emphasis is on the technology alone, which hinders your program’s effectiveness. 

Yes, you want to generate results for your organization. But the PEOPLE are what make employee advocacy successful.

Employee Advocacy Meme.
Oh yeah, we make employee advocacy memes 😉

 

How To Get Employee Advocacy Right

Employee advocacy has long-term benefits for your organization, and there are numerous different use cases, which is what makes company-wide programs so successful. 

 Here are two things EVERY company should keep in mind though:

  • Social media is critical to all organizations and professionals.
  • Everyone has a network and can benefit from advocacy,

Want to avoid employee advocacy program failure? Read on for tips to ensure success in transforming your organization into a social powerhouse.

Want to ensure failure? Cameron Barratt has some tips in this video.

@everyonesocial

Here’s how to NOT build a successful employee influencer program… and annoy your people at the same time #b2bmarketing #Employerbranding #humanresourceslife

♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

 

1. Follow the 1%, 9%, 90% rule.

This idea comes from the B2C social media world but applies to any digital population today. 

What this breaks down to is that in your organization:

  • 1% are the content creators
  • 9% are the engagers
  • 90% are the consumers

Creating a successful employee program at scale requires you to address each group. This means that you have to understand how people in each of these categories operate and what engages them in an internal social program. 

Most employee advocacy tools address only the 9%, but they generally fail to even get that group because the 1% and the 90% aren’t represented. 

A social community that doesn’t support the 1% or the 90% will never be a community. Period.

 

2. Put employees first.

It has to start with employees. And you can’t require them to create or share content. You can’t force people to participate, but you can encourage them and incentivize them to do so. See how Instructure motivated its employees and grew shares by an astounding 3,846% in just two months

And you can’t force employee advocacy to happen in an authentic way; it has to come naturally by prioritizing their needs and educating them on the value. 

Each employee has their own personal views on social media and how they use it. They may be interested in joining communities, building their personal brand, or connecting with other professionals in their space. 

The key is to understand your people, their interests, and their social media knowledge to ensure your advocacy program will appeal to them. 

EveryoneSocial Community.

 

 

3. Prioritize engagement over sharing.

The concept of employee advocacy is that you’re encouraging your people to share content, amplifying both their personal brands and your company at the same time. While that will always be a key aspect, your company needs to prioritize engagement first. 

Employee advocacy success is based on how often and how long your people share.

What’ll bring them back month after month to consume, interact, and share? As the person looking to implement a program, what would bring you back? 

Keeping your people engaged with a consistent flow of content and information, as well as encouraging community, is what leads to the most — and best — sharing opportunities. Without consistent engagement, your program will struggle to provide results. 

EveryoneSocial notifications and engagements.

 

4. Encourage user-to-user interactions.

It’s important to have a community mindset approach to employee advocacy. 

This is a great way to organize your people in one central location so they can access company content and information, but it’s also an ideal way for employees to connect and interact with each other. 

People want to engage with the things they see their colleagues engage with. They want to join the conversation.

That’s good news for the organization because this engagement ensures information is consumed, helps people feel more connected to their work, and encourages employees to get involved in the advocacy program. 

Supporting user-to-user interactions is key to driving activation and engagement in your program. It’s why EveryoneSocial has key features like user notifications, email newsletter and push notifications, colleague referrals, messaging and tagging, and more to our product. 

 

5. Take advantage of user-generated content.

Your employee advocacy program will naturally have company content and required groups of news for employees to have access to. But one of the best ways to drive engagement and results, is to empower user-generated content. 

The real magic of social media in the workplace happens when you give your people tools to create their own content. 

You may have guidelines in place, such as a social media policy or some automatic disclosures, but you should encourage employees to use their authentic voice in their social shares. 

Why? Because you don’t know who’s going to create the next piece of viral content and how it could positively impact your organization. 

Plus, user-generated content tends to outperform all other forms of content in advocacy programs!

 

6. Bring sharing to where your people already are.

Your company probably has quite a few technologies in place, and sometimes adding another one to the mix can create a collective “groan” from employees.

We get it! 

That’s why you want to select a tool that can integrate with the technologies your people already regularly use. 

Do some of your employees prefer to be in Slack or Microsoft Teams? Do others pay more attention to their email inbox? Do employees focus on mobile apps and their phones more? Maybe your marketing and sales teams are in Salesforce a lot? 

Regardless of your team’s preferences, EveryoneSocial is built to work with them — that’s why we built smooth applications and integrations for all of these channels. And yes, you can use the EveryoneSocial platform right in Salesforce. 

Bringing advocacy to your employees — where they already spend their time — is critical. When you make their lives easier, they’re more likely to get involved in advocacy.

 

7. Share in the rewards.

Rewarding your people and valuing employee recognition are huge driving factors in getting people excited about work initiatives, but it’s also motivating when you highlight their peers. 

When people engage with and share in your employee advocacy program, they drive value for your organization. So reward your people for key actions, the value they bring, and the content they deliver. 

By having key stakeholders, leadership, or program admins highlight (and reward) team members for their participation, it encourages more employees to get involved.

Plus, when you show how it benefits them in building personal brands and careers, you’ll have a winning combination to drive engagement. 

 

8. Make advocacy a part of your culture and onboarding.

There’s no better way to build value and trust than making employee advocacy part of your work culture. 

We’ve had a few customers say that they tell all employees that social media and community is part of company culture, and they encourage every employee to get involved. 

Having that mindset and support from leadership creates a culture of engagement and sharing. 

And when new hires join the team, onboard them onto the EveryoneSocial platform, explain why your company relies on advocacy, and provide some basic social media training.

When you do this, you set the tone from day one and continue to drive that culture of social amplification.

EveryoneSocial’s Keys to Success

Besides the above information, we see two big reasons companies are successful with EveryoneSocial. 

It’s a platform your people want to use.

  • It’s no one’s job to use an advocacy solution — they have to want to.
  • Activation and engagement are the keys to success.
  • EveryoneSocial is the proven leader in both these areas.

We form a strong partnership with domain experts.

  • Every company is different and has a unique culture, goals, content, etc.
  • We work as full partners with every one of our clients.
  • We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t more than anyone else in the industry.

Our competitive advantage is that we live and breathe employee advocacy. 

It’s what we do and all we do every day. The product is built for more than social amplification; it’s designed to drive real results for marketing, sales, recruiting, and employer branding, while driving community and engagement among your people. 

We aren’t here to check a box with minor advocacy features with no support and say we do employee advocacy. We Are Employee Advocacy. 

Come see what we’re all about and why the best companies in the world choose EveryoneSocial. 

 

Final Thoughts

While it sounds like a bit of work, once these components are aligned and in place, managing – or adjusting, as needed – your program won’t be time-intensive.

We’ve seen customers spend 20-30 mins each work day managing their program while reaping incredibly positive results.

For your daily employees, it can take as little as five minutes of scheduling content or engaging in the platform to have a huge impact. 

By following the above insights and tips, your employee advocacy program will thrive, your employees will be more engaged and connected to each other and their work, and you’ll see authentic ROI from the time and money you put into this process. 

Want to learn more and see EveryoneSocial in action and how we support our customers? Check out our product tour for free to get a high-level view of our employee advocacy platform. Or if you are ready for a deeper dive, schedule time with our team!


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